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 🙂

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 🙂

Time to reveal my cover and book trailer!

The time has finally come – I have finished my final and I mean, FINAL read-through of ‘From Here to Nashville,’ my debut novel. It is now ready to go to the proofreader and so, I feel confident enough to let the world (that means you, dear readers) see my new cover for the book. Drum roll, if you please…

And here it is! I am so pdfw-js-fhtn-cover-smallleased with the cover that Design for Writers created for me and I have had some good early feedback from subscribers to my newsletter who had a sneak peek of the book cover last Tuesday before anyone else. Sending out my newsletter was an interesting challenge but it seemed to be successful because by the following day, I had more than double the number of original subscribers. If you’d like to sign up to my newsletter, here’s the link. I use Mailchimp for my newsletters and if you want to have a go at setting it all up for yourself, here’s a post I wrote about it when I first tried it out.

I also managed to include the book trailer I have been working on in the newsletter. I created it using a website called Stupeflix, although I tried out a number of others beforehand, like Animoto and Vimeo. It took a long time to find suitable photos for it to go with the text I had written but once I’d done that, it was relatively easy. I found the music on a royalty free music site, called Bensound. Then it was just a question of putting it all together. If I had lots more time, I would probably still tweak a few things but I’m mostly happy with it. Once it was complete, I uploaded it to YouTube and kept it as ‘unlisted’ until all my subscribers had had the chance to watch it. It is now public so anyone can see it but here’s the video below if you’d like to watch it now. I’d love to know what you think about it so do leave me a comment below.

I have also started uploading my details to the Kindle Direct Publishing page so that I can be as close to ready for my launch as possible when FHTN comes back from the proofreader. This has led me to discover the delights of providing tax information as a non-US publisher. You may not be aware if you live in the UK that if you want to publish your ebook to Amazon and receive your full royalty payments, you will have to prove to the IRS that you are eligible for the waiver of the 30% tax rate in the US and would prefer to pay tax at the UK 20% tax rate instead. This may take some time so for the moment, I will have to pay tax at the 30% rate!

I would like to make my book available for pre-order so I put in the date I’m aiming for as my publication day and it then said that I have to upload my finished book by ten days before the publication day. That wouldn’t leave me very long after I get it back from the proofreader. I think I could upload a draft version but I’m scared about mixing them up! So this one may be a case of having to wait and see.

So, what will I do next? Well, I have signed up to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme again and I would like to submit my second book this year. The first draft is at 80,000 words but most of these are not right! I keep adding to my outline in Scrivener how I want the story to go but now I have to really knuckle down and get the actual story right, as well as finished. It will only be the very first draft that I’m able to submit if I can manage all that. Still, you have to start somewhere and at least I have something to go with. I will try and finish the outline over the next couple of weeks at least but then I’ll have to get back to FHTN and its publication and marketing. No peace for the wicked, as they say 😉

Thanks for reading, as always and I would love to hear your comments on my book cover and my book trailer 🙂

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo a miss this year

NaNoWriMoI have now been a NaNo or Camp NaNoWriMo winner three times in two years and each time I met my goal, I was ecstatic with the great feeling of achievement. However, I have had to take the reluctant decision not to take part in this year’s NaNoWriMo and as much as it pains me, I know it’s the right thing to do.

Last year, I wrote 50,000 words of my second novel during November and I followed the suggested rules to the letter by just sticking to the very vague outline I’d written and by never stopping to edit. I wrote 1,667 words minimum every day and by the end of the month, I had virtually a whole story. I couldn’t come back to it until April of this year though but I picked up where I’d left off to take part in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and by the time that was finished, I was at 80,000 words. A couple of months later, I sent it to my Kindle for a read through. I was very pleased with the quality of what I’d written but the story was a mess and since then, I have been putting off getting down to sorting it out because I felt like I had no idea where to begin. And this is why I have decided not to do NaNo next month because if I do, I will end up with another messy story that I will spend most of next year trying to sort out.

