The Brave New World of 2016

DSCN1312After a good long break, I now feel ready to face the New Year and that’s just as well because a lot has changed for me in the weeks since the last post appeared on this blog.

The most important thing is that I left my teaching job to concentrate full-time on my writing! I know! This is both scary and exciting all at once. Just in case any of you might be sitting there wondering if I’ve hit the big time on the writing front, well, not quite yet but there’s always hope 😉 You can read more about what I’ve been up to in my goals for 2016 (see below).

You may remember that I took a proofreading course last year and since then, I have been getting in lots of practice and I’m ready now to start work as a professional proofreader, along side my writing. While I build up my new business, I’m going to do supply teaching as well and I hope that with various other writing related activities, there will be enough money in the pot for life to continue pretty much as normal.

As if leaving my job and starting my own business wasn’t quite enough excitement, I have also made some decisions about my writing life and where I want to take it this year. This all means that my writing goals are going to look a bit different for the coming year but first of all, let me review my goals from this time last year. Here they are:

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.

Looking back at these goals, I felt rather pleased with myself. The only one I didn’t achieve was number 3 and that was because I decided that the NaNoWriMo style of writing is not for me. As long as I have a good outline, I can write quite happily until my first draft is completed and so I still plan to do that for book 3 but in my own time. Number 4 went slightly differently because I changed my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature to my ‘Author Spotlight’ one instead but it was very successful as a feature overall. For the moment though, I’m going to turn the spotlight off so that I can get back into blogging regularly myself and I may just do the occasional spotlight instead.

So what will my writing goals be for 2016?

1. Publish Where My Heart Belongs. Before Christmas, I made the momentous decision to start querying agents with this book. This is because I feel I need help now to progress my writing career to the next level. I have also sent the book to one publisher so far, one that accepts unagented submissions. So book 2 will either be published traditionally, if things work out, or I will self-publish it. Now that I have had some experience and I know what I’m doing, I’m not daunted by this decision whatever the outcome is so all I can say is watch this space!

2. Write the first draft of book 3. I have a story idea, I just need to write the outline and then write the book!

3. Finish writing my follow-up novella of Sam’s story, one of my characters in From Here to Nashville.

4. Choose one of these 2 books to send in to be reviewed by the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme which I have rejoined this year.

5. Continue sending out regular newsletters to people who have signed up and trying to increase the number of subscribers. This has gone very well this year and it is a way of letting my supporters know little details that I don’t necessarily tell the rest of the world 😉

Tomorrow will be an interesting day for me then as I spend the day with my younger daughter rather than attending a training day at school for the first time in many years. Then on Tuesday, I will be taking my first steps along the road to my new working life. I will be setting up a new website for my proofreading business as one of my first jobs but if anyone wants to contact me before then, here is my business email address: woodbeez48@gmail.com.

Whatever you’re up to this year as far as your writing goes, I wish you lots of success and I look forward to talking to you more about it as the year progresses. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

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 🙂

How To Set Up a Goodreads Author Page

goodreads_icon_200x200-8b5b322a54ffbe04db26585de0830763Another week has gone by and we’re already in February. My publication date for From Here to Nashville is just two weeks away and, having worked through all the amendments from my proofreader, I will be able to meet my deadline to upload the final version to Amazon before the end of this week. As always, I have been juggling a few other things during the week as well. Mainly, I have been liaising with a number of lovely people about interviews on their blogs and I also contacted the organisers of the Romance Festival 2015, taking place online next weekend about a Q&A with them and a blog post. Once the final version of my ebook is ready, I will also be contacting some book reviewers to see if they would be able to review FHTN for me.

One of the other things on my to do list during the week was to set up a Goodreads Author Page. I have been on the site as a reader for quite a while now so it made sense to get my Author Page set up too. I have heard from quite a few people though that they find the site a bit of a nightmare to use so I was prepared for it to be a bit tricky. And it was! So I thought some tips might be useful for readers of my blog for when the time comes to set up your own page.

1. You have to wait for your book to be available somewhere, either for pre-order or actually published, before it will show up on Goodreads. I tried to join the Author Program but because my book wasn’t there, nothing would happen. Once my book was available for pre-order though, it automatically showed up on the Goodreads site because it’s owned by Amazon. Then all I had to do was to click on ‘Author Program’ which is right at the bottom of the page and search for myself and my book. Once you have done this, it asks whether this is you and you can ask to join the program. My situation was slightly  complicated by the fact that there is another Julie Stock out there and I was showing as the author of her book as well. It was very easy to contact Goodreads though to explain and now I’m no longer associated with that book. Just as well because it was a Breastfeeding Manual and this is not something I excelled at, I’m afraid 😉 Hope that wasn’t TMI on a Monday. One final thing, it takes a while for them to get back to you to say you are set up as an author so you may need to be prepared for that.

2. How to upload your own photo. When I’d had to contact Goodreads about the other Julie Stock, I had managed to get to know a very helpful Librarian there who was happy for me to pester her with other questions. The first one I had was how to upload my photo, which I hadn’t been able to work out on my own. For this, you need to go to your Author Page and click on edit data, not on edit profile, as you might have expected. Then you will see the options for uploading a picture of yourself.

3. Your Author Bio. This is also uploaded under edit data. One tip is that when you upload your bio, make sure to include a link to your newsletter sign up page right near the top. This makes it easier for readers and, in my case, will take them to my website too. I do have the links for my website, Twitter and Facebook all there too. On this page, you can also add a video and it’s recommended that you do. I have uploaded my book trailer there and I did that without having to ask any questions! Goodreads also sent me some questions to answer for the benefit of readers stopping by my page so I answered a few of those as well. I have also linked my blog to my Goodreads page, although it isn’t showing any pictures and is only showing ten posts so I may have to come back to that one.

4. To giveaway or not to giveaway? Once you have done all this, you can click on your book and see all kinds of information about it and who wants to read it etc. Goodreads is very keen for me to list a giveaway of the book too and I have given a lot of thought to this for the purposes of visibility. However, after reading this article by Roz Morris at the weekend, I had a very interesting discussion with some writing friends on Twitter about the whole idea of giving work away for free when you only have the one book out. The conclusion was that it just doesn’t make sense at this point for me to do it. When I have more than one book out, I will consider the idea again because that could then add value for me. So, even though it’s tempting, think carefully before giving away your work and make sure that if you do, there’s going to be something in it for you too 🙂

I hope these tips are helpful for you and if you’d like to go on over to my page to see what it looks like, here’s the link. You can click on the Want to Read button there too if you feel so inclined 😉 Thanks for reading as always and do leave me a comment below if you’d like to talk about any of these points a bit further.

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 🙂

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 🙂

 

 

My Piece of Sky

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

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

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

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

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