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Monday, 17 December 2012

Looking Back Over 2012

This year is finally drawing to an end and there has been many unexpected twists and turns throughout the past twelve months.

I published my second book back in August and have written over 10,000 words on my third novel. I  secured myself a second job last month and so far that is going well.

But for various reasons, good and bad, 2012 hasn't ended like I had predicted. At the start of this year I had many different business goals to accomplish and I am proud to say I have achieved them all. I did exactly what I had planned to do and the results were instant. But the fantasy of achieving these goals and the reality of every day life has turned out to be very different.

And that is life through and through.

People often think that if they changed their life in a certain way they would be much happier. And maybe they would for a short time. But whatever the situation, good or bad, there will always be pros and cons. You may think being a millionaire is a guaranteed road to happiness and it probably is, but only in the financial area of your life.

True happiness doesn't stem from how much money you have or how many flash cars you drive. It stems from a much deeper satisfaction of being true to yourself and expressing your personality in a way that only you know how.

My true happiness stems from writing and spending time with loved ones. I don't care that I haven't updated my phone in ten years to a iphone or Blackberry - I am quite happy with my beloved, trusted Nokia 3410. After all, it's only a phone and all I need it for is to call and text. No device like that is really worth much. It's never going to find a cure for cancer.

Nothing materialistic is ever going to bring me much happiness.

Now I'm not saying that I can get by in life without money - nobody can. We all need money to eat, be warm and clean, and to surf the Internet in the hope of connecting to people overseas. I could not live without broadband and I need money to keep that! But society today places too much value on fame and how people look. And if you don't look a certain way then you end up being accused of all sorts.

Where has kindness and compassion gone? Has it left human souls forever more? The tragic events in America over the last couple of days seem to answer this very well, and it's here that I'd like to say that all the victims are in my thoughts.

So, as it's Christmas, the very time of year that we should make an effort to be nice to each other (although why we can't have that mindset throughout the whole year really baffles me) Make an effort and do a random act of kindness for someone.

I'll be away from this blog until after New Year so may I wish all my followers a very happy holiday.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Why It's Good To Write Less And Rest More

If you're anything like me normal life is just one challenge after another. Whenever you need a rest to prevent your head from exploding, there's just one more crisis to be solved. Sometimes it can feel like your running on the spot but making no further progress.

Sometimes life can ruin your creative spirit.

I started a new job several weeks ago and I was determined my writing wouldn't suffer. And so far it hasn't. I still write but unlike before I don't write everyday.

But yet here is the funny part, and it's the pivotal part of my post. Even though I don't write everyday, my total word count for the week remains about the same. I spend less time writing but my productivity remains constant.

At first this took a while for me to get my head around. In a world where everyone claims to be too busy to write, I always thought you had to devote the amount of time as you would to a full time job to write books. But I am gradually learning you don't.

So where is the logic to this? How can I spend less time writing but still produce the same amount of words?

Well obviously before I was spending too much time writing and I was tired without realising it. I constantly had to push myself harder and harder to do the same amount of work. Basically I was writing more or less everyday. I didn't allow myself to recharge my batteries. I could manage this at the start but after a while my creativity obviously sapped and I had to work harder to achieve less.

I was running on the spot but made no further progress.

So the key to successful writing isn't how much time you devote to the art, it's the amount of writing you produce at the end.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

How To Be Patient And In Control

After my first successful week in my new telesales job I am pleased to say I'm writing again. The positive side of my new job is I have more money to play with, but the downside is I have less time to write. However, I am still determined to keep writing and I have demonstrated this by producing 9,000 words in just over a month.

But there is certainly one thing I need more of and that is patience.

In a world where everything is instantly obtainable, one's writing goals are indeed never ending. Sometimes it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Every project we hope to complete seems to increase in length the closer we are to finishing it.

So how do we achieve our goals and put everything back into perspective?

Well we must find the courage to carry on, the determination to succeed while warding off doubts, fear and depression. And most of all, we must learn to ignore impatience.

There are certain things in a writer's life that we have no control over. When we send our finished manuscript to an editor for a final polish, we have no control over how long it's going to take them to get the job done. When we are liaising with artists, arranging our book covers, we have no control over how long it will take them to produce the final piece of art. And when we put our finished product up for sale we have no control over how many people will buy it.

These are things we cannot change or have any control over so it's best just to focus on the things within our control. Things like continuing to write, continuing learning how to write by taking courses or reading books. Researching different writing styles, and putting energy into maintaining our online presence.

How do you conquer impatience?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

How To Avoid A Meltdown

I started a new telesales job on Sunday and although I love it, so far it has left me feeling rather frazzled. I didn't know I spent so much time writing until I've spent it in my other job working. The job is flexible in the sense I don't have to work set hours, so in theory I still have time for my writing. But like any other normal person (when have I ever considered myself normal?), I want to devote all my energy into this job until I get settled.

But I thought I would still have the time and the inclination to write. And then I realised I'm not superhuman, and yes, I do need an adequate amount of sleep to function. Something has got to give and my big question is what's that going to be?

In order to prevent myself from going absolutely stark raving mad, I decided to write a list. I thought I would use the same strategy as I use to write my books and plan and outline my life so I can see just how much I have to do without feeling like the walls are closing in on me.

It was only when I composed this list did I realise how much stuff I actually do that's not essential. Things like watch television. Who needs a TV to survive? Reading magazines and having coffee with friends. Surfing useless social media sites like Facebook. Feeding and walking the dogs (okay, I'm joking here - I would never neglect my dogs) but my point is I desperately need to prioritise my life more. I do housework every day because of my boyfriend's dust allergy but instead I'll just buy him a dust mask. I also like to read a lot but I guess I can cut down on that as well. All these things do not pay the bills so I need to focus on the stuff that can pay the bills and give that priority.

So, how do you cope when life feels overwhelming?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

How To Become A Prolific Writer

Many people think that in order to become a prolific writer you have to write full time. I thought this myself until I started meeting lots of successful writers who had full time jobs. Back then I wondered how they did it; be so involved in work and then to come back home and start writing.

But then I realised these writers had traits in common. They follow a strict routine. They probably write everyday. They write regularly so they always have a constant flow of ideas floating around their head.

They probably write after using an outline to map out ideas. (Before you pantsers send me hatemail to object to this, I'm going to insert a clause here to say I know this isn't always the case but I am an outline writer so I'll stick to what I know). Writers who outline say once they've finished they just have to fill in the blanks in their first draft. They write their first draft to get the story down on paper. Then they go back to edit and rewrite it while ignoring the voice of self doubt that tells them their writing is rubbish. Through ignoring this voice they continue to put pen to paper, thus improving their confidence. They just sit down and write, producing one book after another.

If you really, really want to write you'll always find a way. I know one writer who took ten years to finish his first novel. Now it's available in a major U.K. bookstore. People who make excuses why they don't write all have one thing in common: their heart really isn't in it. They use the excuse of being too busy with other things in their life so that's why they fail to write. Sometimes I think you can write better with a little bit of outside pressure. There's just enough stress to get you focused. I know I can write more efficiently when I have a looming deadline in front of me.

Are you a prolific writer?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

What Is Your Favourite Point Of View?

I am almost 6,000 words into my third book and I am finding it easier than ever to write. I don't know if this is because it's my third piece of work and I am better because of the practice I've had writing my previous two books, or because it's a complete work of fiction. But I have noticed all three books have one thing in common - they all have the same point of view (POV).

I have noticed during the time I've been writing seriously that most books are narrated from a third person POV. Of course, POV depends a lot on the genre of the book as some POV's are better suited to books like crime and chick lit.

I've always preferred the first person POV because I feel more connected to the book. You feel as if you have been let into someone's life as the style of narration is so personal. I've always said for my first two books I wanted the reader to feel as if they've met a close friend who they haven't seen for a while and they spend that time having a good catch up. I wanted my readers to feel like they're in their friend's house, having coffee with them while they have their feet up.

But first person POV isn't suited to everyone and every book. A lot of writers say that this style of narration is very limiting because the reader only gets to see what's inside one character's head. First person is written from the protagonist's POV, so it's always their take on the story. You don't get to see other people's opinions.

I think the majority of writers like their readers to really know all of their characters so they use third person POV. I think this POV is maybe best suited in giving an all round balanced view of the story.

So what is your favorite POV? Do you use different POV depending on the type of book you are writing? Do you find some POV's easier to write than others?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Reasons Why Writing On Paper Is A Good Idea

No matter what I write, whether it's a book or a blog post, I will always write the first draft on paper.
Some days my writing will always flow quicker than others. Sometimes it can take hours just to write one single sentence. But my mind is always fully engaged in a very complex thought pattern, brain storming ideas and sorting them out into some kind of order. I find it much easier to pen these thoughts onto paper rather than type them into my computer, mainly because I focus too much on where the next key is instead of where my next idea will come from.

