Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Last week I read 'On Chesil Beach' in one sitting. Because of its name I'd resisted it when it came out in 2007, even when it was shortlisted for the Booker - I am enormously influenced by my like of a title. 'On Chesil Beach' by Ian McEwan - set in the early 1960's, is exquisitely written, short - less than 200 pages with vulnerable, flawed characters experiencing a life-changing dilemma. If you love books and haven't read it - do.

A few days later I'd similar experience with Muriel Barbery's 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog'. Who wants to read a book about a hedgehog?? But after listening to my writer friend Phil Young exhort it's qualities on TV3s Ireland AM, it's top of my to-buy list.

And so we've finished UCD's Adult Education Autumn semester’s writing course - 'The Nuts & Bolts of Writing'. A great group turned up to Carysfort Campus each Wednesday morning. We'd no drop outs and wonderful literary inroads made over the past ten weeks.

For anyone interested in writing and becoming part of another vital, vibrant writing group, we're starting again in the first week in February with 'The Plot Thickens' for 6 weeks and on 16 March for a further 6 weeks there's 'Building Story People - Creating Characters'. Check out either or Do feel free to make contact and to ask all those questions that should be asked before embarking on a writing course.

I try to be available to help emerging writers, to get back to them with answers to their queries as quickly as possible. I vowed that I'd do this when during my time as a freelance, I'd encounter huge difficulties trying to talk to or get an answer from a commissioning agent, producer or publisher - anyone at all who'd answer a query with a modicum of courtesy would have done.

The climate for writing and writers has changed radically over the past decade and even more so in the past few years when funding has been withdrawn or is as scarce as hen’s teeth. As I've said previously unless a writer had something along the lines of a celebrity hook to hang a work of fiction, digital is the way to go.

Other than presenting a cover and manuscript in PDF format, with little effort on my part, my latest novel, 'A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton (1854-1882)' is available digitally on Amazon US and UK. for authors Amazon may not be the easiest site to negotiate but it's worth persevering and putting up your profile on on Author Central.

Enjoy words - be they read or written...

Monday, November 1, 2010


The time has changed. Officially winter has arrived. No there's no excuse not to get down and write all those ideas that are spinning around in your head.

Invariably, the writers I work with are aiming for publication - there is nothing like holding a copy of your own book. But in the current climate what we know as traditional publishing - submitting completed mss to a publisher, being assigned an editor, getting a contract and having everything from then on done for you - is becoming increasingly difficult for the emerging writer and indeed for writers whose books don't sell in the telephone number quantities.

But all is not lost. Far from it. The way I see it is that there are more publishing opportunities than ever.

Of recent times I've been looking into digital publishing and it seems the way to go. I attended an interesting evening organised by IrishPEN ( in the Dublin's United Arts Club; as well as a Seminar on Self-Publishing run by InkWELL(, and The Historical Novel Society ( Conference in Manchester. At all of these digitalised self-publishing was the hot topic.

Eoin Purcell ( was a speaker at both IrishPEN and the InkWELL Seminar. He is a publishing consultant, blogger, book lover and publisher. He also runs Irish Publishing News, an e-newsletter which has all the latest news about Irish publishing, and is worth looking into.

He believes the key to the change in publishing is in print-on-demand technology, and I'm firmly with him on that. Print-on-demand or POD allows prospective self-publishers to typeset, design and upload pdf files of their work onto self-publishing websites. Sales of books can either be on line or the author can have copies printed to fulfil firm orders.

Keep writing...
And be in touch,

Friday, October 1, 2010


There’s something rather nice about autumn, the days growing shorter and the nights longer – more suitable weather for writing and reading than the long hot days of summer.

As well as starting back into the season's schedule of writing workshops with UCD’s Adult Education Programme, I’m involved in INKWell’s day long seminar on Self Publishing later in the month and when I leave Killiney Castle I've to hotfoot it to the airport to catch plane to Manchester for Historical Novel Conference. Oline writing courses and editing is going well.

