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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Components of a Bestselling Book

Okay, so I have been thinking about the above question quite a bit recently. After all, in the digital age of electronic books and the explosion of self publishing, it is hard not to hope for J.K. Rowling success by some small miracle.

However, dreaming about making a massive small fortune and actually doing it are two very different things. Anyone who thinks they can slap a book together and whack it on Amazon in the space of just one month is going to be very disappointed indeed if they expect it to sell well or even sell at all. There's a lot of competition out there these days and every book has to fight its way to be noticed.

But success is possible if you're prepared to work at it.

A lot of writers' success comes from their books selling modestly. They may not write a book which has three million sales in the first week but they will write enough books to make a living if they can get several of their books to sell regularly.

I believe this method works or at least I hope it does because I am prepared to write for the rest of my life.

So ... what makes a bestselling book?

  • Well firstly the story has to be something Joe Public wants to read. If you like writing far out stuff for the world's tiniest audience then don't expect a life of endless money any time soon.
  • Secondly, I think it must have a decent plotline to keep you on the edge of your seat. If a book is boring and predictable then why the hell should anyone want to read it? I always like a book with a good twist.
  • Thirdly, I like to be impressed with the authors use of language. That's not the same as saying I like flowery prose but I like the author's style of writing to be unique to them. Writing which is distinct and compact.
  • Fourthly, I like well rounded and believable characters with clear motivations and goals.
If you're a writer who writes books with these elements I believe your books will sell. You just have to keep writing them.

So, that leads me on to this ...

Drumroll please ...

It is with great relief, joy and a whole lot of trepidation and anxiety that I announce the arrival of my third book: A Step Too Far

'Caitlin O’Connor has the perfect life. Or so she thinks. In her late twenties, she already has a fantastic career as a trauma nurse with a gorgeous, rich, successful husband to match.

But when tragedy strikes on an exotic holiday, all this changes. Caitlin’s near-death experience makes her realise that she has to move out of her comfort zone and make the most of life’s opportunities.

But when she makes plans to have more of a work/life balance, she discovers far more than she bargains for. She fears her husband is about to have an affair, and this situation is made worse by her own current catastrophic failings at work.

Now things are going from bad to worse and Caitlin’s suffering panic attacks. Will she ever be sane again and manage to get her life back on track, or has she gone a step too far

It is a funny, light hearted chick lit so I hope you'll check it out.

If you'd like to make my dreams come true here are the links to follow if you wish to purchase it:

Thank you very, very much.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

What's the Difference Between Advertising and Self Promotion?

A sudden thought struck me the other day as I'm getting ready to release my chick lit novel. As it's my first fiction book, I'm already planning to do more marketing than I've done with my other books. And I'm hoping my marketing efforts will be more noticeable as chick lit appeals to a broader audience. However, this does not mean I'll be going on any grand tour of blatant self promotion as I honestly don't believe this works.

So then I thought about the general concept of marketing and what certain terms mean. When someone mentions marketing what they're really saying covers a whole lot of other areas. Marketing is just an umbrella term that sometimes does nothing but confuse people trying to suss it out.

When I first started writing seriously, I thought marketing was just another word for blatant self promotion, or spam as some people say. And as a writer I knew this method was unlikely to work and what blatant self promotion I have done seems to have little affect on sales. So instead I concentrated on writing my next book.

But then I started to think about advertising. Advertising may be more expensive and it may take longer for the results to show but I think it's more effective on long term sales than just promotion. If for example you have your book placed in many different stores it is likely to sell more copies than just having the book in one store and constantly bleating on about it.

Having your book in many different places whether it's online or in real book stores will help increase sales without much blatant self promotion. Of course, you'll have to tell people where it's available but even then I think that's different to self promotion.

If you're looking for a short boost of sales giving your book away for free or offering a two for one offer is a great promotion tactic. But if you're looking for a longer boost then researching advertising strategies may be a better plan.

What do you think - is advertising a better strategy than promotion? What has worked for you?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Does Fear Hold You Back from Publishing Your Book?

I'm anxiously awaiting to receive my manuscript back from its editing process and already I'm feeling slightly terrified.

This is a big moment in my life because when I do get it back and make the necessary alterations and corrections, I'll have my first fiction novel ready to be published.

Naturally I'm very excited about this and I've already started to plan out my fourth book in an effort to take my mind off my third book. I figure that while I'm waiting, I may as well be doing something useful. Writers never stop writing so it's onwards and upwards with book number four.

But then I start to think about all the other writers I network with. Some excitedly tell me that they're working on their first novel and I presume they can't wait to get it published. And then they tell me that they've been working on it for the past sixteen years.

Unless they're writing an entire library, I don't think any book should take this long and I wonder what's holding them back. Many, many writers have other commitments such as other jobs and family issues but they still manage to publish a book every year or two.

Then I think to myself is it fear? Fear of the unknown and people writing reviews stating they can't write. Fear of being ridiculed for publishing a book that only sells one copy per year.

Thoughts like these go through every writers' mind, whether you're J.K. Rowling or a complete novice. But what separates these writers is that the J.K. Rowling's publish their books and try not to worry too much while they get on with writing their next novel. The other writers will dither and dither and make constant rewrites and corrections, consequently never getting their book published.

You don't want to rush your book and it's crucial to make it the best it possibly can be before you release it for the world to see. But what's important is realising when that time has arrived.

If you're a writer who find themselves worrying a lot about their book and you constantly change and rewrite it, I hope this post has helped you. I have a self help book about fear and anxiety and it's got one pivotal lesson:

Action brings satisfaction. No matter what the problem or fear is, doing something about it will always make you feel better.

