A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Jan Brigden @JanBrigden @TheRomaniacs shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Today it’s the turn of contemporary romance author Jan Brigden to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Her latest book is If I Ever Doubt You and you can find out more about it below.

Jan Brigden’s Writing Life in a Day

When I first started writing full time from home, I set myself various daily targets in the hope of mirroring the last office job I’d held.

Hope being the operative word.

So … At my desk by 8.30 in the morning. Write until 10.30. Half hour break to stretch my legs and catch up with emails/phone messages, etc. Resume writing until lunchtime, say 1pm. Lunch. Write from 2 until 4 with suitably-spaced leg-stretch breaks. 4-5pm catch up with social media. Finish at 5, ready to prepare dinner and enjoy the rest of the evening with husband Dave who usually comes in from work between 5 and 6pm or spend a few hours with friends/family depending on what I had planned.

It started well enough but I soon realised that I couldn’t write to order and was putting far too much pressure on myself to reach these daily self-imposed targets. I’d get frustrated if the muse didn’t strike and end up staring at a blank screen for ages trying to force the words to come. I’d then feel guilty if I hadn’t produced much and it would feel like a day wasted.

With time and experience and lots of advice and support from my fellow writers, some of whom to varying degrees had faced exactly the same thing, I totally changed my outlook and routine. Instead of sitting down regimentally each day, I’d go for a nice walk which I immediately found provided me with inspiration and clarity for whichever scene or chapter I was planning to write next. Instead of feeling sheepish that I was out walking or dancing in front of the TV in the lounge to one of my exercise DVDs, I realised this valuable time fired up my creativity and passion for my book. I also found that some days I’d fit more writing into a shorter space of time which would free me up for other pleasures such as reading other author’s books or indulging in anything mindfulness-related, be it books, audio or videos.

I no longer feel guilty if I’m not writing all day every day as taking time out benefits me. It was about trusting myself to let go and be more flexible. I’ve never been the quickest writer nor the most disciplined. It seems to come in fits and starts for me. I can become quite obsessive about it at times and leave it alone for days at other times.  I do have other personal family commitments, more so now, which I love and which aren’t an excuse, I’ve just accepted that as much as I love writing, it isn’t the most important thing in my life.  It’s one of them.

Anne: Thank you to Jan for this fascinating insight into her writing life. I must say I like the idea of trusting herself and being flexible in her approach to writing – seems like excellent advice to me.  You can read more about her and her latest book below.

Jan’s latest book 

 

 

From the back cover:

She might have scored a celebrity footballer, but the game isn’t over yet …

Rebecca Dunning should be blissfully happy – after a whirlwind weekend, she and top footballer Alex Heath are still going strong. But as the murkier side of the celebrity lifestyle reveals itself, so does the creeping doubt.

Rebecca finds herself isolated in the fake, flashy world of toxic WAG cliques and ruthless reporters, and when a mysterious online admirer follows Alex’s every move, she struggles to cope. Can she keep playing the media game for the man she loves, or will she have to admit defeat?

If I Ever Doubt You  is the stand-alone sequel to As Weekends Go

Buy link for e-book

Amazon

Buy link for audiobook

Amazon Audio

About Jan:

Jan lives in South East London with her husband and motley crew of cuddly toys. Jan’s written for pleasure from a young age; short stories for classmates, odes for workmates, fun quizzes for family and friends, progressing to the contemporary uplifting dramas she writes today.

The idea for her debut novel, As Weekends Go, sprang from a script she composed as part of a creative writing course assignment via The Writers Bureau. The novel went on to be published by award winning UK independent publishers Choc Lit after winning their Search for a Star competition.

Jan’s latest novel, If I Ever Doubt You, also published by Choc Lit, is the sequel to her debut.

An avid reader, reviewer and all round book devotee, Jan is also one eighth of online writing group The Romaniacs (www.theromaniacs.co.uk) who successfully self-published an anthology of short stories and flash fiction entitled ‘Romaniac Shorts: Fashionably Brief’.