Now that I have done three NaNos/Camps, I have realised that I am a writer who needs to plan first because when I don’t, I go off on so many tangents that the story I end up with is so far from what I wanted that I feel powerless almost to put it right. I just can’t go through that again. So instead, I am reading books and articles to help me do a proper outline for my second book which is what I should have done before starting it last November but I was impatient and the start date was looming. I feel just the same again. I have so many ideas that I’d like to get going on but I need to spend time plotting them out first before writing rather than rehashing the whole thing afterwards.

So back to book 2. I have a pretty good first draft which is a good start and the story idea is still a good one, I think. I have gone through all my chapters, summarising what I actually wrote in each scene as opposed to what I planned to write in my vague outline and I can see much more clearly now where the story has gone off the rails. I was reading an article on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog yesterday called NaNoWriMo Prep: Planning Your Novel’s Beginning and it was so helpful that I printed it out to use as a checklist for what I have already written. Yes, I’m doing it back to front but at least I’m going to do it to help me check the strength of my story. There are two further articles on her blog about the middle and the end as well which I will also look at. I’m going to finish reading K.M.Weiland’s book ‘Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success’ which I’ve been finding very helpful and then I’m going to get on and finish this first draft. I’m aiming to do that by the end of the year so that I can send it to beta readers and the RNA (the Romantic Novelists’ Association) early in the New Year.

I hope then that by the time I think again about book 3, I will know how to write a decent outline before I even start to write the story. To all those of you doing NaNoWriMo next month, I wish you the best of luck and hope that this time next year, I will be ready to join you again with a detailed outline in my hand! Thank you for reading and please do leave me a comment about your NaNo experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revising an outline for a novel…again!

Last week, I finally managed to send off ‘From Here to Nashville’ for its manuscript assessment by the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association). It felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders as I left the Post Office and even though I know there will be lots of work to do on it when it comes back, it feels good to have reached this point with my debut novel. I have taken a few days off and had a good rest in the hope that this would leave me feeling refreshed and ready to go today.

The task I have set myself during the eight weeks that I expect my manuscript assessment to be taking place, is to go back to my second novel and straighten it out before I carry on with it and finish the first draft. This novel, called ‘Seeking Approval’, you may remember, is the one I began in NaNoWriMo last November, writing 50,000 words of the story that month. I carried on with it in April at Camp NaNoWriMo and as a result, I now have just over 75,000 words. However, despite writing an outline before I started this second novel, the story veered off quite considerably and I know I have lots of plot-holes already. I stuck to the NaNoWriMo idea of just writing and not editing though and carried on regardless. I have realised though that I can’t continue like that. It’s driving me insane! I have therefore made up my mind not to do the July Camp this year, unless by some miracle, I have sorted the outline and the story so that they are one and the same and I am absolutely confident of where I want the rest of the story to go.

And so begins the long task of writing scene synopses for every chapter so I can see what I’ve actually written and then comparing that to the outline. When I’ve done that, I think I will write a synopsis again, as I did for From Here to Nashville so that I can see where the plot is going wrong. Then I will have to correct what’s wrong before continuing. I am so fed up with myself for having done this again and it’s making me wonder whether NaNoWriMo works for me. I love doing it but unless I can write a decent outline before November, I don’t want to approach my third novel in this ramshackle way. At the moment, I am left feeling like I haven’t really made any progress on the planning front and I now have another novel to try and sort out. Naturally, I have saved lots of articles about it into my Evernote notebook on Outlining and I have already read a few of these, as well as downloading K. M. Weiland’s ‘Outlining Your Novel:Map Your Way to Success’ which comes highly recommended. The only trouble is that I was supposed to read all of these before I started! I have plenty of time though and perhaps I just need to take it one step at a time and not get too hung up about the mess I’m in. I’m still learning, I guess, and I just have to accept that and get started. Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading and any tips you could offer will be gratefully received, as always 🙂 Have a good week y’all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!