Tag: plotting

A Month of Learning Opportunities

March has been another busy writing month for me but this time, it has mostly been because of so many new learning opportunities that have presented themselves to me.

Prime Reading

One of those has been being invited by Amazon to have The Vineyard in Alsace included in a Prime Reading promotion for three months. Since I signed up, my book has risen up the charts to a high point of no. 7 so far, which as you can imagine, has been fantastic to see. I am learning new things about how it works all the time and delighting in the recognition my book has been getting. I have Amazon Prime myself but I had no idea that it included books! How mad is that? So if you do too and you want to read my book for free, get yourself along to my book page here and download it! And if you could please write a review when you’ve finished, that would be even better!

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New Courses

So what else have I been up to? Well, first of all, I decided to sign up to the Self-Publishing Formula Podcast’s Cover Design course. I do some design work in my day job, and I used to do design when I worked in marketing before I became a teacher many years ago. I enjoy doing it but have never taken any courses, and as I enjoy the cover design process so much, I thought it would be useful. I don’t really have any plans to make my own covers, although there might be some circumstances when I could in the future, but I thought it would help me to understand the process a bit more. And it really has. The course is delivered on behalf of the SPF team by Stuart Bache, who designs all of Mark Dawson’s covers. Stuart’s own company is called Books Covered and you will see many familiar covers there from the romance genre. You do need Photoshop to get the most out of the course but you will then get such a lot of practice in from trying to create your own covers and seeing what goes into the process. The course is still open but is a bit more expensive now. I’m still working my way through but enjoying it immensely.

Then after I heard about the Cover Design course on the podcast, they re-opened their Self-Publishing 101 course. Hopefully, you’re thinking ‘Why would you need that course, Julie?’ when you read that! Well, that’s a good point and one I had worried over myself since I first heard about the course opening late last year. It’s quite expensive and I didn’t want to make an investment like that if I wasn’t going to learn anything new. However, even after indie publishing three books now, with a couple more to come this year, there are still things I’m not doing to best effect. I haven’t really built a proper mailing list and for that you need a reader magnet (which I haven’t written yet!) and to promote that in various ways to encourage people to sign up. One of those ways is via a landing page on your website, which is when you realise that a free WordPress website doesn’t have the scope for you to do that kind of advanced stuff. It has been on my mind for a while to migrate my website again but I just haven’t done it. So really, doing this course is about helping me to work out what I still need to do to move myself to the next level, writing a checklist and then doing it! Fortunately, you can pay monthly for the course and it is still open for a few days. If you should want to take a look, the link is here. If you can’t stretch to that kind of investment, you should listen to the podcast because there are so many useful hints and tips in each episode – it really is great!

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Writing Retreat

Finally, this month, I went on my first ever writing retreat, just in time for the second wave of snow. It sounds terribly self-indulgent but I was given it as a birthday present from my family! Last weekend, I drove up to Warwickshire to a lovely hotel and joined about a dozen other writers at various stages in their careers for a weekend of writing and learning. The course was run by two RNA members, Alison May and Janet Gover. You can find out more about their courses here. They’re both traditionally published and have lots of experience between them.

Before I got the schedule, I was expecting to spend most of the weekend holed up in my room, bashing away at my laptop in isolation. However, that wasn’t the case. There was writing time, of course but there were also tutorials and workshops, which were really helpful. The most helpful ones for me were the ones on plotting and editing. I also had a one-to-one with Janet about there first three chapters of my next novel which I’m calling The Bistro for now. One of the things I struggle with is knowing where to start with the editing process when I get my first manuscript appraisal back from the RNA. It all seems insurmountable! But as a result of this course, I now have a proper plan to work to and I made a start on the plan while I was there so when I come back to it, I feel that I will be better prepared to make a start and not be as daunted as I normally feel.

I learnt a lot from my fellow writers too, and the weekend was a very sociable experience that I would really recommend to you. I switched everything else off and just spent time on my writing, and that felt wonderful!

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My Latest Publication!

I can’t finish without mentioning that I also published a new book this month! Over You (Sam’s Story) was published on 12 March, 2018, and already has a few good reviews. It means that I now have a series – the From Here to You series – and this is book 2 following on from the end of From Here to NashvilleThe third and final sequel will be out around May, I hope. If you haven’t downloaded Sam’s Story yet, it’s only 99p on Amazon and tells a story of heartbreak, love and healing. You can get your copy on Amazon now.

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If you want to know when my next release is out, why not sign up to my mailing list here?

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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.

Is there such a thing as too much advice?

So, what have I been up to this past week, from a writing perspective that is? Well, I’ve read lots of advice about structural editing for one thing and to be honest, some days, it has left me feeling quite depressed. There is just so-ooooo much advice out there that I can’t see the wood for the trees – oh no, cliché alert!!! and too many exclamation marks too, aargh!!! Let’s get specific then:

  • I have dipped in to Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and found that useful but will have to wait till I get to the end to see how I can apply it.
  • I looked at Alexandra Sokoloff’s site and tried to apply her method to my novel but although this is a useful structure, it just didn’t seem to work for me this time. I may use it for my NaNoWriMo writing this year though because it has a lot of merit and I’d like to give it a try. Have a look and see what you think.
  • I tried out the Snowflake method. The problem is, as you may have realised, I have already written my first draft and so I am trying to ‘impose’ these methods on to my novel after the event and that makes it doubly hard.
  • Finally, after looking at some really useful posts on this site, I found a method of plotting that seemed to work for me. Janice has a way of explaining difficult things in a really simple way that I understand, maybe it’s just me 😉 But judging by the positive comments on the site, I don’t think so. This method by Michael Hague – The 6 Stage Plot Structure – fits my novel really well and has left me feeling much more enthusiastic about checking my story for plot holes. It’s going to take me a while to carry out this editing stage but I do feel more confident about doing it now, thanks to Janice.

I have started to read my first draft out loud as suggested by many people on the internet as my first proper editing step and this has already helped me to pick up on some important points. For example, I write dialogue very formally – I always write ‘I have’ rather than ‘I’ve’ which is what we would say to each other of course so I have tried to correct that tendency wherever I spot it.

As this week is half-term week in my part of the UK, I am not sure how much writing I will get done with my own kids around but I wanted to keep up with my blog and I also intend to start NaNoWriMo on Friday, come hell or high water!

Another busy week then. Let me know if any of these methods work for you or if you have another suggestion for structural edits of your first draft. Good luck with your writing in the coming week 🙂