Connect with Jan:

Twitter: @JanBrigden or @TheRomaniacs
Facebook: Jan Brigden – Writer
Blog:  https://janbrigden.wordpress.com/

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Kate Field @katehaswords shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Today it’s the turn of author Kate Field to give us a glimpse into her varied days as a writer. Kate writes wonderful contemporary women’s fiction. Her latest book is A Dozen Second Chances and you can find out more about it below. But first over to Kate to tell you about her writing life.

 Kate Field’s Writing Life in a Day

I love reading blogs about how other authors work, but admit that I’m often struck with a pang of envy over those brilliant writers who knock out several thousand words in one go – and that’s before breakfast. How on earth do they do it?

My writing days are very different. I don’t even have a typical day. I work part time in an office job, and rarely have the mental energy to write on those days. On my so-called ‘days off’, the hours whizz by in domestic activities, and, until recently, a 3 hour school run. Writing has to fit round real life in whatever spare hours I have. Sometimes I manage a few pages, sometimes a few lines. It all counts, and I don’t beat myself up if I have an unproductive day.

I don’t need much to be able to write: my only requirements are a pen (currently a Cross ballpoint pen given to me by a friend), an A4 notebook (I stockpile in the Paperchase sale) and peace and quiet. This last requirement has been hard to come by over the recent months of lockdown! My favourite place to write is the kitchen, as it’s bright and warm, and the hum of the fridge provides just the right pitch of background noise without being intrusive, but now the peace has been shattered by the sound of Zoom meetings echoing round the house and the constant boiling of the kettle. I haven’t had the house to myself since lockdown started, and I’ve found it hard to write at all.

I didn’t realise before I was published that there’s so much more to being a writer than putting words down on the page. On any particular day I might have to write a blog post, arrange a blog tour to promote a new book, design a graphic to use on social media, and keep my Twitter and Facebook profiles up to date. Multi-tasking is an essential skill. It’s quite normal to find that you’re writing one book, editing another and promoting a third, all at the same time. It can get very confusing!

The working day never ends for most writers; you can’t switch off the lights and close the door on your imagination. There are no weekends or holidays: I remember having to stop during a Swiss mountain hike a few years ago because I thought of the perfect words for Ethan’s declaration of love in The Man I Fell in Love With and had to write it down before I forgot. I love reading, but it’s hard to read a book without mentally dissecting the author’s skill in keeping the pages turning and playing with my emotions. I can’t watch television without being distracted by an interesting face that might inspire a character, a useful name in the credits, or by the thought, ‘what if X,Y and Z happened instead?’. Characters and conversations constantly run through my head, and they won’t go away!

In my most recent book, A Dozen Second Chances, I wrote the story of Eve, who takes the opportunity to change her life when her daughter leaves home. It’s a subject close to my heart, as I’ll have an empty nest soon too, and many more hours of my day to fill. Perhaps I can take the opportunity to change my writing life, and at last become one of those authors who write thousands of words before breakfast…

Anne: Thank you to Kate for this fascinating insight into the non-typical days of her writing life. You can read more about her and her latest book below.

A Dozen Second Chances

From the back cover:

What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?

Seventeen years ago, Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.

Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again, and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.

With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…

Buy link: you can buy A Dozen Second Chances HERE

About Kate:

 Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire,

where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

Kate’s social media links:

Twitter: @katehaswords

Facebook:  Kate Field Author

A Life in the Day of a Writer: Author Anne Stormont describes a typical writing day #writing #author #reading

My desk area – otherwise known as post-it note city

New Feature

Yes, today it’s a post all about me – or rather it’s all about my working day as a writer. It’s the first in a new series of guest posts that I’m hoping to host here. The idea being that every month or so a different writer will share what their writing life looks like by sharing a typical day at the desk – and away from it.

