Lizzy, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog. I hope there will be cake and coffee shortly. And an appearance by Jasper the parrot!
You asked me to describe a typical writing day. I’d answer that it depends on where I am in the writing process. If I’m actually writing a novel, I try to put in a good four hours of solid work – afternoons are my best time. But there are other times, like now, when a book is being planned, when I might just read, download articles form the internet, and do some preliminary sketching. And I frequently take the plot for a long walk, just to straighten out bits when I’m not sure where it’s going to go.
Most writers when planning a book start at the beginning of the story and work their way through a sequential narrative until they reach the end. Crime writers do it backwards. We start with the crime, and who perpetrated the crime and then work out how and why it happened. This is why for all my books: the four Spy Girl books, the ebook Jigsaw Pieces and my latest novel Diamonds&Dust, I write the last page first. Then the ‘’hook’’ at the beginning. Then the rest of the story.
I like this sort of methodology, though I can understand that for the careful plotter it might drive them mad. Sometimes I haven’t a clue what is going to happen next as my teenage or adult protagonists study the facts and decide on their next move. I like my writing to challenge me as well as the reader – I could never be one of those writers who has to make 50 pages of notes before placing fingers upon keyboard. I’d get bored. Very bored. I like to walk away from every writing session thinking: OK, how the heck am I going to get my people out of this?
Of course, around and beyond every book, there has to be the marketing! I love social media, and use different forums for different approaches. Facebook is great for posting news, family pics and seeing what everyone else is up to. Twitter is wonderful for meeting people other than writers and engaging in witty (!) banter. And I have a weekly blog, where I can invite writers – you sat on The Pink Sofa recently- to showcase their work. I also use the blog to publish short funny pieces about the lunacy that is my life.
I really try not to ‘’sell’’ my stuff too pushily on any site I use. Some writers do and it turns people off. You sell more by being a fun person and interacting with others, I think. Then they get to know and like you, want to read your stuff, and end up doing the ‘selling’ for you!
If I were starting out writing now, I think the best advice I could give to myself is to keep going and believe in what I was writing. It seems daunting with so many new books coming out every week, and so many ways of publication. And yet, there’s always room for one more lovely book …. so place backside on chair, place fingers on keyboard…..and go for it!
Currently, I’m working on the third book in the Diamonds&Dust series. The first book, published by Crooked Cat Books and available in print and ebook, is set in 1860 London. It tells the story of two women, Josephine King, an orphan and heiress, and Lilith Marks, a jewish prostitute. Their lives cross when Josephine’s uncle and Lilith’s lover Herbert King is brutally murdered one night. Set against the backdrop of the great gas-lit city, the two women are drawn together in their quest to discover just wo killed the man they both loved.
The second book, which features the same pair of detectives: Leo Stride & Jack Cully, is set in 1861. The third will be set in 1862. Diamonds&Dust has been very well received, given that it is not the traditional run of the mill historical crime fiction. The biggest buzz has been the number of Twitter readers who’ve let me know how much they’ve enjoyed it. My publisher has been inundated by Tweets asking when the next one is coming out. Such a lovely and totally unlooked for compliment! (The answer may be Nov/Dec this year).
I am amazed that at my time of life (I’m pushing 64 but not speeding) a whole new writing career in historical adult crime fiction has opened up. Hopefully other older writers might look at my writing trajectory and be inspired. I’d be overjoyed if that happened.
Carol Hedges is the successful UK author of 11 books for teenagers and young adults, one ebook and one adult historical novel. Her books have been shortlisted for various prizes and her YA novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal. Diamonds & Dust, A Victorian Murder Mystery is her first adult novel. It was published in 2013 by Crooked Cat Books, and is available as book and ebook on Smashwords, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com or to order in bookshops.
Find Carol on Twitter:
Read her award winning blog:
Send her a Friend request on Facebook
Visit her Amazon author page:
My name is Rosie Amber, I’m an author, book reviewer and blogger. I live in the county of Hampshire in the UK. Blogging opened up a whole new world to me and I have met some lovely people. I try to publish a blog post every single day because my blog is still quite new and I need to keep readers interested. I began my blog primarily to help promote my own book, but it has become a much bigger part of my life. I’m now able to use my love of reading and my blog to help promote other people books too.
My first published book is called “Talk of the Playground” (Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com)and is a fun tale of the ins and outs of an English village school. I call it my work of love rather than my work of art because it meant so much to me at the time. I learnt a lot about writing and self-publishing and have learnt even more from blogging and reading other writers work. Now I’m working on a big edit of my book because I love evolving as a writer.