Staring at a blank screen also does nothing for my creative juices. It's as if someone is holding the delete button down in my mind, preventing me from typing a single sentence. I find just looking at the brightness of the screen wipes my mind blank in one swift movement.

I love writing words down on paper. I love the process of shaping out each letter into a word. I find it helps me to think of the following sentences much easier than it would just to type them. Writing stimulates my creativity. I have more time to ponder mid sentence, and as a result I am often a slow writer. But when I finish the first draft I often find little needs doing in my second one. I think this is because my focus has been entirely on the creative process and I haven't been distracted doing unnecessary editing in this early stage.

What do you think? Are you a first draft pen and paper writer? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Is Your Writing Career A Success?

Writers are extremely creative people and we write because we love the process. Creating books takes a lot of time and energy so if authors wanted a get rich quick scheme, they certainly wouldn't use this career to achieve that goal.

Many authors, even moderately successful ones, have another job to supplement their income and I think this is why so many writers feel a failure because they are unable to live off their writing alone.

But surely a successful writing career is more than making millions off one book alone? After all, money does not make one happy, it only guarantees a better class of misery.

However, every writer has to start somewhere and no one can say you won't achieve the fame and fortune of Stephen King some day.

So how do you know if your books are successful?

  • Are you only a success if all your books are Hollywood films?
  • Are you a success if every book you write turns into a film but the critics all hate it?
  • What about if you only sell one book per month but only receive 5 star ratings?
  • What if you sell a hundred copies per day but only receive low ratings?
  • Are you successful if your writing is technical genius but everyone hates it?
  • What if your writing is full of errors but everyone loves it?
There's no 'right' answer here. Everyone has their definition of success and what it means to them. My definition of success has been achieved because I have accomplished everything I have set out to do. I have written and published two books and I am currently writing my third. I have received both high and low ratings for these books but I still receive fan mail from people overseas and now I have a regular income from my writing.

So, are you a successful writer?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Do You Feel Like A Writer?

More and more writers are taking the self publishing route than ever before. And there are even some like myself who have yet to venture down the traditional publishing path. The argument of this post is not which path makes you more bonafide, but when is it appropriate to call yourself a writer.

I spent over a year writing my first book. It was a mammoth task! Back then it was the biggest project I had undertaken but when the time came to hit the publish button with Amazon Kindle, it was also the biggest achievement I had ever accomplished.

It was also the time when I thought it appropriate to call myself a writer.

At last I had a finished product, something that I could see, and something which I could sell online. A finished product that had been professionally edited, a product that was of professional quality. And it was only then did I think myself worthy of that title.

When writing, I really struggled with that title's concept. I felt a bit of a fraud to call myself a writer because I had no finished product to show as evidence that's what I was doing. I did all this work without ever feeling like I had a right to claim that title. But when I worked on my second book I couldn't stop telling people that I, Laura K. Watts, was a writer.

Many people write during their entire lifetime but some never publish anything. Their main purpose is just to write for a hobby. But my goal in life is to one day make a living from my art. I realise this goal is not going to happen overnight but I hope that the time will come where I'll be able to make a living from my books.

When did you feel it was appropriate to call yourself a writer?

See you after a week in Scotland!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Take A Holiday From Social Media

In just over a week's time I'll be taking a well earned break in Scotland. Spending seven days in this beautiful part of the world fills me with joy but the concept I won't have an Internet connection makes me even happier.

As a writer I spend an awful lot of time on social media. But I often wonder how much of that time is wasted and would be better spent if I just focused on writing. My American friends and fans all think that if you want to be a best selling author you have to build your audience first. Networking is crucial to them and if you aren't willing to talk to anybody then you may as well forget it. And while I respect that opinion, I often wonder just how true it is.

I network with plenty of people from the Americas but I always sell more books on the Amazon UK site. Being British myself I can safely say we don't place as much importance on social media as other people do in the world. And it doesn't matter how many people I talk to week to week my sales for the month always seem to stay the same.

So, in your opinion how effective is social media? Do you find a sudden increase in sales the moment you network, or do you have to endlessly promote before you see any difference in sales? Or, like me, do your sales stay the same from month to month no matter what you do?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

4 Character Types Every Story Must Have

I am having immense fun creating my characters for my third story, my first fiction book. And as I'm over half way into my second chapter outline I think I have most of my characters well established.

But last week I started thinking about the roles of these characters and I realised they must have an essential part to play in the story. It's no good for a writer to create characters just because they sound nice, bad characters need to exist too because they help drive the story forward. A writer needs to examine the layers of their characters to give them a full dimensional image.

So with this in mind I came up with four essential character roles.

  1. The protagonist. This is the most obvious one because it's the main character. In my book my protagonist is Caitlin O' Connor, a young woman whose life is turned upside down because she's suffered a brain trauma. I will create plenty of emotional conflict for poor Caitlin to go through as I want people who have suffered accidents themselves to be able to relate to her. In my book Caitlin realises although she had a pretty decent life before, it's not the life she wants now. But how does she go about changing it?
  2. The antagonist. I've decided my book will have two antagonists feature in it. Caitlin's husband will be one, and also Caitlin's sister who spends the majority of her time siding with her brother-in-law. The antagonist's role is to create as many problems as possible for the protagonist.
  3. The comedy character. To add a bit of light relief for when the story gets dark, I have created Paschal, the Pomeranian dog of Caitlin's sister. Pomeranians are real characters anyway so I thought who better to give this role to. Plus, I aim to appeal to dog lovers out there because I am one myself.
  4. The romantic. Although I am a bit of a cynic myself, I realise people would like to believe in a happy ever after. So I have created a character who is now perfectly suited to Caitlin, but not in an obvious way.
So, what about you? Do you have any more essential character roles up your sleeve?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

What Separates Authors From Writers.

The world of writing is a complex one, and although there may be millions of writers in this universe not all of them are authors.

Some people, myself included, actually prefer being referred to as a writer as the word conjures up the image of a young, wild free spirited person, eager to take on the world and its many challenges. But when I think of someone who is an author, I instantly picture Danielle Steel or Stephen King. Or someone who has been writing all their life and made a best selling career, multi million dollar deal out of their books.

And that's the difference.

So, are you an author or a writer?

Do you ...

  • Expect to get world recognition as soon as you hit the publish button on Amazon Kindle? A writer should know better than this, and everyone who publishes a book should keep their feet firmly on the ground. But an author is willing to go one step further by pushing their brand name out there. 
  • Fail to understand marketing and its importance. Writers will just often sit with their head in the sand when it comes to this topic. But authors will market endlessly and do whatever it takes to promote their work.
  • Spend money on your book? Writers may be horrified when they learn how much it actually costs to have their work professionally copy-edited but an author realises they need to do this in order to have the best possible chance of success. Every book also needs the best possible cover image too.
What are your thoughts on this matter?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

How to Write With Precision.

I love to read but most of all I love to read books which have short and simple sentences. I'm not a huge fan of flowery prose and I find it immensely distracting to read a book that only has three sentences per page. I struggle to follow the plotline with books like these as I usually forget the sentence's point by the time I have finished reading.

So, if you're like me you'll like writing short sentences as well as reading them.

Here's how you do it.

  1. If it's obvious, don't say it. Don't say your character looked across the room with their eyes. If they're looking at something it's obviously going to be with their eyes.
  2. Avoid repetition. If you say your character has long blonde hair there's no need to mention it again every time it swishes over her face. If you've told the reader this fact once they'll remember it in the next chapter.
  3. Don't explain everything. Write actively, not passively. Give your reader enough credit to work things out for themselves. You don't have to keep hitting them over the head by explaining every single little detail. If you do this it's only going to slow down your writing.
  4. Cut the fancy language. Unusual and impressive words can sometimes add meaning to your writing. But having them in every other sentence is just showing off and will turn off your reader quicker than a light switch.
  5. Say what you mean. Your writing should always be clear and concise. Your reader should be able to picture the scene with crystal clear vision once they have read the chapter. Say as much as possible in as few words.
So, what works for you? Would you like to share any more useful tips?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Why Outlines Are Good For Writing

This weekend marked the point where I successfully completed my first chapter outline draft. I can now say that I am planning to write twenty four chapters in my third book and I have a brief idea what will happen in each. Actually, it's more than a brief idea: it's a solid foundation of what's to come. I can easily add more layers of writing to my base.