And I thought why not launch the feature with my own summary of daily life as an author. So here goes …

A day in my writing life

Writing for me is a job. Yes, it’s a job I love, but it’s still a job. Therefore in order to get paid, I have to turn up. I’m fortunate nowadays to have retired from my other job as a primary school teacher, so writing is my only work.

Planned & Scheduled

However, that’s a bit of a double-edged sword discipline wise. Yes, I have lots of time in which to write but that fact only increases the chance of procrastination. So as my own boss, I have to be strict. I have to have a schedule and I have to stick to it. And this is where my previous life as a teacher comes in handy. Teaching requires lots of planning and scheduling – it’s something I’m comfortable with and actually quite good at. So I have the long-term plan, the weekly plan and the daily plan. And I mainly stick to them – my boss is strict – but she’s not entirely unreasonable 😊

Morning

My day typical begins reasonably early – around 7.30 or so and my first activity of the day is usually going for a walk. I don’t let bad weather stop me and I walk for an hour or so. I view the walk as the daily equivalent of walking to and from my workplace and I find that starting the day with exercise helps me focus once I am at work.

Once back from my walk, I head for the desk – and just the simple act of going into my den and sitting at my computer helps get me in the zone. I’ll write for an hour or so – maybe two – usually adding words to my novel-in-progress and aiming to achieve the word count target I’ll have set for the session. If I’m just beginning something new, this time can also be used for planning and maybe some research. Or if the book is at the editing stage, then this will be rewriting time.

Afternoon

After lunch I’ll write for another hour – again with a number of words to aim for – and once that’s achieved my brain has usually had quite enough of being creative.

So for the remainder of the afternoon I do the other necessary tasks that come with being an author. It might be writing a post for this blog, it might be writing something for my Facebook author page, it could be preparing for an author event – or it could be doing any of the other many managing and marketing jobs that go with the territory.

Down time

I take evenings and weekends off – but if I’m in the mood I will do some unscheduled work during those times. This is most likely to happen if I have a deadline looming or if I’m simply at the stage in a novel where the words are flowing and I can’t wait to crack on with it. But time out is important too and it’s often when I’m relaxing, walking, gardening – or doing nothing in particular – that ideas come to me or solutions to plotting problems present themselves.

A good life

And there you have it. It ain’t glamorous, it’s largely solitary and it’s often frustrating or just plain hard. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my days spent as a writer, I love my writing life and I don’t intend to retire any time soon.

Taking Stock: Where next for the blog and my writing #amwriting #writing #books

What next?

The gratuitous photo above is of one of the flower beds in my garden – with lovely new wooden garden chairs behind. The picture has little to do with the post really, except being a writer, I also like a gratuitous metaphor. So just as my garden needs weeding and new planting from time to time so too does my blog. And writing a new book requires tending to lots of seedling ideas.

Therefore as this post is about taking stock, tidying up and letting new ideas take root, I defend my use of both the picture and the metaphors 🙂

Blog plans 

It’s almost a year since I set up and hosted the two-month-long Virtual Book Festival here on the blog. Little did I know, when I had the idea to go virtual, that in 2020 book festivals – like so many other events – would all be going online and that this would become the norm – due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a lot of work to organise but it was also great fun to do.

I’m not planning to do another festival this year, but I have been thinking about where next for the blog. Put it in Writing started out ten years ago as just a blog, but it has now evolved and is the front page of my author website.  And while the website pages are all about my books and my author business, my blog has always included much more than that. It was always my intention to share not only aspects of my own writing life, but also to post about books and reading in a wider sense and to offer interview posts to fellow authors. And that remains my intention.

So, to free up a bit of time and space I intend to do fewer book reviews – but I’ll keep my Books of the Month feature – which is more recommendations rather than reviews.