I love reading. In the Goodreads 2013 challenge I read 154 books, this year I expect to increase that number. Nearly every book I read gets a review on Goodreads, Amazon and my blog, with links to my Facebook author page, Google+ and Twitter. I also do Guest Author Interviews and take part in book related tours.
In 2013 I was lucky enough to be invited to write a monthly book review page for a local magazine called “Fleet Life”. 5000 copies go out locally and the magazine has an online version too, I usually review 5 books of my choice per month for the magazine. In 2014 I also picked up its sister magazine Elvetham Heath Directory which has 2000 copies and an online version, I do a different set of reviews in each magazine.
I love keeping my blog fresh; in April 2013 I took part in my first April A to Z Challenge and I blogged my way through the alphabet matching book titles to the letters of the alphabet. This year I took part for a second year and again promoted books using all the letters of the alphabet, it is a great way to meet lots of new bloggers from all over the world.
Never one to stand still for long I recently completed a year-long challenge that I set myself on the day I began reading a book called “A Year of Doing Good” by Judith O’Reilly.
Judith challenged herself to do Good Deeds for a whole year and wrote a truly inspirational book about what happened. Judith undertook giant acts of good, my own challenge was to do just 1 Good Deed a day for a year. Every Sunday I updated my readers with my latest deeds. On April 16th 2014 I celebrated completing my challenge and am now carrying on for a second year. Do come and check it out.
My most recent addition to the blog is a page I’m building on resources for writers. It features people who offer editing services, marketing, promotion, book covers, book reviewers etc and I shall be adding more.
Any teacher will tell you that some children get a new concept first time. But for most children a new concept has to be presented in a number of different ways before they gain full understanding. This is referred to as ‘the spiral of learning’ (i.e presenting the same piece of information in as many visual and kinetic forms as possible. This is just as true when we are attempting to bring our novels to the attention of agents, publishers and readers.
Consciously or unconsciously we are applying a method known as The Reticular Activating System.
Pay attention (!) Here’s the science part – The Reticular Activating System acts as a filter for all of the sensory inputs we receive. It decides what is and is not important and what we need to pay attention to. Otherwise, we would suffer from information overload. The ‘filter’ sits between the subconscious and conscious minds, and is programmed by the conscious mind. It is this ability to filter information which makes the Reticular Activating System so important in achieving our goals.
The short version: to make YOUR novel stand out from the ‘crowd’ you need to get your name and book title across in as many different forms as possible so that it ‘sticks’ in people’s conscious minds. I know this works because when I attend conferences, book fairs and writing events (wearing a name badge) I am often approached by other writers who ask: ‘how do I know your name!?’
How do we achieve an on-line presence?
I believe through some of the following . . .
- updating your own blog and/or guesting on other blogs
- following favourite blogs, ticking ‘like’, ‘sharing’ blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Linked In
- by sharing through these media your profile, avatar and/or your novel thumbnail will, hopefully, appear in different versions of internet ‘paper.li(s)’ out there – for example The Famous Five Plus, thus widening your appeal
- through activation of SEO (search engine optimisation); every well-aimed click and share will have an impact on your place on the social network rankings
- ensure that your avatar and your profile on Twitter publicise your novels
- don’t forget to include links to your books on amazon etc (using viewbook/bytly/tinyurl shortened links
- ensure that your tweets are a mixture of things about yourself, your writing, use trending hashtags; don’t forget to promote other writers generously
- promote your novel by quoting a review/ or dialogue from your novel in your tweets
- make the potential reader want to download your work by utilising hashtags such as #Fridayreads. #amwriting, #Mondayblogs and genre specific hashtags to bring more traffic (and potential readers) to your door
- widen your net of social contacts – don’t just befriend writers, befriend readers, too. I’ve made lots of friends on twitter and they have loyally downloaded my novels and left reviews
- don’t forget to thank people for promoting you and ALWAYS return the favour
- have your own page where you engage with potential readers, many of whom will go on to become your friends. I try to include a photo in my status updates as this draws friends to my page.
- minimise your ‘writer news’ on this page otherwise people switch off and unfriend you
- join some of the many sub groups and dip into them once a week or whenever to talk about your writing and establish a friendly Facebook presence
- build up an author page(s) and LIKE others’ pages when asked. Don’t be shy about asking for LIKES to be reciprocated. It takes a long time to build up these kinds of relationships
- I try to post something every day on my author page, not only about me and my writing but about other authors, too. @sharing’ other author’s posts works well in this case, too.
- I find that Facebook friends like to read about your pets. When it was my parrot’s birthday in February he got over seventy ‘happy birthday’ messages (!)
