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Category: Blogging

Some Things I’ve Learnt in my First Week as a Published Author

Image by stemberovi via flickr.com

As I sit here, one week after self-publishing my debut novel, From Here to Nashville, the one word I would use to describe how I feel is exhausted! But to qualify, it is a good kind of exhausted, if you know what I mean 🙂

Last Monday, my launch day, purposely timed to coincide with my half-term holiday from my day job as a teacher and also #MondayBlogs, of course, was a fantastic day. I had three times the normal number of shares and retweets of my blog post that day. Three times! I was overwhelmed by the support I received from the blogging community on Twitter, from my Facebook Author page and from friends, new and old. It was great to learn how supportive my online community is though and quite humbling, I have to say.

I had set up a blog tour, visiting a different blog each day last week and so I was busy promoting my interviews on those blogs as well throughout the week. I know I said thank you to all those people last week but I’d just like to say so again because every single one of them took time out of their busy schedule to support me, sharing their blog posts repeatedly to draw attention to my new book and for that, I am extremely grateful. Not only that but more people have offered to host me on their blogs as a result! It was amazing to learn how people I have never met have been prepared to step up and help me and I still find myself marvelling at the generosity of other writers, bloggers, readers and book reviewers.

Talking of readers and book reviewers, I had another wonderful moment when I received my first review. This was from Clare who reviews books she has read at her website, TheTBRPile.com. She wrote a lovely review for me, which you can read here and in doing so, she set the ball rolling. I now have a few reviews on Amazon and a fair number of people have added my book to their Goodreads shelf as a book they want to read. You can add it too using this Goodreads link 😉 This has made me realise how important reviews are to you as the author. I knew they would be important before I published but what I learned this week was that a positive review boosts your confidence in your own ability as a writer. They don’t need to be glowing in every word or phrase necessarily but if they show that the person has enjoyed reading your book and that they have understood what you were trying to achieve, then that is a fantastic boost. Another thing I learnt though is that Amazon doesn’t tell you when you get a review so you have to check every day.

I have to confess to becoming a bit obsessed with checking for reviews and various other stats, including sales of course, every day. Mind you, it hasn’t been a minute-by-minute obsession, mostly just a daily check because in Amazon’s case, that’s the only update you get. The pre-order sale did give me a spike in sales for that first day but that hasn’t been matched since. I could best describe sales as slow and steady in this first week, which I think is all you can hope for as a self-published author at this stage. I am celebrating all those sales and learning that visibility takes time to build.

My paperback is now almost finished too. My cover came back from the designer during the week, as did my ISBN numbers. I decided to get my own so that the book will be published by me, rather than by Create Space which is what happens if you use their free ISBN. This is only because I would like to try and contact bookstores in the future to see if they will stock From Here to Nashville and I have been told that bookstores are less likely to want to stock your book if it says ‘published by Create Space’ on it. I learnt that I should have agreed to having the paperback cover designed at the same time as the ebook cover, which the designer suggested but I decided against. I should have purchased my ISBNs then too. Still, there is only so much room in my brain for all the new things I’ve been learning and I know for next time. I won’t have to worry about ISBNs for a while now because I bought ten!

And so, what next? The paperback is being reviewed and I should have a proof copy soon and then it will be full steam ahead for adding that to my Amazon page. I am moving on now to the next phase of marketing for From Here to Nashville which will be contacting some of the book reviewers I have come to know to see if I can organise some more reviews. Reviews don’t affect sales rank directly but when readers land on your Amazon page, a higher number of reviews might just persuade them to buy. I am also continuing with my second novel, again slowly but surely, which seems to be my motto for the week 😉 Oh and I have to go back to the day job on Wednesday, back to reality for the time being 🙂

Thanks for reading everyone. As always, do leave me a comment below if you’d like to. It’s always great to hear from you.

Face the Fear and Set those Writing Goals for 2015!