And while I’ll continue to offer some interview posts to other writers, I’m also going to add in a new feature which I hope readers of the blog will enjoy. This new type of post will be one where I invite an author to share their typical writing day – thereby giving an insight into how they work and what they do. It will be by invitation only and will be called A Life in the Day of …

New Writing Plans

And with the publication in May of Fulfilment, the final novel in my three part Rachel & Jack: Skye series, it’s time to explore the possibilities for my next book. I’m not short of ideas – I have a notebook full of ideas – but all these seedlings need thinning out – and only a few will make it to the plot – see what I did there? 🙂 Okay, I’ll stop with the metaphors now.

But seriously, I’m sort of spoiled for choice. Perhaps I’ll go for a series again – but this time set the books in southern Scotland and have each book focus on a different romantically entwined couple within that locality/community. Or maybe I’ll do a standalone – or two – instead of, or as well as, a series? And will I do another children’s novel – a sequel to The Silver Locket perhaps with the same three children as lead characters – and have them embark on another time-travelling adventure? These are exciting dilemmas to have and although I already miss Rachel and Jack it really is time to leave them in peace to get on with their lives without my meddling. Mind you a Christmas short story set a year after Fulfilment is sort of beckoning …

Back to the Creative Department

So after a lot of time spent on the online launch of Fulfilment, it’s time to spend less time in the marketing department and to focus on making something fresh and new – both here on the blog and with the crafting of a new novel. And I do appreciate how fortunate I am that the work I do can continue – lockdown or not.

Continue to stay safe everyone.

PS

As a postscript to this post – a question:

Like many people I’ve found I’m reading more during lockdown but that’s not the case for everyone – have you been reading more – or less – during this difficult time? If you have been reading, please do share your favourite lockdown read – and why you enjoyed it – in the comments below.

It’s Official Launch Day – Fulfilment Goes Live #reading #books #writing

Yes, today’s the day. It’s the official release date for my new novel Fulfilment. The paperback has been available for a few days now – but If you pre-ordered the ebook  on Amazon it should arrive on your Kindle today. (It’s available here)

I have a bottle of the bubbly stuff chilling for later and I’m going to enjoy toasting my new ‘book baby’ as it goes off into the world.

Fulfilment is the third and final book in the Skye series and I’m going to miss hanging out with Rachel and Jack. But it’s time I left them in peace to get on with their lives. And it’s time to start something new. More on that at a later date 🙂

In the meantime, here’s what it says on the back cover of Fulfilment:

The path of true love rarely runs smoothly…

When former Edinburgh police detective Jack Baxter met local author and crofter Rachel Campbell on the Scottish island of Skye, they fell in love. It was a second chance at happiness for both of them.

They both had emotional baggage. Jack helped Rachel cope with unimaginable grief after the death in combat of her soldier son, and Rachel was there for Jack after a criminal with a grudge almost ended his life. There were many bumps along the road but they believed they’d worked through and settled their differences.

However, Jack is struggling. Still suffering from post-traumatic stress, haunted by his past, and taunted by the demons of self-doubt, he feels Rachel deserves better.

Meanwhile, Rachel is busy preparing for the launch of her latest book – a book in honour of her son and aimed at promoting peace. So at first she fails to notice just how troubled Jack is.

Can Jack overcome his demons?

Can Rachel convince Jack he deserves to be loved?

Can they finally resolve their differences and fulfil their dreams together?

 Fulfilment is the third and final part in Rachel & Jack: The Skye series.

It follows on from Displacement (book 1) and Settlement (book 2).

If you like mature, emotional and thought-provoking contemporary romance in a dramatic setting, then this is a book for you.

Thank you or moran taing, as Rachel might say in Gaelic, to everyone who has bought, read and reviewed the earlier books in the series. If you haven’t read them Settlement  (book 2 in the series) is still on special offer here for only £0.99 – but only for the next few days -after that it goes back to £1.99.

And thanks too to everyone who has bought Fulfilment. I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to hearing what you thought of it. And if you have a time I’d really appreciate it if you left a review over at that big online store.

Cheers! Slainte! and thank you everyone for your support.