So take action and have the courage to publish your book before you go completely insane.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Do Writers Sell More Books if they Cross Genres?

I've been browsing many best selling authors on Amazon this week after finally finishing my third book. I've been a little high when thinking that one day I might achieve this same status.

But despite these authors writing different categories of books, they all seem to have one thing in common: they write in different genres.

If you look for information regarding how to sell books on the internet, you're more than likely to discover discussions on author brands, and how it's crucial for writers to build their brand name on their platform to entice their readers. This advice is given so your readers will begin to trust what sort of books you produce. For example, everyone on this planet knows what books Stephen King writes and on his books you'll notice he'll have his name on the top of his book rather than the title. Not only is this more eye catching as usually it's the first thing you see, but the title on the bottom of the book will almost seem insignificant. The reader knows who the author is so therefore even without glancing at the title they'll know roughly what the book is about.

But what happens when writers do decide to cross genres? Will their existing brand be ruined if they decide to hop about all over the place?

I've often worried this myself because this question is going to affect me very soon. My first two books have been about travel, adventure and excitement with a little steam thrown in there too. Most people know me as a citizen of the world because I am open about the fact that I've been around it three times.

But what will happen when my third book is released and people discover it's not related to wild backpacking stories, and that it's just another chick lit book in an overcrowded market? Can I expect my current fans to have the same enthusiasm if I dare ask them to read it?

Then I stop to think a while.

Yes, I have fans for my two current books but I'm sure these people just don't like to stick to one particular genre, do they? Okay, some might but I'll probably discover readers like myself who like to read all sorts of different books. I like to read non fiction, biographies and memoirs. Books by Belle de Jour and real life stories of serial killers. That's the crime reader in me. I also like to read light hearted chick lit and comedy books by Sibel Hodge. Her Amazon author page is here:

So then I wonder do these writers sell more books overall because they've branched out and attempted to reach a different audience?

A lot of successful writers will tell you more books will equal more sales because every book has the potential to find more readers. I blogged about this topic last week:

You might be wondering why a photo of Terry Fox is on my blog. I posted this picture in an effort to inspire fellow writers. Terry was an athlete of great tenacity. He had determination and great courage. Terry died in his early twenties from cancer after nearly running the entire width of Canada on a false leg. Although he was ill he was determined to achieve his goal. He had qualities shared with successful writers. He didn't give up but continued his marathon, however much of a struggle it was.

So what do you think? Do writers brave enough to venture into a different genre sell more books overall? Please share your experiences with us.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Has Marketing Lost its Effect?

I've been in the self publishing industry a good couple of years now and one concept that's always baffled me is the issue of marketing.

When I published my first book, marketing it was all I could think about and I consequently felt overwhelmed by the contradicting plethora of advice on the internet. I spent months and months and months reading so much information and when I put it to practise none of it seemed to work.

So then I changed my tactic. Instead of spending my time doing all these marketing efforts with no real results, I started to follow writers like J.A. Konrath and Bob Mayer who have been in this industry for decades to see what advice they could give.

And they said one pivotal thing: no matter what you write and who you write for, the best marketing technique is to write another book.

When I read that advice it felt like a huge cloud had been lifted. Finally something I could do and I know I could do well and that is to write my next book. It sounded so simple.

Now four years on I have just finished my third book and for the last several years, I've always promised to put my writing first over any aspect of marketing. I really do believe that Amazon and other retailers have so much control over how our books sell than we'd like to think. I spend time in the Kindleboards writers' forum to hear other authors mention the direct impact Amazon's algorithms have had on their sales. No matter how much marketing they do sales seemed to be stuck at a certain number.

So many writers spend so much time trying different marketing techniques trying to keep up with these pesky algorithms. But not many of these writers can measure the effects of their marketing efforts with much success. Even writers like J.A. Konrath say that when they spend time promoting sales results often aren't instant. It can take weeks if not months for promotion to have any effect and I think that this is what makes it so difficult to have an accurate measure for these results.

One thing I'm not knocking is paid advertising. However, I still have to try that but I've spoken to many writers who have said that this method has had spectacular results for them. Maybe because it's paid - I don't know. But one thing I do know is this. Self publishing has become so popular these days anyone can put their rubbish out there and it takes a lot for any book to become visible.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Does the Internet Give People a False Sense of Reality?

I've often thought about this question so today I've decided to blog about it.

The internet has been around for a while now providing some fantastic opportunities. People can do almost anything at the click of a button, from booking flights to the other side of the world to arranging to meet complete strangers.

People can make a fortune via this amazing technology and it is through the internet that I hope to make a worthwhile career for myself by producing high quality ebooks.

But even though the internet is responsible for many wonderful things, it also has a much darker side. I am not going to go into the evils of terrorism acts or child pornography, but I happened to stumble upon a message in my inbox yesterday which made me feel uneasy.

I am an author of two published books and I've just finished my third. I hope to sell these books and I realise I have to do a fair bit of networking to achieve this. Therefore I accept I have to utilise the internet and social media to connect with people. But I would now like to state that any networking I do is only for professional reasons. I am a member of numerous writing and travel groups all over the internet and it's here that I've made some fabulous friends who admire my work.

But I've also had the unfortunate of experience of being targeted by certain people who send me messages thinking that they know me and my entire life story just because they've happened to see one single photo of me. This particular person reckons they know my personality inside out just because of the way I look in this photo and they've requested some very personal information about me.