DSCN9096Having reviewed my writing year in last week’s blog post, I am going to set some new writing goals for the coming year this week. These were my writing goals for 2014:

  • To finish editing my first draft of ‘From Here to Nashville’.
  • To have it professionally edited.
  • To work hard with my critique partners to make my work as good as it can possibly be.
  • To finish the first draft of my second novel too.
  • To attend a writing course or two.
  • To take a proofreading course.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have achieved all but one of these goals and I am very proud of myself for that. Now, as I stand on the brink of publication next year, I don’t know what I’m more frightened of: the fact that I’m about to publish my debut novel or that I haven’t even finished the first draft of my second one.
Well, on our summer holiday in the French Alps this year, I went on a cable car ride with my younger daughter. This was something we’d both been quite frightened of at the start of the holiday but we went along and faced the fear. By the time I took the picture you see here, we were on a cable car on our own feeling super-confident and wondering what it was we’d been so worried about before. As we approached the top, we prepared to get out of the car…only to find that we were only halfway up and had a lot further to go up an incredibly steep mountainside. Sound familiar? 😉

Some of you will wonder what I’m worrying about, I know. If I’m self-publishing, I can set the schedule, right? However, I have signed up again to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme and I have to submit my book by the end of August for them to review. When I told my husband this, he laughed telling me that was loads of time! If you write, you will know how months have an uncanny knack of passing in what seems like only a matter of days and you will understand that I have a lot of hard work to do to get this first draft into some sort of shape. I wrote it in NaNoWriMo 2013 (!) and have fiddled about with it since then but made very little progress towards the story I want it to be.

This is partly because ‘From Here to Nashville’ has dominated my life and my time for most of this year. Yesterday though, I got my comments back from my beta readers and when I have dealt with those, my first novel goes off to be proofread and that will be that!

So what will my goals be for 2015?
1. Publish ‘From Here to Nashville’ in ebook form to Amazon, followed by a paperback version a few months later.
2. Finish the first draft of book 2 and send it in to be reviewed by the RNA.
3. Take part in NaNoWriMo with a full outline of book 3.
4. Keep blogging weekly about ‘My Writing Life’ and building up my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature for other writing friends.
5. Start sending out my newsletter to people who have signed up.

I think this is a manageable set of goals to be getting on with and I feel pretty confident that they are all achievable. I hope that you will stay with me for the next part of my roller-coaster ride and if you’re interested to know what’s coming up, just a bit ahead of everyone else, why not sign up to receive my newsletter? You can do this by clicking on the link at the top right of this page. I will be sending out my first one early in the New Year.

Thank you all for reading, as always, and thank you once again for your support. Wishing you all a Happy New Year and the best that 2015 can bring.

5 Highlights from My Very Busy Writing Year – 2014

DSC_0503Looking back at the blog posts I have written this year, I am amazed at what I have managed to pack in. So, as the end of the year approaches, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the highlights.

1. The year began with me successfully joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). There are only 250 places on this scheme available each year and I knew it would be hotly contested so I was very excited when I found out I had got a place. I went on to submit my debut novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ to the NWS and received a very positive report back from my reader. There was still a lot of work to do but I had made a good start.

In addition to this though, I have made many new and lovely friends by joining the RNA and attending events like their Summer Party, the annual Conference, my local RNA group lunches and being invited to events by established authors like the lovely Phillipa Ashley. The support I have received from this network of writers has been wonderful and I can’t thank them all enough. I will be rejoining the RNA next year and look forward to another wonderful year with writing friends, old and new.

2. I finished ‘From Here to Nashville’ at last! When I say that, I really mean it as well. After I got my report back from the RNA, I rewrote and edited some more before seeking a professional edit. I finished those edits just a couple of weeks ago and now my beta readers and I are giving it one last read through before it goes to the proofreader in January. I am pleased with how it’s looking from my read through so far, with only minor changes looking likely. I have had a professional cover designed which I’m really happy with and I am cracking on with the formatting for Kindle. I know now that I will publish my debut novel early next year and I am so excited about that.