Writing and Reading news: It’s been quite a week #writing #reading #books

It has been quite a week in my writing life and with another big day coming up later this week on Friday, the excitement continues. Yes, it’s the crazy busy time around the launch of the new book.

But as well as being very busy with all things writing and publishing related, I’ve also been reading by way of relaxing.

So I thought I’d do a round up of all things bookish in today’s post.

Fulfilment – book 3 in the Rachel & Jack Skye Series launches

First of all thank you to everyone of you who has shared the news of the publication of Fulfilment via your social media channels, websites and by word of mouth. It all helps so much – especially at this time of no real life book launches.

And of course, thank you too, to everyone who has either bought the paperback or pre-ordered the ebook (here) which will be delivered to Kindles this Friday on the 15th May. I so appreciate it.

And, I have to say, it was quite an emotional moment to hold my proof copy of the book in my hands and then to put it on the shelf with its two preceding novels in the series.

Special offers on the first 2 books in the series

Book 1 in the series Displacement is free for your Kindle at the moment – but this is the last day so if you haven’t read any of the series so far – and you fancy doing so – now would be a good time to get started. Get it here 

Book 2 in the series Settlement is on a countdown deal at the moment in the US and will available to buy for $0.99 until Friday 15th May. And in the UK it will be available at a similarly reduced price from 12th May until the 19th. Get it here

So if you haven’t read them, what are you waiting for? 😊

I don’t just write books. I read them too

But as I said, I’ve been spending some time reading too. And so I thought I’d share my three favourite recent reads with you. All are – surprise, surprise – contemporary romances.

The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman

New Year, New Guy by Angela Britnell

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

All are first class, engaging, and heartwarming reads and are available as paperbacks and as ebooks and are definitely worth checking out.

So, as always, over to you – what have you read and enjoyed recently? And if you’re a writer what are you currently working on?

And remember, if you have read and enjoyed a book please do consider posting a review on Amazon. It doesn’t need to be long and involved – just a couple of e=sentences will do – but it really does help an author get some sales traction.

Staying Safe & Well: Gardening, Writing & Isolationships #health #lockdown #gardening #writing

It’s day 28 of Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK. For me, it’s a case of so far, so good. Yes, it’s taken a bit of getting used to this new normal and I’m finding one day at a time to be the best approach. But I’m grateful that I live in a beautiful part of Scotland, that I can take a daily walk on uncrowded paths and trails, and that me and my loved ones remain healthy. I’m also grateful to be able to continue working.

 All round wellbeing

It’s not only trying to remain physically healthy that’s important during this time of isolation, it’s also vital to look after our mental and emotional wellbeing too. In my previous post, I mentioned how much of a comfort reading is proving to be at this time and I shared some recommended reads. But reading’s not all that’s keeping me going.

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Staying connected

As for many folk, the existence of the internet is proving to be a boon at this time too. I’ve been able to see and interact with my children and grandchildren at family meetings on zoom, keep in daily touch with my four sisters in our WhatsApp group, and email, text and have video calls with friends. And being able to socialise like this – even if our relationships are more isolationships for now – helps so much.

Happiness in horticulture

I’m also grateful to have a garden and I’ve recently been spending time digging, planting and weeding. Working in the garden, sun shining and birds singing at full throttle all around me, is such a therapeutic activity at any time, but at the moment it’s especially enjoyable. It’s been good to see how well our newly established garden is faring after its first year. Most of last year’s planting is thriving and our new trees are looking especially grand. At the weekend I dug over and weeded the beds, I cut out the dead wood and old foliage from the shrubs and I got seeds planted – some in pots and trays and some in containers and beds. I also planted some new rockery flowers and came up with a list and a plan for some further new planting.

Seeds for a new book

And, as I was working in the garden, I was able to think about my writing. Of course, I’m getting excited about the new book and I’m currently busy with getting all the final launch details in place, but I’m also starting to think about future projects and getting started on my next book. I’ve got lots of ideas – all recorded in my ideas notebook. Most will probably never see the light of day, but there are a few which I want to explore. The ideas are mainly characters who’ve come to me with snippets of backstory and I intend to ask them a bit more about themselves before deciding if they’re novel worthy.

