Thursday, 7 January 2010


Even though I'm in a really bad mood for many reasons and completely fed up with the snow, I am generously inviting you all to my first birthday party. Yes, on Sunday 10th Jan, this blog will be One Year Old!

I was reading some of the first posts just now, and remembering how I felt getting my very first comments, and how extraordinarily quickly so many of you found me. Echo Freer and Tom Vowler were amongst the first commenters, and you and others are still here. I started with four posts that day, to get the thing going. I remember I had the idea that it would end up being a set of resources, more like a strangely-organised book than a normal linear blog. Well, I have a feeling it ended up being something akin to both. One problem now is that there's so much info on it [more than a quarter of a million words!] that it's now hard to find what you're looking for, and Blogger's search facility is useless for the older stuff, which is why I've had a lot of suggestions to turn it all into a proper book.

Anyway, what's this party, then? Well, it's a blog party, which means we're all going to come visiting YOUR blogs, bottles or chocolate in hand. The reason I'm warning you now is that you may want to do a bit of housework on your blogs and prepare a wonderful, witty and / or wise post for Sunday, so that your visitors can see you at your sparkly best.

If you don't have a blog, you can tell us about your book, if you have published one, or point us towards something that you've written somewhere on the internet. [You may not ask anyone to pay any dosh to read your words - this is a party, not a sales conference.]

When you turn up here on Sunday, I'll tell you exactly what to do, but it will be something like this: I will ask you to post a brief comment [on Sunday] telling us about your own blog / writing, to encourage people to visit you. Then people toddle over in their droves and leave a comment on your blog, and then you visit them. It should be a geat way for you to show people what you do.

NOW, however, I'd like to ask you something else: what would you like me to blog about over the coming year? I do want to focus more on the actual techniques of writing, within all the various genres and more generally, because I do think unpublished writers spend too much time worrying about submission details, rather than the most important thing, the actual writing. But I'm still happy to write about the process of submissions if there's still anything left that I haven't said. Comments below, please.

On Sunday, I will no doubt wax all sentimental about how much I like you all and how I have valued your company, but let's leave that till then, shall we? Today, as I say, I'm in a bad mood. Which is entirely as it should be for the Crabbit Old Bat, but still. Mind you, some remarkably lovely comments about Chicken Friend from that fellow crabby one, Proe, on my last post, have gone some way to smooth my brow. Thank you, Proe, you old curmudgeonely one! I value your compliments almost as much as your regular attempts to stir up my not-so-inner crabbit.

Meanwhile, you might like to read one of the posts from Day One of this blog, so you can see how little my advice has changed over the year... I may be crabbit, but I am at least consistent. Some might say boring. If they were very, very bold.

I hope to see you all dressed in your Sunday best, any time from 08.00 UK time, on 10th Jan! Spread the word - all are invited!

For now, your requests for topics, please.


Barb said...

Lovely! In fact it may call for a new pair of boots, methinks...

Kristin Pedroja said...

Goddess Nicola,

First of all, THANK YOU for being so open with all of us. It's a rare writer who gives this much of their time to others. Your karma is hovering somewhere near Saturn. Hopefully the snow gods realize this soon and send much thawing your way.

I would appreciate any advice or resources you recommend on how to attack revisions and how to write the dreaded synopsis. Thanks in advance.

Elen C said...

Looking forward to it!
I agree with KP, I love hearing about how other people edit. There are so many alternatives - what works for you?

catdownunder said...

Oh, a party? That will be very late in the afternoon for me. Time to clip my claws, wipe my whiskers and brush myself to the tip of my tail - and write a sensible, non-cat blog post!
Nicola, if you have time and the inclination this year I would like to know something about what happened after you met your agent. How do you work together? How do you work with the editor? What should agents/editors/and writers expect of one another?
That's the technical side. On the writing side - where do you start in the story. Yes, I know at the beginning but where is the beginning? I have my own way of handling this (or it handles me) but I would be very interested to learn how others do.
I have a lot of other questions too - sheer feline curiousity. I have probably used up 8 of my 9 lives.

catdownunder said...

