5 Things I’ve Learnt from Writing my Debut Novel

strasbourg-90012_1280Now the euphoria of having sent my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville’ to the proofreader has died down a little, I have no more excuses to stop me from starting the rewrite of book two. Just to refresh your memories, this is the book that I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2013, yes, nearly 14 months ago ūüė¶ After NaNoWriMo and a few more¬†writing chunks some¬†months later, it stood at 80,000 words. Not bad for a first draft, I hear you cry!

However, when I got to that point and read it all through, I could see that the story had veered off in the wrong direction and that I was¬†really going to have my work cut out to get it back on track. So it has been really easy to put off doing anything to move book two forward, especially as I’ve been so busy with finishing my first novel and getting it ready for publication next month.

This weekend, I decided I had to get on with it at last. I have been thinking about it on and off for weeks and adding new thoughts to my outline so when I went back and reread it, things didn’t seem so bad. By the end of the day yesterday, I had almost finished my first rewrite of chapter one and I was buzzing with excitement for my new story, which was a great feeling. I could also see that I’d grown as a writer since the very first rewrite of ‘From Here to Nashville’ and it was a pleasure to implement some of the things I’d learnt from that experience as I was actually writing.

So¬†here¬†are some tips I’d like to share with you today.

1. You don’t need to write your characters’ names into every single line of dialogue. As long as it is clear who is talking, your reader will be fine without the reminder. When you think about it, you hardly ever say the name of the person you are talking to because it’s not necessary. I only use my husband’s name for example, if I’m calling him from afar. I certainly don’t use it in texts or on the ‘phone but my writing was littered with names. I have been really brutal about cutting them out and the result is much more realistic dialogue. Similarly, don’t put in too many examples of ‘er’ and ‘oh’ etc because they clog up the dialogue.

2. The reader does not necessarily need to have the timeline spelt out for them, even if you need to know it to make sure it’s consistent. I had put in dates for all my scenes in ‘From Here to Nashville,’ partly to help me keep on top of the timeline but also to show the whirlwind nature of the romance. I have now taken them all out because I could see that I had explained the timeline in other ways so the dates weren’t necessary. I have also put days into my second book which I’m going to keep there for now but as I progress through my drafts, I will finally remove them. As well as¬†this, my scenes often started in the morning and ended in the evening to give me a structure to work through and to show time passing so I had to work hard to¬†vary this and not start and finish the same way all the time.

3. To help with pace, it’s a good idea to check the length of your sentences and your¬†paragraphs. A shorter sentence every now and then moves the action forward and keeps your reader reading and if you start a new paragraph every time a new action occurs, it makes reading easier and maintains the pace and excitement for the reader. You don’t need an empty line between paragraphs either, you just need to go to the next line. This formatting issue took me ages to put right. An empty line signals a new scene.

4. As a new writer, it is very easy to fall into the trap of over-describing physical movements. By this I mean, the ‘then I did this, then I did that’ style of writing. More often than not, you can cut this and jump straight to the action because that is what your reader will do and if they’re skimming your words, not reading them, they’re going to feel disappointed when they get to the end of the story. This is especially useful at the start of chapters, which don’t need to be bogged down with interior monologue¬†like ‘The next day dawned bright with another beautiful blue sky,’ for example. Instead, jump straight to the action and draw your reader in.

5. Even by the time I sent my book to be professionally edited, I still hadn’t included¬†enough detailed description of people and settings. Even my hero, Jackson needed to be better described the first time Rachel saw him. I think that I’d made it a glimpse for the reader like it was for her but the reader wants more than that so I had to rewrite that first sight of him to include a lot more detail. Similarly, I needed to develop some of my descriptions of settings, from quaysides, to weddings, to apartments and much more detail about Nashville and its iconic sights.

