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How I uploaded my WIP to Kindle from Scrivener for a re-read before Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow (eek!) and as you may remember, I have set myself a target of adding 25K to my second novel, provisionally called ‘Seeking Approval’ that I started last November. I’ve been so busy trying to edit/rewrite my first novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ for submission to the RNA that I have had no time to look at the second one since last year and so I felt that a reread was in order before I start writing again tomorrow. The time had come for me to learn how to upload a novel to my Kindle. I read up about it first on one of the Scrivener tutorials and already knew that I would have to ‘compile’ the document but I had no idea what to do after that. Well, I struggled on with a bit of help from my husband and I uploaded my story to my Kindle, having downloaded Kindle Gen from Amazon. I was so excited to have done it that I even took a picture! It felt great to see my book and my name in my list of contents on my Kindle front page. When I opened the story though, I could see there were a few formatting issues which I had no idea how to resolve and although this isn’t a major concern at the moment, I will need to know how to fix these issues at some point.

Luckily, I had signed up for a free webinar last week, organised by Joanna Penn, the indie author, and Joseph Michael, known as The Scrivener Coach. In fact, so many other people had signed up for it too that when we all logged in to watch the webinar last Thursday, the site crashed! However, they re-recorded it and the very next day, they sent us a recording of the whole thing to watch at our leisure. There were many useful topics covered on the webinar and I was pleased to see that I already use Scrivener quite effectively. However, I also picked up a lot of tips and tricks and Joe did a step-by-step explanation of how to compile your work-in-progress for Kindle.

For example, I hadn’t even realised that I had also downloaded the Kindle Previewer from Amazon which would have allowed me to see the formatting problems and fixed them before I uploaded my novel to my Kindle to read. Joe explained that you can even set up an e-book template to use each time you upload a novel to your Kindle or when you’re ready to publish so that you don’t have to remember how to do it each time.
I was pleasantly surprised with the writing of this story and I was easily able to make notes on the text of some edits I wanted to make whilst I was actually reading. I now feel ready to carry on with the story tomorrow with the start of Camp NaNo and I don’t feel anywhere near as daunted as I did previously. Starting tomorrow, my target is to write 1000 words a day minimum to make my target of 25K by the end of the month. The sharp mathematicians amongst you will think this should be easy, given that there are 30 days in April but don’t forget, I’m off to New York for six days so I’ve given myself a bit of leeway 😉

If you’re taking part in Camp NaNo, what’s your goal in April and how have you prepared for it? Let me know in the comments below. Wishing you all lots of luck. See you round the fire 🙂

Kicking off 100 Happy Days with my Birthday

DSCN8244Well, yesterday was my birthday and it was such a lovely day with my family that I decided to start my 100 Happy Days Challenge. We have so many great things coming up that the time seemed right. We went to visit a wonderful National Trust property yesterday in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, called Peckover House. The gardens were superb and the house was a little gem from the Georgian era, with an interesting history. I really enjoyed the visit and I felt I came away with a few new story ideas at least. My family spoilt me and we enjoyed a good day together, watching a soppy rom-com when we got home and then sharing a delicious home-cooked meal in the evening. My husband and I cuddled up to watch the latest episode of Nashville before bed, bringing the day to a perfect close. I have such a lot to be thankful for.

On the writing front, I have now finished the proper second draft of my debut novel. Yippee! It still needs so much work but I really feel I need help to complete what I hope will be the final draft. I’m going to send it to my writing friend, Cat, to read and to another of my friends who I know will give me an honest opinion. I expect them to have a lot of comments which I will have to take on the chin and try to incorporate before I send my manuscript off to the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). As I have signed up to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April, I will have to manage my time very carefully to get all these things done. I do have until the end of August to send my manuscript off for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme Assessment but I’d rather send it before then if I can.

My aim then is to send my second draft off to my readers today and move on to some planning for Camp NaNo which starts a week tomorrow, eek! I can then work on my Camp NaNo project for ten days before we go off on holiday to New York and a further fourteen days when I get back which should be enough time to meet my goal of writing 25k in April. Then, in May, if not before, I should be able to do a final polish of my RNA manuscript, sending it off by the end of the month at the latest. Phew! It feels really good to lay out a plan like this to motivate myself to keep moving forwards.

I was lucky enough to receive two lovely writing related presents for my birthday which will also help to keep me motivated. One was a subscription to Writing Magazine which is full of all kinds of helpful articles for the new writer like me. The second was a place on another of Write Stars’ writing courses which I’ll be attending this coming Saturday. I’ve also signed up to ‘attend’ a webinar this Thursday on getting the most out of Scrivener which I’ve been using for a while but I know I could get so much more from.