Not only am I shocked and horrified to read this message, I'm also outraged that this person felt like they had the right to send me this email.

Now maybe I could understand it more if I was a member of an online dating agency, and I had numerous profiles stating that I'd like to be contacted by different men who are looking for a relationship but there is nothing at all in any profile of me stating this to be the case.

I average at about one message per year of this sort of content and I was only chatting to a good friend of mine in one of my writer's groups the other day about this topic. (Hi, Ian, this is not you I am referring to here ;) ) He kindly suggested that I should maybe change my photo so more of my face is visible. And after this other message, I think I just might!

So in this case I think the internet can be blamed for giving people a false sense of reality. Either that or it provides people with a certain mindset the perfect opportunity to contact other unsuspecting people.

Now it's time for you to share your opinions with me on this matter. What do you think and have you had any personal experience of this matter yourself?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

How to Write a Brilliant Blurb

Last week I blogged about that dreaded second draft of my manuscript I have to do and this week I can happily say I'm really stuck into it. Once I made a list of the components I would like to alter it was easy to go through my book and make the necessary changes. I have already read through the manuscript twice to make amends to obvious errors, so I already have a list of the more subtle parts to change.

Now I'm nearing the end of my second draft I realise I have the blurb to address. Almost every writer will say the blurb is in the top three points of whether or not your book will be successful, along with the book cover and how the book is actually written. So I know I can't mess this vital part up and I vow to write the blurb with military precision.

I also know I have to let the manuscript rest once I am certain I am finished with it. Then after a suitable time has passed I will read it several times again just to make sure I am happy with it and then I'll start to write the blurb.

So, how am I going to do this?

Blurbs are known for being short and snappy so I think the best thing to do is write a whole page detailing every description in my book.

Sound ludicrous?

Yes, it is a bit but let me explain.

Once I have written everything there is to know about my book I can go back to the description and edit it like mad. I will condense like I have never condensed before. I might aim for about 1,000 words initially but then I will seek out the most compelling part of the description and focus on that - keeping in mind that I want to hook my reader in and not give the plot away.

Too many books, especially in the genre of chick lit, ask a question in the blurb and then proceed to answer it. Personally, I don't want to write a blurb like this because I know the reader inside of me will only want to read a book to find out what happens. So why would I read a book like this if I already know what's going to happen? That's the issue I have to keep in mind because I know a lot of other people who are like this and I don't want to make that mistake for my book. I want to give enough information about the book without giving too much away and that is the hardest job to do.

So tell me - how do you write blurbs?

Monday, 30 September 2013

How Do You Know If Your Book Is Any Good?

This is a scary week for me and it's a week I have been dreading for some time. And because of this I've almost had a month of sleepless nights just thinking about it.

This week is the week where I start my second draft of my first fiction book.

And no thought terrifies me more.

Gone are the days where I wrote my first two non fiction books and sailed through each process without a cloud on the horizon. Gone are the days where my confidence bloomed at the thought of writing more books. Writing is really simple, eh? All you have to do is think up a plotline and write it down. Once you have that sorted everything else will follow, right?


Oh help.

Writing my current book has only proved one thing. That I have a strange vivid delusion that I am a good writer. I mean people have raved about my first two books and posted 5/4 reviews about them so surely this will boost my confidence when I need it the most. But no sadly not.

When authors write their first book what on earth goes on inside their minds? I mean you read it and re-read it like several million times but how do you know if what you've written is actually any good? Who tells you that apart from one or two potential beta readers? And how do you know whether to trust their opinion? For all you know they might have just had a wild night out on the town or just returned from laser eye surgery.

So I guess I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. I have my first draft out in front of me but no idea where to start with my second. Character development, plotline and pacing are a few things whizzing round at the front of my very fragile brain right now but the first thing I need to do is take a deep breath and calm down.

So, tell me - how do you feel when you get to this stage? And how do you tell if your book is any good? Do you re-read it several times like I have done to look for obvious errors or do you just plunge straight into the second draft?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

What Makes a Good Work Ethic?

This question has intrigued me for some time now so today I've decided to blog about it.

As a writer I can say a good work ethic is vital for success whether you decide to self publish or go down the traditional route. But what makes a good work ethic and why do certain people seem better suited to it than others?

These days I can personally say that it is much harder to maintain a good work ethic than it was ten years ago. The current recession hasn't helped matters and the zero hour contract that so many businesses can now implement doesn't do much to inspire your confidence either. But I don't think the recession is entirely to blame. What matters is people's attitudes. And this is the reason why I've spent so much time thinking about this question.

As an ebook author I network with many, many people around the globe. Most of them are American and I have noticed it is these people who have the strongest work ethic. Many of them seem driven with their goals clearly mapped out. And as someone who resides in the UK I can say that this attitude is completely alien to some people who live over here.

I don't know whether our crazy welfare system is to blame for making so many people lazy and feckless but as I get older it seems the concept of hard work is becoming a thing of the past. I know this may be a fairly sweeping statement to make but I strongly believe that Great Britain isn't so great anymore.

I believe to have a good work ethic you must first accept responsibility in your job role. If something isn't working then try to do something about it. So many people seem to have the attitude of saying that this isn't my problem so I'm going to pass it on to someone else. But if everyone has this attitude then the problem isn't fixed.

I've had the goal of being self employed now for many years because I truly believe I am suited to this way of life. If like me you're a hard working person who never gives up and have so much drive you can be a Formula One racer then sooner or later you're going to be a success.

Now it's over to you. What in your opinion makes a good work ethic?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Do Your Dreams Inspire You? Remembering 9/11.