All in all writing life is good. But if only I could get more time to work on my latest novel! I'm not complaining - so glad to have work rolling in and in these dire economic times, work that pays. The administration for this of necesity has to take precedence. Daily, I just about manage either this 2 hours that I promote or the 1000 words.

I am particularly delighted that UCD’s three courses which run until April will facilitate anyone who seriously wants to work on a full length work. The autumn course: The Nuts & Bolts of Writing is a start-off course for beginner writers and a continuation for those with little or large experinece; also it will give general information on writing, avoiding pitfalls and keeping manuscript moving. Spring 2011 has two titles: The Plot Thickens and Building Story People – Creating Characters. So there is ample opportunity to have a completed draft! Stephen King says that no first draft should take longer than a season to write. further info: or (

While having a glorious few days break in Villefranche, I read Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden – the structure put me in mind of Joyce’s Ulysses in that it takes place over one day; and The Secret Life of Bees which I’d resisted for months despite receiving presents of two copies. Why had I resisted reading an international bestseller? Simply because I wasn’t hooked by the title. What’s in title? A lot. Booksellers look for draw-in titles and kerb appeal covers. Molly Fox is wonderful – a must read.

The biggie in tomorrow's diary is Jonathan Franzen’s reading and interview by Hugo Hamilton (a perfect choice as interviewer) of Franzen’s latest book Freedom. Caps off to Bert Wright, Events Curator DLR Library Voices Series for the making international writers accessible to Irish audiences. Kevin Power reviewing Freedom in The Irish Times says, it might be even better than his breakthrough novel The Corrections. I bought Corrections as a Christmas gift for my brother, started flicking through it and stayed up a whole night to gallop read - the hair stood up on the back of my neck as I read that scene about forced feeding.

Enjoy these golden autumn days...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mists and mellow fruit, and writerly inclinations

September. Season of mists and mellow fruit, and the month when we turn our minds to matters academic. For those with writerly inclinations there are many courses to aid you in the process of creating your opus; equally you could lay aside a certain amount of time each day and settle down to writing on your own. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a huge amount of literary talent out there waiting to be produced.
People ask me the whole time – how do you start? Where do you begin? What should you do first? The simple answer is that you sit down – lie down or stand up, as the humour takes you, and begin writing. It doesn’t matter where you start. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have a story.
By writing stream of consciousness – as writing whatever comes into your mind is called, I promise out of what, perhaps, seems to you as little more than incoherent ramblings, a story will emerge.
I’ve eight books under my belt, and I love experimenting with methods of writing. I’ve written what I call cameo scenes and joined them up eventually; I’ve started at the beginning and continued to the end; I’ve written bits and pieces – had to jettison some, keep others.
As for the current book I’m working on – from the outset the characters have been clear in my mind, and each day before I confront my desk I spend a little time thinking about them, wondering about their various situations and then allowing them their heads – well, within reason. Some of the ensuing consequences amaze even me.

Over the past month I’ve read a eclectic mix of books: Miriam Dunne’s Blessed Art thou A Monk Swimming written 13 years ago, although fiction, is of the misery lit genre; it’s beautifully crafted, exquisitely written – not wonder the critics of the time hailed it as a ‘dazzling first novel’.
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas has received miles of coverage. It’s a brilliant novel of modern Australia peopled with a dysfunctional cast of characters. But it’s probably best to ignore the emphasis on gratuitous sex.
June Considine writing as Laura Elliot does not disappoint with Stolen Child . The novel is set in the majesty of the Burren, in the rich poetic language that is the hallmark of Considine’s writing, it tells the story of the consequences of stealing a child. A
Doctor’s War owes it’s second coming to Pete McCarthy of McCarthy’s Bar fame who was given a copy, couldn’t put it down – neither could I – and instigated re-publication.

Good luck with writing and reading

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Delicious Wickedness of August

Welcome to autumn... 'August is a Wicked Month' - so claimed Irish author Edna O'Brien in a title for one of her iconic novels. Yes, deliciously wicked in that it allows us start thinking of hibernating options.