I first decided to write the chapter outlines because I love having a map to follow before I set out on a journey. The outline allows me to write with purpose while occasionally writing outside the lines. Basically the outline offers me a structure while also giving me permission to wander off course. The outline cannot be rigid as the result would be forced, weak writing.

The outline gives me passion and determination and a whole lot of courage to sit down and make a start on writing the book. It is a daunting prospect for any writer when they settle down to write a full length novel, even when the writer has the experience of writing previous books. Writing my first book was terrifying. Thinking about writing my second book seemed like an impossible task. But I managed both and now I am faced with penning my third. But as I write a constant stream of ideas flows to me. This is extremely encouraging and comforting as I know that if just write I will able to produce my book. Many people think that writing books is an overwhelming task and those thoughts prevent them from making a start. Penning any book is indeed a great commitment but it can be done, just as long as you write something every day or week. Like eating an elephant it just takes time and having a chapter outline will help guide you to staying on the right path.

What do you think of chapter outlines? Are they beneficial to you?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Lessons Learned From Writing 2 Books

This month marks the third year anniversary of me writing seriously. During that time I have produced two novels and written a steady plot line for book number three. I can't believe it has only been a short time frame as it feels like I've been writing books my entire life. But as I reflect over the years I ask myself what I have learnt from my writing journey.

Writing has been the steepest learning curve I have ever experienced. I haven't worked harder in my life. I spend a portion of each day working on something book related - that's seven days a week for 52 weeks in the year. I'm sure I must drive my other half crazy as my books are the only thing I can talk about with enthusiasm.

But spending time writing is the only thing that's going to make you a more successful writer. Reading the genre in which you wish to write helps a lot too. But if you're serious about treating writing as your desired or main career you have to make time for it every day. You have to understand that there are no set rules for writing fiction either. Sure there are various things that work and things that don't, but creatively speaking it doesn't matter where you outline your chapters in detail or just set off writing. Don't be fearful about experimenting. Try something new within each book.

One of the greatest things that helps me when I settle down to write is looking at ideas I've written in note form. Whenever I think of a potential storyline that could go into a book I always make sure I write it down. This way I have a map, some sort of idea where to go, before I set off on my journey. Writing the first chapter doesn't seem so overwhelming then. I also carry a thesaurus, making a conscious effort to expand my vocabulary.

So, what have you learned from your writing? Please share in the comment box below.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

When You're in Love

When you're in love you can do so many wonderful things. The sky is blue all the time and flowers seem brighter. Suddenly you have boundless energy and everything is so positive. People are friendlier and the world is such a great place.

Love is such a wonderful emotion but it doesn't change the things listed above. It only changes your perception of them. Love doesn't alter the colour of the sky or the brightness of the flowers. It doesn't change the people around you. But love might change people's reactions to you. If you have true love in your heart then you will make the world a better place by the kindness and compassion you show. Like Michael Jackson's song Man in the Mirror you can only make the world a better place if you're willing to change yourself.

I have so many great friends and we love each other to bits because we always look out for one another. But I am truly blessed to have found a man who adores me, who worships me and who wants to spend every single moment of his time with me. He always puts me first and understands that writing is one of my true loves. He encourages me and states he is so proud of me for following my ambitions. I am so lucky to have this man in my life because he makes me feel so overwhelmingly special and I always seem to have a spark to my writing when I feel loved.

So the most important thing for me to do this week is to make sure this amazing man knows exactly how I feel about him.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On.

Somewhere in the blur of excitement I published my second book last weekend. It really was a surreal moment as it felt like I had been waiting for this opportunity all my life. Okay, well, maybe not all my life but ever since I released my debut book I knew I wanted to write the sequel.

Back then it was a very daunting time. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I didn't know whether I would have any fans at all or whether everyone would simply hate my book from the word go. And fear is often the biggest enemy of any writer. But sometimes it is far better to make one seamless leap into complete oblivion than to spend forever more teetering on a nervous edge. And I am so glad I went ahead and published my first book as I wouldn't be where I am today.

I am still nervous about people's reaction to my latest baby, in a way perhaps even more nervous than I was before. Last year I was a completely unknown author but this year people have certain expectations. And it's sometimes difficult to dismiss these nerves as you worry that your new book won't be as good as everyone wants it to be.

But I think my final conclusion is one of happiness. I know in time there will probably be bad reviews but that's always the case with any book. What I'm hoping for the most is that all my fans will enjoy it and spread the news via word of mouth. And it the mean time I'll just keep calm and carry on writing my third book.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

To Write You Must First Experience Life

The time has finally come when I can say my second book will be out very shortly. If all goes well I am hoping to release it over this weekend. During the past two weeks it would be fair to say my stomach has been on a rollercoaster, full of ups and downs, as I prepare to take the next step in my writing career.

In a weeks' time all my work on my second book will be over. Of course, I'll do the odd bit of promotion here and there but it's important for me to keep in mind that nothing sells more books than writing more material.

You may be wondering what my third book is going to be about. Until now I have managed to keep it under wraps as I wanted to make sure I had finalised the idea before hinting at the plot line. But now I can say that it will be a true work of fiction but based on an event which happened to me as a child.

Having a major brain trauma is a huge life changing event for anyone, no matter what their age. When people have injuries to other body parts they usually make a full recovery. But when these injuries occur in the brain or spine the long term consequences can be devastating. After all, the brain controls all bodily functions and when that is damaged other areas will be affected.

My book will be about a young woman in her late-twenties who has had a brain trauma. The timing of this event will be catastrophic as she has just established her high flying career as a doctor. The impact of her injury is so severe it forces her to take a look at her own life and reassess certain things. I suppose the main theme in this book will be about how I view my own life. It will force my character to be aware you can take nothing for granted, and in order to live life to the maximum, you must make the most of every opportunity.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

5 Things Writers Can Learn From The Olympics

Although I am not interested in sport like other people are, I did watch the Commonwealth Games when they were in Melbourne and I have watched the London Olympics when I've had chance. But one thing that always strikes me about events like these is how much strength, determination and willpower athletes have. The Olympic Games is a huge event and we, as a country, have been preparing to host it for years. The athletes who are lucky enough to be a part of such a fantastic event must surely be the best of the best.

So here is a list of five things that writers can do, like athletes must do, to achieve success.

  1. Practice every day. The athletes didn't suddenly wake up to find they could win gold without putting in the hard work that success requires. Although they may be blessed with a runner's body, they still have to train hard every day.
  2. Winning takes an extreme amount of focus. Training hard requires complete focus and the athletes are not easily distracted by other events. They have the discipline that it takes to excel over other competitors by continually pushing themselves forward.
  3. Be part of a team. Although writing is an individual career, writers need other professionals to help them succeed. Writers have what it takes to produce a quality piece of work but they cannot edit it without the help of a copyeditor.
  4. Everyone needs fans. All athletes and artists need fans to help support and encourage them when times are tough. The supporters give the athlete/writer something to focus on when they're preparing to run a race or write a book.
  5. Rise above jealousy. There will always be someone more successful than yourself. But it's important not to feel resentful over this person but instead to try and learn from their achievements. Jealousy is such a pointless emotion because there is nothing to be gained from it.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Staying Focused.

Over the month of August I am going to be phenomenally busy. After receiving my edited manuscript last night - three days early, (thanks, Scott), my nose will be on the grindstone until I've completed my corrections.

Although I am extremely happy with my critique, this is not the time to become blase. I still have to go through everything with a fine tooth comb. Receiving an edited piece of work is fantastic but it's also a critical time where things can still go wrong. It is vital I remove my head from the clouds before I start work.

So, how am I going to do this?

  • I am going to commit a certain amount of time each day to work on my edits. I am also conscious of the fact that this type of work I cannot do over long intervals without a proper break in-between. I still want to see properly at the end of the day without an eye strain induced headache.

  • I am going to make my book my top priority once again and focus on that before anything else. This is my favourite point because it is the perfect excuse to let the dishes build up and the dust gather instead of suffering from burn out trying to do everything at once. I am going to give editing my all and then push myself a little further.

  • I am going to set aside some 'me' time. A half hour slot where I can focus on doing something I love. Reading a favourite book or taking my beloved dogs out for walkies. Something to do to let my brain recharge and focus on another activity.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful editor, Scott Morgan, for giving me the chance to grow into a better writer.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Mistakes that make Writers Fail.

As I progress with my writing career I still follow one main ambition. And that ambition is to learn something that will benefit my writing every day. Whether it's reading more books in my desired genre, reading blogs on the craft of writing or just reading advice from other authors, I always make sure I do at least one productive thing every single day.