So another busy week beckons and I think I’m ready for the challenge. What have you got coming up on the writing front this week? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading 🙂

Finding new inspiration at a Country Music festival

WP_20140316_048Some of you reading this blog may know that I spent the day at the Country to Country Music Festival in London yesterday. This is actually a two day festival but I had never been before so I only went for the one day this year. However, it was such a fabulous day that I really am tempted to go for the whole weekend next year 🙂

I am a new convert to country music, having only got into it last year as a result of watching the TV programme ‘Nashville’. Even though some of my family members have always liked it, and I have liked some of the greats, like Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell etc for years, I didn’t really think of it as my kind of music until I saw that programme on TV. I found the music so inspiring that I started looking for other more contemporary country music singers on Spotify and the next thing I knew, I was hooked. My favourite band in the early days of my conversion was Lady Antebellum and I really liked the hot, sexy nature of some of their songs so much so that I decided to write my own contemporary romance with a country music theme. Yesterday, I got to see another band that I have come to love, ‘The Band Perry’ and they even sang one of the songs that my main character covers in my novel, which is possibly my favourite song of theirs. My daughter has also been converted and she introduced me to Brad Paisley who we also saw perform yesterday and he is responsible for leaving me with his latest song, ‘Mona Lisa’ going round and round my head this morning! A truly lovely guy and a great performer.

One of the best experiences of the day though was being able to see up and coming bands on pop-up stages around the O2 arena. This idea really inspired me and I’m definitely going to add it in to my story somehow 🙂 The best band we saw on a pop-up stage was a Scottish duo, no less, called Raintown. Some of you might already know them because they’re really doing well and they were absolutely fantastic live and seem to have a great following already. If you don’t know them, you really should check them out.

So this year, I went to the UK festival for one of my birthday presents. The only other thing I want to do now is to go to Nashville itself and I have already told my family that that’s what I want to do next year for my big birthday!

After such an inspiring day yesterday, I feel reinvigorated to carry on with my rewrite of ‘From Here to Nashville’ once more and I feel more hopeful that the end is in sight now. Going to the festival couldn’t have come at a better time for me, giving me just the motivation I need to keep going.

What motivates you to carry on with you writing? Let me know by leaving a comment below, I love to hear from readers of my blog. Thanks for reading.

Prepping for my first April Camp NaNoWriMo

Screenshot 2014-03-10 10.23.32It is coming up to a year since I started writing my first novel. This time last year, I hadn’t even heard of NaNoWriMo. I just sat down at my computer one day, inspired to write a story and got on with it, by the seat of my pants. Then I heard about Camp NaNo coming up in July and decided to set myself a goal so that I would keep writing. By then, I already had 70,000 words but I was finding it tough to keep going. I had no idea that writing would be so hard 😉 So, I set myself a modest goal of writing 10,000 words last July which seemed manageable whilst I was still working full-time. Once I had a goal and it was written down somewhere, I knew I would meet it and I did.

In November last year, I used my first proper NaNoWriMo to start my second novel and wrote just over 50,000 words on that story in the month. Since then though, I have written nothing further on it because I have been busily rewriting my first ‘pantser’ novel. Next month’s Camp is going to be for novel number 2 then but before I can go back to it, I must do some PLANNING! Having written one story and half of a second one, the most important lesson I have learned in this past year, is that I am a natural planner when it comes to writing, as with all other things in my life. I so bitterly regret not having planned my first story. So when it come to starting the second one, I tried to outline what I was going to write before getting started. I did write an outline of sorts but what I then wrote did go off at a bit of a tangent and I know there is a lot to fix in the 50,000 words I have already written. Aargh!

I am therefore going to have to spend a bit of time this month getting myself ready before I write again. The thing is, I don’t really have the time to do lots of rewriting before I start but if I just carry on, there will be a ton of rewriting to do when I get to the end! I have decided to start by re-reading what I’ve got so far in order to identify any potential plot-holes, making notes on my Scrivener file where they occur so that I can pick up on them later. After that, I’m going to just get straight on with writing. I have read a lot of advice about outlining before writing and the common theme that comes up is that you are ‘allowed’ to veer off course from what you originally planned and so I’m going to give myself the freedom to do that. It’s not like me but maybe that will be good for me, to just follow my characters and see where they take me. I’ll just have to hope they won’t take me so far off course that rewriting further down the line becomes a nightmare!

Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo this April? If so, what are you doing to get ready? Leave me a comment in the notes below. It would be great to hear from you. As always, thanks for reading 🙂

Rewriting, Time Travel and Van Gogh

DSC_2216I am about a third of the way through the rewrite of my debut novel. Since I wrote my synopsis after the first draft and realised where the plot-holes were, it has been a long slog rewriting the story to be what I want it to be. Had I written an outline before writing that first draft, I know that things would have been a lot easier but it’s simply too late to worry about that now. However, I have learned that lesson for next time (I hope!)

So now, I am trying to move on to the next part of the rewrite and I was hoping that things would be a bit easier from here on in, that there wouldn’t be so much to change in the story but sadly, I was wrong. It’s becoming a bit like time travel, as in the lovely Richard Curtis film, ‘About Time,’ which I watched with my family recently. The main character finds out he can travel backwards in time but when he tries to put past wrongs right, he affects the future in other ways and then has to rearrange all his changes. Well, my story is feeling a bit like that because if I change when the characters make love for the first time for example, it will affect many chapters before and after in many different ways. Suddenly, what seemed like a small change becomes a nightmare!

My current problem is that in my first draft, my main character, Rachel, made a demo CD with Jackson, her love interest, in London before he went back to Nashville. He then took it back with him to play to his colleagues at his record label before she comes out to join him there. In this draft though, she goes out to Nashville to make the demo CD. So, I have to condense many chapters down and get her to Nashville much more quickly so she can make the demo CD and the rest can follow. Since I know this is going to be hard, I am putting off getting started but I am under some pressure to get this all rewritten now, having set myself a deadline of finishing by the end of March if possible.

I’ve been wondering what can I do to push myself to make a start? Well, yesterday, I had a lovely day out with my friend, as we always do when our birthdays are coming up (they are a day apart, later this month). We visited the National Gallery in London to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. I have always loved Van Gogh’s art and always feel so saddened by the tragic life he led, despite being such a talented artist. The two paintings we saw yesterday were painted only months apart and for some of the time, he was in an asylum, yet the beauty he managed to create during such a terrible time in his life is remarkable. With Van Gogh’s example as my inspiration, maybe it’s time to tackle this next phase of rewriting head-on and who knows, I might end up with something good at the end, not in Van Gogh’s league but something I am pleased with when I finish.

What or who is your inspiration when you get stuck in your writing? Do let me know in the comments below and thank you, as always for continuing to read my blog 🙂

The Lighthouse Award

the-lighthouse-award1How lucky am I? My lovely writing friend, Cat Lumb, has nominated my blog for another award! You can find Cat’s blog here. Cat and I have become friends through a shared love of writing and we are now working as critique partners for each other’s novels. You can read about her writing journey on her site and pick up lots of valuable writing tips there too! She has helped me in so many ways and I am very grateful for her support, advice and friendship 🙂

This new award is called The Lighthouse Award and it’s a bit different from some of the other awards out there. So, without further ado, here are the rules for it:

  • Display the Award Certificate on your blog.
  • Write a post and link back to the blogger that nominated you.
  • Share three ways that you like to help others.
  • Nominate as many bloggers as you like.
  • Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
  • Have fun!

Here are my nominees, chosen because I enjoy reading about their experiences and I’m sure you will enjoy them too:

Helena Fairfax – Romance Author
Diana Scott – The Pelican Writer
Touching Light – The Thoughts and Fiction of H B Slade

Okay, so now to the difficult bit. How do I think I help people?
Well, I suppose the most obvious way in which I help people is through my part-time job as a teacher. Helping children to learn is an important job, whether they’re your own children or someone else’s and it’s a job that the children make worthwhile.

I have a family of my own and I think I am pretty helpful to them. This ranges from making sure that my kids get up and go to school every day, to planning and booking interesting holidays for us all, which is one of my favourite activities.

We are a very pet-friendly family and have rescued three cats over the past twenty years or so, helping them to have better lives than they would have done otherwise. One of our cats passed away recently and it was just as upsetting as the previous time but they really have enriched our lives 🙂

So that’s my bit done. Do go and have a look at the other websites mentioned here. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them as much as I do. Thanks for reading. My next post will be on Monday, as normal.

Three Ways Evernote can help you as a writer

EvernoteMy husband has been telling me how good the app Evernote is for a while now and how he thinks it could help me. This week, I finally started to pay attention to what he was saying when I read this article on Lifehacker, called ‘How to use Evernote for writing fiction.’

I had a quick read through the article and immediately picked up three ways that I thought Evernote could help me as a writer which I want to share with you today.

1. Evernote’s Web Clipper Even in the short space of time in which I’ve been writing, I have started to gather lots of bits and pieces of information to help me in my writing process. I have been bookmarking interesting websites, following other WordPress sites which then pop up in my reader and subscribing to some via email. This gives me a lot of reading material and I try and keep up with it all as best I can but never quite manage to finish reading.