This is the month when people's thoughts turn to filling the winter hours. What better than nestling down to writing? And now that Dublin is named UNESCO City of Literature, there's no better time for aspiring writers to start realising their dreams.

There is loads of help, including writing courses. This year I've three as part of UCD's Adult Education Programme, Wednesday mornings, Carysfort Campus - that there's a cafe with great coffee is an added bonus! Information:
1) The Nuts & Bolts of Writing - facilitates writers to find and use their writing voice.
(2) The Plot Thickens - plots are the life blood of fiction and this course focuses on best plotting practice.
(3) Building Story People - Creating Characters - Learn the skills of populating. your stories with dynamic characters.

And there is, a website specifically for writers managed by Writing4all Ltd - further information: This website offers writing groups a Master Site and Private Site. As well as facilitating a substantial number of professional features, the benefits for writers are:
(1) Encouragement and promotion of creative writing
(2) Feedback and comments from peers
(3) Public exposure of members' creative output
(4) Facility to keep the creative process going
(5) Monetary awards to successful groups

Each year Writing4all will publish an anthology featuring the best of the month winners in fiction, poetry and non-fiction posted to the master site.

As for the books I've been reading. Well I've just finished the last of the Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, suspense on every page. I'm not surprised that his books have crossed the million sales on Kindle.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


The two launches of 'A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton 1854-1882' went off better than I thought possible with many books sold. The reviews are good, feedback great, interest rising and sales doing well. I am delighted, and the golden days of summer are truly here.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but whenever I go on holidays, particularly in Ireland where excess baggage is not a problem, I bring with me all the books that I wanted to read during the course of the year but didn't have the time to.

I don’t Kindle - yet; nor do I iPad - yet; I love the physicality of a beautiful book with good quality paper and easy to read, attractive print as much as I do a terrific handbag.

These attributes maximize my reading pleasure. I want to feel the pages of a book between my fingers; to lightly pencil notes in the margin; underline passages to read again later; I want to look at a book’s cover and admire its artwork and to know its pages will absorb the scents of my holiday place.

The books I've read this summer are memorable: Joseph O'Connor's haunting 'Ghost Light'; 'East of the Sun', set gloriusly in India, by Julia Gregson; 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' Stieg Larsson's dazzling novel which everyone who's anyone seemed to have read last year and now I can wait to read the others in the trilogy; my two non-fictions are the biography of Coco Chanel by Axel Madsen - awe-inspiring in its research, and Sylvia Beach's Shakepeare & Company, the story of the famous Paris bookstore.

Next month I'm looking at the rapidly growing website that is drawing in writers:

In the meantime, keep writing and enjoy reading...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


This month I'm full of launches and editing. It's Writers Week in Listowel ( - its 40th anniversary and since its set up the week has been a showcase for both national and international writers.
On Friday 4th June in Listowel I'm launching my latest novel A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton (1854-1882), and on Friday 18th June I'm having Dublin launch in the National Yacht Club, Dunlaoghaire ( The genre is what's called in the business fact-led fiction. While it was a joy to research and write, not to mention edit on more occasions than I care to count, it took longer than I'd anticpated about three years in all. But holding the book in my hand, I know it was worth it which brings me breifly to the subject of editing.
I gave a workshop on Saturday in CFCP ( and afterwards someone asked, 'When you've finished your book, is it okay to send it out to an agent or publisher?' the short answer it no, it isn't. That person was not thinking of editing, considering that would be done in publishig house. Time was it would, but times are different now and the more print perfect a manuscript the more likely a writer is to be given a contract.
My advice to emerging writers is not to let a manuscript out of your hands until it is as good as you can make it. Believe me, deep within your heart, you'll know when you've reached that stage.
As for the plethora of freelance editors who abound on the Internet - by all means use them but make sure they have the necessary credentials to bring your manuscript to publication standard. I suggest you submit a few hundred words for them to sample edit. Also check if they only copy edit, ie., syntax, spellings etc.
A s well as the above, a publisher's editor will be aware of stucture, point of entry, development of plot and characters, locations, etc. - all the skills that raise a book from the ordinary to the readeable extraordinary.
Good writing until next month...
Patricia O'R

Sunday, May 2, 2010

New trends for books

Hello again,

Copies of my latest novel, A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton (1854-1882) have arrived and are waiting to be launched first at Listowel Writers Week ( on 4 June and secondly at the National Yacht Club, Dunlaoghaire ( on 18 June. The books look terrific - you don't realise how wonderful a product a book is until you hold it.

