Improving Your Writing Craft

The Punishment of Sisyphus

At the beginning of October, I had my first round of edits back on my From Here to Nashville sequel novella, Over You, with suggestions as to what I might rewrite before submitting it for the final, final edit. As I wrote this book some time ago, before The Vineyard in Alsace in fact, there were a lot of things that I thought I had improved on since then. So I got to work and sent it back to the editor again, hoping that I had put most of those rookie errors right.

Then while I was waiting for that one to come back, my latest novel, let’s call it The Bistro, came back from the Romantic Novelists’ Association. This is a first draft that I had sent in for my final New Writers’ Scheme assessment. I told one of my writing friends that I thought this was the best first draft I had ever written. Famous last words! The report I had back is nine pages long and very thorough, and also very supportive, but I was gutted to see the same comments coming up about where my writing isn’t quite hitting the mark. You know: show don’t tell, ‘goal-motivation-conflict’, make sure you describe the setting etc. And my heart sank because I really thought I had worked on all those things and cracked them. Still, I left it for a few days while I tried to think positively about where I stand with my writing craft four years down the line.

And just as I was getting there, Over You came back with its final edits as well. Many of the comments are about things I really should have got to grips with by now – or at least, I feel I should have. Everything I have to do is manageable but it still leaves me feeling like I’m not making any progress, and that is so disheartening. It has left me wondering whether if I was traditionally published, with an editor guiding me, I might actually be a better writer by now. Don’t get me wrong, I know in my heart that I am a better writer in many ways, but the progress really does seem slow sometimes 😦 I keep reminding myself that a first draft will need work, and so will the second, third etc, and that the final draft is the one that needs to be the most polished, so if it’s not perfect yet, it doesn’t matter. And that’s what we use an editor for of course – to help us produce the most polished version we can. I can at least say that I have been very lucky with the majority of editors I have worked with.

I have picked myself up enough to make a start on the novella edits from tomorrow and then I’m going to push on and write the next, and final, From Here to Nashville novella which will tell Jenna’s story. Then I hope to publish them both together early next year. After that, I will come back to the next novel and hope that with the passage of time, I will feel better about my report and not so vulnerable about my weaknesses as a writer.

I’d be interested to know whether anyone else feels like this when they get their edits back and whether, if you’re traditionally published, you have an editor who is more like a mentor for you?

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News

As you know, in September, I auditioned to be added to the WI’s directory of speakers in my region. At the audition, I was really nervous but it seemed to go well. I have heard back since the last time I posted to say that I have been accepted into the directory and I am really pleased about it. I have also received my first booking but incredibly, it is for January 2019! I thought it was a mistake at first but it’s not – they just like to plan ahead! Still, I’m looking forward to it and I’m glad I applied.

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Marketing

As you may know, I did a Kindle countdown deal last month for From Here to Nashville, which saw my debut novel reduced to 99p. I tried to get a BookBub featured deal for it but to no avail – apparently, they only accept 5% of the submissions they receive so that did make me feel a bit better! I did have some success with some smaller promotion companies but although I sold a fair number of copies, it wasn’t earth-shattering. Many people supported me though, especially on Facebook where I also did a promotion, and for that I was very grateful. I also sent out a newsletter to my subscribers (you can join it here if you’d like to be kept up-to-date with what I’m doing), and this was well-received and widely shared.

I have now taken FHTN off its automatic re-enrolment to KDP Select and towards the end of the month, I’m going to expand distribution to other platforms again to see what happens. However, I should say that this year, since The Vineyard in Alsace came out, I have sold five times as many copies of From Here to Nashville as I did last year, so that is good news.

I have had a number of guest appearances on other blogs since my last post was published here. I was featured on the Love Books Group blog for their #FavFive feature and I was also on Delightful Book Reviews talking about a typical day in my writing life as an author. Not only that but The Vineyard in Alsace was also reviewed in France magazine and it was a favourable review too!

 

 

 

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Social

Next week, I will be giving a talk at our monthly Society of Authors meeting about how I use Scrivener in my writing. Scrivener’s not for everyone but it works for me and our group of writers is very interested to know more about it. If you’re engaged in NaNoWriMo at the moment, Scrivener is usually offered as a prize if you make it to the end. I bought my copy for my half-price way back when I did NaNoWriMo and it has been worth every penny.