Let me start off by saying that even though I am across the pond from my American friends, I will never forget this date. Only this morning I saw tribute photos of Manhattan shared between my English friends, so I think I can safely say that most of England is thinking of those horrific events that sadly happened twelve years ago.

In a way those circumstances tie in with my blog post today. Even though that day happened more than a decade ago, I can still vividly remember watching the awful scenes on television as if they only happened yesterday. Of course, there is so much media coverage of the Twin Towers that I'm sure it's impossible to forget them. And there has been countless programmes on those events ever since.

But that unimaginable horror inspired so many people not to take life for granted as you never know what's around the next corner. I'm sure no one who worked in the World Trade Centre could have foreseen what was going to happen that day, although some did say they had vivid dreams about terrorist attacks and the Twin Towers.

And it's dreams like these I want to focus on today's blog post.

I remember reading several interviews from people saying they had dreams, or more accurately - premonitions, about these terrible events. In my mind, even the wildest of dreams could not have foreshadowed 9/11, so these images had to be premonitions. Now I'm a great believer in this phenomenon, so I do believe these stories.

As writers, premonitions/dreams have a significant impact on us. I know lots of writers, myself included, who have dreams about their next book. I suppose when you're constantly think about plotlines and characters these things are bound to come up in your subconscious. And you consequently dream about them. But how many of you can dream up an entire book? These vivid dreams wake up many a writer, and they can't rest until they have these thoughts down on paper.
As of yet I am yet to have one of these dreams. So far I have only dreamt of certain parts in my book, and I envy those who can dream up an entire plotline. It must be so nice to go to sleep every night and piece together your book. And it's the only situation I can think of where you can say you're working even when you are sleeping!

So, do your dreams inspire you?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Will You Only Review a Good Book?

Recently, over the last month or so, I have read quite a few online articles about book review trolls. Trolling, as the word is best known, is all about writing things to provoke people and deliberately upset them. And I feel this Internet phenomenon is only expanding as the years go by.

Trolling started out with creating abusive comments and leaving them on tribute sites to intentionally hurt bereaved families. I think this particular matter is one of the most savage and evil things to be born out of Internet usage, along with child porn, terrorist websites and other nasty issues. The Internet certainly has a lot to answer for in this modern age.

But sometimes people can take matters like these a little too much to heart. Of course, most people don't want to be nasty just for the sake of it but what do they do when they are asked to write a review for a product that they simply didn't like or couldn't stand? Do they just write down their opinions without a worry in the world, or do they point blank refuse to write a review unless it is positively gushing?

Goodreads is a site that comes to my mind when thinking of a place where nasty 1 star reviews are more common than a cold. But I don't think people should live in fear of being called a troll just because they want to give a low star rating.

When I first started out as a writer I was very conscious of this fact. I always lived by the rule of never giving a book a review unless I liked it. But now I think I am changing my views after reading some appalling books myself. And these books are not even written by an unknown indie authors: they are written by world famous best sellers!

This subject, when I think about it in detail, raises another question. Am I more likely to give a low review to a best selling author than a struggling indie? And I suppose I am.

I'm not saying this is right but I can't help but think that a low review is not going to affect these world famous best selling authors half as much as it potentially would an unknown indie.

My first book in particular has got some pretty nasty reviews but I think their content has actually helped sell the book so in some cases they actually works in the authors' favour. I suppose I would write a low review of an indie author if their book is formatted terribly or has so many spelling errors and grammatical issues that it's almost impossible to read. But again I think that mentioning these things would only help the author because at least they would be aware of them.

So, what do you do? Do you only write reviews of books you liked?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

What Keeps You Reading a Book?

As an author I think about this question a lot. I should hope all authors have this in mind when writing their books as readers are the writers most important ally. Books should not be written for the author, rather they should be created for their readers.

So what makes you want to pick up a book and start reading?

I suppose that question has a variety of answers, depending on your favourite genre of book. For a crime thriller its readers will want to the experience the suspense and excitement of finding out who has committed the most gruesome murders. For a comedy book its readers will want to laugh out loud all the way through. And for E.L. James's readers they are promised a certain amount of erotic desire.

Of course, you have plotlines and character development which play a crucial role in a book's readability. A book's setting may also draw in a certain amount of readers. For example a book set in Mexico may attract Mexicans or people with an interest in that particular country.

But for me as an avid chick lit reader, the character's emotional drive is always key.

I read a blog post recently about this subject and I have to say how much I agree with it:

Lawrence says you have to make an emotional connection with your readers no matter what fiction you are writing. And this statement is so true, especially with the chick lit genre. You want your readers to feel like the story could happen to them so you generate empathy which is a powerful emotion to experience.

So, what makes you keep on reading?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Is Isolation Good for the Imagination?

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Amsterdam. Holland is one of the few countries in Europe that I have never been to so I couldn't wait to explore the capital of the Netherlands.

Of course there were sights I expected to see; the chilled out so called 'coffee' shops and the red light district. But as I soon began to learn Amsterdam is so much more than meets the eye.

For a start it is home to the museum of one of my favourite artists: Vincent Van Gogh.

I studied Van Gogh in primary school. We used pastels to recreate my favourite painting: The Starry Night.

Back then I enjoyed his work immensely and this enjoyment has lasted a further twenty years. I think his paintings are exquisite and I find the style of them so unique.

But besides creating these wonderful paintings, Van Gogh unfortunately had a darker side to him as well. His self mutilation of his ear has made him world famous and it is well known that he spent most of his life just drifting around, unable to do anything well except paint.