But on the writer's journey mistakes are often made. And worryingly these errors can have major setbacks for the writer's career.

Here's a list of the most obvious mistakes.

  • Lack of research. Before you start writing, make sure your ideas are clear ones and ones you can follow through. Make sure everything is researched and don't make the mistake of thinking that just because a certain subject interests you, you already know everything there is to know. If you're writing a crime book featuring psychopaths, make sure you know every trait of this disorder. Research will only make your book more believable in the end.

  • Learn from your mistakes. It is often said the art of writing cannot be taught. You either have the flair or not. However, while I think some aspects of good writing can be taught, I strongly believe the only way to improve is to keep writing. When you start out at the very beginning you'll often find you have to rewrite certain parts extensively. If you make repeated mistakes analyse what you're doing wrong.

  • Repeatedly doubting yourself.  Every writer experiences negative thoughts about themselves from time to time. Every writer loses confidence in their ability to write. But it's crucial you keep going until you pass this stage. If you find you cannot move on, go back to your work and look at it from a different angle.

  • Failing to give a 100%. I have a brilliant poem on a tea towel called 'A Prayer for the Stressed.' In the middle of the verse it says: 'Help me to always give a 100% at work. 12% on Monday. 23% on Tuesday. 40% on Wednesday. 20% on Thursday and 5% on Friday.' You should always try your best every single day. Remember your reader at all times. Would you want them to read shoddy work, especially after they have spent their hard earned money on it?

  • Being overconfident. I think this is the worst mistake of them all. Loving your work too much and being totally oblivious to all its flaws. Threatening your editor with their live if they dare to offer one piece of constructive criticism. As a writer you should be open to all opinions. I'm not saying to have to listen to every single one of them but you should be able to take new things on board that will help you grow into a more successful author.
How about you, have you got any more mistakes to add to the list? What has been your biggest mistake to date?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Why Editing is so Crucial.

Yesterday I saw a thread in a writing forum that is ubiquitous to the indie community. Never the less it still gets me every time I see the issue. I am not going to provide links to the thread or post anything that will identify the person because I think that's unfair, but my opinion on this subject will never change ...

All writers whether they are traditional or self published need a professional editor.

I replied to the thread and said in a cheerful manner that even my editor has an editor for his work, and this is a man who has been a professional copy editor for twenty years.

But we all know why the question always pops up, don't we? If it wasn't for this particular factor then hardly anyone would mention it. I'm talking about how much the earth shattering cost is to writers to have their beloved manuscript edited.

When editors quote their clients for their services they should, by rights, produce a health warning to accompany it. Especially for a first time writer who has no has idea what sort of pontential poverty they are inflicting upon themselves if they decide to pay the fee. But lets flip this argument the other way and say: 'How can anyone afford not to get their work edited?'

Self publishing is huge today and there are many books out there, so why should a reader pay for something that is not professional? You wouldn't buy a child's car seat that hadn't been vetted to a professional standard so why should self publishing be any different?

An editor can do so many things for your work. Here are some of the most important topics they  cover:
  • They analyse the flow and structure of your story. They will also check for continuity issues - such as whether a character has red hair in the first chapter and brown in the fifth.
  • They address correct word usage, punctuation, spelling, and style.
  • They will correct extra spaces and any other errors, whether obvious or subtle.
When a professional copy ediotor has done their work you know it's the best it can be.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Should Writers Follow Rules?

As I'm plotting my third book I have come to the conclusion that I will follow my own rules, and I will only take advice if it's applicable to me.

When a writer first starts writing, it's a common procedure to follow the advice of everyone as the writer only wants to do their best. That's understandable but it's important to follow your own instincts too. As a writer gains confidence in their ability to write, the realisation will come not everything works for each individual. Writers will find that certain rules contradict everything they've heard from another author, so it's important to keep some perspective. As long as you apply common sense you will be fine.

I only follow two rules. First, I make sure I only write for me - my number one goal is to entertain myself first before I even attempt to entertain anyone else. And secondly I make sure I write every day. I treat my writing as a full time job, and in full time jobs you work every day. Sometimes if my writing is going really well I will write over the weekend. Writing is one of the most important things I do with my life so it seems obvious I treat it as a career.
The most important thing you can do is find out which rules work best for you. Then there will be no stopping you.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Why it's Important to Gain Inspiration from other Writers

Last Friday I sent my second manuscript to my editor so now I've officially finished my second book. I celebrated with champagne, feeling happy that I'll soon be able to publish my work. But if you're thinking I am now looking forward to a well deserved rest you're wrong.

Instead I am busy researching my third book. I made a decision at the start of the year once I had finished writing I would devote all my free time to reading the genre I would like to write. But what I'm doing now is far more complex than just picking up any old book and casually reading a few pages here and there. I am devoting a whole day to just reading a few chapters. This might not sound like much and it wouldn't be if I was just skimming over the words. But once I have finished reading I am making detailed notes about the plot line, structure, character development and so on.

All writers agree that if you want to write good stories you must read good stories first. But you must also analyse every sentence, understand every word and realise why the story is going in one particular direction. It is not enough to read to be entertained, you also need to read in-between the lines.

Reading different stories also helps you form new ideas of your own. Making notes from best selling books from well established authors is not the same as plagiarism - plagiarism only happens when you copy a substantial chunk word for word. I make notes to help my understanding of the story - it's never my intention to copy every single detail. It's also worth stating here that ideas cannot be plagiarised - plagiarism can only cover words.

So this is why reading is so good for writers. Reading helps you to spark ideas of your own that may have come from a particular story. But your ideas go off in another direction instead of following the same thought pattern. You can make up your own mind whether the book made a good story or you can state what you would have done differently to make the story better. Either way, reading helps your brain become familiar with stories, making you a more developed writer.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

8 Tips for Writers

Although I love writing more than anything else, it can be hard going sometimes.

Here are some tips for writers to stay on track.

Be open to all possibilities and opportunities.
Writers have to do more than just write to stay in business. Make every connection you can with people - you never know what opportunity they may offer you. Serendipity can play an important part.

Study people who are successful.
Instead of focusing on other people's flaws, study what makes them successful. How do they write bestselling books? Are the books good because of their theme, or do they have an incredible plotline?

Identify your own weaknesses.
Although you might excel at writing quickly and you easily manage 5,000 words a day, there will be an area of your writing that won't be so strong. Recognise what that area is and spend time improving that particular skill.

Set yourself one new goal every month.
Just like any other career writers should always strive to work harder and push themselves out of their comfort zone. If you don't continually focus on improving your craft you can guarantee the feeling of complacency will take over. You should remember your work can always be improved.

Have faith.
When you have writer's block or a bad review, realise it's just a bad day and every day will not be like this.

Know other people will have different opinions on how to be successful.
Just as some people love chick lit and others love thrillers, their general opinions will usually differ too. That does not mean that they are right and you are wrong; it's just a question of having a different approach. If you set a goal, it doesn't matter how you get there - just as long as you arrive there at some point.

Focus on your strong points.
Especially when you're having a bad day. Remember there are things you are good at.

Realise you may need to take a different approach.
If you can't get something to work, approach it from a new angle.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Do Writers Need Routines?

I am a naturally organised person, an obsessive compulsive personality at that. So it comes as no surprise when I say I place routine high on my agenda. Although a free spirit with a tendency to do things spontaneously, when it comes to my working life I am as rigid as a corpse.

For me having a daily routine increases my brain power and helps provide focus. Having routine helps me manage my time keeping skills more efficiently because I know how long things take and I'm able to plan my life accordingly. I relish having structure to my day because I find the more I do the more I want to do. I find that I spend more time working and less time procrastinating, thus increasing my self discipline and motivational skills.

When I composed my second book I typed twice as many words in half the time. And I have put this down to stepping up my routine, thus becoming more organised.

However, I do realise there are many writers out there who just write when they feel like it or when the inspiration strikes them. Their creativity can be stronger because they only write when they have vivid ideas. And because they don't write everyday they can often write for much longer in their creative bursts. Often when I write I can only manage 500 to 700 words. A writer who only writes a couple of times a week may write several thousand words.

So, what kind of writer are you? Are you organised like me or do you prefer to write only when you feel like it?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Who is Best Placed to Give Reviews?

I have been on the indie author circuit for a good while now, and during this time it has come to my attention that it's largely frowned upon for the author's family and friends to give reviews. This argument may seem logical on the surface but if you start to think about the issue in depth it can become rather blurred.

A review from the author's spouse or best friend may well be biased if it's all praise. Some people are really against this and argue that it's immoral. But what if the book is really good? Does the book really deserve a bad rating just because someone close to the author is writing the review? It seems that no one really questions poor ratings given by the authors friends and family. A family member or friend can give a review just so long as they make it a poor one.

