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!

 

Giving My First Talk as an Author

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Me in full swing!

My first author talk at my local library has now been and gone but I am still glowing from the wonderful evening I enjoyed there. The library staff were very kind in helping me set everything up beforehand and I had a good sized audience on the night with lots of friendly faces. The atmosphere was so welcoming that I hardly felt nervous at all, which I had really expected to. I ‘present’ all the time in my day job but it’s quite a different feeling when you’re talking about yourself. I know from speaking to other writers that the very idea of standing up in front of an audience scares them half to death! If you can do it though, giving an author talk really is worth it.

I had tried to get round my nerves by being very well-prepared and I think this paid off on the night. The plan was for me to talk about my debut novel From Here to Nashville and also my journey to self-publication. I wrote out what I was going to say over a couple of weeks, adding to the script as I thought of new things. Then I transferred it on to index cards, as advised by lots of other writing friends, and I practised to see how long it was, including me reading out an excerpt. All in all, it was 27 minutes long when I practised but on the night with a few questions, it was more like 45 minutes. I also videoed myself at home to see if I had any glaring habits that I wanted to avoid!

Once I had put the talk together, I had a chat with a writer friend of mine who also had a library talk coming up last week. She suggested playing some country music as people came in which I thought was a great idea and some of you may remember of course, that I even had a Spotify playlist already set up of the songs Rachel sings in the story so I added that to my plan. My friend also suggested asking the audience questions to involve them in the talk and to stop it from getting too formal so I did that too.

In the end, these were my headings:

  • How I started writing.
  • The Nashville TV series and how it inspired the idea for the story. Read out my blurb.
  • Writing as a ‘Pantser’ and discovering NaNoWriMo along the way, which led to me investing in Scrivener.
  • Discovering and then joining the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and my first report back from them.
  • Finding an editor, designer and proofreader.
  • Deciding to self-publish rather than trying for a traditional contract.
  • Publication to Amazon and later other platforms. Read an excerpt. Talked about trip to Nashville.
  • Marketing post-publication – social media activity, including this website and blog.
  • My next books.
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Talking to another RNA member who happened to come along!

One of the things I had to think about very carefully was what technology I would be able to use. The library is all set up for the internet but it isn’t working there currently. This meant I had to do screenshots of the things I wanted to show which could have been boring on their own. So I added in some content to my presentation to go with the shots as well. There were a fair few pictures of my books and I also had a table set up with my books and marketing materials on as well.

The library organised a projector and screen for me and we arrived early to set it all up and make sure it worked correctly. I had to take our bluetooth speaker from home so that we could play the music because the library didn’t have any speakers. I made a list of all the things I would have to take with me and checked and double-checked it before going!

As I said, everyone was so welcoming that I was fairly relaxed from the start. My daughter took some videos of me and my husband took some photos so we have something to remember it all by. I suppose I will have to give in and let you see one of the videos now!

I took a few questions afterwards as well over refreshments and I also sold signed copies of my books. In fact, I sold more copies than I have ever done before at an event of this kind!

So, all in all, as I said at the beginning, it was a very good experience. It was really hard to approach the library in the first instance but once I did, they were very encouraging and happy to help me with promotion and setting up along the way. As I hadn’t had the courage to send out a press release when I first published From Here to Nashville (I know!), this was a good opportunity to write one so that I know what to do next time round. So there were many benefits to doing this, not just the obvious ones.

I suspect that most libraries would welcome local authors with open arms as they try valiantly to keep people coming through their doors so if you love your local library as much as I love mine, then why not give it a try? You might be surprised at how much fun it is! Do leave me a comment below to tell me how you feel about the idea or maybe you’ve already done one so please share your experience 🙂

Writing Your Second Book

DSCN7835Well, as many of you will know if you’ve liked my Facebook Author Page, I have been stuck in my writing cave for some time now trying to finish writing my second book. For those of you that don’t know, this is the one that I wrote during NaNoWriMo in November 2013. I had no problem writing my 50,000 words that month and was so pleased that I’d got a second story on the go, even while I was still editing From Here to Nashville. In April 2014, I came back to Book 2 and while I was a bit unsure about the story so far, I was still pretty happy with the idea and so I wrote another 30,000 words. Yay!

Then From Here to Nashville  took over and I had no time to look at book 2 again until much later in 2014. When I did, I was certain that I no longer wanted to tell this story. I liked my main characters and a few of my minor characters but apart from that, not much else. I couldn’t even contemplate scrapping it so the only other option was to rewrite it, picking out what I liked from the 80,000 words already written and dumping what I didn’t like. Having made that decision, I then buried my head in the sand for the best part of the following five months because I couldn’t face the prospect of sifting the right words from the wrong ones.