Now a few months ago I blogged about 'Do you Have to be Crazy to be Creative?' with Van Gogh in mind. But as I explored most of his life history I realised he really did need to be crazy to produce his best work.

During the final few years of his life Van Gogh was sent to an asylum. He spent a year there where he spent the majority of time alone. And it was in this asylum where he produced his finest art.

Van Gogh always maintained the reason why he did his best work there was simple enough to understand. It was really the only place where he could concentrate without being distracted by the minutiae of everyday life.

Despite saying this it was also the place where he was at his most loneliest. He painted a picture of cornfields and crows to try to capture the feelings of isolation and his inner turmoil.

Now this painting really got me thinking. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are not good for the soul. But are they good for the imagination?

Writers, like artists, spend most of their working time alone. They sit down and write, pulling wild and fanciful stories out of thin air. But these stories really come from their imagination and the imagination needs time by itself to work properly.

Some writers, myself included, will say that in order to write well they have to go out into the 'real' world to experience life and get ideas for their plotlines. But unless I am left alone to transfer these thoughts and ideas on to paper I simply cannot write well.

So, is isolation a necessary evil in order to write well or get things done? Even though writers complain of feeling lonely, do they need to accept that this is all part and parcel of the writing craft?

Tell me your experience of isolation and loneliness. Is it something you tend to suffer frequently or are you one of those people who can spend many happy weeks not seeing a soul?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

How Writing Ties in with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Like most people on this planet I need to be fulfilled. And I constantly seek out new and interesting ways to fill this desire. Until I find the things that make me whole I can't help but feel empty.

Now this isn't a romantic post; I'm far too cynical to write one of those. I'm not talking about finding your 'other half' in human form because I simply do not believe that to be the case. I believe we need a wide variety of people to fulfil our needs because expecting just one person to do that is highly unrealistic.

But separating what we want from what we need can sometimes be a very difficult thing to do. All people have wants and needs but not all of them know how to distinguish between the two.

According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, all people need oxygen, sleep, food, warmth, sex, liquid and shelter. These needs are on the baseline for human survival. It is only when we have all these needs fulfilled we can move on to the next level to have security of a job, family, health and somewhere to live.

And so the process goes on until people reach the top of Maslow's model. They pass things like friendship, esteem, achievements and respect from themselves and others. But it's only when they get to the top of this pyramid that Maslow has so carefully created can they say they have reached the final step of self - actualisation.

For me this is where I can tie in my writing as creativity is one factor that makes up this final stage. Personally, I believe that writing fulfils me the most as no matter where I am or what I'm doing I can never imagine myself not writing.

Defining what we want and what we need is difficult because everyone defines needs and wants in different ways. Some people tend to lean more on the materialistic side of life while others would rather be in love than have money.

For me the most important thing is to have my health and then to write. To me your health is everything. But after that I need to write.

So does writing fulfil you in the same way? Do you think you have to be in the self - actualisation stage in order to write? Please share your thoughts.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Why Writing Really is the Best Job in the World.

I thought I would do a fun post today after all the recent hard work I've done. It feels like I've had my nose to the grindstone practically all year, but hopefully soon I'll be able to say I've finished my third book.

Okay I'll admit it ... This post is really for my benefit. I thought I would type it to remind myself why writing really is the best job in the world ;)

Writing really is the best job in the world because you get to be your own boss. You get to sit around in your pyjamas all day, preferably in bed, writing scenes that you've just made up in your head. I often think that a lot of writers are nutty and they're doing their best trying to hide their madness. So they write what they think down on paper instead of constantly muttering their thoughts to themselves. This is infinitely better than being sectioned in a psychiatric unit, believe me. And I can say this because I have three years' experience working in one! If you're a writer then someday you may get rich. Only then may you have a nervous breakdown worrying where to stash all your money!

Writing really is the best job in the world because you get to miss out on all the 'Office Politics.' This is what one of my dear friends refers to as bitchy back stabbing in the work place. And I couldn't agree with her more. If you work with other people - as most jobs are like that and it's not something you can easily avoid - you have to put up with the 'Office Politics.' No matter where you go and who you work for this is a very common problem within the workplace.

Writing really is the best job in the world because it's totally flexible. As long as you write every day you can pretty much do whatever else you want to as well. If a friend wants to meet me for a coffee I'll go and meet them for a coffee. I'll just spend the time beforehand writing.

Writing really is the best job in the world because you have permission to daydream. And I can spend the majority of the day doing this as well! There's nothing better than to close your eyes and imagine some faraway place with some ravishing hunk to whisk you off on a night of passion.

Writing really is the best job in the world because you get to go on television and radio shows advertising your latest book. You also have an excuse to be on sites like Facebook and say you're 'working.'

And finally writing really is the best job in the world because you get to sell your books on a global scale and receive the occasional piece of fan mail raving about your latest book and asking when your next one is due out.

So, what's your favourite reason why writing is the best job in the world?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Is Your Novel Veering Off Course?

I've nearly completed the first draft of my first fiction novel. Regular followers of my blog know that although this may be my first fictitious work, it is certainly by no means my first book.

Writing is a great hobby, but it takes a lot of time, devotion and good editing to produce a quality manuscript. When I first started writing my third book, I thought writing my previous two had taught me a lot of valuable information. And to an extent this was correct but there's a big difference between writing non fiction and fiction.

To write an outstanding fiction book that everyone wants to buy and read you must have an interesting plotline, great characters and structure with several smaller subplots.

The hardest part of writing that I've personally found is linking plotlines together to make an interesting read, without giving away too much too soon.

