Courses – refreshing the parts that Twitter alone cannot reach

I’m currently doing an online course led by April Kihlstrom called Book in a Week. April is a multi-published writer of historical romance, and has been running this course for a while – I found out about it via someone in the Romantic Novelists’ Association, but it isn’t just aimed at romance writers. Click here to go to April’s web page to find out more.

April's book

I like to do courses every now and then to give me a little shot in the arm and to get some new stimulation. The really good thing about this course is the almost instant feedback we group members get from April – it’s pretty unique, I think; at least to me. Every morning I wake to find that April has posted the day’s lesson, and each time I’ve posted the work I’ve done in response, April has quickly fed back a dose of encouragement and also some extremely insightful questions and comments designed to make me probe further in my thinking.

The first lesson was Why Readers Read, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a critical question. So, over to you readers out there – why do you read? For me, it’s because I want to be swept away into a different world with characters I really care about. I want to feel something strongly and to forget everything else while I’m reading. As a writer, this is something I try to achieve for a reader. Hopefully, I manage it!

Another lesson that really resonated with me was the one on Stories People Tell Themselves – the way we, and our characters, interpret the meaning of events. It’s very similar to something I learned about on another course last year – an EOS self-development programme for women. It’s a bit like whether you’re a ‘glass half empty’ or ‘glass half full’ type of person – for example, someone is made redundant from their job at the age of 55. They can choose whether to think “I’ll never get a job at my age,” or, “Great! Now I can do something I really want to do with the rest of my working life!” The way our characters react to events gives us our story and makes everything seem real.

I’m really looking forward to the rest of the Book In A Week Course. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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“Two beta readers and a pint of bear, please.”

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I’m a very lucky woman – I have 2 amazing beta readers – Ann and Juli. Neither of them looks like the bear in this picture – to find out why he’s here, read on.

As you may know, a beta reader is someone who reviews a draft of an author’s manuscript, providing honest, objective feedback about what is and is not working, and makes suggestions for improvement. My beta readers are on my wavelength, and understand what I’m trying to achieve. It isn’t a painful process to receive feedback from either of them – it’s inspiring.

A month ago Ann read the first draft of my upcoming novel The Dare Club, and gave me some extremely helpful – and encouraging – feedback. I made the changes she suggested, and now draft 2 has just winged its way to Australia, for Juli’s attention. Poor Juli – she’s just relocated half way across the world from Scotland, has been house-hunting, house-sitting, unpacking etc, etc. And now she has my manuscript to look at…

Beta readers are worth their weight in gold, and I can’t wait to reply the favour to Ann and Juli, who are both very talented writers. Ann is the author of several novels, and has just released the grippingly exciting Doubtful. Juli is currently working on The Mother In Me, a follow up to her poignant and heart-warming novel Absent Children.

One of the issues I’ve been grappling with in The Dare Club is that of accents. Not only is one of my main characters French, but also the novel is set in Norfolk. I moved to Norfolk 13 years ago, and now it’s my home. I’ve become accustomed to the way they speak here. For example, people say they “are now going” instead of “I’m going now.”

But, since I’m an incomer from the Southeast of England, I don’t know if I’m qualified to include much of the local accent and manner of speaking in my writing. I’d be bound to get it wrong. And in my opinion, when you’re including dialect in a novel, you only want a flavour of it. Otherwise it becomes difficult to read, and can pull you out of the book. After a bit of a struggle, I think I’ve got the balance about right in The Dare Club. I’ll have to wait to see what Juli thinks!

While doing some research about Norfolk speak and the Norfolk accent, I came across a priceless comedy clip on YouTube called: Communicating with a Norfolk Accent. Through listening to it, I realized why I often have to repeat the title of my new book when I’m asked what it’s called. In Norfolk, if someone’s thirsty, they might go into a bar and appear to ask for “a pint of bear.” If they do this, they’re actually hoping for a beer. Or they might say that they’re “over hair,” when they mean they’re over here. So, when I say I’m writing a book called The Dare Club, Norfolk people are unsure whether I’m talking about a challenge, or…well, something with antlers.

Oh dare. I mean, oh dear.

Perhaps I could find a way to combine the two?

A deer challenges itself

A deer sets itself a challenge in The Deer Club?