So it seems like complete strangers are the best people to place reviews. Then there's no issue of writing a biased review because you're in love with the author, or have been friends with them since they were aged four. But reviews from complete strangers are extremely hard to come by. I have a few, positive and negative, but most of my reviews have come from people I have networked with over the year. And this again brings up the issue of friendship as I now consider some of my cyber friends closer friends than some of my 'real life' friends.

Can someone slate the author if they have networked with them for over a year? I really don't know but the answer seems unlikely. Requests to swap reviews is also frowned upon, for similar reasons this blog has already mentioned. People don't like to give a bad review to someone if they've already received a glowing review from them. The issue of scratching each other's backs can be rather awkward.

To reach a conclusion I asked other writers this question and I have received a huge response. But the answers really surprised me. The response didn't weigh in favour to any particular side. Instead it was a real mix of thoughts. A lot of writers argued that it doesn't really matter where the review comes from as long as it's well balanced and thought out. And some even said that if the reviewer was a close friend or family member, then they should state that in the review.

So that has helped me reach my final answer. Whoever the reviewer is they should do their very best to write a thoughtful, balanced review.

Please share your thoughts in the comment box.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Is Indie Publishing Taken Seriously?

When I first decided to go down the indie self publishing route it was a free choice. I didn't spend the previous decade hunting down agents and traditional publishers on an endless mission trying to find someone to take me on. I did the research for both options and decided indie publishing would be the best route for me.

I think I have been very fortunate to be an indie author in this era of spectacular technology. We are doing things now which didn't seem possible last decade. If someone had suggested to me five years ago that you could be a successful writer and earn a decent living through self publishing, I think I would have laughed in their faces. From time to time, it still seems so strange that people can write a quality book and place it on the Internet for the whole world to buy.

But that is now the reality. We can do this so easily, as long as we are prepared to dedicate ourselves to the commitment this career needs. And this is the pivotal point of my post: are people starting to take indie publishing seriously?

Maybe it's still a mixed bag of thoughts. Maybe at this present time it is still uncertain. But what about five years from now, when technology has developed further and the tardis is no longer just part of the fantasy world. Will indie authors be able to write their job description on a piece of paper without receiving funny looks? Will everyone know what that job title means?

Maybe indie publishing will give authors greater freedom and flexibility. Most people who have successful careers have the choice of where to live, and this is the thought that gave me the inspiration to write this blog post today. Will indie publishing give authors the option to move country if they so desire?

Most countries say in order for people to live there they have to have something of value to give that country. Skilled workers such as doctors and scientists can travel freely because they have desired knowledge about a specialist subject.

But would writers be on the same level if they just produced books and made a decent living? As long as you have the money and don't have a criminal record, I don't see why this would be a problem. It's something for us to think about anyway and I've had a lot of feedback to this question so far. So let's see if we can continue the debate. Would you move overseas if you're career allowed it? If I ever get to this point maybe I'll be on the first plane to Canada or the States ;)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Quality Writing will Sell Itself.

I have read an awful lot of blog posts lately about the importance of quality writing. And seeing as it's so important I cannot believe I haven't blogged about it sooner!

Quality is the life and soul of writing. It is the blood and oxygen of words. Without quality your writing is pointless. Having a quality book is always first on any marketing list. If best selling writers could only give one piece of advice on how to sell as many books as possible, they would say write a great book. That's it. Writers don't need to do anything more. Just write a great book and it will sell itself. But so many authors try to market their book without taking this most important issue to heart. Just because you have written a book doesn't automatically mean it's going to become a best seller.

Amazon has numerous examples of great quality, best selling books that seem to sell like hot cakes with little or no marketing effort from the authors. Many debut books hit the best sellers list and no one can argue that the book is only doing well because the author is popular. I mean, come on, how popular can an unknown author be? They're not Stephen King but maybe they write like him and that's the reason why they're so successful.

Many authors worry about the price of their book and think that if it's not priced at 99c, it won't sell. I had this frame of mind myself for a little while but soon realised success favours the brave and that saying made me put my price up. Now after three weeks priced at $2.99 or £1.90 - it still sells. And it's been well worth the risk.

So, if you're new to writing and fear your books won't sell, I can assure you they will sell so long as you have a quality product to market.

Here's a great blog post by Andy Holloman on this issue:

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Write For Yourself

It has been said many times that the older you get the more confident you become. But I am going to play devil's advocate here and say this isn't always the case. Here's why:

  • The older you get the more criticisms you will have faced due to unavoidable life events.
  • The more criticisms you face the more self doubt you have.
  • With every risk you take there's a chance of failure. The more risks you take, the more likely it is you will fail.
Look at it this way. When you were a child how much confidence did you have? Most young children are confident as they have not had much chance to fail. They are fearless because most of them haven't experienced the bad side in life: they do not know what failure feels like and therefore don't have that fear to hold them back. Their own world is limited, and most of what they learn is achieved by positive things like playing.

Here's another common saying: 'You only learn through your mistakes.'
This implies the only real way to learn is to be hurt through failure. Do young people really learn anything until they have been bitten by negativity?

So this is why a writer must write for themselves first. Write your book like no one else will ever read it. Stop worrying what your mother will think, what your editor will say, forget the general assumptions people may make. It is your book that you have written for yourself to read.

Back when I first started writing, I had this thought pattern. And it wasn't because I didn't want anyone else to read it, it was because I thought no one else would bother. I didn't think I would have a big audience. I don't know why I thought these things. Maybe because back then I had no previous experience to draw upon.

So I think that's why my style is so candid. I hold nothing back - so that's why my book reads like I'm just having a conversation. With myself. When I'm just talking to myself there is no need to hold anything back. Why should I do that? It's not like I've been hiding secrets. I haven't got a split personality which neither character knows about. I just talk. I say it like it is. And that's where I think great confidence comes from, so long as you're at peace with yourself. If you like what you say then what's not to love?

Besides, when you write you will always offend someone. It's just how it is. So you may as well please yourself first and write from the heart. And chances are people will agree with you if they think the same.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Word Power

What is the main objective for writers to achieve? What is their main goal they strive for everyday?
Is it to procrastinate away as much time as they can manage? Is it spending all their time marketing and answering emails? No. It shouldn't be.

Although these two things are issues many writers can identify with, they won't achieve their goal if this is how they spend all their time.

The main question every writer should have at the forefront of their mind is this: 'How can I affect my readers in the most powerful way?'

And the answer is: 'Through choosing the most accurate words to describe what I'm saying.'

We all know the power of words in everyday life. They make the difference between life and death. Picture a hospital intensive care unit with two doctors discussing the correct use of drugs for their patient. If one doctor makes an error in their prescription and the other doctor doesn't pick up on it then their patient may die, all because incorrect words were spoken or written.

Words make powerful contracts. Words make wedding vows, and that is a contract recognised in law. Two people promise to make the ultimate commitment to one another until death do them part.

Language is the subject which makes the world turn around. Without it no one could function. Communication goes beyond the subject of words as that also includes body language, but without words we would be lost for the majority of time. Sometimes quite literally as directions wouldn't exist.

But as writers we should keep this point with us at all times. Words are our playground. We can use them however we choose. Whether it's to make someone feel loved or deliberately hurt them, we can achieve both these things by the power of words.

Why don't you make it your new goal to learn a new word everyday? Just one little word every twenty four hours can soon add up to a lot.

Here are some great words I have found in the last couple of years:











Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Raising my Book Price and being Brave.

I have finally done it. I have succumbed to the evil forces of 'peer pressure' (something I very rarely do) and raised my ebook price from 99c to $2.99.

My book, priced at 99c, has sold just under one copy per day for the past year. During this time I have seen countless debates about pricing ebooks, and I have to say I agree with each argument. I understand the pros and cons of high and low prices. People argue 99c is almost worthless for anything other than short stories. Flipping the coin over, however, some people say it's better to price your first book at this price in order to gain a steady readership. Some people won't go any lower than $2.99 because of the Amazon royalties rates.

Having spent a year with my first book at 99c, I often wonder just how many of those purchases are read. I remember Bob Mayer saying in one of his blog posts that people will often buy a 99c book and never read it. He states 99c is an impulse buy, and many people won't bother to download the free sample chapter. Because of this 99c books get more bad reviews.

Having read my 1 star rating on Barnes and Noble, I presume this to be the case. Whoever the person was that gave me that rating (they called themselves anonymous) they obviously didn't download the free sample, and just thought my book was going to be another Lonely Planet travel guide. Have you seen the price of those kind of books? They are certainly more expensive than 99c. The price of my book obviously drove this person to purchase it on a whim and then realising it wasn't what they thought, they obviously felt compelled to give it a one star rating.