Now that I've nearly completed my book, I have thought of a easy trick to make sure my theme stays constant. It's very easy to lose track of what your book is supposed to be about when you've typed 40,000 words, and the word count is all you can think about. I talk to many writers who have started a book with one particular theme or message only to end it on a completely different tone. And I suppose that's the danger when you have 70,000 words or more to write. Keeping your message constant can sometimes be a very hard thing to do.

So before you start a writing session make sure you re-read the previous couple of pages. Try to sum up your book's message in one sentence. And keep on doing that even when you're sure your theme is strong, as you don't want to end up with your novel's message being a complete mystery.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Should there be a Time Limit when it comes to Writing a Book?

Yesterday I saw an interesting question posted in a writing group which I belong to. The person who posted it had a friend who worries that nine months is too long to spend writing a book, and that they're already a failure because it's taken that long to write it.

My initial reaction was to smile. After all, when I first started writing, it took me a whole year to get the book finished and my second book took roughly the same amount of time too. But I smiled because I could almost feel the writer's anxiety and that's exactly how I felt when I first started the writing journey.

Writing a novel seems an insurmountable task. It can take anything from a few weeks, a few months, or even years. In fact, one of my writer friends took a whole decade to write his first book. But now that book is finished and since then he's written several more.

In a world where everything is instant, anxiety can flare up when you want to write a book. No matter which universe you exist in producing a book can never be instant, and this is only a good thing.

But sometimes having some sort of deadline can be positive. It's no good if you think you can write a book in a year if you don't actually decide when that year is going to be.

So, how can you break down this task of writing a book into a more manageable accomplishment?
Well, that's easy. It's just like eating an elephant.

When I start out on a new project, I always like to brainstorm new ideas. This usually happens when I snatch a few minutes in between life's daily tasks. Then I take my ideas and write a brief outline. And I'll keep doing this until I feel I have enough ideas to start a chapter. A chapter usually takes about a week to write. I repeat this process over several months until I have completed the first draft of my manuscript.

But in between all this I always make sure I have enough time to reflect. Because reflection is one of the most important tools writers can have. Even when you're not actually writing your mind will still be processing the storyline. And this is usually the time when new ideas come to you, or you might want to alter the plotline slightly so it fits in with your new ideas. It's amazing how much 'writing' you do in your mind when you're not actually writing!

So think of your writing as being a nice big cake. It takes time to get the ingredients together, to make it and to cook. And none of those processes can be rushed.

Tell me how long it takes you to write a book. Can you write faster as the years go by or does producing a book always take a certain amount of time?

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Character Development: How To Make Your Characters Real.

The other week I read a review for a book by an indie author which really got me thinking about this topic. I'm not going to reveal the identity of the writer because the review wasn't complimentary, but what the reader said happens to be a ubiquitous problem throughout the writing world. And this issue is character development ... or lack of it.

This problem is ubiquitous because characters are the life and soul of the party. They are the skeleton that holds the book together. And without them there will be no story to tell in the first place.

Some writers will argue that the essence of a good story is a cracking plotline. That may be true but only to an extent. What makes a cracking plotline are well defined characters with personalities that clash. It's no good if you have characters in your book who are bland with no obvious distinctions that separates them from everyone else. This might happen in real life with friendships - people have to have some common ground for them to get on. But if it happens in a book then it isn't always a good thing.

The review of this particular book complained of just that. They said that every character was the same sort of person. They ate and drank the same things, spoke with the same words and did the same actions. The only thing that separated them from each other was their name and gender.

To receive a review like that will send chills down any writer's spine. When you're writing you want your characters to come to life and be real people. You don't want to create some flat and boring character that everyone will remember for all the wrong reasons.

Now character development is so much more than the issues mentioned above. True development of any character is all about questions. Why do they do this, why do they do that? And this is so much easier to say than to actually do, believe me.

So this is why I am giving you access to a fabulous book by a fabulous editor (and writer!). My very own editor, Scott Morgan.

You can find him and the book at this link: and let him explain Character Development: From the Inside Out.

And if you struggle with your characters this is the perfect place to get guidance.

I hope you visit his website and find his advice helpful.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

How To Keep Your Readers Hooked.

Last week I blogged about writing the first chapter and how that was the hardest job of all. I had many fellow writers agree with me and I also had those who did not.

Those writers pointed out that writing the rest of the book can be harder, and from that point I do agree with them.

Here's what I mean ...

When you write the first chapter you are making a promise to your reader. You're saying to them that your book will keep them entertained, enthralled and on the edge of their seat. You're setting a style and tone to your writing that you must keep up during the rest of the book. And sometimes that can be a very tricky thing to do.

All successful stories must have an element of suspense. No matter what the style of writing is like, whether you write in first or third person, you must write with suspense as your goal to keep your readers turning those pages.

I've read a couple of books lately that I've been disappointed with. I've been drawn to their plotlines because the blurb sounded interesting but when I've read the book, I've been waiting for a turn or a twist or for something to actually happen. But nothing does. All I get is a very flat story and then I question why I've bothered to waste my time reading it.

If I had bought the book I would have been very disappointed indeed but because I've just got them out of the library it's not been too bad.

But those books illustrate my point perfectly. A plotline just isn't enough. You have to make it interesting. And how do you do such a thing?

You have to add a huge dollop of conflict and suspense. Make your characters have the worst possible lives because a happy, smooth life is lethal in fiction. And keep your reader guessing what happens next. Too many storylines are predictable and predictable equals boring. If your reader already knows what's going to happen at the end then why should they bother to keep on reading?