As a result, I have a whole reading list of ‘How To’ articles to re-read later and when I have something specific I need to do, like writing a synopsis, for example, I find all the articles I bookmarked about that, sift out the least helpful ones and then find myself left with about half a dozen really useful articles to help me do the task in question. Now, I know that I will have to write a synopsis again at some point (unfortunately!) so what I’d like to be able to do is to keep all these articles together somewhere, other than just holding them on my reading list on Safari for ever or printing them out and storing them in a file to gather dust. This is where Evernote comes in 🙂 This facility allows you to ‘clip’ an article you want to keep and to store it for good without it cluttering up your desktop or your house. You simply clip the article from the internet using Evernote and it saves as a note. I can then create a notebook called ‘How to write a synopsis’ for example and then clip all the relevant articles into that notebook for future reference. This took very little time and now I have them all stored in one place.

2. Synching to all devices Evernote syncs on all your devices so you can access everything you’ve stored in it wherever you are, allowing you to read, write, take notes, look at images, listen to sound files and so on. I downloaded Evernote on to my Mac and on to my ‘phone and have already made good use of the synching facility. It’s a free application too which is even better for the impoverished author 😉

3. Capturing Images and storing them for research When you’re out and about, you can use Evernote to snap photos of anything you see that inspires you for your writing project. When you get home, you can then sync your devices and these images will be on your computer for you to use as you will. I will then copy images into Scrivener which is where I do my writing and may use these for characters or setting to give me ideas.
There are other ways of doing these things of course but what I like about Evernote is that it allows you to keep related things in one place and from an organisational point of view, I think that is very helpful indeed.

Do you use Evernote already? If so, what’s your favourite aspect? I’m looking to pick up tips! Or maybe you use another app which you think is just as good. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading 🙂

Why I Write

DSC_0176I have two children and I was very lucky not to have to work when they were small. Of course, there were days when I thought I might go mad with only two young children for company but mostly, I just enjoyed that time whilst I could. Once my youngest was at school though, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, finally deciding that I should retrain as a teacher. I had thought about it many times in the past but it was only through volunteering in my children’s school that I came to realise that this was a job I could do and perhaps enjoy.

A year ago, I had been teaching for about four years when a personal crisis came in the family. This only confirmed for me what I had been thinking for some time, which was that my own family and my own life, were coming second to my job. As anyone who is a teacher knows, it can be all-consuming. You never get to the end of your to-do list and the paperwork is overwhelming at the best of times. Add to this the constant scrutiny and it can feel like a very miserable job indeed. I made a decision then that I would ask to go part-time. Whilst I waited to hear the school’s decision and I struggled to deal with the personal crisis, I started to write my novel.
Writing became an escape for me. I found it calming and therapeutic to write and in no time at all, I had a complete first draft on my hands. Suddenly, a new world had opened up before me and I wanted to know more about it. In September last year, I switched to part-time working and now, on my two days off from work, I try and write as much as possible and I try to write/edit on every other day as well. My life feels more balanced and I have more time and energy for my own family.

My ultimate goal is to publish my novel now and to finish the other one I’m in the middle of writing. A lot of hard work lies between now and then but whilst writing continues to help me make sense of my life and what I want from it, I will keep on doing it. I’m not afraid of the hard work at all, although it is daunting to be learning something new (as I’ve documented on my blog here 😉 ) but with each achievement comes satisfaction and that makes it all worth it. This week, I finished my one page synopsis for example and sent it with the first two chapters of my novel to the Bath Novel Award competition. It was a long hard slog writing that synopsis but now I’ve done it, it feels great and I feel ready to go back to my rewriting.

So, in summary, I started writing to help me through a difficult time in my life and now that I have passed through that crisis and come out the other side, I am glad to say, I find myself doing something so enjoyable that my only question is why didn’t I do it earlier? Who knows? But I truly believe that now is my time to spread my wings through writing and I plan to make the most of it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. If you’d like to share your story about why you started writing below in the comments, I’d love to hear it.

Why you should attend a writing course

DSCN8178At long last, I have attended my first writing course and I wanted to share with you how useful it was for me at this stage in my writing journey. The course was run by a company called Write Stars and was one of many that they run throughout the year. See their website here.