As an indie author, I can make my own schedule so you’d think that this decision was a sensible one. I thought I could take my time, publish and promote From Here to Nashville and when things were a bit quieter, I could just go back to book 2 with a clear head. However, in the meantime, I signed up for my second year on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme which meant that I could submit this second book for a professional report just like I did with From Here to Nashville. The only problem being that the deadline for submission is the end of August. In January, that seemed like loads of time. At the start of May, it seemed like a hair’s breadth.

It was at this point that I realised it was make or break time. So after our Nashville holiday, I made myself a plan. I would finish working through all the old material by the end of May and then I would commit to writing at least 1,000 words every day with a deadline of completion by the end of July. This would give me time to at least read it through myself before sending it off.

Suddenly, I felt set free to just write, even though I still hadn’t written a detailed outline. I had got something in place though and I just kept refining it as I went along. I am very pleased to say that I have been able to write a minimum of 1,000 words a day, sometimes, as many as 3,000 words in a day and I feel exhilarated to have reached this stage. I finally broke 80,000 words yesterday, something I honestly thought might never happen when I decided to rewrite. Still, I have made it and I am steaming towards the end now, well ahead of schedule.

I had hoped that I might finish the first draft before attending the RNA’s annual conference next weekend and it is still possible but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I still have plenty of time 🙂 When I read Michael Cairns’ guest post for my blog last week, I realised that this is what writing professionally is all about: building a habit. If you can do that, preferably (in my case) with an outline along side while you write, it can only get easier to write more.

Once the report comes back from the RNA and I have dealt with those edits, I will begin my editing process going through the drafts which I hope will be a bit quicker this time round. Then it will be time once again for professional editing, proofreading and cover design!

Thank you so much for reading as always and if you have any tips for the writing of your second book, do let me know in the comments below. Have a great writing week!

P.S. You can now buy signed paperback copies of From Here to Nashville from me directly! Just click on the sidebar 🙂

Author Spotlight – Michael Cairns

Today, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome my friend, Michael Cairns to ‘My Writing Life.’ Michael writes science fiction, horror and fantasy novels.

13 Roses 1-Before

Thirteen Roses Book 1: Before – Michael Cairns

The flower seller sets up his stall on Embankment every day. Every day, he will serve only one customer. That person will be on the edge, teetering between heaven and hell, and it is up to him to steer them in the right direction.

But this week, it will be different. Because this week, someone is screwing with the flower seller. While he struggles to figure out who it is, and why they are doing it, something far bigger is occurring, something that will change the world forever.

A plague is about to strike mankind that will reduce them to mindless zombies, bent on nothing more than the regular consumption of flesh. The flower seller is charged with the task of saving humanity, a task he neither wants, nor cares about.

Without him, mankind is doomed. With him, they might just be worse.
But who is the flower seller? Why does he try to save the subjects? And how the hell is he going to save the world?

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

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Please read on to find out more about how Michael has built his amazingly productive writing habit.

Julie and I met through Twitter and she’s been lovely and super supportive of my challenge – no surprise there – so I jumped at the chance to guest on her fabulously useful and practical blog. I have some strong opinions about creativity and art, but I’ll try to rein them in today and just stick to the useful stuff.

First, a teensy bit of background. In the latter part of 2014, I met for coffee with a friend of mine. We both write, though she struggles with the first draft and I struggle with the editing. I mentioned, in passing, that I had 15 unedited manuscripts at home, idling away on my hard drive. Once she’d finished kicking my butt, she suggested I do something with them.

Over the following month I came up with the entirely suicidal idea of releasing all fifteen of them in 2015. It would mean a great deal of editing and a complete shift in my writing and publishing systems, but I decided to give it a go. To make things interesting, I decided I’d also write a million words of original fiction, publish a short story every week on my blog and vlog every day throughout 2015 to track my progress.

I’m still alive. I’m still sane, mostly, and progress so far, is good. But the challenge has only been possible because of my habit. No, not that sort of habit, though I’ve felt driven towards one a few times this year 🙂

Today I’m going to share my process for becoming a successful writer and creator.

This all begins with one simple step: Build the Habit.

I cannot stress enough how important this is. Habits come in many guises. Some authors will tell you to put aside a safe period of time in which to write. Others will assert the necessity of writing every day. I agree with both of them, but writing things like that down on a piece of paper doesn’t make them happen. Just like trying to get my four year old daughter to clean her teeth, I can ask her a hundred times but it won’t happen spontaneously until it becomes a habit.

So, begin with one month. You don’t have to choose the same time every day. You don’t have to choose a certain amount of time every day. All you have to do is sit at your keyboard/typewriter/cave wall and write something. You have to do it every day. For a month.