So as I gardened with actual seeds, knowing some would come to nothing and others would be discarded in the thinning out process, and as I pulled out and disposed of actual weeds and deadwood – there was a similar process going on in my writer’s brain. There were metaphorical seeds – some which might grow and flourish – and grow into something splendid – and some that wouldn’t get to germinate or would be discarded at a later date. And there were some unsightly metaphorical weeds there too.

Yes, you can take the girl out of writing but you can never take writing etc, etc. 😊 The writing brain is running continuously in the background, no matter what I’m doing – and I have to say that at the moment I’m especially glad of having an escape route into an imaginary Covid-free world.

What’s keeping you well?

I hope you’re all safe and well and finding your own ways of coping mentally, physically and emotionally at this difficult time. What’s working for you?

 

So Where Were We? The new normal as the brain fog clears #Covid #writing #coping

A Weirdly Different World

When I said in my previous post that I’d be taking a couple of weeks away from the blog in order to press on with preparing my latest book for publication I certainly didn’t foresee how things would have changed for all of us by the time I got back here.

But before going any further I just want to say welcome to this safe and germ free online space. Thank you for dropping in and reading my ramblings. I hope you’re managing to stay well and to cope with all the ramifications of the Covid-19 virus wherever you are in the world and whatever your personal circumstances.

The C-word and me

I’m fortunate in that, as a writer, I work from home – at least as far as the creative side of things goes. But because of the virus protection measures I’ve obviously had to suspend any author talks, workshops and live book launches, but at least I have this online space – and other social media sites – where I can continue to interact with my readers and fellow writers.

However, I must admit that I’ve been finding it impossible to focus on work for the last two or three weeks. Getting my head around the all the cancelled events – professional and personal – and the full implications of social-distancing has been hard. That along with my concern for my own wellbeing, and that of others, has used up all my mental and emotional energy. I suspect it’s been the same for many of us.

But the brain fog is gradually clearing and I think/hope I’m getting to used to the new normal. I’m trying to remain positive. And I keep reminding myself I’ve a lot to be grateful for.

Gratitude

I’m grateful that I can keep myself safe – I have a home with a garden, I live in a quiet village with uncrowded streets and paths to walk on, I have enough money and food and I don’t live alone. I’m grateful to all our wonderful NHS (UK health service) staff – including my own sister who is a nurse at one of Scotland’s biggest hospitals – to the shopworkers, delivery drivers, bin collectors, teachers, train and bus drivers and to anyone else who is working to ensure vital services can still operate.

But, yes, I admit I still get anxious and afraid at times, and I don’t think I’ll be learning a new language or undertaking any other ambitious project to see me through – However, I do now have a plan.

The Plan

It’s an outline plan – and, most importantly, it’s flexible according to my mood. So, I plan to continue my writing work, but it’s going to have to fit around purely therapeutic activities.

The therapeutic activities that work for me are the things I’ve always done to aid my wellbeing, but for now they’re going to be my main focus. So my days will include a daily walk, doing some yoga – our local yoga teacher is doing her classes online for the duration – listening to music and of course reading. And in the absence of outings and a ‘real world’ social life, the more I’m keeping in touch with family and friends via video calls, WhatsApp groups and good old-fashioned phone calls.

As for writing, my focus will be on getting my delayed new book out and so I aim to see Fulfilment published later this month. I also plan to crack on with a new book – a new book that will be Covid-free. Yes, the imaginary world is a nicer place – a place of refuge – and I get to be in charge 🙂

The New Book

Fulfilment is the third and final part of my Rachel and Jack Skye series. During this month I’ll post the cover and a preview of the story. And if you haven’t read the first two in the series, there will also be special offer price reductions on Displacement and Settlement coming up – so watch this space.

Don’t Miss Out

And to be sure of getting news of the launch of the new book or the special offers, do sign up to follow this blog by email.

