Tag Archives: julia crouch

Writer on a Train

As a full time writer working from the home I share with three men, I can find plenty to distract me from my daily 2000 words. Before you get excited about this in a 50 Shades sort of way, the three men I live with are one husband and two sons (the daughter is largely away at Uni), and the distractions are of the domestic kind – exciting things like washing crispy sheets, scraping crud off floors and searching for all the forks which have mysteriously disappeared.

So, quite a lot of the time, I go elsewhere to write. I love coffee bars, so long as they’re not too noisy or crowded. Hotel lobbies are good, too. I even rented a small cottage for a week so that I could really just crack on alone. But the place I like writing best of all, if the conditions are right, is on a train.

I often sneak in a bit of work on my usual once or twice a week Brighton to London Victoria journey. But it can often be a bit crowded, with people reading over my shoulder, which is most off-putting.

However, I once had to do a day trip from the Edinburgh Festival to London and back again, and East Coast had a deal on first class tickets. ‘Why not?’ I thought. I had a deadline on some editing, so I thought I’d treat myself. Besides, first class includes all the food and drink you can put inside yourself, so I figured if I ate and drank all the way down and up, I had a bargain on my hands.

I did the best work of my life on that train (I also put on about seven pounds, but that’s another story).  The spacious seats! The power sockets! The free wi-fi! The inspiring view!

I happened to mention this to my publicist, Sam Eades, and, as is so often her way, she Had An Idea.

‘Why not be writer in residence on a train?’ she said.

Julia Crouch, proud Writer in Residence

I liked that Idea.

The next thing I knew I was sipping green tea (complimentary, of course) in the psychedelically carpeted first class lounge at the fabulous new Kings Cross Station, waiting to board the late afternoon direct train to Harrogate, guest of East Coast Rail and Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival (or ‘Harrogate’ as it’s known in crime writing circles). I had my special, crime-writer’s red scarf on, and the brief to write a short story on my journey.

The trip didn’t disappoint. It was as comfortable and spacious as the Edinburgh jaunt and on my journey up and down (broken by an overnight stay in Harrogate and bolstered by a box of Betty’s baked treats from the Festival ladies), I managed to complete five thousand words of a short story. It’s called ‘Strangeness on a Train’, and it’s shortly to be published as an e-story and a real world sampler which will be available at ‘Harrogate’. And all the while I was fed, wined and watered by the charmingly attentive stewards.

I didn’t just write though. A train is an ideal environment for the essential nosey part of a writer’s work as well. I struck up a conversation with the man opposite me who COMMUTES EVERY DAY between London and Harrogate because he hates the South. The man across the aisle filled sheet after sheet with mind maps of extraordinary beauty and from the window I saw an abandoned basket sitting in the middle of a vast field, a lone teenage boy crying on a bike in a concrete underpass and a house that I think must be the setting for my next novel. 

To cap it all, on the way back, lovely Paul, East Coast Rail PR, jumped on the train at Leeds with a photographer and I was papped until Wakefield. As a bit of a showoff and ex-thesp I secretly love all that. Now I know how Angelina Jolie must feel.

My one complaint is that this First Class travel has completely spoiled Standard for me. So please buy my books. I have a newly expensive lifestyle to maintain.

Posted by Julia Crouch, whose latest book,  Every Vow You Break, is out now

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Julia and the Book Factory

A few weeks ago I went with Sam Eades, my lovely publicist at Headline, to Clays printers in Bungay, to see Every Vow You Break roll off the presses. I had been told by David Headley at Goldsboro Books and S J Watson that it was an astounding day out (‘like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for book nerds’), and that the sandwiches were very good. They were right on all counts.

Julia with Sam Eades from Headline’s Publicity department

After those remarkable sandwiches at Cambridge House, a beautiful Georgian building where the company started and which they now use for hospitality, We were shown around the massive factory by the lovely Vicky Ellis and Phil and Steve, having a peek at every single part of the process.

Standing in the middle of a factory full of conveyor belts piled up with my new novel has to be one of the top experiences of my life. If I say how close I was to wanting to breast feed my warm, fresh, book, you’ll understand where it ranks for me. Unlike when they were printing the first editions of Harry Potter, when even mobile phones were confiscated at reception, they now allow cameras in, so here are some photos.