- join in with Facebook ‘events’ you’re invited to, even if it’s only to leave a passing comment. SEO comes into play with every click.
Consider joining Watt Pad, Instagram, Goodreads and Tumbler etc to get the message about you and your books ‘out there’. Build up your social networking presence gradually, mix it up, be creative. You’re in charge, so make it work for you – - – and remember the Reticular Activating System and utilise it. It’s a scientific fact.
I’ll leave you with the million dollar question:
Does social networking help to sell books?
The jury’s still out – but I believe that (as an indie author) having a social networking presence has helped me to bring my novels to readers’ attention. Finally, I would just say to any unpublished authors out there that, while your time is your ‘own’, get your social networking ducks in a row. When publication day arrives, you won’t have time to establish contacts, develop friendships and ask potential readers to buy your book – you’ll be too busy using social networking to get word out about the marvellous book you have just written.
Firstly, a big thank-you to Lizzie for having me on her lovely blog.I think she would agree with me when I say that, for many people, writing is a vocation. It is chosen for you and not by you. Many months or years can pass without you following that dream and it can be interrupted mid flow by unforeseen circumstances but, in your heart, the desire to write will not let go of you, despite whatever life path you may be led down. Some stories are like that too. They hover at your shoulder, waiting for their moment. They provide valuable lessons in patience and perseverance, amongst many other things.
Last Chance Angel was like that. The beginnings of this story go back to when I was living in Oxford and taking my A’levels. I was on my bicycle and involved in a collision with a car. I had a lucky escape and my good fortune was constantly at the back of my mind over the following years. I had no idea that this would be the catalyst for a story which has now been short-listed for five awards including the Romantic Novelists’ Association Award in the young adult category. In some ways I consider it a miracle that this story was completed at all, just as it was a miracle that day that I was not seriously hurt.
Once I actually put pen to paper, (and I do always begin my first drafts in this way) it took many more years before the book was ready for submission. This book was witness to many ups and downs in my life, both personally and professionally. In the middle of it I stopped writing altogether and wondered at times if I would ever find the strength and resilience to once again take up the reins of my writing life. But, little by little I did and it is thanks to this book. This was a story which would not let go of me and for my own self-respect I knew that I could not let go of it.
I had no idea whether anyone would want to publish it but I promised myself that if no-one did, I would publish it myself. I had formed a bond with Jess, my main character; I wanted her voice to be heard and I wanted my hours of work to see the light. I hoped that a few people at least might enjoy reading it. I was incredibly lucky to find a mainstream publisher and not just any publisher, but the right one for this book. Templar have supported me every step of the way. It has been an amazing experience and I cannot thank them enough.
This book will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s the one that got me back into writing. To any writers out there who are sitting at the page and thinking ‘is this really worth it?’ or those of you who say to themselves and others ‘I’d love to write a book but don’t think I could’ I would say this; it is worth it and yes you can. Do not look back in years to come with regrets; follow your dream; dig deep when times get tough and even if you have to step aside for a while, make yourself a promise not to give up.
You can find out more about my writing life at alex-gutteridge.blogspot.co.uk and follow me on Twitter at alexgutteridge1
What do readers really want – a reader’s point of view
I am delighted to welcome Sarah Houldcroft to my Blog today. Sarah, a Goodreads Librarian and Virtual Assistant for authors, tells us what she thinks our readers want from us.
‘You are so lucky – I would love to write a book’
How many times you, as authors, have heard that phrase, I wonder. Perhaps you smile and think to yourself: ‘God, if she only knew the hours and hours of stress, torment and sheer hard work I have had to go through…’ But we, as readers, don’t know. We simply cannot comprehend, it is not important to us. All we see is the end result and the author becomes a special gifted individual who can reach down into her soul and haul out people and feelings, emotions, happenings, and create a whole new world for us.
For the booklover, the reading experience begins way before the first word in the book. These days with so many more opportunities to read, the first question may be ‘How am I going to read my next novel?’ Paperback, Kindle, tablet, phone, PC? For me, there is nothing better than holding a printed book in my hand, the feel of it, the smell of it, even. And that wonderful action of turning the page to discover what happens next. However, there are an awful lot of booklovers who now just read books on their Kindle or other e-reader. Makes sense, you don’t have to lug an extra suitcase with you on holiday just to transport the books you want to read over the coming two or three weeks. Easy, a click of a button online and you can start reading, no need to wait for the post to deliver your next read. Personally, I am torn between the two methods. I do have a Kindle which is particularly useful when I am reviewing books for authors abroad as they can just send me a digital file and away I go. But, as I said before, my true love is the printed book, of which I have hundreds and hundreds. I am not alone either, although millions of ebooks are downloaded every year, the printed book is still managing to hold its own. But as readers, we like to be given the choice of how we read our next novel. So the more formats in which you make your book available, the better.