Tell me how do you make sure your reader is hooked on your book?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Writing The First Chapter: The Hardest Job Of All.

Last week I blogged about having enthusiasm when starting a new book, and how I have so many ideas racing around my head which I can't wait to write down on paper. This week I'm blogging about writing the first page or the first chapter of that book, and why that's the most difficult task of all.

As I said last week writers often have a copious amount of ideas when starting out on a new book, but those ideas can sometimes become jumbled. Writing the first page is an extremely daunting task in one sense because you're shaping the route your work will go down. And when you think you've only got another 89,000 words to write it can be an extremely frightening feeling indeed.

But I always look at it like this. No matter what you write or type on that fresh piece of paper, your opening scene will rarely stay the same once you have finished the book, as it's sometimes an impossible task to know how your story will end. Normally you have an idea, a goal you want to achieve in your last chapter, but more often then not your ideas will change throughout the book.

Some writers will cut a lot out from their opening chapter and put that work in other parts of the book. Some writers have a bad habit of information overload - revealing too much too soon. But if you save all of your work more often than not you can use it again in other parts of your book.

No matter if you have to re-write your first chapter ten times to make it fit in with the rest of your book, here are some points to consider when writing your first chapter.

  • You must introduce your protagonist and give a little information about them. Sounds obvious, right? But you'd be surprised how many books I have read that give the first three pages describing weather conditions.
  • Show the character's needs and what they want to accomplish. If the reader knows this then they have a better chance of caring what happens to your main character.
  • Make your protagonist believable, as in make them a character who could be a real person. unless you're writing sci-fi, of course. Even then you have to give them something which readers will be able to identify with.
  • Let the reader know which country they're in along with the time period. Readers will be able to engage so much better with the story once this has been achieved.
  • And finally introduce the antagonist - the character who will make your protagonist's life difficult.
So, how do you deal with your first chapters?

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Why Slow And Steady Wins The Book Writing Race

I love that feeling I have when I'm about to write a new book. There are so many ideas racing around my head I cannot wait to get them all down on paper. And until I start jotting down my thoughts, I can't think of anything else.

So many novice writers feel like that too. Although a daunting task that requires a 100% commitment, often on a daily basis, writing a book is one of lifetime's greatest achievements. And that is why so many people will start out on this epic journey with so much positivity and enthusiasm.

But like so many other things in life that enthusiasm will fade. There will be many long days and nights where this task will seem insurmountable. Many, if not all writers will question their sanity, and think themselves crazy for putting in so many hours where no positive outcomes are guaranteed.

But that's the joy of writing ;)

So, how do you keep the level of enthusiasm to ensure you actually finish your book?

That's a simple question to answer really as long as you've written at least one book.


Let me explain.

To maintain that level of enthusiasm you need to finish your book you need to make sure you have a life outside of writing. It's a bit like saying that although it's wonderful to have all the time in the world to write a book, in practise it doesn't quite work like this. At least for me it doesn't.

To complete tasks I have to feel a level of urgency. I have to have this mind-set of: I need to write now because I'm going to be out later. I need to work now because I'll be having fun later. Although writing is fun for me, don't get me wrong. But I need something else to focus on as well as my writing. It's all about getting the balance right.

Now, remember how I said that this is a simple question to answer as long as you've written at least one book? Let me explain what I mean by that too. It's taken me two books to realise I need to have a life outside of writing.

I spent ALL my time writing the last two books. And nothing kills your enthusiasm like that does. My writing became very boring for me very quickly. And that's not good.

But please remember this as well. Once you have succeeded in writing your first draft remember it's only your first draft. There will be plenty of errors and mistakes that you'll need to correct before you can even think about sending it off for a professional copyedit. Many writers are far too critical of their work before they realise they've still got time to improve it.

It's said that in order to become a good writer you need to write for 10,000 hours, or approximately three years. That's a long time and that time will provide a decent opportunity for doubts about your writing to creep into your mind. But don't let them put you off. If you truly want to be a writer then you will find some way to write.

I've been writing seriously for around three and half a years now and I'm still at it. So long as you write regularly you will find ideas come to you naturally. I've got an idea for my fourth book even though I'm still writing my third. I am proud that I've got part way through this epic journey and I have never once looked back. I encourage others to do the same.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Going Round In A Loop: Why Repetition Can Sometimes Be A Good Thing.

I am reading a brilliant book at the moment by Chrissie Manby. And it's made me think how well the author uses repetition.

Repetition can sometimes be a good thing. The author doesn't repeat certain words or sentence structure but uses repetition to her advantage.

I first noticed the use of repetition when the author mentions the weather. If it is raining you get the sense something bad is about to happen to the protagonist. If it is sunny then the protagonist has a bright moment. Repeating certain elements within a story often make it a satisfying read.

Another thing I notice is how many books start off the opening chapter and the final chapter with a similar location or setting. It's as if the reader has gone round in a full circle following the protagonist's personal growth. If the author ties up all the subplots together then this also makes the reader feel like they've gone around in a complete circle.

So what do you think? Is repetition a good thing? Have you used it in your own writing?

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Reasons Why Indie Authors Should Celebrate.

Last week I posed the question of whether it's better to be an indie author rather than a traditionally published one. This week I am stating why indie authors should celebrate their place in the writing world.

As their title suggests indie authors have the ultimate freedom and flexibility over their career. They can choose the genre they wish to write in. Some authors write in several different genres under different names. They can decide the length of their books, they have control over the book's cover design and they can choose the price of their books. As pricing goes indie authors can alter it from various different prices, enabling them to do promotions by giving copies away for free over a certain amount of time. They choose the retailers that they wish to place their books with, ensuring their work has maximum exposure.