Joe Konrath argues that although you may sell less books at $2.99, you'll make more money on Amazon's royalty system. Coming from the U.K. I still think $2.99 is really cheap as it translates into only £1.90. That is ridiculously cheap - you can barely buy a good takeaway coffee for that. Like a few people have mentioned on the Kindleboards it's all about putting value on something. Take that coffee for instance. People will pay four or five dollars for something that'll just take three mintues to make, and only ten minutes - at the most - to consume. I spent eighteen months writing and rewriting my first book. Paid a fee for my copy editor and a fee for my cover, so why should I feel compelled to keep it at such a low price forever? During this year I have received some awesome reviews and this has given me the confidence into thinking: 'Hey, maybe I can write after all.'

But having a successful career is all about being brave enough to experiment with different things. If something doesn't work out then you change things around to find something that does work.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Second Book Finished and Ideas for my Third One.

Last Tuesday at 15.45 I finished my second book. I knew the end was drawing closer but even after another week has passed I still can't believe I am now the author of two books.

However, I am not satisfied with that thought. Even though it's great I have produced that amount of work in a ten month time frame, I still want to dive straight into my third book. I have always been driven with an endless urge to get things done but now I realise that I have to slow things down in preparation to write this elusive third book.

So what's the matter, you might think. Why is the third book going to be any different or harder than the two I have written? Well, here's the thing ...

My first two books have been based on real life factual accounts, but I want my third book to be a complete work of fiction. This time I am going to have to magic the plot line out of thin air, and that's the thought scaring me the most. How on earth do other writers manage to write book after book after book and still have ideas to make all of them work? Can anyone be that imaginative?

I realise some people are and they are the lucky ones. But I have a sneaking suspicion the majority of writers are not like that at all and they have to get their inspiration from other sources. So now is the time I have to use my creativity and think where I could get my ideas from. I also need to study 'How To' books to see how I can weave my ideas into a decent story structure.

So ... where can I look for inspiration?

  • Media stories and other interesting wordly events that may have taken place recently or are about to take place.
  • Family history, and traumatic or romantic events that may have happened. I know several family members who have had an unusual life in some respect so maybe I can base a few ideas from those.
  • The history of where I currently live. I know this town has a few old stories to tell so maybe I can weave past events into a character's life.
  • Think horror and what scares me the most. Films have been made about spiders turning into gigantic monsters. Maybe I could write a story based on a haunting.
  • The contents of my dreams, I think this is the most important one as I sometimes have very strange dreams.
I have already decided the genre of my third book so it's just a question of weaving all my ideas into a good plot. Wish me luck!

As a writer, where do you get your inspiration from?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Are Indie Writers the Happiest?

In last week's post I mentioned I had just passed my one year anniversary of self publishing. I also blogged about how I judge success, and stated that it's important to keep expectations low but ambitions high. But after typing that post I started to think about the other path I could have taken. What if I had decided I wanted to try the traditionally published path instead?

I know a lot of writers who take the traditional route first, and there is nothing wrong with that. After months or maybe years of trying without success they might try the self publishing option instead. But I decided to do things the other way around. I wanted to self publish first to see how it actually felt being the author of the book that was potentially going to be read internationally. I wanted to see what people actually thought of my book, and how many reviews I would receive. Then after the first twelve months were up, I figured I would know a lot more about the traditional path from the authors I would network with. I also wanted to socialise as much as I possibly could to try and get a feel for things, and to see if I actually wanted to go down the traditional route.

I know there are both good and bad points for each path, so this isn't a blog aimed at slating the traditional route just because I have decided the path isn't for me ... well not yet. The blog is more about wondering whether I would have any success if I had chosen to pursue an agent.

The top advantage of going indie is having the immediate power to do whatever you like with your book at the click of a button. Uploading your work to the Internet takes only a matter of hours, and then your book is available to buy anywhere in the world. And that's a hugely powerful concept for any writer to consider. If you decide to go the other way, you potentially have years and years to wait before an agent will take you on. Then they've got to sell it to a publishing house which will take time. If a publishing house does decide to buy it publishing the actual book could take a further eighteen months. So maybe the total time taken for that process to occur would be three years or more. And what might have happened if the writer had decided to self publish? They could have sold thousands of books as many people do within the first year, especially if they have a backlist.

The second major advantage of going indie is the royalty system. You, as the author, can decide how much you think your work should be priced. Then because there are no middlemen, apart from the stores which sell your book, you keep most of the cash.

So because indie authors have the most power, I think they're also the happiest. If I had to gone down the traditional route, would I still be waiting, and would I have received the reviews that I have done? Probably not.

But what do you think, are you a traditionally published author ready to argue this point?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

One Year On, and How I Judge Success.

I passed my first year anniversary on Monday, and I have to say what a year it has been. Never before have I worked so hard in my life, and I am pleased to say it has worked out well.

My figures show I have sold on average just under one book per day. I know many writers who sell at least ten a day but they're the ones who usually have that many books out. I am happy with how my first year has gone but that's not to say I keep my ambitions low. I keep my expectations low as I think it is important to remember I am an unknown author with only one book out. But expectations and ambitions are not the same thing. A person with an unrealistic high ambition is more likely to give up sooner than someone who keeps their feet on the ground. Remember that saying: 'Slow and Steady Wins the Race.'

I also think it's important not to measure your success on the success of others. A new writer cannot possibly compare themselves to a writer who has been writing for twenty plus years in several different genres under several different pen names. Of course they'll have sold more books than someone who has only been in this industry for the past six months, it's almost impossible for them not to.

But quality and professionalism is the one thing I think we should all keep at the top of our agenda. This is a matter that no amount of time can compensate for. Producing poor quality books is bad form, and it doesn't matter whether you've been doing so for the past twenty or five years. A shoddy book is still a shoddy book.

During the past year I haven't done much active marketing - maybe I would have sold more books if I had. I have tried to focus on networking with people and sharing relevant, quality information, especially on Twitter. But my confidence in my writing skills has improved vastly as I have been honoured to receive some brilliant reviews. And some of these reviews have come from people who live overseas - another remarkable thing about being an indie author. If I had been signed up by a small UK based publishing house I doubt my audience would have reached this far.

So my first year has passed and I have to say the decision to upload my hard work on to Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, and all the other major online retail stores has probably been my best decision yet.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Why Persistence is so Important.

I have a friend, a good friend that I have known for a while. She wants a baby more than anything and has done for a couple of years, but unfortunately the universe is making her wait for her dream to become a mother.

I know she will make a great mum because she is everything the perfect mother ought to be. She is kind, caring and always puts others first. She is responsible, mature, has a steady job and a stable marriage.

But I think the hardest thing for her to accept is the issue of timing. To have a baby now it seems would make her life complete. She's not some silly teenager, knocked up, after a casual one night stand: she is every baby's dream parent. So why can't she have a baby now when the timing is so perfect?

Out of respect, I will not go into her personal life anymore than I already have done. But I will say I have told her this when she tells me she wishes she could just fast forward her life:

'In life you cannot control everything. If you want something badly enough then I truly believe your wish will be granted one day. It may not be tomorrow or next month, or even next year, but it WILL happen for you eventually. You just have to wait, but don't wish your life away. Instead focus on the present and find the good stuff that exists now. When your dream happens, it happens.'

Of course this is all very easy for me to say as I'm not the one in her current position. But even though I do not want the baby that she wants so badly, I also have a dream that hasn't happened yet.

Just as I tell my friend, I tell myself that I have to wait and be patient. As long as I am persistent then it will eventually happen, it just won't happen overnight. That's where my friend has the advantage because in her case in might just happen overnight! ;) But my dream is the kind where it will take years to happen (most probably).

But that's OK. I don't care how long I have to wait so long as my dream happens eventually. I am not saying this is how my friend should look at things because I clearly understand that time could be an issue for her. Fortunately she is still young, so hopefully by the time she's forty five she'll have twenty kids!

So long as I keep writing, I'll keep producing books, and as long as I continue to work hard at my writing and reading, then hopefully each book will be better than its predecessor. I hope that each book will help to sell the others, and hopefully by the time I have written around ten I shall be making some sort of living, as that's my dream. Maybe I won't be as rich as J.A. Konrath or Amanda Hocking but many writers are indie writers who make a living out of their dream.

So, what do you think? Should people follow their dreams, no matter what?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Should you Write for Yourself or for an Audience?

I've been thinking a lot lately about my motivation to write, and I have come to the conclusion that I like to write for myself.