This particular workshop was run by Katherine Garbera, a prolific romance novel writer, published by Harlequin with more than 60 novels to her name, and the objective of the course was to help us introduce more passion to our writing. We were a small group and Katherine encouraged us all to share what our current writing projects were before we began. The atmosphere was very positive right from the start with everyone expressing interest in each other’s writing activities and Katherine was so encouraging of us all.
The format for the workshop was that Katherine would introduce an element of romance writing, for example, how to write the first kiss between your characters and then she would read out one of her own examples to give us the idea. We then sat and wrote our own version and we had plenty of time for this. Not one of us sat there unable to write. The explanations Katherine gave were so helpful and carefully structured so as to enable us to get straight on with it and her years of experience really showed. We then shared our writing with the rest of the class and listened to their feedback. I found it so heartening to receive positive comments and it was such a confidence boost!

We also had lots of time to ask questions of Katherine and of each other and I felt we bonded very well as a group. It was so good knowing that we all shared the same insecurities as writers. I felt I learnt a great deal on this course and I have already put quite a few things into practice since returning home.

So if you have been thinking about attending a course, I would encourage you to get on with it. You will learn something, you will interact with other like-minded people and you will probably make some new friends. Not only that but the whole act of sharing your writing will hopefully make you realise what a good job you’ve been doing so far and that will boost your confidence enormously, which has to be a very good thing 🙂
Have you been on any good writing courses? Let me know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading 😉

How to stay sane while rewriting

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Image credit – Flickr – Becca Peterson

Fear seems to be the theme for a lot of my posts so far this year 🙁
I have been steadily rewriting my first draft for a while now, in fact for the first part of my story, this is more like rewrite number four and every time I think I’ve got it in the bag, I realise that there are still far too many aspects of the story that aren’t quite right yet. Admittedly, I have sought external feedback and now I’m having to take that feedback on the chin, which is proving to be very hard. It feels like I will never be done with the rewrites and that fills me with gloom and fear. I am normally a very optimistic person, a great feat considering I have been married for nearly twenty-five years to someone whose favourite band of all time is The Smiths and favourite singer, Morrissey, by extension 😉 I have spent my life being a glass half-full kind of person but since I started my first novel, I have found myself feeling daunted by the uphill struggle that writing involves. Naturally, I have spent some time wondering why this is and here is my conclusion.

Although there is a wealth of advice out there, there is no single tried and tested method for writing a novel and you wouldn’t want there to be. It’s just that there are so many choices. Should you outline or fly by the seat of your pants? Should you just write until you finish then edit or should you edit as you go? Should you aim for a beginning, middle and end or should you have five plot points, maybe even seven? I could go on but I can see you nodding and don’t even get me started on punctuation! I’m just reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ at the moment and whilst I’m enjoying this book by one of my writing heroes, even he would agree that he doesn’t practise what he preaches (see what he has to say about the use of adverbs, for example). As a result, the whole writing process is very confusing for a new writer. It will all be such a relief when we’re writing book number two and we know what to expect!

I read an interesting article by an author called Ryan Casey about five steps you can take to make rewriting less painful. You can read it here. Three of his points really stood out to me, as follows:

  • I found his suggestion about creating a rewriting outline very helpful. He talks of the ‘beat sheet’ idea put forward by Roz Morris in her book ‘Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish with Confidence’. Interestingly, I had been trying to do this very thing in an Excel spreadsheet myself, having seen a synopsis tackled this way by a writing friend. I say trying because I was copying and pasting my scene descriptions from my Scrivener document and it was taking so long, I had become bored and given up! I have decided that I will try and finish this to help me get my head round what I have put into each scene so that when, I said, WHEN, I need to go back and change things, it might be a bit easier.
  • Interestingly, he suggests setting a target of rewriting two scenes a day, in an effort to be realistic about your targets and goals. I have been doing much more than this, steaming ahead on my days off from work which is my precious writing time. The result of this approach for me has been that I now have so much more to put right following the feedback I’ve received. I am under some pressure in that I have joined the RNA’s (Romantic Novelists’ Association) New Writers’ Scheme and this means I have to submit my manuscript for assessment by the end of August at the latest, although I would prefer to do it sooner. However, I think I have to slow down and be patient if I want the end result to be as good as possible.
  • Finally, he suggests that we should work on a new project to boost our creative energy. I have left my Nano 2013 novel untouched, pretty much since the end of last November and this point made me realise that I miss it 🙂

I now have some new goals to help me and hope that I will be able to get back to it with renewed enthusiasm. I know this is new advice and we’re all feeling overwhelmed with it but the trouble is, when you don’t know the answers, what else are you going to do? Of course, we will all do what feels right for us individually and only in doing so, will we know whether it was right or not. Writing this first book to completion will be trial and error and we will either make it to book two or we will give up between now and then. I sincerely hope that what I have learned so far will help me get there and if I have helped you too, then so much the better.

If you’re stuck in the middle of rewriting, let me know how you’re getting on in the comments below. Thanks for reading.