So hard hats and hi-viz jackets off to all at Clays, and thank you for a day I will always remember. 

Julia holding a copy of EVERY VOW YOU BREAK, fresh off the press

Published by Julia Crouch, author of EVERY VOW YOU BREAK and CUCKOO (originally published on www.juliacrouch.co.uk)

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Julia Crouch shares the secrets of her success with NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Monthis an annual novel-writing project that brings together writers from all over the world and challenges them to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Author Julia Crouch is one of NaNoWriMo’s success stories – her first book, CUCKOO, was a ‘NaNovel’, and was published in paperback by Headline last month. For those who are even the slightest bit tempted to have a go themselves, Julia has shared some hints and tips to help you on your way.

Julia Crouch

Julia Crouch, author

What to do after NaNoWriMo

You’ve ‘won’ NaNoWriMo? Congratulations! You’ve actually written a novel! You have done something that so many people mean to do and never get around to.

That may be enough for you, and if so, that’s absolutely fine. You can just feel that extra spring in your step and get on with your life again. But you may have a nagging feeling that it’s not over yet. If so, here are some pointers that may be useful in the months to come.

1. Don’t show it to anyone else! You need to glean your own critical feedback before you get anyone else’s. A NaNovel is only for the eyes of its creator on 1 December. However:

2. Don’t read it yet! Give yourself a bit of a breather: go about your daily life; reconnect with   the friends you missed for the past month; see those films you didn’t get to see (I’m up for Wuthering Heights and of course I have to ‘take my daughter’ to see the latest Twilight film);    enjoy the Christmas drinks.

While you’re waiting, you could do worse than to read a couple of books about what you’re embarking on. I heartily recommend On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, and the very practical workbook, Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

3. On January 1, 2012, run a spell check on your NaNovel, just to satisfy your nitpickery, so the inevitable typos don’t get in your way. Then set it in 12-point type, double space it and print it out on one side only. (Use recycled paper, because, if you carry on with this writing lark, you’ll be getting through a lot of trees.)

4. Hide yourself away from family and, pen in hand, read it through, scrawling comments wherever you see fit. Don’t just crit the bad bits. ‘I like this!’ if deserved, is a great note to self. But be prepared to cringe as well. There will be execrable passages, pages even.

5. Give it a bit of a break, go for a walk, sleep a bit. Keep your notebook or voice memo thingamabob to hand for any Brilliant Thoughts that strike.

6. Then ask yourself the Big Questions.
a. Does the story work? (it probably won’t, not entirely). If it doesn’t, why not? What’s missing? What’s a diversion?
b. Have you told the story the right way – through the right character(s), in the right tense(s), in the right order?
c. What needs to be different – setting, characters, themes?

7. Fix your structure. There are many ways to do this. I like to write each scene of my novel on different index cards, colour coding them with dots, stars, different pens (bring on the stationery…)to differentiate between back and current story, different character points of view, pace, turning points, climaxes and so on. Then I lock the cats out of my shed and shuffle the cards/post-its around until I come up with something that works. This is my favourite part of the process – I can let my imagination really fly, using what I’ve already got as a starting point. The trick is to keep asking yourself what if? And don’t be scared of the answers you come up with. At this point it’s only a card. You can screw it up and toss it in the bin if it doesn’t work.

8. Then I write a synopsis, to really make sure the story works. Perhaps I’ll write a really short synopsis too.

9. Then I rewrite the whole novel, using my new structure. This is the bit that takes the longest. The second draft of CUCKOO took nearly a year (and then there was the third draft. And the fourth).I always re-write, using my first draft as a reference only. I never, ever, cut and paste.

So that’s it. By 31 October 2012, you should have something ready to show to someone else. And while you’re waiting for them to read it, you’ll have a new NaNovel to keep your mind occupied.

CUCKOO by Julia Crouch

(And keep me company. Follow the progress of my 2011 NaNovel on my blog).

CUCKOO is available now in paperback, and Julia’s next novel, EVERY VOW YOU BREAK, will be published in March next year.

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