Currently, I am particulalry interested in where the book publishing and book selling business is heading.the scenario has certainly changed over the past very few years.

I read in Bryan Appleyard's rivetting piece in The Sunday Times Culture section dated 25/4/2010 about the advent of the iPad which has him wondering is the book made of paper and board dead? I hope not. I love the physicality of picking up a book, browsing its pages, running the tips of my fingers over its surface, smelling the gorgeousness of fresh paper and print - and all that before reading!

Obviously, enthusiasm for the iPad depends on who you ask. Apple who make iPad and the various digital officers attached to the larger publishing houses are ecstatic. So what precisely is this iPad? Basically it offers a way of reading books. You download them and they appear on virtual wooden shelves on your screen. You turn the pages by flicking the screen.

It looks as though the iPad is here to stay. After three weeks, sales in the States are approaching 1m, whereas the estimate for sales of Kindle over 30 months is 3m. The 'agent model' adopted Apple looks as though it could be good news for writers. Apple takes 30% of the sale of their books; the author 25% and the remainder goes to the publisher, making the retailer the publisher and Apple acting as agent.

Keep reading and writing

Thursday, April 1, 2010


There’s been a huge recent debate about contemporary Irish fiction – some of it sensible, more of it quite daft. Our precious literature is now in the hands of dedicated parliamentarian Mary Hanafin, recently appointed Minister forTourism, Culture and Sport. Her previous track record adds gravitas to the growing consensus on the importance of the arts economy. Currently we don’t have much else going for us. Our cultural creativity – particularly literature for which we’re lauded worldwide - is hugely important and should be nurtured.

And yet despite being beset by the worst financial flux since records began, wonderful writing keeps emerging from Ireland. Challenging writing is emerging in every genre, particularly by Irish women writers, and audiences are packed for the plethora of literary events, such as Listowel Writers' Week and An Cuirt in Galway, as well as other functions held throughout the country.

Since the 18th century the buyers of works of fiction are mostly women. In a recent interview with Shane Hegarty of The Irish Times, Ian McEwan (latest novel Solar) tells how in 2007 he and his son spent a lunchtime handing out 100 novels to anyone who wanted them. But the only takers were women. He wonders what the future holds for a form that appeals to only half the population.

The book I most want to read: The Long Song by Andrea Levy is the story of a woman conceived by a rape. It is set on a Jamacian Plantation in the mid 1800s. Andrea Levy leaped to literary fame with Small Island.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

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Monday, March 1, 2010


Good morning - it's officially the first day of spring, and the first sunshiney day for, it seems, aeons. The sky is virgin blue, the clouds mere whisps of cotton wool and it's time to look into more Plotting

If like many people, you think that for 'real' writers, the business of plotting comes effortlessly, forget it. The majority of writers have to study the elements of plot and pay serious attention to constructing the narrative and viewpoint most appropriate for their story.

Your main character, the protagonist, must encounter a conflict - with another character, society, nature him or herself or come conbination of these things - and undergo a change as a result. Conflict, also known as 'the major dramatic question' is the basis of plot.

Elements of Plot:

The Introduction: presents the central conflict as well as the characters and the setting. In modern fiction, it is necessary for the writer to involve the protagonist in conflict as early as possible.

Rising Action or Development: Is where the character faces various impediments to his or her goal. Learn to build dramatic tension; to keep readers interested with twists and turns which will lead to:

The Climax which is the turning point in the story, the pivot on which your story hinges. Climax is the resolution of conflict, the point of no return beyond which the protagonist's fate - be it good or bad - is secured.