These are just a few of the things I had to deal with when I got my final edit back but they are all things I’m taking on with me to book two. The new book is set in France, in the picturesque region of Alsace which is near the German border (see the photo above). It is a story about self-discovery, as well as being a romance and I look forward to telling you more about it as I progress. I hope you find these tips helpful and I would love to hear your comments on them. Thanks for reading as always and have a good writing week ūüôā

My Piece of Sky

DSCN3409A long, long time ago, I sat down at this computer to start writing a story. The date was Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 to be precise and fuelled by the TV programme ‘Nashville,’ I’d come up with an idea for my own story. I had no idea whether I would get to the end of the story or not at that point, I just wanted to write it all down before I forgot it! ūüėČ Today, 642 days later, I’m about done with my story and I’m just a few weeks away from self-publishing my first novel as an ebook in the first instance, followed shortly after by a paperback version.

I have spent a fair bit of time over the holidays (understatement of the year!) wrestling with formatting my novel in Scrivener, accompanied by the brilliant book ‘Scrivener for Dummies’ by Gwen Hernandez. It is now formatted to my satisfaction, I think (eek!) I have also worked my way through my own and my beta readers’ edits and got to the end of them without doing myself an injury. Finally, I contacted my proofreader to see if it would be possible to send it to her a bit earlier than we had planned. Her answer to this was yes and all of this means that I can look at a publication date of sometime during the week of the 16th February, 2015 which will be half-term week for me and therefore, a bit easier to manage. As it can take a few days for your book to upload to Amazon though, I’ll probably aim for a ‘soft’ launch in the week before to deal with any major upsets before the proper publication day.

My next task then is to send out my first newsletter. I have already started designing this and it will include my Cover Reveal and also the Book Trailer I’ve been working on. If you want to see both of these before anyone else, don’t forget to SIGN UP to my newsletter! All you have to do is click on the link. I will be doing a blog post soon about how I made the book trailer as well.

The next major thing to think about is marketing: yes or no? I have taken part in some giveaways myself run by authors and I even tried running one a while ago on my Facebook page but there wasn’t much take up. Similarly, although I have enjoyed ‘attending’ a number of Facebook launch parties, the attendees always seem to be other writers so I’m not sure how useful they are in terms of sales to new readers. Finally, there’s the issue of book blog tours. I know of many lovely people running these but I have no idea how useful they are to writers. Obviously, we all want to make our book stand out in a veritable ocean of others out there. So, if you have any advice on this topic, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Some of the more experienced self-publishers believe that the best marketing is to get on with your second book and don’t worry, I fully intend to do that! I feel that some other marketing is necessary though and should be fun.

This is where I’m at for the start of 2015 then, folks. Thank you for accompanying me along the path so far. I hope you’ll keep on reading over the next few weeks and holding my hand as I edge closer to publication. Thank you for reading and supporting me with your advice and I look forward to reading your comments ūüôā

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 ūüôā Merry Christmas to you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decision Fatigue for the Self-Publishing Newbie

The-key-to-good-decisionAt long last, my friends, the moment has come – I have finished my final edits. It has taken me five weeks to do everything which was longer than I’d planned for but I needed that time to get my head round it all. Today was the day I had originally booked to send ‘From Here to Nashville’ to the proofreader but I postponed this as soon as I saw the extent of the final edits. I now have a new date for the end of January.

In between time, I’m sending my book off to my beta readers for one last read through. I am very lucky that I have two beta readers who are writers as well and not only that, I am proud to call them my friends. I have come to know both these people online and one of them even read my book in its very early form so her dedication to my little book is even more humbling. I am extremely grateful to them both for the final read they’re going to give my book.

I am also going to give ‘From Here to Nashville’ one last read through to check how well it reads after all the edits I have done over the last month or so. Although I have uploaded my second book to my Kindle before, I wanted this upload to be as correct as I could make it in terms of formatting. As some of you will remember, I write in Scrivener and I hope to format my book myself when publication day finally rolls round. Well, this is obviously going to take some time to get right as I spent most of yesterday afternoon exporting copies to my desktop, only to find that when I looked at them using the Kindle Previewer facility, something was wrong. I persevered though, reading lots of articles on the internet along the way, and finally, I managed to get close to what I was looking for. It was also the first time I had uploaded my actual cover with it and it was a great feeling to see that.