Blog Casualty

I know! I know! There was no Book of the Month post here for March. Apologies. Excuses – see all of the above. I’m suspending this feature for now. But I will do a reading related post very soon – which will include recommended reads from March and beyond.

Stay Safe

Thanks for dropping in and thanks for your interest and stay safe and well, everyone. But before you go, do leave comments below. How are you coping during this difficult time? What are your recommended tactics and strategies? What books would you recommend to get us through?

And remember, this too will pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing a novel is the easy part: After you write ‘The End’ the hard work really begins #writing #amwriting #editing #books

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

In three recent posts I’ve written about where I get the ideas for the characters and plots in my novels, HERE, how I come up with and (to a certain extent) invent and adapt settings, HERE, and topics that I’ve had to research, HERE

If I get all that right I can then – she says modestly – come up with a pretty good 80 thousand word story. Job done.

Except it’s not. Oh no, writing that first draft is the easy part. And when I write ‘THE END’ it’s really only the end of the beginning – or the beginning of the end perhaps??

Whatever! There’s a lot that still needs to be done to get the story ready for readers.

Check and take note

First off, I have to go back to the beginning and read over the whole manuscript. And, all the time I’m reading, I’m also checking. I’m checking for errors – errors such as factual mistakes, inconsistencies in the plot, poor wording, sloppy phrasing, irrelevancies, boring bits, punctuation missing or wrongly applied, grammar crimes … and that’s not a comprehensive list.

Rewrite, rewrite and rewrite

Then, based on my notes from the above read through, I redraft and rewrite the manuscript. I’ll do this as many times as it takes for me to be satisfied that all is now well.

Off to the Editor

Once I’m sure it’s perfect, I send my story to my editor, confident he’ll find absolutely nothing wrong. I never learn! Of course he finds plenty. He’s an amazingly clever and astute alchemist of prose and much as I’d love to disagree with his constructive suggestions and recommendations as to what needs to be changed, I find myself going, ‘you know what, he’s right.’

Rewrite some more

So, after the editorial feedback is received, it’s time to rewrite some more and make even more changes to what is now draft number 526 (okay, slight exaggeration there).

But even after that I’m still not done. Oh no.

An irresistible backcover blurb

While all the editing is going on, I have to come up with the back cover blurb which will make the book irresistible to prospective readers who pick it off the shelf in their local bookshop, or who’re browsing that big online site that sells stuff. And, as if that wasn’t hard enough, I also have to produce a six (or so) word strapline for the front cover. This must be just as convincing as the back cover text that my novel is an unputdownable must-read. Writing both these reader-capture items is SO hard. I’d rather write another whole novel than condense my current one down to a paragraph – or worse still half a dozen words.

A beguiling cover

And while I’m agonising over the cover words, I’m also in discussion with the cover designer trying to come up with an awesome, attention-grabbing cover image. For someone as artistically challenged as I am this isn’t easy. But luckily as with my editor, I’m also very fortunate to have a fantastically talented and easy to work with designer.

After all the final edits are applied and the cover text and cover images are nailed and agreed upon, you’d think that would be it, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong.

Proofread and check again

While I’m agonising over and finalising the cover, my proof-reader, aka the husband, is reading the ‘final’ manuscript to check for any errors not spotted by me or the editor, such as a missing apostrophe, a misspelling or anything that seems unclear or just plain wrong. And you know what, he’s incredibly good at his job and will always spot something that has previously gone undetected.

All set up

Then, at last, the now pristine manuscript is ready to be formatted for both print and e-book versions of the novel. And, you guessed it, after that’s done it has to be checked over yet again – just in case anything has gone awry during the conversion process.

Okay, you still with me? If so, well done. If not, waken up at the back there!

Early readers

Yes, I’m almost there now. All that remains, after all of the above is complete, is to ask, beg, plead with members of my early-reading team to read at least part, if not all of my soon-to-be-published masterpiece and to let me know what they think, or better still to write a review, or maybe even a cover quote.