Easy, right?

Below are four key steps to making the above happen.

1. Enjoy it: So you begin to build the habit, but something’s getting in the way. Every time you sit at your keyboard, you want to bang your face against the desk until the blessing of unconsciousness relieves you of the terrible burden of writing.

There’s a really simple way to get around that. Write something you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be serious. It doesn’t have to be ‘literature’. It doesn’t even have to make sense. It can be that cosy murder mystery you’ve been secretly dreaming of. You won’t always be writing it. You’ll write many things in your life, but while you’re building the habit, make it fun. Enjoy it. There’s a hidden upside to this as well. You might have your heart set on a romance – sorry, couldn’t resist – but discover that you love writing something completely different. If all you write is romance, how will you know?

2. Start small and be persistent: As authors, most of us have grown up reading books, paper bound and of a certain thickness. We all dream of creating something similar. Few of us, upon deciding to write, have simply finishing as our greatest goal. And yet, for so many people, finishing is where it goes wrong. So, in this first, habit forming, month, start small. Start simple. Two people. A conflict. A deeper conflict. A solution. A resolution. Maybe a dragon. Okay, so the dragon isn’t strictly necessary, but the rest is all you need. That might take 1000 words, or 10,000 words or 100,000 words, but I’d aim for making it at the small end. Get to the end, even if what you’ve written feels slight and breezy. You’re forming a habit, not writing “Gone With The Wind”. And hey, if you do, you probably don’t need to worry too much about the habit.

So start small and finish it. The habit will be cemented through the sense of completion. ‘I have a habit and it’s led to me creating this.’ That’s a much more powerful statement than ‘I have a habit and it’s led to a bunch of half-finished short stories and the first three chapters of this mad Victorian/cyber punk mash up that’s gonna be awesome in a couple of years…’

3. SMART targets: Boring perhaps, but essential. Just in case you’ve missed the wonders of SMART targets, you’re looking to create a target that is:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant and

Timebound

You have a month, so your time limit is already set. As for the rest, my advice would be to remember point three. Start small. This isn’t NaNoWriMo. It’s a great idea, but for me it fails in execution. Why try to write a novel in a month? You’ve got all the time in the world. What NaNo should be instilling is a writing habit, but because everyone’s rushing so hard to reach that magic 50K figure, the joy is swamped by the pressure.

So how does 500 words a day sound? That’s just over a page in Word. It’s achievable, you can measure it simply enough, it’s specific and it’s entirely relevant. You’re writing every day and you have something clear to aim for.

I’ve plucked 500 words out of thin air. You can set your own target. I do somewhere between 4 and 5K each day, but I’ve been writing every single day since 1st Jan 2013. Every. Single. Day. I don’t have superhuman powers, I have a really militant, wonderfully fun, creative habit. That’s all.

4. Be militant: I know you have the willpower to achieve this habit, but do you have the necessary cruelty? 🙂 I’m kind of joking. What do you do when someone comes into your bedroom/workspace/classroom/cave and says ‘Can I just check something with you?’ How about when your child comes and says ‘Please play with me, I’m wasting away from a total lack of fun.’ That’s a tough one, but I say to them the same thing I say to everyone. ‘Can’t play, creating.’ Actually, I don’t say that at all. I normally manage a strangled cry accompanied by much hand waving. It’s that or, ‘I need a name, give me a damned name, any name that isn’t Dave.’

The point is, this is writing time. If they don’t get the message, lock the door. If they come at it with axes, flee to a coffee shop. Or the park. Or your car. Anywhere you can be undisturbed. That goes for phone calls, texts, tweets, Facebook, all social media, too. Be antisocial and write! Just to give you an idea, I write 500 words in about ten minutes, so it’s not long. To begin with, it’ll take you much longer, but not that much longer and it’ll get quicker. Be militant, be strong. Buy ear plugs if necessary. I couldn’t honestly argue against the purchase of a scary clown mask and a chainsaw as well, though maybe that’s just me…

Those are the key points. This will work for any form of creativity. Whether your dream is to be an author, a painter, a musician or anything else, building that habit is key to success. I hope it’s helpful, and thanks again, Julie, for having me.

I’d love to know what you think of these points and if you have any to add. Also, if you decide to start the process now, please let us know so we can cheerlead and send you virtual chocolate.

Cheers

About Michael

Michael-Cairns-headshot-low-resMichael Cairns is a science fiction, horror and fantasy author, teacher and musician. He was born at a young age and could write even before he could play the drums, but that was long ago, in the glory days – when he actually had hair.

Michael loves pineapple, chocolate, playing gigs and outwitting his young daughter (the scores are about level but she’s getting smarter every day).