3. I have attended three writing courses this year, as well as taking part in an online course run by Future Learn. In February, I went on a course called ‘Passion on the Page’ run by Write Stars. It was a great course, run by romance author Katherine Garbera and I learnt a lot from it that I could use in my writing. Then, at the end of March, I went on another Write Stars course led by romance author, Sue Moorcroft, ‘How to Write a Romance Novel in a day.’ Once again, it was a very useful course and I learnt lots from Sue and the other attendees. I signed up for the Future Learn course ‘Start Writing Fiction’ in April and although this was a course for beginners, I found it useful. I also started a writing journal as a result of being on the course which was one of the best decisions I made all year! Finally, I went on a Short Story course, run by Woman’s Weekly magazine in October. The course was led by Della Galton, another experienced author of both short stories and novels and it was clear that she really knew her stuff.

4. I established my author platform this year. By this, I mean that I worked out which social media was proving useful for me. I started out on Twitter and I now have a solid following there of about 1,000 people. I’m happy to keep it around that number because I want to interact with my followers as much as I can and this number seems manageable.

I have seen my blog go from strength to strength this year, receiving no less than five awards and I love writing my weekly post and engaging with readers as a result of it. The #MondayBlogs has been incredibly useful for my blog and I really enjoy participating in it. There are a number of other hashtags I could get involved in but as I work part-time, I’m not sure I could keep up with it. I do use Tweetdeck on Mondays to help me manage all the retweets and faves. I like to thank people for being supportive and I know that they appreciate it so Tweetdeck helps me keep on top of everything (Thanks to Liz Harris from the RNA for that tip!) I have also enjoyed taking part in various blog tours and have recently started a Cover Reveals feature once a month to help other new authors, which has proved popular.

This year, I also managed to set up a Facebook Author page. It is building slowly and may not prove that worthwhile longer term but I have found having a personal page lots of fun and I enjoy supporting other authors at their virtual events. If you’d like to make contact on Facebook, do go on over and like my page so that you get my updates.

I do also have a Pinterest page but I know I’m not doing much with it yet so that will be one to work on for next year perhaps. Here’s the link though if you want to see what I pin and follow me. Beware though, you will waste hours on there!

5. I have learnt so much this year, I can hardly believe it. I have written posts about writing a synopsis, Point of View, rewriting, editing, outlining, show not tell, how to write a blurb, working with a cover designer, self-publishing, proofreading, formatting, creating a newsletter, Evernote and Scrivener! I feel exhausted just reading that list but I know it shows how far I have come in my writing life over the past year.

I’d like to finish with a big thank you to all those of you who read my blog every week and take time to comment and share my posts. It has meant a lot to me and I hope that you’ll join me as I move into 2015 and finally publish my debut novel 🙂 Merry Christmas to you all!

The 7 Stages of Editing I have used from First to Final Draft

Poker-sm-228-7h
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia

I started writing ‘From Here to Nashville’, my debut romance novel in April 2013. By the end of October that year, I had a first draft which was over 100,000 words. As this is my first novel, I really had no idea how to go about the next stage so I turned to the internet to help me. Naturally, there was a whole ton of information and advice out there so I had to sift through it and work out what was right for me. I thought then that it might be useful, as much for myself as anyone else, to summarise the stages that I have gone through with this first novel in the hope that I will be better at it next time round!

1. Reading aloud
It is generally accepted that this is a good first step to take after writing that messy first draft without having stopped to edit along the way. This was the approach I had taken with this first novel and it’s also what I did with my second which was written during NaNoWriMo 2013 when I discovered that there is simply no time to stop and edit. For this process, I printed the story out. When I came to reading my story out loud, I realised that this is not something you can do quickly and the very act of slowing down meant that I found lots of little mistakes and was easily able to highlight them for editing later. This included the repetitive use of some words and I also found, for example, that I repeated characters’ names too much so I deleted quite a few of these. I noticed that I hadn’t been consistent with my writing of numbers, dates and times so I decided on a style and then I stuck to it. I found some obvious plot-holes that would need correcting later and I was able to ponder the structure of the story and think about whether it needed tweaking.