Regardless of the format of our next read, if we don’t know what to read next, or a friend has not recommended an author or book then odds are we will end up on Amazon. And that is when the next phase of the pre-reading experience begins. What to choose? Ok, we may have a particular genre in mind which could narrow it down, but with so many books to choose from these days we will be scrolling down the list at some speed until a book cover catches our eye. Yes, the old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ doesn’t quite hold true these days. If we don’t like your book cover we will pass over you and keep scrolling and that applies to print books too.
Scott Pack, a former Waterstones buyer sums it up quite nicely here http://completelynovel.com/self-publishing/writers-toolbox-cover-design and offers some useful tips for authors to consider.
Of course, the one really wonderful thing about having a printed book is that we booklovers may be lucky enough to have the book signed by the author. This is so exciting for a reader, particularly if we have actually met the author in person which is an incredible experience in itself. This is something that ebook producers have considered and it is now possible to have an ebook ‘signed’ by the author too using https://www.authorgraph.com/
These days the reading experience doesn’t necessarily have to stop once the book has been read. Traditional publishing tended to keep the author at arm’s length from the reader, unless they were lucky enough to attend a book signing. These days with social media, websites like Goodreads.com and the explosion in self-publishing, authors can be far more accessible and that is what readers like.
What Readers Want to Know
- what inspired you to write your novel?
- how, why and where do you write?
- have experienced first-hand any of the aspects in your books?
- did you base your character on a real person
- if so, was it you?
I think booklovers have always thought these questions, but have not had the opportunity to ask until recently. And now we can, we want more. Yes, we will respect your privacy, but we want you to reveal more than just the contents of your latest novel. The author who embraces this new way of doing things, particularly the self-published author, will always win out over those who prefer to keep their distance. They will turn their readers into raving fans who in turn will review their books and talk about their books and encourage others to read their books.
READERS – do you agree?
**Sarah Houldcroft is proud to be an Author’s Envoy and particularly likes to promote self-published authors. She offers services to authors to help boost their online presence through www.vaforauthors.com and her new website www.authors-uncovered.com which will be a place where authors and readers can connect, read, write and share. She lives in Leicestershire with her teenage son, two bunnies, an aging gerbil and hundreds and hundreds of books!
Isabella, could you tell us a little about yourself and why you created your wonderful blog, Chick Lit Goddess
In 2009, I created Chick Lit Goddess. While I planned to use it as a personal blog, it quickly turned it into more than that. With inspiration of my favorite website, Chick Lit Plus, I started featuring reviews, authors, and their books of the following genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Romantic Comedies, and Women’s Fiction! To this day, I’m overwhelmed by the love and support of my of my Chick Lit Goddess site. When I created the name CLG, I didn’t know at the time that I’d created a brand for my books and myself. My other website www.IsabellaLouiseAnderson.com is under construction and I’m planning to launch it soon!
What is a typical writing day for you:
I really wish I could say that I have a “typical writing day”, but I don’t. Since I’ve been editing for what seems like forever, the last time I really wrote anything was in November, during NaNoWriMo. I missed it so much, so I took full advantage of it. While I wrote my next book in seventeen days, which for now is titled “Cards from Khloe’s Flower Shop”, sitting down and actually doing the work was what I needed for me to see how my “typical day” could be if I really focus.
How the writing process works for you. Plotster or panster?
Before I wrote “Cards from Khloe’s Flower Shop”, I was a panster who really had no process. I’d simply just sit in my chair and wait for something to come to my mind. Often, it was stressful, but I managed to do it. However, that changed in November when participated in NaNoWriMo. I never outlined anything, nor had I really had an idea of where my story lines were going, but on November 1st, I started outlining and it changed my life as a writer. I bought a lot of lined paper, colourful pens and tabs, and started jotting characters and ideas down. It was an amazing experience, and who knew I could love office products to much?!
Social Networking – a help or a hindrance?
Both! While it can be helpful to gain fans and help promote, social networking is also a huge distraction for a writer.
Some advice for fledgling authors, please:
I used to think that when someone would say to “just write”, they were crazy. It turns out that they weren’t. It’s true…all you have to do is write your first draft.
What are your top five writing tips?