And, botheration, I meant to say a proper thankyou here as well. An appreciative purr anyway!

Kate said...

Yay - a blog party - I love your blog Nicola!

Now...what to wear?

Unknown said...

Thanks for the invitation!

Sally Zigmond said...

Sunday best? And I thought the whole point of visiting blogs was that I could come in my old jogging bottoms slippers and (in view of the weather) several layers of Yorkshire wool in various shades of tatty and pretend.

But for you, Nicola, anything.

Sue Guiney said...

Alas, I'll be mid travels on Sunday and unlikely to be able to look at any blogs. Sorry to have to miss it. But thanks for a year's worth of interesting posts. New topics? How about how we writers can use the new technologies to our marketing advantage? And how about an explanation of the Google download contract etc which I still don't completely get?

Catherine Hughes said...

Unlike my house, my blog is always spick and span and freshly updated!

Congratulations on a year of blogging brilliantly. I can't remember how long ago I found you; I do recall lurking around for quite some time before actually commenting.

Thanks for all the help and advice nad especially for the book I 'won'!

Cat x

Marshall Buckley said...

You? Boring? Oh, no, I would never be so brave to say that (even if it were true, which it patently isn't).

Looking forward to the party, will we be Trending on Twitter too? (Last one was a riot)

Thomas Taylor said...

Thanks for the year's worth of advice and guidance, Nicola. Even though I've only been here for about five months of it.

I'd love the read your thoughts on developing story and dealing with plot, please.

Kate B said...

For this, I am forced to give up my cloak of invisibility! I would love a post on punctuation. Is there a modern, acceptable form? is it a new art form or something that should remain set in stone? An example. Instead of exclamation marks, using very short sentences and full stops. As in, Dont. Shoot. Foot. Or are they?

As for Blog visits, less tidying for me - just the one post so far to fulfill NY resolution to start one. The Blog that is. But I do love a party.

And a final request, whispered very quietly - would you consider looking at other genres, like, dare I say the word, poetry?

With much thanks and love


Nora Nadjarian said...

How interesting! A blog party. Never been to one of those before.
Count me in.

Anonymous said...

Only a year old? But there's so much information here. I'm very impressed. I will try to de-lurk a bit more and to visit on Sunday, though I have another party to attend in the morning.

Some of the writing subjects I'm interested in are:

* Genres: Single, mixed, cross-genre. Pro and cons thereof.
* PoV: Different points of view and related techniques. Single versus multiple, omniscient...
* Tense: The pros and cons of past and present tenses. Also, first-person versus third-person.
* Cast: How many characters? How to write believable ones.

Probably loads more like plot, dialogue, pace... but these will probably do for starters.

Thanks for doing this, your blog is a great resource, even if it is linear.

Unknown said...

Parties call for chocolate and wine. :P

1) Who and how the age group for the books are decided. I had a much longer question regarding that in one of these comments. You said I should remind you if you forget. :P

2) I second and third the people asking for posts on Genre.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Congratulations on your first year of blogging. You have a lot of followers already! I'll try ans stop by on Sunday...The whole time zone thing may mess me up. I usually blog/read blogs at night. I guess I could check in when SNL (Saturday Night Live) finishes that would be 6:30 am your time. :)

DJ Kirkby said...

Good idea. Sounds like fun.

Scott said...

Woo-hoo! Early congrats . . . just in case I don't make it onto the blogsphere this weekend. Hey, it happens!

iffath said...

Hah! I think this is a fab idea--I can shamelessly advertise my blogg! And discover other new and exciting blogs! I already love tuning in to your blog, Nicola! ;D

Jo Treggiari said...

Yay, a party! I'll come with bells on.
Hard to believe, as other wise souls mentioned, that the blog is only 1 year old. So much information here! Must be the result of much hard-earned experience.
Thank you for sharing it all (including the immensely valuable crabbity bits) with us.
Future topics? How about outlining? Yes? No? Does keeping a dilapidated notebook stuffed with post-its and undecipherable notes to oneself count? Why outline when so often we just deviate wildly from it anyway?

Jo Treggiari said...