My first book is an example of this as I have allowed the words to flow, without a thought for the genre. It was only when I had the book ready to go that the problem of not having a specific category came to light. When I was in the middle of writing the manuscript, the last thing on my mind was where a potential bookseller would shelve the book. Would it fit in with the autobiography/memoir or travel section? Would it even end up with the erotica as there's no denying the steamy sex scenes found within.

As I began to market the book on popular social media sites, my concern grew. I had no idea who my target audience were because the themes in my book seemed to cross over in so many directions. Should I market the book to everyone in the hope that someone somewhere will like it, or should I just focus on one specific group of people and hope that they spread the word for me?

In the end I decided to target as many people as possible, letting them decide whether they wanted to take a chance with my book, and as a result I have some very mixed reviews. But here's the thing: Out of the people who have notified me that they have purchased my book, the people who have definitely not been in my target audience seemed to have loved it, and the people who I thought would love it have hated it.

After I finish my second book, a continuation from my first, I plan to write my third book in a specific genre. It will be interesting to see how I find this as I will have to make sure I follow certain themes of that specific genre. I will also have to write with that audience in mind.

So my next thought is: When I receive reviews for my third book, will I take them more to heart than I have done previously? After all, I have written my first two books just for me, and if people love them it's a huge bonus. But if I write purely for an audience, will bad reviews upset me? If I receive a bad review I will think I haven't satisfied that particular reader, and therefore have not done my job properly.

So, what do you think? Is it better to write for yourself or for an audience?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Can a Stressed Writer be a Successful Writer?

Living in the 21st century is stressful for most of us, despite life being easier than it's ever been. Technology is at its most remarkable, in the forms of mobile telephones, text messages, emails and Skype. You can achieve most things by clicking a button, or so it seems. And although some things have now been made possible, compared to a hundred years ago, one damaging thing is now ubiquitous, and that is stress.

Most writers experience stress at some point in their careers. Most writers have day jobs too, so they worry whether they will have enough time to write a satisfactory amount in a week. They seem to worry constantly about plot lines, character development, copyright, and whether their book will actually sell once it's published. Then there's the added turmoil of marketing - a whole different ball game which the writer must manage efficiently. So it's a wonder the majority of writers don't have a breakdown and give up completely.

But that's the thing about stress, it doesn't always have to have the same result. You can either panic, have a meltdown and never write another word again, or you can accept stress is normal in life now and work your way through things.

The huge benefit of being self employed is you can take a break whenever you feel things are getting too much. But the pivotal point of this blog is to recognise when you've reached that point. If you feel yourself worrying constantly, are prone to panic attacks and have sleepless nights, then your stress levels sound like they could be rising.

Stress is a major killer in the UK. It causes heart disease, eczema  headaches, high blood pressure, some people even say it causes certain types of cancer and diabetes, and those are just the physical effects.

When I get stressed I can't think straight. My brain feels like it's just been wrung out like a wet dish cloth. I get anxious and irritable, and the last thing I feel like doing is writing. For me, my writing flows best when I am relaxed and calm. My creative juices can pour out of of me without encountering any blockages. If I was stessed all the time, I fear I would struggle to write.

But what about you? Are you the same as me, or do you feel that a certain amount of stress helps you get things done?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Can Writing be Taught?

I've been published for nearly a year now, and during that time I have often wondered whether it would be worth my while to go back to college/university to obtain a qualification in creative writing.

But something has always stopped me, and that thought is: how can I guarantee the course will be worth my time, and most importantly, my money? So after a long time thinking this through, I came up with this answer:
  • No college or university course can ever come with any guarantees, no matter what you study. But degrees in creative professions seem less likely to promise a successful career in whatever direction you decide to go in.
Now I am not saying degrees are pointless full stop ... far from it. If you want to become a lawyer you have to study law, and there's absolutely no way around that. If you want to become a journalist or a copy editor, you have to obtain a degree in a specialised subject. But I have always been someone to think that great art cannot be taught.

Creative writing courses might be able to teach you vital grammar skills and great sentence construction, but I honestly think that the most effective way to become a great writer is to teach yourself.  After all, how many best selling novelists can you think of with creative writing degrees? I bet there isn't as many as you might think. Reading voraciously and learning how other writers are successful are two fantastic ways to start off with. Study characters profiles, setting scenes, plotlines and pacing.

And as the publishing industry is changing so much, I think if there was any degree I would love to have it would have to be in marketing. As with most writers, I love to put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, but marketing really stresses me out!

What do you think? How many of you have degrees in creative writing, and are they as useful as some people make them out to be? Please share your views with me.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

How to be Happy

Two weeks ago I blogged about the reasons why it's unproductive to be happy, but I have since thought maybe it is better to be happy for most of the time. If you're the sort of person who is cheerful and just has the occasional 'down' day, then that's perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.

But what if you're someone who find themselves on the darker side of life more often than they see the brighter part? More worryingly, what if this is you and yet you're so used to feeling down, you no longer see it as a problem?

I've read several blogs this week that highlight this problem, and reading those articles has inspired me to do my own take on this aspect of life. Coincidentally, this problem might have just been an issue for me until last week I decided to do something about it ...

Having a life in the 21st century can be extremely stressful, tiring and demanding. It seems it is no longer enough to have just one job anymore, some people struggle to keep their head above water even when they earn a decent wage and work full time. Single mothers have to work and raise their children, while running a house, all at the same time.

Now I do not have the above problems. Fortunately I am financially secure with a roof over my head and do not have children to run me down. I am blessed with time to concentrate on my writing while still having the chance to breathe. But can this actually be a bad thing? Spending most of my time just concentrating on my goals and what I want to achieve by the time I am thirty? Well, yes, it can be, to a certain extent. Here's why:
  • I spend most of my time focused on my next goal that I literally do nothing else apart from work closer towards that ambition. And believe me, this isn't as great as it sounds. I lose contact with everyday situations, people, and life in general.
  • The more focused I am, the more ambitious I want to become, so I go into overdrive, get extremely stressed and snappy.
  •  The longer I continue to repeat the cycle of only focusing on a few things and generally over working, the more I lose sight of the things that once made me happy, contented and relaxed. Because I can only see the carrot on the stick that's just out of reach, I forget who I am and what I live for. 
For the past two and a half years, I have just wanted to concentrate on writing. And as a result I have never been so focused on anything else in my entire life. Day in, day out, I do the same things over and over again. Sure, this is a great method in ensuring things actually get done and not just put off until another day, but after a while it can become extremely boring. I've lived my life like this for nearly three years so it's no wonder I nearly went mad.

But last week I decided to do something different. I had the opportunity to go elsewhere in the country for a couple of days, all by myself. Now this is something I haven't done in over four years, and back then, travelling alone seemed to be the only thing that I did.

During my three days' away, I had the opportunity to see someone from my past life, someone from my travelling days. I was never expecting to see this person again, and it was great to catch up with them. But what made my time away so great was the fact that it gave me the chance to be me again before I became so stuck into writing.

So, if you're worried that you might be stuck in a boring old rut, take the opportunity to get away for a few days and catch a glimpse of another life. After all, it's important to remember happy times.

More blogs on this subject:

Dee's blog:
Susanne Lakin's blog:

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Let's Get Positive!

This post sort of ties in with the post I typed last week. I was buzzing because I received two high star reviews on Amazon and because of those reviews, I was brimming with positive energy.

The way I was feeling last week inspired today's post, as I thought how amazing it is just how a positive attitude can drive you forwards to achieve so much more than you ever imagined possible. When something positive happens, it almost forces you to believe good things can happen. Your confidence receives a boost and you start to think you can accomplish goals that were once previously unreachable. You find yourself with more energy and motivation to get things done, and you want to show the world how successful you are.

So, when life gets in the way of our dreams, how can we still maintain our new positive attitude? Well ...

  •  Have faith in yourself. Make it your mission to make everyday better than the last one, no matter how much criticism you receive. If you write well and someone praises you for it, you'll be inspired to write further in more or less the same way. If you write but receive negative views, analyse their comments in depth and find ways to improve your writing.
  • Keep things in perspective. Every decision you make in life will not be positive and vice versa. People make mistakes all the time but that's only part of being human. To fail is positive because it means you have taken a chance on something. It's just this time it didn't work out how you wanted it to. But maybe in the future things will turn around, you've just got to be brave and push yourself outside your comfort zone to take chances more often. 
  • Socialise with like minded people. Humans' generate energy which other people absorb. If this energy is positive then it'll only recharge your batteries.
So, is your attitude to life positive? What gets you down, and how do you restore your positive energy? What, or who, inspires you the most?