2. Replacing Passive sentences with Active sentences – E-Prime
I first wrote about this on my blog in May this year and you can read the full post here. In summary, this involves finding and replacing the verb ‘to be’ with a more active verb in your writing. The example I gave in the article still holds good, I think but here’s another one for you:
Before – ‘We were strolling along the promenade…’
After – ‘We strolled along the promenade…’
You won’t be able to do this for every instance but when you can do it, you will notice that it definitely improves your writing.

3. Over-used words
As I use Scrivener, it was really easy for me to see which words I was over-using using the ‘Text Statistics’ function which is an option under the tab ‘Project.’ I have taken a screenshot today of the most used words in my manuscript and I can still see that ‘I’ is at the top, as it was in May! I have managed to reduce the number of times I use it though 🙂
Screenshot 2014-09-08 09.47.08
As you can see, these are all every day words and I feel pretty happy that I have managed to eradicate over-use of most of them. Words like ‘that’ are often put in unnecessarily and can bump up your word count no end. There are lots of articles about these over-used or filler words and you really should have a look at eliminating these during the editing process. Here are just a few things to look out for:

  • over-use of adverbs.
  • using clichés. Work out what you’re trying to say and then write it differently.
  • using ‘began to’ or ‘started to’ or ‘decided to.’
  • using ‘seemed to.’
  • using ‘very’, ‘really’ or ‘just.’

4. Showing not Telling
Once my manuscript came back from the RNA, this was the first big thing I had to tackle. This was to be expected as it was my first novel so I didn’t beat myself up about it too much. Half the battle is in working out when you should show and when telling will be alright. Once again, I wrote a blog post about it here and there are also lots of articles written about it which you may or may not find helpful! The best one I found is listed in my blog post and remains the one I found the most useful.

5. Cutting Scenes that are not relevant to the story
This speaks for itself and has been painstaking because I have found it difficult to be sure whether every one is relevant or not. Sometimes it was very clear and I was able to delete without any worries but at other times, it was hard. I suspect that this comes with practice. If you write a good outline for your story and keep to it pretty much through the first draft, then hopefully, the redundant scenes will be fewer at the end. I’ll have to let you know on that one next time 😉 For now though, only you can know what you think is relevant or otherwise to your story but the general advice is that a scene is not relevant if it doesn’t move the story forward.

6. Killing your Darlings!
We’ve all heard this phrase, I’m sure but I hadn’t really absorbed it until I was advised that I had too many minor characters in my story. When I thought about it, I had to agree and I realised that this would mean quite a change to the plot of the story. Once again, it has been hard to make these changes at this stage but I know it has helped my story to improve and that’s what all this editing is about. We’re trying to make our story tighter and to make it a great read. To be honest, most of my secondary characters weren’t all that ‘darling’ to me and I was kind of relieved to release them off into the sunset. Who knows, maybe they’ll find another home in one of the books I have yet to write?

7. Adding Emotion to your Romance
The final piece of advice I have been given so far is that there needs to be more emotion on the page whenever my two main characters, Rachel and Jackson, are together. This advice came as a result of the partial edit I had done on my first three chapters and was really useful. The reader knows that your main characters are going to fall in love but you have to keep ramping up the tension every time they meet and although I knew this and it’s what I want as a reader, I could see that I hadn’t really written it into my story as much as I could have done.

And there you have it. This is only a brief summary of what I’ve done so far. I hope to send it off for its final edit next week and only then will I really know if I’ve done everything I can. It has been a steep learning curve for me as a new writer and I couldn’t have got this far without the help of a lot of other people, including the early readers of my novel. In the beginning, I allowed a fair few friends and family members to read parts of the novel and to tell me what they thought. This was only partly helpful because they all said it was great, of course and only picked up on typos. Some did want Rachel to go with a different love interest and that was certainly useful for helping me to develop the plot. Next time, I won’t ask so many people to read it in the early stages though. I will stick with my beta reader and writing friend, Cat, if she’ll still have me (!) and I have another writing friend who has offered to read my final draft this time (she knows who she is but she may have changed her mind since making that offer!) It is a big time commitment to beta read and you need writers to do it for you because they can be impartial, unlike your family and friends.