- Use a timer! To cut back on distractions from my phone and computer, I bought a cheap timer at the grocery store and set it in 35-minute increments, dedicating myself to my WIP. I use it so that there’s no Facebook, Twiter, or any type of distraction. I love it!
- Talk about your books! I’m a shy person, so this is hard for me to do, but the more and more you discuss it with someone, the more you feel like a writer/author. Most of the time, you’ll end up getting more ideas, too.
- Take it one day at a time! Accept that there are going to be bad days. Your writing might not be good, but being a writer isn’t easy. Just knowing that tomorrow is another day can help lighten the weight of stress.
- Read! For me, reading a good book by your favorite author can help inspire you. Before you know it, you’ll be saying, “Hey, I can write, too!”
- Do not let your writing consume you! Everyone needs to go out with friends and make new memories. You might tell yourself that you can’t go out and play because you have a book to write, but don’t. Instead, pretend you’re going out to do research for a character or storyline. Oh, and have fun, too! ☺
Who has inspired you the most?
I have so many people who have inspired me, but I’d have to say my parents.
If not a writer – then what?
Geez, this is a tough one. I guess that if I had to pick to be anything other than a writer, I’d be an editor of a magazine.
Blurb and link(s) to your current book
Blurb: Interior designer Carrie Newman’s day starts out perfectly. For their sixth anniversary, her boyfriend, Roger, gives her diamond earrings, but the sparkle is lost later that same day when she catches him in the act with another woman. Heartbroken and in disarray, Carrie chooses to leave the past behind, possibly forever. She lands in ritzy Palm Beach, Florida where a new job and new client leave her wondering if THE RIGHT DESIGN for her life has finally been found.
Some reviews of your work (if you don’t have any, as yet, please tell us what YOU look for in a great book)
I don’t have any reviews yet but the one thing I look for in a great book is the happy ending. While I do care about how the story line gets to the ending, after it’s over, I (the reader) want to know that the characters are happy. Years later, I want to be able to look back and know that the Hero and Heroine are still together, living a wonderful life together.
Links to your blog etc
Facebook – Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Isabella-Louise-Anderson-Author/253277964716883
Twitter – Chick Lit Goddess: https://twitter.com/ChickLitGoddess
Finally – what are you working on ATM?
I’m about to start working on the next draft of “Cards from Khloe’s Flower Shop”. I’m very eager to get back to it.
Isabella grew up with a book in her hand, and to this day nothing has changed. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and has been featured on several blogs. While Isabella doesn’t blog a lot, she focuses her time on featuring other writers, along with writing and editing.
She lives in Dallas with her husband and cat. She enjoys spicy Mexican food and drinking margaritas, and can be found spending time with family and friends, cheering on the Texas Rangers, and reading.
Isabella’s short story, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, was featured in Simon & Fig’s Christmas anthology, Merry & Bright, in November 2013.
The Right Design will be her first novel.
January gets its name from the Roman god Janus, who is traditionally depicted with two faces – one looking forward into the future and one looking back at what has already happened. As a self published author, I have taken Janus as my totem as I work on my second novel and have added my own catch phrase: Don’t Look Back.
As a new writer I took the advice to “polish, polish, polish those first three chapters,” too literally and spent months revising, editing and adapting my novel without finishing it. I harboured the mistaken belief that one could send out those first three immaculate chapters to an agent, or present them to an editor at a writers’ conference and wait to have one’s hand snapped off.
In this crazy stop-start fashion, it took me two years to complete Tall, Dark and Kilted (writing 70k in year one and the final 50k the following year.) I should have had the confidence to plough right on to the end to produce a ‘dirty’ draft or first edit instead of revising and editing as I went along. That would have given me a better idea of the arc of the story and I wouldn’t have spent hours writing scenes which I later jettisoned. I dread to think how many highlighting pens I wore out, the countless pages of the thesaurus I turned searching for the apt phrase, the pithy remark when I should have concentrated on keeping the narrative going.
I have learned my lesson. Honest, Guv, I have!
My current novel now stands at 80, 000 words and I have resisted the temptation to go back and edit. Now, if I can’t think if a word, phrase or an emotion – I simply highlight the gap/omission to fill in later. I should finish my first ‘dirty draft’ by late spring 2013, ready to submit to the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. After receiving my critique, I will make any necessary revisions and send the polished ms to be formatted for Kindle and Create Space by a professional, and have my cover designed.
If everything goes according to plan, I should have the paperback proof to read through for typos etc by the middle of September at the latest. Do-able? I have a photo of my old pal Janus blue tacked to the window near my desk spurring me on, just in case I slip back into my old ways.
I’d love to know how you approach writing and completing your novel. Do share . . .