Tuesday, 26 June 2018

New Website

Hello and thank you so much for popping by. I have now moved my blog to my new website at angelabarton.net I'd love to hear from you and share your thoughts on all things writing, so please join me there. XX

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Keep Going

Mathematics? It's a foreign language to me. Sudoku? Why put yourself through such misery? (Supposedly for fun). Memories of binary lessons at my girls' grammar school can still bring me out in a cold sweat ... oh and the slide rule! An instrument of torture. Numbers may as well be hieroglyphics to me.

But words ... I've love them - can't get enough of them. Reading them or writing them, I'm in heaven.

Click on image to purchase.

After my three children grew up and left home, I had more time to do the things I wanted to do. The thought of writing a novel hadn't even entered my head. It was the process of writing that I craved, not its publication. I wrote long newsy, embellished letters to people. I wrote short stories for my eyes only. I wrote children's stories that never saw the light of day. I packed them away in a drawer, happy for them to stay there.

Then I woke up one morning with a story in my head. I remember, it was 7th July, 2007. I spent the day in bed scribbling into an A4 pad. I couldn't stop the images and storylines from coming and didn't believe I could afford the time to get showered and dressed in case the images faded. This novel took a year of re-drafts, editing and polishing before I began to realise that I was proud of my achievement. It was the first thing I'd done for myself and I'd completed it. Perhaps it could be published? In fact, that was now quite an exciting thought. I started searching for a literary agent. I sent off 3 submissions at a time. (Agents prefer you send to send one out at a time, but if it takes 6 to 16 weeks to receive a reply, new writers would be receiving their pensions before they found success.) I wrote down when and to whom I'd submitted to and waited. It wasn't long before the cold shower of rejection letters started to drip onto the doormat. 'Not quite what we're looking for.' 'I didn't quite love it enough.' 'Our author list is full.' Now I have to say, when I'd received almost an A4 page of rejections and had written 'It's a no,' in red pen next to the agents' names on my list, the penny dropped. (It could have been ten pence, but as you now know, I don't do numbers!) If I wanted to be published, I had to up my game, as they say. It was up to me to learn and improve my writing. So I set about doing just that.

I started novel number two. I joined a writing group (Nottingham Writing Club) where I won several club writing trophies. I bought how to books about novel writing, grammar, character development etc. Time passed. I joined Twitter to develop an online presence. I continued to write. I continued to submit my book. I continued to be rejected. I entered competitions - and came nowhere. I joined Facebook. I travelled to London to listen to published authors speak and attended workshops at Harper Collins Publishing. I went to masterclasses, annually visited The London Book Fair, and also listened intently at local libraries to writer interviews. I continued to write. I started my own blog and read many other authors' blogs. More time passed. I continued to submit my book and ... a London-based agent asked to see my entire manuscript. She liked it! She sent me a contract. I signed it. This was it! Or so I thought.

With the contract signed, I finished my second novel and started on my third. For the next year I intermittently heard from my agent. Each time she informed me that she hadn't found a publisher for my novels. Significantly to me though, I was receiving more positive feedback about my books from these publishers. This encouraged me despite the continued rejections. Novel one and two were contemporary women's fiction but for novel three and having visited France and the martyred village of Oradour-sur-Glane, I felt compelled to write my next novel in a different genre - historical fiction. I informed my agent about my decision but I got a lukewarm reception. Well, thinking back, it was an Arctic iceberg of a response. "It's not a popular genre," she says. I say, tell that to Georgette Heyer, Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick (who I had a lovely cup of tea a piece of cake with in Nottingham) and hundreds more very successful authors. Surely an agent supports and encourages her/his writers? Not only this, but I couldn't enter a significant number of competitions because I HAD an agent. A part of me was saying, an agent in the hand is better than two in the bush (you know what I mean) but the other was saying, she's actually holding me back instead of helping me.

Eighteen months after finding an agent I wrote to her and ended our contract.

Instead of feeling disheartened, I felt free. I continued to write and in whatever genre I wished to express myself. I researched. I joined a second writing group (Nottingham Writers' Studio). Several of us developed an off-shoot fiction critiquing group called Ellipses and Ampersands. We meet monthly to critique each other's chapters and to give encouragement and support. (Hello Frances, Andy, Gaynor and Paul). I entered a national First Chapter Of An Unpublished Novel Competition AND WON! I now had an additional achievement to add to my writing CV. I pitched to agents at The London Book Fair and at the writing studio. As years had now passed by, I was watching and learning from online writing tutorials. I entered my third novel to the Festival Of Romance's New Talent Award in 2015 (people fall in love during wartime, too). I was shortlisted. I entered Choc Lit's Search For A Star and I was shortlisted. I started book four - another historical novel set in Paris during the German occupation. I went to another London Book Fair. I continued to write.

I can't pretend that I felt upbeat about writing throughout these ten years. Several times I became despondent, but this is where friendships, both actual and virtual online friendships, help. The support I received during these downbeat moments was immense. To mention a few people who were bastions of support: my twitter and author friend, Mariam Kobras. In the early days of my writing she told me I was a writer, not an aspiring writer. Frances Thiamann, Andy Miller, Gaynor Backhouse and Paul Anderson, my fiction group towers' of strength. Tina Williams who worked with me at the City Hospital and who read my book on reams of paper and was so positive about it. Of course my family, too. They are everything to me but maybe they're a little biased!