Good luck with your editing if that’s where you’re at and if you have any questions for me, do ask in the comments below or tell me of something you’ve done which has been really helpful for you. Thanks for reading and see you next week 🙂

Some Thoughts on How to Make Your Dreams a Reality

Dreams
Photo courtesy of flickr.com

This past week I have been doing a lot of reflecting as the time for me to go back to work was approaching after the long summer holiday and so, this post is the result of some of those reflections, if you don’t mind indulging me, just this once 😉

Like a lot of writing people I know, it would be a dream come true for me to be able to give up my day job so that I could spend all my time writing. The trouble is that the writing would have to provide me with the income that the day job does and as I haven’t yet published anything, this leaves me with a bit of a problem for the time being 😉 I’m sure that there are other people out there reading this blog who would also like to give up their day job so that they could spend all their time doing something they really love and getting paid for it too. Unfortunately, life takes over and the reality is that for most of us, this isn’t an easy option.

So how do you make your dreams a reality? Can you even do that? Well, this time last year, I took what I now realise was the first step on that path. After a lot of discussion with my husband, we decided that we could afford for me to switch to part-time working in my job. This was partly a financial decision for obvious reasons but it was also about our own children who we felt were suffering because we were both out working full-time. I had been lucky enough to stay at home with them when they were young and had only gone back to working full-time in 2009. Soon though, I was strung out, feeling like I was doing everything badly because I just didn’t have enough time to do anything well. Going part-time has definitely improved my stress levels and to a much greater extent than I had thought possible.

However, in the last week or so, I have felt very low about what the next year might bring for me, which undoubtedly has a lot to do with the fact that I’m going to be turning 50. It’s a time in your life when you start to wonder whether this is it, whether you’re just going to be slogging away until retirement (whenever that is these days) and whether you will have nothing to show for your life’s achievements. It’s also because I’ve been visiting universities with my daughter and helping her find the path to her dreams. We’ve always taught our children that you can reinvent yourself as many times as you like in life, that your path is not cast in stone because of decisions you make when you’re 18 so you should choose the path that you believe will make you happy at that time but if you change your mind later, it’s okay. Your dreams don’t have an expiry date and they can, and will, change as you go through your life.

I know that I have so much to be thankful for in my life and also that I will have plenty to show for it at the end in personal terms. But there is also your own personal desire to make a success of what you choose to do for your living and to enjoy doing it. So now it’s time for me to take the next step on my path, I think. I am going to do what I have always done when I reach these points in my life: I’m going to train to do something else, something I can do from home that will be a good back-up as a business to do along side the writing. I had planned to do this training last year but for some reason, I talked myself out of it so this time, I’m going to get on with it and take that next step. I believe that the more options you have, the better able you will be to make your dream a reality and for me, that has always started with learning. By taking that decision, I feel so much better because now I have a plan. I know I want to publish my first book next year and everything is on target for that, I hope, so I can turn my attention to learning something else for a while and see what that leads me to. This is a small step perhaps but that’s how you bring about change in my view: one small step at a time.

If I can share only one piece of advice from my self-indulgent reflections, it is simply that every major change in life has to start with a small step and eventually, all those steps add up until you find that you’ve actually made a great big leap one day. This is only what I have experienced of course, your view may be different to mine and if it is, I’d love you to leave me a comment below. In the meantime, I wish you luck with your chosen path and encourage you to take whatever small step you need to towards making your dream come true.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

inspiring
I’ve been nominated for another award! This time, it’s the Very Inspiring Blogger Award and I was nominated by Pam McIlroy whose wonderful blog about reading and writing can be found here.

Here are the rules of the award:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  • Optional: follow the blogger who nominated you, if you don’t already do so.

Seven Things About Me
Well, this is starting to get a bit difficult because I’ve received a few of these awards now and I’m not sure there’s anything new for me to say about myself but I’ll try! I’ve decided to go with a romance theme since it is a very important theme in my life.