And what are your thoughts on the publishing world and authors switching genres? I know that you have written many different types of books within YA and middle grade. Is your agent alright with that? Is your publisher? Is it ok because the Nicola Morgan style is present in all? Have you resisted pigeon-holing?
I am published in middle-grade fantasy, but my new (agented) book is YA futuristic dystopia, and my current WIP is YA realist (whatever the hell that means- I mean there's no fantasy and it's pretty gritty).
I had planned to work on sequel or companion novel to the dystopia book but my agent encouraged me to write something completely unrelated, so I did.
What are your thoughts as far as writers having the freedom to write the books they want, or falling in line with any demands that may be made on them? I heard recently that even Stephenie Meyer is heartily sick of the whole vampire thing.

Jo Franklin said...

A whole year - amazing. Congratulations.

The synopsis is still what I anguish over most. I feel such an amateur.
- Which characters to include, which to leave out? After all any actor with a speaking part gets a mention in the credits.
- Do you include the subplots when they are important in the denouement?
- Do you reveal your clever little plot devices in the synopsis?
- Only include the story - yes, but every word has been written to add to the story so how can you leave a single one out?
- I would love to see synopses of thriller/mystery/whodunnit type books to see how it should be done
- Maybe you could do synopsis spotlight whereby we can read a published book (one of yours maybe) and then have to write a synopsis of it and you can tell us where we are going wrong.
You get my drift.

Also POV. I think I am in the POV of the character and then am told I'm slipping out. How do you describe your MCs observation of another characters reaction to a revelation, for example. without slipping out of MC POV?

I better leave my list for the moment or you'll be too busy to ever write another book.

Dan Holloway said...

Top hole!

I would specifically like to see something on historical fiction, and the conventions for voice and dialogue in particular.

Why? 1. I love history and 2. I hate historical fiction - and those two sentences shouldn't both be true.

What puts me off most historical fiction are three things:
1. - sheer verbosity - be it unnecessary detail where people show off their research, or seeing HF as an excuse for endless adjectives and parataxis. This goes hand in hand with interminability.

2. pomposity - this is about voice. Latinates and archaic forms and use of teh subjunctive "ewould" as though it madethe writing more worthy.

3. dialogue - authenticity does not mean Dick Van Dyke screaming cockney at me. Much historical fiction with its sirs, and it's "I would pray thee"s strikes me as just that.

And then I read a story (usually by an unpublished author) set in the past that has sharp, active sentences, brilliant plotting, doesn't tell me about the history of whalebone just because someone's wearing a corset, and speaks liek I do. And I think that's great. Yet stories like that never seem to reach the shlves because they don't obey the conventions of HF.

So I want to know - what REALLY ARE the HF conventions that an agent/publisher will demand? And if someone wants to write a story set in the past that knows how to end a sentence without seventeen subclauses, do they have to give up the HF tag and market it as lit fic?

Rebecca Knight said...

Hooray--a party! The last one was just lovely, so you can count me in :).

As for writing topics, will you please give us some advice on plotting? How do you come up with your plots? Do you outline? Any tips on building and maintaining tension?

Also, I'd be interested to know how you edit, and any tips you've picked up over your journey.

Thank you so much, Nicola! This is one of my all time favorite writing blogs :D.

Jill said...

I've been to so many classes and have a CW degree, and tips are always good, but I'm at the point where I need to just grit my teeth and do it (submit and keep writing). I still like advice; it makes me feel connected to other poor slobs like me. I just don't need any particular advice (if I knew that I needed particular advice, I wouldn't actually need it, or something like that).

8 a.m. UK time? Let's see, that's about one in the morning where I'm at. Oh, well, I'll check in later in the day. I love your blog and your writing. I'm a bit of an 18th C geek, so love the Highwayman books. I did just start Flesh Market and, ugh, still cringing. I swear I can feel that knife. I wrote about it on my blog last night. I know--not the blog party yet--just dishing out the flattery.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

The snow is making me crabby too. Here in Utah, we've had it nonstop since Thanksgiving. And it's not melting due to frigid temps. I think a Nicola Morgan BLOG PARTY sounds WONDERFUL!!! Bring on the hot chocolate.