I hope to get my beta readers’ comments back by the end of the year and to spend January inputting their comments and mine before sending the book off to the proofreader. This will take a couple of weeks and then I will have the proofreader’s comments to deal with which would leave me looking at the middle or possibly the end of February as my publication date. I am still having to be fairly flexible about this though because so much could change between now and then. Once it goes to the proofreader though, I can feel fairly confident about the date of publication day.

I am considering a number of other issues at the moment. The biggest one is whether to aim for a paperback of ‘From Here to Nashville’ at the same time as I plan to publish the ebook. If I do want to do this, I have to consider whether to go with Amazon’s CreateSpace or whether to go with someone else, like Ingram Spark who seem to be the front runner otherwise. This will also involve having to make a decision about ISBNs, which I must have for a paperback but don’t need for an ebook. In the UK, ISBNs are purchased from a company called¬†Nielsen¬†at a price of ¬£132 for a block of ten numbers minimum. They take ten days to come through so I need to think ahead on that one. In addition to this, paperbacks have to be typeset which will take me some more time to master!

I am also considering what to do in terms of marketing. It is so interesting to see what other authors choose to do in the run up to their publication day. For example, I want to do a cover reveal of course but I’m still not sure how long in advance to do this. I was thinking of doing it when I send my book off to the proofreader which could be three to four weeks before publication. Is that enough of a lead time or too much? Now that Amazon have the pre-order facility, I am wondering when to do that as well. Decisions, decisions…Apparently, there is a real condition known as decision fatigue – I can vouch for this!

As you can see then, there is no rest for the wicked ūüėČ My journey continues. Tune in next week to see whether I managed to make any more decisions ūüôā Thanks for reading as always and please do leave any comments or suggestions below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Top Tips for Formatting your ebook before self-publishing #1

Learn-the-rules-like-aAs I continue to wend my way through my final edits, the issue of formatting my novel correctly for publication has started to weigh on my mind. This is mainly because¬†my editor has been less than happy with¬†some of my formatting and it has made me realise that I don’t know what the rules are or if there even are any!

For example, I have indented every first line of a paragraph or section in the novel. I did this simply because that was the advice given in a blog article I was reading about how to format your book in Scrivener. I didn’t think twice about whether this is the normal thing to do when formatting your book. So when my editor pointed it out, I went and had a look at some of the books I have read, ebooks, paperbacks and hardbacks and guess what? There was a mixture of approaches. Some publishers indent, some don’t and for ebooks, especially self-published ones, it seems to¬†simply be down to personal taste.

I scoured the internet then for some guidelines and of course, there’s no single definitive list but there are some generally accepted guidelines that I thought it would be useful to reproduce here. Please note that this list is for ebooks. I have tried to consider formatting in both Word and Scrivener.

1. Use a 1″ margin on all sides (Done for you in Scrivener).

2. You don’t need page numbers in an ebook because technically speaking, there are no pages¬†(Done for you in Scrivener).

3. Left align the text (not headings) but don’t justify it.

4. Make sure the text is single line spaced.

5. Start each new chapter on its own page about a third of the way down the page (Done for you in Scrivener).

6. The body of the chapter should start about four to six lines below the chapter title (Done for you in Scrivener).

7. Indent each new paragraph of flowing text but don’t indent the first line at the start of the chapter or after a section break.

8. Don’t put in asterisks to show section breaks. Apparently, these date back to the days when people used typewriters.

9. Use a standard font like Times New Roman, Arial or Courier and use 12 point size.

10. Make sure your hyperlinks work! (This will usually be links to your details so it’s very important!)

You will have noticed that I labelled this post as #1 because I know for sure that you will all tell me of other tips that I can add to the list in the future and I’m sure I will come across other things when I finally come to format my book. So let me have it if you agree/disagree/have other ideas and yes, in case you were wondering, I know that rules are there to be broken!

Good luck with your formatting if you’re tacking it yourself. Thanks for reading as always and I welcome your comments ūüôā

P.S. I hope you noticed the snow!