  • I write romance novels in my spare time. I hope to publish my first novel before the end of this year so it’s a very exciting time.
  • Talking of romance, I have been married for 25 years and celebrated this milestone with my husband and family with a trip to New York earlier this year.
  • We got engaged in Paris and spent our honeymoon there too. I spent my last big birthday there and we also took my older daughter there for her 16th birthday last year.
  • My husband and I met when we were travelling on a ‘plane to Rome to perform in some choir concerts there. It was to take us more than twenty years to get back again!
  • Travelling is one of my favourite things to do and there are still so many places I would like to see. Apart from Europe, I have only ever been to America so that leaves a heck of a lot of world still to see!
  • I play the piano (not very well) and a little guitar too, as well as being a singer.
  • My favourite romance stories or films are often ones where someone dies! I’m not quite sure what this says about me 🙂 Anyway, I love the film ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ and I also love ‘P.S. I Love You.’ In my view, the best romances make you cry your eyes out!

And now for my 15 nominees:
1. Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer
2. Heidi-Jo Swain: Writer’s Blog
3. Joanne Phillips: A Writer’s Journey
4. Helena Fairfax: Romance Author
5. Cynthia Harrison: Novelist
6. Karen Soutar: Fact and Fiction
7. J.E. Nice: Writer
8. Rebecca Bradley: Crime Writer
9. Janice Preston: Writer of Regency Romance
10. Bernadette O’Dwyer: Writer
11. Norah Colvin: Teacher and Writer
12. Debi Smith: Writer and Chocolate Lover
13. Sandra Danby: Writer
14. Ruth Livingstone: Fiction Writer and Blogger
15. John de Gruyther: Freelance Writer

Camp NaNoWriMo April 2014 Winner!

2014-Winner-Vertical-BannerThis morning, I have written a colossal 1,850 words to finally meet my Camp NaNoWriMo goal of writing 25,000 words this month. As you know from my post last week though, I was actually away on holiday for six days and I have finished two days early! This means (and I hope you can hear the drum roll in the background) that I have written an average of 1,136 words a day during Camp this month. Phew! It has been hard work but as always, it has been worth it. My second novel is now around 80,000 words and although I won’t now be writing any more on it for a while, I’m really pleased with the way this first draft is shaping up.

This also brings me to the end of my first year of NaNoWriMo events. I started with Camp in July last year, then I did NaNoWriMo in November and I’ve now completed my first April Camp so I’m feeling very pleased with myself. It definitely works for me as a motivator to get writing and not to worry too much about what needs editing but I really want to make sure that before I start my third novel in November, I have a detailed outline in place for what I want to write. I had a vague outline when I started this story last November but I have gone off at a tangent and I know I will be pulling my hair out later down the line, as I try to get the story straight again! Still, it’s all progress from my first novel when I was a pantser. I know different approaches work for different people but I have found the revising part really hard for my first novel and I can only put this down to not having had an outline. So that will be my goal for next time.

So what next? Well, this week, I’m starting an online Fiction Writing course with Future Learn, part of The Open University. This runs for the next eight weeks and will give me something to do when I need a break from my final edit of ‘From Here to Nashville.’ It still sounds amazing to hear myself say that. I have now had my beta readers’ comments back and I need to crack on with that edit in May so that I can send my manuscript off to be assessed by the RNA. If I achieve that, I will be very pleased with myself and I’ll be able to spend June and July back working on my second novel, provisionally called ‘Seeking Approval.’

As ever, I am keeping myself busy but I may just allow myself a bit of time off for the next couple of days before I throw myself back into the next phase. At this rate, I’ll be going back to my day job for a rest! I hope all those of you who have taken part in Camp NaNoWriMo this month have met your goals and are feeling pleased with yourselves for doing so. It really is an achievement and we should all feel proud. Thanks for reading and for your comments. It’s always good to hear from you. Have a good week!

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

I have only been writing seriously for about a year and yet in this short time, I have made so many new friends through Twitter, through my blog and most importantly, through my writing. One of those friends is Sandra Danby who very kindly asked me to take part in this blog tour about my writing process (I still can’t quite believe it’s me writing that last sentence). I ‘met’ Sandra through her blog ‘Notes on a Spanish Valley’ and we became friends through a shared love of rural Spain. Sandra is also a serious writer and is just about to publish her first novel. You can find out more about her writing by following this link to her writing blog here.

