A Bit About Me
I’ve been writing stories ever since I learned to read as a young child. English was my favourite subject at school and books were a great escape. I used to hide myself away in corners with books which I borrowed from the library and also from my parents’ bookshelves. Many of them were probably quite unsuitable but I devoured them anyway!
I read English at Reading University and then trained as a journalist with the Thomson Newspaper Graduate Training Scheme. After that, I went on to write for various magazines including Drapers Record, Parents and Woman’s Own before turning freelance when I became a regular contributor to The Times, Daily Telegraph and many other publications. After my first marriage ended, I took a job as a writer in residence of a high-security male prison which gave me a darker voice!
Now I am a full-time Penguin novelist although I am also a hands-on grandmother. I write Diary Of A Modern Granny in the online version of My Weekly magazine. To download free, click here. I live by the sea with my second husband and love wild water swimming, tennis, walking and reading - as well, of course, writing!
A LIFE BY THE SEA
I’ve always wanted to live by the sea but it took me several years to get here! Now I run along the seafront every morning and swim (in a wet suit) for about seven months of the year. I love watching the tide going in and out. Near my desk I have a sign that says ‘By the sea, all worries wash away’. The water inspires my writing. I often find I get ideas as I walk along the beach with our dog.
Do follow me on Instagram!
In my free time, I love to paint - for myself and on cards to send to friends. It helps me relax. I only started a few years ago, which shows there are still many things one can learn in life. I find that painting and drawing also help my writing. I often sketch out scenes before I write them. My medium is watercolour - here are a few examples:
Friday October 1
Yeovil Literary Festival - Yeovil Library (2pm)
King George Street, Yeovil BA20 1PY
A talk about my Penguin Viking best-selling psychological suspense novel, I Looked Away
Saturday October 26
Bristol Literary Festival - Waterstones (7pm)
Union Street, Broadmead, Bristol BS1 3XD
Dark Stories and Disturbing Tales
Jane Corry (Chair)
'Four of the country’s best-selling psychological thriller writers talk about the art of writing suspense and why psychological drama is so popular during these turbulent times. They will discuss their inspiration, and how they produce haunting and explosive storytelling that grips the reader to the very end. A fascinating evening with five writers at the peak of their genre.'
As a journalist, I’ve interviewed many celebrities over the years including David Essex, Julie Walters, Pam Ayres, Barbara Windsor and and Barbara Dickson. I once had to ask them for inspirational quotes. This came from the author and agony aunt Clare Rayner. I like it because it reminds me that if you hit a tough time in life, it won’t go on for ever. Yet at the same time, you should enjoy the good stuff when it lasts!
"All things must pass"
Whenever you go to a new place, buy a postcard. Pin it on the board in your study. It will help you to describe settings in your book.
"How To Get Published" by Clare Cooper
Fresh from the Sidmouth Literary Festival’s popular “How To Get Published” panel, Woman’s Weekly’s ex Deputy Fiction Editor, Clare Cooper, shares her top writing tips with you.
Before you start, study your targeted magazine’s guidelines, plus as many issues as you can. You should know your market, word counts, presentation, forbidden (and well-worn) themes, etc, as this will save you potential heartache and frustration later on.
Editors can usually tell in the first sentence and certainly the first paragraph, if it will be what they are looking for. We look for the same things you do: A story that’s going to draw us in, intrigue us enough to carry on reading, with believable characters in believable situations. We all love stories that make us laugh and cry. And think. Broaden our horizons a little. Educate us. Entertain us in some way.
Do your research. Check your facts before you send in your story. Small details can make or break its integrity and believability and it’s your name, not the editor’s, on the byline. Get someone else to read your story for you, too. A fresh eye is vital. We are too close to our own work and can’t always see any errors.
Don’t beat yourself up if you become stuck on a particular story. Put it to one side and start on something new. You might want to go back to your original story another day, or you might not. Nothing is wasted; incorporate bits of it into your next story, if you can. You haven’t failed. It’s all fodder!
Reasons for rejection: Well-worn themes, no real surprises/too predictable/guessable. Plots not strong enough. Weak and jokey endings. Far-fetched plots. Disjointed stories that appear to be about more than one thing and don’t have a clear central plot. These “errors” can be worked on, so don’t despair. Try again. Stick a surprise in there somewhere, an unexpected (but not too far-fetched) twist, strengthen the plot, tweak the ending. Sometimes it’s as simple as swapping paras around. Or even, in some cases, cutting two pages down to one. If you are stuck on a story, try this tip: If your story is in the first person, try it in the third, or vice versa. If you are struggling to get under the skin of your main character, try writing your story from another character’s point of view. It could turn out to be a completely different story.
Editors know what their readers want and usually have years of experience and market research behind them. Take any advice on the chin and learn from it. Be flexible. Build a good relationship with your editors. It may not get you any more acceptances than anyone else but who wants to be remembered as someone who is stroppy and difficult to deal with? Editors are your allies, not your enemies. It’s in both your interests to be able to use your stories.
Try to get into the habit of writing something every day, even if it’s “only” your diary (when you become rich and famous, you can publish that as well). Never leave the house without a notebook and pen, or some other means of jotting down any random thoughts and ideas that spring to mind. Everything is fodder, as I said before.
Good luck and happy writing!
[C] Clare Cooper, 2018
PS: I can recommend the online website WOMAG (womagwriter) for up-to-the-minute information, advice and support on all aspects of writing for magazines. It’s run by prolific short story writer, blogger and novelist Patsy Collins (married name Davies) and I have written three pieces for her to date. Go to: https://womagwriter.blogspot.co.uk
My own blog, which includes a light-hearted look at magazine life and more writing tips, can be found at: claredotcooper.wordpress.com, under the site title “Hampton Caught”.