Michael is currently working hard on writing, getting enough sleep and keeping his hair. The first is going well, the other two…not so much.

You can join his mailing list here: http://cairnswrites.com/sign/up

 

Find out more about Michael here:

http://cairnswrites.com

http://www.twitter.com/cairnswrites

http://www.pinterest.com/michaelcairns

http://www.facebook.com/cairnswrites

 

The Multi-Tasking Life of an Author

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Image courtesy of dreamstime.com

I bet if you ask any woman around the world how much she has to juggle in her 21st century life, she will roll her eyes before reeling off a list as long as your arm of things she juggles every day, from children’s lunches, school uniform, taking them to school, other appointments, doing the housework, looking after pets, sorting out home affairs like tax, insurance etc, liaising with husband/partner about most of these things and of course, going to work herself (either in the home or outside it)! The modern day woman is a superhero in the purest sense. I hope women reading this can picture themselves doing this every day. Some of us, like me, are lucky enough to have partners who help with all this stuff and can juggle along with the best. I’m going to come back to how great men can be at multi-tasking too in just a minute so please bear with me 😉

As if my life wasn’t already busy enough, I decide to write and self-publish my own book! Whose crazy idea was that? Well, yes, it was mine and this past week has shown me just how many extra balls I am now going to have to juggle as a result of making that decision. This week should have been a good week. ‘From Here to Nashville’ is with the proofreader and bar a few minor queries, everything was going fine there so I should have been all set to get on with finishing the first draft of book 2. You know there’s a but coming, right? Yeah.

During a quick chat with one of my writing friends, one of my beta readers, in fact, we started discussing potential names for my publishing company if I decide to buy ISBNs for my paperback version of FHTN. We thought that my main character’s record label name would be brilliant until my friend came back and said ‘You know that company name already exists, don’t you?’ Cue three nights of my life spent trying to get advice, thinking of a different but equally brilliant name for the record label, only to abandon it all in the end to just make a couple of changes to the existing name. I was a woman possessed. We’re not talking big-league names here but the law is murky on this and I don’t want to get into a mess over this issue with my very first book.

As a result of this spanner in the works, I have done almost nothing on my second book all week 😦 However, it has been a trying week in other ways too. My husband has been away at a music convention in Los Angeles and whenever he’s away, I realise just how much he does around the house. Not only that of course but he’s the one I turn to when I have something like this to sort out and only being able to talk to each other for a few minutes each day over Skype isn’t quite the same. By the way, I have two teenagers in the house as well but they are soooo not interested in my crises. So I had to try and sort it out for myself and I was lucky enough to have some help from some good writing friends.

During the week, I read the latest vlog by another author friend I have made on Twitter, Michael Cairns. Mike is a full-time teacher and a writer as well. He has two small children so he doesn’t get a lot of sleep either. On top of all this, he has set himself an enormous writing challenge this year. This challenge is to release 15 novels in 2015, writing 1 million words of original fiction and he’s also vlogging about it every single day! You can read all about it here. He writes and edits every day and I just don’t know how he does it. I do know that it is very inspiring to see what is possible when you set your mind to it and after chatting with Mike, I realised that I do have to change my mindset as I go forward into my published writing career.

Right now, my mind is flitting from one thing to another all the time. I am trying to finish off the writing and editing process for ‘From Here to Nashville.’ I am communicating with the proofreader and have just started contacting and liaising with a few lovely people who have offered to host me on their blogs around the time of publication. Preparing for these blog posts is important but it also takes time if you want to do it properly. I realised that I needed to have all this information ready to send in an email and on my web page, whenever anyone asks. Not only that but I have been trying to get to grips with a paperback version of FHTN. This involves a bit of research but I can’t really make much progress until I have the final copy back from the proofreader, yet I’m still fiddling about with it.

I’m trying to plan some marketing for FHTN as well and once again, this takes time and research. And last but not least, I’m trying to write! I have put pressure on myself again by re-joining the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme so I must have a completed first draft at least to send in for review by the end of August. But that’s months away, you say. It is still quite a long way away but I need to get some sort of better time management in place now if I am to get that done in time. I’d also like to be getting on with a novella to send out when people sign up to receive my newsletter so I need a plan and I need it now. Step one, I think has to be a change of mindset but how to do it?

If you have any tips to help me manage my time better (apart from getting a new brain 😉 ), please let me know in the comments as always. Thank you for taking time to read my blog today – we are all superheroes for what we manage to fit in each and every day 🙂

Update: Since writing this post, my book has gone up on Amazon for pre-order! This is earlier than I’d planned but I’m still very excited about it! Here are the links: Amazon UK and Amazon US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 😦 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 🙂

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.