My hope in taking part in this blog tour is to help other writers, maybe ones like me who are just starting out and wondering how to go about things in this strange new world of writing 😉 Next Monday, 21st April, 2014, please take a look at the blogs written by my friends and fellow writers, Cat Lumb, Heidi-Jo Swain and John de Gruyther (find out more below).

What am I working on at the moment?
Nashville Book CoverI have just finished a second proper draft of my debut novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ (FHTN), a contemporary romance about a music teacher who decides to pursue her dream of becoming a successful singer/songwriter of country music and finds love along the way. It has been a bit of a slog to get it to this point but I’ve done it! In January, I joined the New Writers’ Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association which means that I can submit a manuscript to them for a professional assessment. The deadline for sending the manuscript in is the end of August but I’d like to send it sooner than that. FHTN is now out with my lovely beta readers and I await their comments on what I need to do next which I should have by the end of this month. I am then going to do a final edit in May and send it off to be professionally assessed by the end of the month. When I’m not working on FHTN, I am busy writing my second novel, ‘Seeking Approval’ which is also a romance but with a completely different theme and I’m about 60,000 words in.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
DSC_0886This is a really interesting question for me because a lot of the romances I read are chick-lit romantic comedies but I write more serious romance stories, which I can only refer to as ‘Contemporary Romance’. My characters so far seem to be on journeys of discovery about themselves and what they really want from their lives. I was inspired to write my first novel after watching the TV series ‘Nashville’ and discovering a hidden love of country music within myself! Since I started, I have seen two other stories come out with a Nashville setting so obviously, it inspires other writers too. I have always been a singer and it was great fun to include my love of singing and song-writing in the story. My second novel is partly set in France, which I have always seen as my second home as I have family there and took my degree in French many years ago. Whilst lots of romance writers set their stories in France, the background to my story is a bit different though with my character helping someone else to trace her family history and find her mother.

Why do I write what I do?
?????????????There is only one answer to this: I confess that I am a soppy romantic at heart! I have always loved reading romances and for me, there is nothing more enjoyable than a ‘Happy Ever After’ (HEA) ending. I enjoy all kinds of romance story too, from comedies to, dare I say it, more erotic stories like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. I seem to spend quite a lot of time explaining why I liked that particular trilogy but whilst I like a bit of hot sex – who doesn’t? 😉 – what I enjoyed most about the story was the romance at its heart. I find it enjoyable to see all the different ways that writers come up with for bringing people together and the new boom in self-publishing has made many more stories accessible to us all, which in my view, has to be a good thing. The other good thing about romance stories is that they’re timeless in their appeal. Everyone has been or will be in love with someone else at some point in their life and I find it life-affirming to write about it.

How does my writing process work?
2014-Participant-Square-ButtonI wrote my first novel by the seat of my pants, although I didn’t know that’s what it was called at that point! I just sat down every day and kept writing until it was finished. I knew it would have a HEA ending but I had no other plan than that. When I got to the end, I realised that there were so many plot-holes, I might never manage to fix them all. With the help of Scrivener, the writing software package and an author’s advice about writing a synopsis, I had a go at rewriting the story and the result is what is now with my beta readers. It still needs a lot of work doing to it and I will do what I can in my final edit but then I’m going to hand it over to the RNA, for some professional advice. At the moment, I am taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo to continue my second novel which I started writing in November NaNo last year. I wrote just over 50,000 words then, at a rate of 1,667 words a day for the most part. The discipline is hard but so worthwhile and what my experience so far has taught me is that I need to outline, even if only briefly, before I get started. That way, I can write much more quickly when I do start. If I didn’t have a day job, I would try and write 1,000 words every day or edit for four of five stints a day with short breaks in between. As it is, I do still have a day job and I fit in what I can when I can.

On Monday, 21st April, 2014, it’s the turn of three more writers to tell you about their writing process. Please visit their blogs then to find out how they go about it.