In the Denoument, the author ties up the loose ends.

Plotting all sounds so simple, doesn't it? In some ways it is and in other ways it's not.

A helpful tip is to identify the basic elements in your reading, to question why the writer decided to tell the story the way he or she did. The important thing for you, the writer, to remember, is that something has to happen. It may seem elementary but it can be quite complicated. By all means experiment, but spend time on the basics, too.

Good plotting, and in the meantime if you want to make contact the address is:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

All About Plotting, part 1

A recent comment from one of the top British literary agents stressed the importance of a well plotted story.
Plot concerns the organisation of the main events of a work of fiction. Plot is concerned with how:
(1) events are related
(2) events are structured
(3) events enact change in the major characters

Most plots trace a process of change in which characters are caught up in a conflict that is eventually resolved. Plots may be fully integrated, tightly knit or episodic in nature.

Conflict is the basis of Plot. Without conflict there is no story because there is no change or growth. A tip is to think of conflict as a question your story sets out to answer.

As a writer, a questions to ask yourself is: What is the central question of my story?
Your conflict or question may be only half-formed when you write your first draft but before embarking on a revision, it's essential that you define the conflict of your story. Once you've done that, it's much easier to know which parts of your story to cut and which to expand.

It may sound simplistic but for many emerging writers, plot is one of the hardest elements to grasp. Make sure your story contains a central conflict. Someting must happen to turn your main character's life upside down, and through this experience, a change must take place within your character. If your idea does not include a conflict, you're probably not ready to start editing your first draft. Indeed, you may not even be ready to begin writing that particular story.

Enthusiastic as we may be to begin writing when we get an idea, a little time spent on preliminary plotting saves time, energy and ensures a more professional story.

Good plotting and next month we'll continue on the PLOTTING theme.

Friday, January 1, 2010

10 Commandments of 10 Minute Productivity

Another year, another decade. Here's wishing you all wonderful WRITING.

I’m constantly told by people who say they want to write that they don’t have the time!!! So here are some ways which I call THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF 10 MINUTE PRODUCTIVITY. I utilise this method to give me the two-hour block of time that I favour for writing.

Usually over the course of a day, I'll have several ten-minute bursts of spare time. I've got into the habit of using these minutes productively by developing a list of ten things to do with ten minutes. When I've time to spare, I run down this list.

1. Make a Phone Call
Most of us usually have someone we should call. Ten minutes allows you to follow up on something, make a plan, or just catch up with a friend. Earmark the longer time you might have spent chatting to WRITE.

2. Cook
If you've a few minutes, make yourself some food, either for now or for later. WRITERS must take care of their health.

3. Nap
I'm a huge proponent of cat-naps, and they work. The simple act of closing your eyes, clearing your head and relaxing is hugely beneficial. You'll be rejuvenated, in a better place to WRITE.

4. Read Something
Keep a reading list accessible of things you want to read or watch, and plow through a few of them in spare moments. Grist to the mill of your WRITING.

5. Write Emails
This is much the same as phone calls. In ten minutes you can write several emails. Makes other people happy, and makes you feel more productive. Win-win - putting you in a good mood for WRITING.

6. Strike Up a Conversation
You might meet someone fascinating that you can use in your WRITING.

7. Clean Up
The single most productive thing I do during these times is organize. In ten minutes, it's ridiculous how much filing can be done; email purging and sorting; desk-clearing. Ten minutes is plenty of time to make a dent in even the biggest piles of junk. Tidy surroundings maximise WRITING.

8. Brainstorm
Brainstorming and mind mapping are great. Just start writing - what do you have to do? What ideas do you have? Only having ten minutes makes WRITING ideas fly out.

9. Stumble is an intelligent browsing tool, a mecca of ideas. ‘Stumbling’ is a great way to expose yourself to interesting Web tidbits, as aids to WRITING

10. Journal
Keep a journal of the high- and low-lights of the day – jotting down the first things that come to your mind, an invaluable source of WRITING information

If you've any queries contact me on