I’m also meeting up with my local RNA group for lunch this coming week. Next week, I will be attending the RNA Committee’s Christmas lunch to which I’ve been invited as the Deputy Editor of our quarterly newsletter, and after that, it is our Winter Party in the evening. The week after that I’m meeting another RNA friend for a writerly catch-up as well so will be keeping myself busy, and full (!), with all these social activities.

In the final week of November though, I’m going to The Society of Authors’ AGM because they’re holding some workshops as well, one on ‘Building Your Brand’ with Joanne Harris no less (swooning already!) and one called ‘Beyond the Book’ which is about innovative ways to market your book and reach new audiences. I will report back on all this activity next month.

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As always, another busy month lies ahead and that’s all before we even get to Christmas. I hope all is going well for you with your writing. Please do leave me a comment below and tell me how you’re getting on. Thanks for reading!

 

September Brings a Fresh Challenge

My Indie Writing Life

I’m going to be trying a different format for my posts from here on, making them a bit more like a diary of what I’ve been up to between posts. I hope you find it useful 🙂 You may also have noticed that I’ve changed the title of the blog – it seemed like as good a time as any!

 

 

Writing

This is what I imagine Sam to look like *swoon*

The good news is that, as promised, I started editing Sam’s Story this week, one of the sequel novellas I’ve written to From Here to Nashville. I don’t really enjoy editing as I may have mentioned before (!) because I find it much harder than writing the first draft. When you’re writing the first draft, you can let your imagination run wild but once you get to the second draft and you already have a story in place, it becomes much harder to make changes without it having an impact on lots of other parts of the story.

This was the first book I wrote in third person so it was always going to be a challenge for me and I sent this one in to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme for its first read in 2015, two whole years ago now. My writing has changed a lot since then, improved even and so it is hard to deal with some of the simple mistakes I was making back then. For example, head hopping, where you switch from one character’s point of view to another’s right in the middle of a scene, making it unclear who’s talking. My RNA reader mentioned this and so did one of my beta readers so I didn’t have to wonder about whether they were right – if more than one person mentions it, it’s clearly an issue and you just have to accept it. And for the most part, it wasn’t actually that hard to deal with but I was annoyed with myself for having done it. However, I think I have moved on from this now and will be able to spot it more easily in the future.

The hardest thing to deal with has been the fact that, as always in my happy ever after world, my characters fall in love far too quickly. As Sam is only just getting over the loss of Rachel to Jackson, it’s important that he doesn’t come across as shallow when meeting someone new, and perhaps falling in love on the rebound. This means that I have to make it all take a bit longer – I have this problem all the time – and in having to do that, I have to change lots of other things as well.

Unfortunately, what I find when I reach a difficult point with editing is that I just stop doing it altogether. It’s simply too hard and I will never be able to master it, is what I tell myself as my excuse for not doing it. I have been trying to do an hour a day but honestly, by the end of the first week, I have the attention span of a gnat and I’m starting to get very frustrated with myself. I’m forcing myself to stick with it because I want to get it finished but it really is proving hard!

Upcoming WI Audition

The other thing I’ve been working on this week is my 15 minute talk for my WI audition next Saturday. They are very strict about timings and I won’t have a full 15 minutes so obviously, I can’t do the full talk I would normally do. I started off by paring down my usual talk about my self-publishing journey to the bare bones confident that this would be more than enough. Then I practised saying it out loud using a stopwatch only to find that I had the grand total of just three minutes! So I have spent the whole week adding content back in – this was only supposed to be a flavour of the talk, not the whole thing! I have now reached seven minutes and I am desperate to get to 10 but I can’t think what else to put in. I never thought I would struggle to find words 😉 Anyway, I will have to plod on as best I can and finish it because the audition is next week and I want it to go well of course.

Marketing

I have been experimenting with Amazon ads again this week for From Here to Nashville with some success but it’s not been brilliant. It is a constant challenge to keep the momentum going with sales of both books really and I feel that I am now approaching the end of the peak for The Vineyard in Alsace so I need to think carefully about what to do next.