Cat Lumb Cat is a thirty-one year old Yorkshire lass living on the wrong side of t’hill in Stalybridge, Manchester, with her wedding-phobic fiancé and a rescue dog who is now her shadow. She began writing again after being diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalitis (M.E) in 2009 and since then has written two and a half novels and a selection of short stories. In the past year she has blogged for Manchester Literature Festival, been short-listed in a Writing Magazine competition and is an active committee member for the Huddersfield Literature Festival. She can also read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. 😉 She can be found on Twitter as: @Cat_Lumb

Heidi-Jo Swain Heidi-Jo has always wanted to be a writer but was in her thirties before she plucked up the courage to tell anyone, enrol on her first creative writing course and submit a variety of short stories to the online writing community, Shortbread Stories. In 2013 having attempted to write one novel the urge to write another was just too strong to resist.

Now writing and blogging feels as natural as breathing and she is currently editing her debut novel The Cherry Tree Café in preparation for submission to the Romantic Novelists’ Association having secured a place on their New Writers’ Scheme at the beginning of 2014.

Plans are already well underway with her next novel The Skylark Serenade and having almost finished plotting she intends to begin writing after submission to the RNA. Heidi-Jo blogs every Saturday about her writing week, her random list, her dreams of seeing her novels published and everything in between.

John de Gruyther Following a mild case of redundancy John didn’t want to return to the finance sector. So he took the time kindly afforded to him by his former employer and he started to write articles. This went quite well so he decided to call himself a freelance writer and finally commit to his long held dream to write a novel.
He is currently working on his novel, a book of poetry, an illustrated story and various articles for online sites and magazines, including his “A Novel Approach” features for Star Trek Magazine.

Camp NaNoWriMo Update – week 1

2014-Participant-Vertical-Banner Last November, I took part in National Novel Writing Month for the first time and wrote just over 50,000 words for my second novel, which is provisionally titled ‘Seeking Approval’. ‘What’s it about?’ I hear you cry. Well, it’s about a girl who splits up with her fiancé when she finds him cheating on her with her sister. This is not the first time her sister has betrayed her and just when she thinks their relationship will never be the same again, she finds out that she is not her sister but her cousin. Despite their differences, she helps her ‘sister’ to trace her family history and along the way, she becomes clearer about her own identity and what she wants from her own life.

Since the end of November, I have been concentrating on rewriting and editing my first novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ and so, now that FHTN is with beta readers, I thought I would use this month’s Camp NaNo to pick up with my second novel. I have set myself a goal of writing 25,000 more words this month because we’re off on holiday for almost a week and about 1,000 words a day for the remaining days of the month seems achievable. This first week, I have written just over 8,000 words so I am on target to reach my goal but it really has been hard getting back into it. Finding the time to write that much every day has taken real discipline on my part and even though I had created an outline back before November, it really isn’t detailed enough. I found this out to my cost when I was writing a long section all about a family tree and I had to take a lot of time out to work out dates and places of birth for numerous different characters. It all came together in the end and I wrote much more quickly afterwards but it has made me realise once again how important it is to me to know where I’m going. It would also have been brilliant to have a piece of ‘family tree writing’ software 😉

In fact, I’m still not really sure where the story’s going! I am thinking about it all more though in the time between writing and this helps me when I finally come to sit down at my desk and write my words for the day. I’m enjoying the research I’m doing as well because the story is partly set in France and in an area which I know very well because I have family there. However, there are so many little things you realise that you’re not entirely sure about, even down to where the nearest service station is to the town you’re referring to and I want those things to be as accurate as they can be. I’ve also been including some snippets of French which is what I took my degree in and because of my family, is almost as good as my English but I still find myself checking little things. I want to make sure my French is correct as well because I don’t like to see mistakes in other books with French in so it’s important to me to get it right.

All this is keeping me very busy as you can see but I’m enjoying it nevertheless. Before I go, I wanted to let regular readers know that I will be scheduling next week’s blog post for the very first time because I will be away on holiday but I have been invited to take part in a writing process blog tour. So look out for that post next week which will include the details of three other writers and their blogs which I know you will want to read more about.

If you’re doing Camp NaNo, how’s your first week gone? Do let me know in the comments and as always, thanks for reading and have a good week, y’all 😉