And publish!

Then, finally, publication date can be confirmed.

And, at last, I really can write THE END.

All that remains after this point is the launch and marketing plan. But that’s a post for another day. In fact I’m going to be spending most of March preparing for the publication of Fulfilment –  doing the final edits and checks and making that launch and marketing plan – and so I’ll be taking a short break from the blog.

Back soon.

World Building When Writing Fiction #writing #writerscraft, #fiction #books #reading

The nitty-gritty of writing – it’s not all glamorous

In my previous post I talked about how when I’m writing a book it begins with a character – a character that comes to me out of the blue usually when I’m busy doing something completely unrelated to writing. And it’s in getting to know that character that the plot begins to develop, as does the idea of where it should be set.

The devil is in the detail – timelines, events & maps

But whereas I don’t do much in the way of detailed planning for the development of the story itself, preferring to see where my characters take me, I’ve learned the hard way that I absolutely must have a detailed record of the timescales involved, of the factual biographies of the characters, and of the locations where the action will take place. This is particularly important when writing a series as there’s only so much detail I can hold in my memory.

Timing is crucial

Therefore I’ll have a time frame for the duration of the action – be that over a year, a month, a week – whatever. And even if I don’t say it’s all taking place in, for example, 2017, I’ll make sure I have a definite year or period in mind, so that the continuity of the action works.

Character biographies

Linked to that I’ll also have the birth dates and ages of all the main characters decided on and noted – again no matter whether those details are mentioned in the novel. But as well as dates of birth, I also make sure to note all the relevant background details of the characters that might influence their actions and reactions in the novel – yes, regardless of whether these details are directly mentioned in the telling of the story. For example what their parents did for a living and what their names were, where the character grew up, their siblings if any, perhaps their health history or educational record. And most importantly I make a note of their physical characteristics – again – you guessed it – whether or not they’re directly referred to in the telling of the tale. This all helps bring the characters fully to life in my head and, as with the timeline, helps me check continuity.

Made-up places

And, although I use real world settings in my novels I do also apply some fictionalising to those real places. That way I get the best of both worlds and my already hard-working imagination doesn’t get overstretched.

So, for example in my Skye-set novels – the Scottish island is of course real. The main town of Portree, the famous mountains and other scenic sites are all places that exist, but the township of Halladale where my main character Rachel loves is entirely fictional – as are its hills and the local mountain, Ben Halla.

I made up Halladale because I wanted the freedom to include whatever houses, landscape and other features that I needed for my story to work. As for the houses where Jack, Rachel and other characters live – whether on Skye, or in the other locations the story takes them – they, too are all made up. However, although some are completely made-up, some are based on real places. Halladale is based on the place where I lived in north Skye. Rachel’s house is loosely based on my own Skye house. And the Jerusalem flat where Rachel’s brother lives is based on the apartment where a friend of mine lived when she was growing up there and which I visited.

Using made up or fictionalised places means that I draw out floorplans of the houses and note what direction they face and what can be seen from various windows and so on. I also draw maps – for example I drew a map of Halladale and noted how far it was (in my mind) from the real main town of Portree and where on the island’s northern peninsula I have placed it. That way I can have them leave their driveways and head in the right direction every time, and I can have them gaze out of their front room window at the same view of the loch as they had in a previous chapter.

All of these background details are essential. Shared with my readers or not, they help ensure consistency and credibility in my storytelling and having them written down saves me so much time as I edit, proofread and check my manuscript before publication.

Not all about channelling the muse

So, this writer’s life is not just a case of sitting down and having the inspired and wonderful prose flow effortlessly from brain to computer screen. A lot of effort goes into producing a novel – oh yes, it does – and there’s a lot goes on in the background that the reader never gets to see but is a nevertheless necessary part of the writer’s craft.

Which brings me to research – another essential item in the build-a-novel toolkit. But that’s a post for another day.