Social Life

I am looking forward to another meeting this week of my Society of Authors group, where we’ll be discussing the topic ‘What Makes a Good Story?’ I will also be attending my first RNA AGM this week now that I am officially an independent member. The meeting also includes a talk by Julie Cohen on Pacing and how not to let your reader get bored, which I’m really looking forward to as Julie is always interesting and helpful. I’m travelling down to London with another RNA friend so it will be good to catch up and be writerly for an afternoon 🙂

Freelance Work

Finally, I started a proofreading job this week for an author who writes courses on Teachable and who contacted me as a result of seeing my name in connection with the Open Book festival. It’s funny how you make these connections quite out of the blue but I’m very glad I did.

 

Thanks for reading. Please do leave me a comment if you’d like to talk about anything I mention in the post. It’s always good to chat 🙂

An Eventful Summer in my Indie Author Life

As always, it has been a busy time since my last post. I have an update about the talk I gave at my first literary festival which took place at the end of July; news of how book 2, The Vineyard in Alsace, continues to do well; progress with book 3, and finally, what I have coming up.

Open Book Literary Festival, Hitchin

It has been a bit of a while since my last blog post because I have had such a busy summer in my writing life. As I told you then, I was going to be taking part in my first every Literary Festival in Hitchin, near where I live. Before the event, I was incredibly nervous, not knowing whether anyone would turn up for my talk about my self-publishing journey. Well, the day dawned and it was rainy, just for a change. Our festival was mostly indoors but it would have been nice to have a bit of sunshine! Still, my talk was a great success with lots of people attending and a knowledgeable, interested audience who asked good questions.

We had a good turnout for our first ever festival and I spoke to a lot of people on the day. I definitely noticed an impact on my ebook sales afterwards too, and it looks like we will be doing the festival again next year. So all in all, a good thing to have done to raise awareness of my books. And look at this lovely cake made by Carol Deacon especially for the occasion!

 

The Vineyard in Alsace

My second book continues to sell well and if you are a regular visitor to my Facebook page, you’ll know that I’ve had some wonderful guest posts and interviews over the summer. First of all, I was on the lovely Tara Greaves’ website in her excellent A Look Behind the Book feature. You can read it here. Shortly afterwards, Tara posted a glowing review of my book on Amazon, which I was delighted with:

A story that warms you, like sitting outside in the late evening sunshine

More recently, I was on Linda Hill’s blog here, with a post about why I write Happy Ever After endings. I got a lot of feedback about this post because I think it struck a chord with a lot of readers. One of my writing friends even chose this theme for his MA in Creative Writing! Linda has also very kindly offered to read my book so I’m looking forward to reading her review sometime in the near future when her TBR pile has gone down a bit!

I also heard this month that my book is going to be featured in Living France magazine’s October issue as a result of me sending a paperback copy to one of their editors for review. I have absolutely no idea whether they liked it but I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I’ll let you know when I find out.

I had another milestone with The Vineyard this week when I woke up one morning to find my book in the top 100 Holiday fiction list on Amazon. It’s still hanging on in there for the moment, which is wonderful to see.

Book 3

Once the LitFest was over, I had to knuckle down in my writing cave to finish the first draft of my third book by the deadline of 31st August. It was a bit touch and go at times but eventually I did it and sent it off to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme for its first professional read. By the time I got to the end, I honestly felt it was the best first draft I’ve ever written but only time will tell! It will be interesting next year when I’m no longer a member of the NWS and I will have to find someone else to fulfil that function. I will be a fully fledged Independent Author member by then and will have to find my own way with that first assessment of each manuscript. There are no shortage of people offering that service but they want a lot of money for doing so. Anyway, that’s something for another day 🙂

Coming Up

Next week, I will begin editing (I will, I will) the follow up novella I wrote for From Here to Nashville some time ago. I have booked this in with my editor so I really can’t afford to put it off any longer. Anyway, I do want to get on with Sam’s story now because I hope to publish it before the end of the year – ambitious, I know. Ideally, I would get it off to my editor before book 3 comes back and demands my attention. When it’s ready to go out, I have a plan for its launch that I’ll be looking for people to get involved with so keep an eye out for my next post!

 

I think that’s all the news for now, and is probably quite enough to be going on with. Do leave a comment here on my website if you’d like to or alternatively, contact me on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for reading. And if you’ve recently read either of my books, do please take a moment to leave a review – they’re so important for indie authors especially 🙂