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Why it's Unproductive to be Happy

This week has started on a high note for me and I hope it continues to last. I received two high ratings and reviews on, all in the space of twenty four hours. As many writers will know, reviews can be hard to come by, so I was understandably delighted when two turned up at once. And as you can imagine, I had so much buzz inside of me I was absolutely sure I could keep the entire city of London powered up for the next week.

So, what has this got to do with the title of my post? How can someone question whether happiness is as positive as most of us think it is? Surely happiness can't be a negative emotion, can it? Well, umm, maybe... sometimes.
Now before you read on any further, I just want to reinstate that I am absolutely overjoyed with my two new reviews, and I don't think they are negative in any sense of the word. But the point I'm trying to make here is they inspired this post. Sometimes when people experience such feelings of complete happiness, they become complacent, lazy, and fall into a unstable mindset. They start to think that because they have received so much praise, they do not need to work any harder. They see their work as perfect and flawless and woe betide anyone who doesn't share this view. So for their next project they fall into a false sense of security, thinking this work is going to be just as good as the last piece.

I am hoping this doesn't happen to me. I don't think it will because I am aware of the potential problem, and have always been a bit of a perfectionist. I always seem to worry whether I'll let people down by the standard of work I produce, thus ensuring my work is always the best it can be at the current time. I hope each book I write it will be better than its predecessor.

I read a newspaper article the other week where one news presenter shares my view on this subject. She said she didn't want her children to have a happy, contented childhood because she is worried that if they do, they'll grow up without ambition. Now this on the surface sounds like the most terrible thing in the world to say. How could any parent say this and expect it to be met with a round of applause? But when you delve a little deeper, I do think she makes a fair and valid point. If you are contented and happy, you do not want things to change. But if you're unhappy with your current situation, surely you should be doing everything in your power to change that? You want to live the best life you can possibly achieve, and that takes work no matter what your situation.
It's a tough nut to crack. Should you be happy if you're contented, or is there always room for improvement? Do people take the persuit of happiness too far? What are your opinions?

For me, it's the cliched saying: onwards and upwards.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Why it's Productive to be Lazy

I read a fantastic blog post by Joe Bunting the other day. I am a regular follower of his blog anyway but this post really got me thinking. He discussed how having at least one day off a week to rest is crucial in the long run for your productive state.

Now, I don't know about people in general but I am the type of person who will go stir crazy if I am sat around with nothing to do. I know this is some people's idea of bliss but I have to have goals set out to be completed at the end of each day. It is what I do and how I function. I may not be able to write a novel every week but there isn't a day that goes by where I am not one step closer to finishing one of my projects. I find I can cope better when I have the chance to work each day instead of taking copious amounts of time off, and then stressing out at the end of it when I realise there isn't enough time to finish what I want to do.

So, you can imagine how I reacted to Joe's post when I first read it. I can barely cope when I am doing nothing for just one hour, never mind one whole day. I began to think of how much I could actually cram into twenty four hours. At least several hours of writing, reading and typing. Dog walking, housework and spending time with friends. It seems that if I wasted the time it would put me behind by a considerable amount.

But then I started to think about what he was really saying. Our bodies are nothing but machines and if they're constantly working they are going to burn out quickly. And as a writer there's nothing worse than suffering from a bad case of burn out. When you're exhausted your immune system lowers its defences and you're more susceptible to infection. Your brain seizes up and you can no longer think. Joe also discussed how you can be more disciplined when you allow yourself a chance to rest, and that is a point where I completely agree. If I actually spent a day doing nothing and thought about what I would like to do over the coming week, I know my brain would be more focused on achieving those goals. I would be more conscious of the fact that I needed to work because I have allowed myself some time off.

I think self employed people have a hard time realising they should take some time out. After all, time is money, and money is time. The more you work the more products you'll have to sell. But are you focused on doing productive work or just work in general?

2012 is a busy year for me. I am now close to finishing my second book and my wedding is in the autumn. So from now on I will be spending my time as wisely as I can.

If you want to read Joe's post please follow this link:

So, how productive is this year turning out to be for you?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

How Does Pacing Work in a Manuscript?

Last week I touched on how to set the perfect scene - advice given from The First Five Pages, a book by Noah Lukeman, who is a leading literary agent from New York.

This week I'll be covering another issue that Lukeman looks at: Pacing.

Pacing is something else I need to work on as a writer, and on the whole I think most writers struggle with this element as well. How many times have you left a book half way through because the plot didn't seem to be going anywhere, and how many times has a whole chapter covered only one issue when it could have covered a lot more?

I think pacing can be a very difficult issue to deal with because it's something which runs through the whole story. I personally find that pacing is often linked with setting: does the writer spend too long describing the setting which is irrelevant to the book's plot at that present time? The reader doesn't need to know what type of trees are in the wood if someone is about to be murdered, unless the tree type plays a crucial part in the storyline. Too often writers spend time describing objects which have no relevance to the scene and leave out vital information about the things that do matter. The author might describe the tree type in detail but what about the murder weapon, does the writer include information about that? That particular detail could be something that does matter to the storyline.

So how can you check whether pacing works in your manuscript?

Lukeman advises writers to read through the whole of their manuscript after they decide no other technical issues need correcting. Is it too slow, boring, and is it leading to the climax? Or does the action happen all at once and is everything over by the time you finish the first page?
Pacing is also a hard issue to address because it is subjective. Some people like a book that's a leisurely stroll while others like a book to be fast paced.

He also advises that the best way to see if there's any problems is to have a group of readers check over the storyline and note down what they say. If the pacing is too slow is the major consensus, here's four solutions to the problem.

  1. You have a storyline which you find more fascinating than the reader does. Try reading the manuscript from the point of view of the reader.
  2. There isn't enough tension. Why should the reader read on if everything is great and nothing needs solving?
  3. Maybe you have a good starting and ending point but get lost in the middle. Read through the writing and cut out anything that doesn't need to be there.
  4. You've described too much when you should have been focusing on the scenes.
If on the other hand your manuscript is too fast, ask yourself does your story contain too much dialogue? Dialogue is an element which can make your story run very fast. If dialogue is not the issue, have you told your story in too much of a rush? Do you have enough layers in the book to make it come alive?

Do you struggle with pacing? How do you go about solving the issues?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

How to Set the Perfect Scene

In the book The First Five Pages, Noah Lukeman explains the importance of setting a scene. Setting is an area some writers struggle with because it's one of the more subtle areas of writing. I also find this issue a hard one to tackle. But this year I am determined to work on it.

So if you're a writer like me who sometimes struggles with this area, here are some tips that Lukeman gives on perfecting that setting.

Some books start with a burst of dialogue between two main characters. The writer is keen to make the plot of the book known to the reader as soon as possible. And yet while they are so focused on the storyline, sometimes they forget to include little else.

Even established writers can get away with offering limited setting as long as they have a gripping storyline. But setting, when used properly, can give a book great depth. Take for a example a conversation between two people. In one setting they are in a cosy living room with a burning log fire listening to the raging wind outside. In the other, they are in a mortuary inspecting bodies.

The writer at this stage doesn't mention what the conversation is about. But the reader imagines two entirely different conversations because of the setting. It might be exactly the same conversation word for word but because one scene is in a relaxed setting, the reader imagines the characters are having a social chat. In the other they might be in that place for work. They might be police officers investigating a murder or pathologists doing a normal days work.

A writer can say so much about a story all without saying one word, it just depends how they set the scene.

Lukeman says most settings set a picture in the readers mind by stating the smallest of details. A cracked window, carpet stains and a cobweb in the corner are just three of the vivid details he states a writer can use to bring a scene to life. You only need to mention a few things about the place otherwise you risk information overload which is equally damaging for the reader. Most people can only remember a few things at a time. I think this thought process is why I end up with some of my scenes barely even there. I want to focus on moving the story forwards and I find too much descriptive detail can really slow things down.

Lukeman also advises that all five senses should be used when bringing a setting to life. You can describe an area smelling like coal fire and the reader will be able to imagine this instantly. How about the sound of a school whistle, or describe a room that is dimly lit as opposed to one that is brightly lit.

The weather is also a great way to bring some atmosphere into the scene. Describing a thunderstorm accompanied by a raging wind immediately sets an eerie atmosphere. A bright, cloudless sunny day depicts a happy image with the reader and yet the same story could be taking place within each scene.

Above all else, remember to have your characters interact with their setting. Have one pick up a red umbrella that's sitting in the corner of the porch. Or a character could pick up a plate and hurl it on the floor.

So, how do you set your scenes? Have you any more tips you'd like to share?