So, eleven years after I sat up in bed with a story to tell, I have signed THREE contracts for my first three books, with Choc Lit's new imprint, Ruby Fiction. My novel, Arlette's Story, (the historical novel my agent didn't want me to write) is now published. Thank you so much, Ruby Fiction.

To writers who are still waiting to be discovered, please keep going. Keep learning. Keep practising. Keep in touch with fellow writers. Keep writing.

Monday, 12 February 2018

My Top Tips For New Writers

I tend to stick to the genre of my current WIP so I feel absorbed in the atmosphere of that era. I must have read 30 novels that are set during WW2 during the last eighteen months. Having said that, it’s helpful to see how other authors plot and construct their books so read whatever takes your fancy. Don’t just stick to fiction, either. There are some wonderful factual books that will guide you through the writing process.

Join a writing group.
I'm a member of Nottingham Writers' Studio and the friendship, support, encouragement and workshops I’ve attended have been an invaluable help to me as a writer. A small group of us have formed Ellipses and Ampersands, a critique group who meet once a month to give advice, praise and constructive criticism of each other’s work. I have no doubt that they have helped to improve my chapters.

Build an online presence.
It’s important to make connections so open a twitter account, a Facebook page, join Instagram and Goodreads, and most importantly, build a professional website/blog. Readers want to ‘meet’ you online. They want to know about your novel, what inspired you to write it, how you achieved publication, and where they can buy your book.

Writing your book is the easy part! New writers think their work is of a publishable quality when it isn’t, at least not yet. Read through your novel and you’ll gasp at the spelling, continuity and grammar mistakes you’ve made. You’ll see glaring gaps in your storyline, character inconsistencies, weak resolutions, repetitions and numerous other errors that will have you saying to yourself, ‘What made me think I could be a writer?’
Take a deep breath.
This is perfectly normal for a new writer. You’re learning, after all. By following the above three suggestions you’ll discover, through friends, reading and workshops, how to correct your early mistakes.

Get a professional critique.
Getting a professional critique of your writing is essential. Typos and continuity issues become invisible to us when we’ve read and edited our work ten times. Not only will it help when it comes to finding an agent/publisher, but you will be amazed at the improvement of your work. Take suggestions seriously and learn from them. I chose the Romantic Novelists’ Association. They have a New Writers’ Scheme that I have used for three of my novels. They are brilliant!

Before you submit.
There are many excellent online examples of how to write a submission letter and the dreaded synopsis. Both of these are extremely important communication documents. If a busy agent reads a rushed introductory letter that contains grammar or spelling mistakes, they will be far too busy to give you the benefit of the doubt that there won’t be similar careless mistakes in your book. If your synopsis hints at what might happen to your characters in order to keep an agent intrigued – he/she won’t be the slightest bit intrigued and your MS will be set aside. A synopsis is a concise, clear summary of your entire book, including the ending.

Now what?
So you’ve sent off your manuscript to an agent or publisher. Great! Now what?
You start writing your next novel/article/short story – whatever your inclination, but keep writing. Don’t sit around waiting to hear back because it could take months and statistically, your first novel won’t be your first published book. Keep writing, continue attending workshops, persevere at learning your craft and maintain contact with writer friends and your writing group.

Develop a thick skin.
Your writing will be rejected.
It’s a fact - but it’s not personal. Different agents and publishers are looking for different things. They may have a full client list. They may be looking for historical women’s fiction and you’ve sent them a fantasy novel. They may not like your writing style. There are endless reasons, but develop a thick skin (moisturize it regularly) and keep writing!

Good luck.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Vianne Mauriac lives in the quiet village of Carriveau, in France. Vianne’s husband, Antoine, heads for the Front leaving her alone with her young daughter. She finds it implausible that the Nazis will invade France, so when the country is occupied and she is forced to take in a German soldier as a lodger, her life becomes one of fear and anxiety. However, it appears that this soldier has a conscience and occasionally supplies wood for the fire or food for the table. When he is replaced by a sadistic, high-ranking German who must share their house, life becomes so much worse for Vianne.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is eighteen, rebellious and trying to prove that’s she’s as capable as any man. With Paris overrun with Germans creating terror, Isabelle meets a compelling and intriguing partisan called Gäetan and falls in love with him. But he’s passionate about fighting for France and leaves to continue his fight alone. Feeling betrayed, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, seemingly unconcerned about the life-threatening situations she is placing herself in.

The author, Kristin Hannah, tells this epic story of WWII from women’s points of view. Women had to fight to save their children and their friends. They had to made decisions that could either mean execution or perhaps reducing their suffering to a small degree. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters at war – with each other and the enemy. They share the grief of losing their mother and anguish of seeing the psychological effects that war has had on their neglectful father, but they are also separated by their ideals and circumstances. Each sister embarks on her own treacherous path towards survival, love and freedom in German-occupied France. Kristin Hannah has written a powerful, thought-provoking novel showing how the ordinary woman faces danger and what they are prepared to endure in order to keep their loved-ones safe. This book tells of the resilience of the human spirit and of the mental strength of women.