I've met a couple great blogging friends through your blog, and this is a good way to meet more! I can't wait to visit everyone's blogs and make comments...the logistics of this will be interesting...But anyway, I'm in!

No requests for this year posts. I love everything here. You could talk about what you ate for breakfast and it would be interesting.

Editor Cassandra said...

Congratulations on a year! Happy Birthday!

Thank you for a very informative and wonderful year!

Glynis Peters said...

The time zone will mean I am early or late, but I will try to attend, thanks.

Nicola Morgan said...

Ooh, you are all so lovely. And new boots indeed - shame I can't get to the shops in time!

Thanks for all your ideas for blog topics - I will try to get to them all.

Amanda - sorry to be a pain but could you possibly remind me where that comment/question was, so I can answer it properly? Sorry I didn't before!

Re timing of party - it won't matter at all about time zones because we will continue to party until I blog again about 48 hours later!

Nicola Morgan said...

Arabella - am just off to pay you a visit, flattery and all...

David John Griffin said...

Yes, happy blog birthday, Nicola! I look forward to the Sunday party; thank you in advance for another opportunity to "advertise" my blog/writing, much appreciated!

From the wealth of info in your posts, it's difficult to know what else I would like to read about...I guess one thing would be concerning pseudonyms. How much input does the agent/publisher have? Are there any drawbacks to having a pseudonym? Are there any benefits? etc.


Jemi Fraser said...

Congrats on the year of blogging - that's awesome. I'm looking forward to the party!

Theresa Milstein said...

Snow puts me in a bad mood as well. Living in a city, snow just makes everything horrible - it gets dirty, it's a pain to shovel out the car, there are less parking spaces, people who don't shovel their sidewalks property leave ice rinks, and so on. I can't believe that in Cambridge w have less than most places to the north, west, and south of us. I'm sure we'll get hit harder soon.

I love your party invitation idea.

Megs - Scattered Bits said...

I would love to read posts about writing dialogue that matters, introducing unfamiliar settings (I write SFF) without drowning in description, how to write about something happening inside a character's mind (fighting drugs causing amnesia with mental power to be specific) in any kind of specific way (concrete nouns and all that), and maybe your take on structure (universal requirements or no kind of thing).

I've been a bad lurker, but I can read a lot on my work breaks. Commenting not so much. Crazy filters.

Unknown said...

Its this comment:

But I do have a curious question regarding how books are labelled. I've seen Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials in both the YA and Middle Grade category. The topic is rather challenging and I'd personally throw it into YA myself, but is that just me being paranoid that young kids won't get it? Or were the people doing the labelling not really reading the books? Or are some books just difficult to put down in one specific category?

from this post:

Thanks :)

Nicola Morgan said...

Amanda - thanks. I remember now.

All - wow, those topics should keep me going for a while! Thank you for your faith. I feel a bit like the Delphic oracle, with people traipsing to her for pronouncements. I just hope I can give clearer answers than she did.

Cathie Hartigan said...

Nicola, now you're having a party! Your energy knows no bounds, I am convinced of it.

All your blogging is brilliant. Thank you again.

Hmm, now where exactly did I put my blog?

Simon Kewin said...

Well, I'm rather enjoying all this snow, but I'll certainly come along to the party. Thanks for the invite! Now to think of something witty and wise to write ...

The previous comments pretty much cover the things I'd be interested in reading about - in particular the questions about categorizing books as certain types. Recently I've been thinking about what pigeonhole my current WIP should be in (YA?) and secretly resenting having to categorize at all. I read "YA" books and I'm more of an "OA" now. And when I was a YA I sometimes read grown-up books. I can see that consistency of target audience would help build up a "brand", but should I just write the story I want to write and worry about this after? Or restrict myself to certain audiences?

Rachel said...

Joining just in time for a party... typical!

TOM VOWLER said...

A very Happy Birthday to your blog for Sunday, me dear. I had no idea, when I left that first comment, that you'd just started, such was the accomplished tone; thought you'd been doing it for years.

Will try to pop in on Sunday.