Being an indie author allows you to instantly upload your work. If a writer chooses to go down the traditional route, they have to wait months if not years to receive a response from agents. But if they had chosen the indie route their book could have sold thousands of copies within that time frame.

Going independent also cuts out the middle man. Indies can make much more in royalties than a traditionally published author. Just because this author has an agent and publishing house behind them does not guarantee a higher income. These types of authors may make more in terms of their advancement but both agent and publisher take a sum of their royalties.

The publishing world has changed a vast amount in the last few years and I am so glad writers now have the option of going indie. It's virtually impossible for new writers to go down the traditional path of publishing because no one is willing to take a chance on an unknown author. And if a writer is lucky enough to be published that way their publishing house might only distribute the author's books within the same country. As the author of two ebooks I have been lucky enough to sell copies world wide through the use of the internet.

And as for being an indie author myself, I wouldn't have it any other way.

What do you think? Are you an indie author? Has it brought you much success?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Is It Better To Be An Indie?

I had a sudden epiphany last week. It came to me while I was browsing books by my favourite chick lit authors in my local library. I envied the success of these particular writers and wished I could have their good luck sometime in the future.

I then went home to look up their books on Amazon and Goodreads to see their reviews. And what I found shocked me.

These books weren't so successful as I thought they would be. Some only had 3/5 stars, and their ranking was also much lower than I had expected. I must have browsed over 50 to a 100 books in the space of an hour, thinking that just because the author had an agent and a traditional publisher behind them, they would be so much more successful than the average indie.

Now these writers have produced a lot of books over their career. One particular author has over fifty books on her author page, but her reviews do not reflect that achievement.

Quite a few said more or less the same thing - stating that she should not focus on how many books she can produce in one year, but she should spend more time on the ones she has written and focus on how to craft them better.

And do you know what ...? I agree.

This author is ridiculously successful but her writing has become so poor over the last few years. Her characters are flat and annoying, and her plotlines are ridiculous and far fetched. She has written a very popular series, and I think because of its success, she has decided to stick with all her old character types.

But then I wondered how much influence her publisher has over her work. She's probably under strict instructions to write more in less time and therefore produces a mediocre piece of work. She probably has an idea of what plotlines to write about and what her agent considers successful.

But my main point is: have the people in question lost touch with their readers reality?

The result is that the industry publishes a lot of books that in my mind would really struggle to sell if the author was unknown. And it's only because of their previous success that they manage to continue to write.

As an indie author myself I haven't got this added luxury. At the moment I am only writing my third book. Therefore my main goal is to produce the absolute best piece of work I can possibly write and to have it professionally edited. And to hope it sells.

But I did also realise another point when browsing these particular books. I have had the same sort of ranking in recent months. Sometimes my ranking has been even higher than theirs. So, as long as I keep writing I see a good chance of success.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Does Writer's Block Really Exist?

If you're a writer you will find many articles on this subject. And when you start your career you may struggle more with this problem than when you're an established writer.

During my four years as a writer, I haven't really struggled with this concept at all. There have been times where I've struggled to write when I have been stressed, rundown and tired, but this usually rights itself once I've had a rest.

So, how can you make sure you don't run into this problem yourself? I think many writers start out with an idea and are so enthusiastic about it that they start to write until they can't think anymore. They thought their idea was going somewhere until they stopped writing and now they have simply run out of ideas of what to write next. If this sounds familiar then I suggest you stop for a while and do something else, and then come back and brainstorm a few ideas to see if they can generate any further ideas.

While some writers can just go with the flow and have endless ideas coming to them, I think it's best to always have a loose idea of where you want your story to go. That way if you ever do have writer's block you'll always know where you eventually want to end up.

Another good way to overcome writer's block is to read other books. I know when I read I always seem to think up new ideas. But sometimes you just need to approach your story from another angle.
Maybe I haven't really suffered from this because I always write from an outline. Sometimes my outline is loose but sometimes it's compact.

So what do you think of writer's block? Have you ever experienced it? What are your solutions to it?

If you have another stressful situation to deal with in life I do not believe it's writer's block that prevents you from writing. I've just had a comment from a lady that has made me realise I should have made this point clear from the start. But if you struggle to write when nothing else is wrong then maybe you should try and rectify the problem.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Are You A Lazy Writer?

Last week I blogged about the traits of a great writer and this week my post is about lazy writing.

Lazy writing isn't always obvious, and can be hard to spot when you're in the throes of a manuscript, but the good news is most often it's easy to put right.

I have several favourite writers in my favourite genre of chick lit, but I have read several books by these authors which have been below par. I am left wondering why the books are mediocre when these writers are capable of so much more. Sometimes I think that maybe these writers are past their best and have now written too many books. Their newer work is often a rehash of their earlier work, and more often than not, I end up putting the book down.

So, how can you avoid lazy writing?

When I read a book repeated words and phrases leap out at me like a hologram. I once counted the same word seven times on the same page. And this book was penned by a best selling author who has made films out of their books. Word repetition is tedious and sends me straight to sleep. It smacks of lack of imagination; it's as though the writer can't be bothered thinking up different words. Writing shouldn't be like that. Writing should be fun and not a chore, and if the writer can't be bothered about thinking up new words, why should the reader be bothered to finish the book?

So when you've finished your manuscript get a red pen and make note of the words you love to repeat.

Also, I think writers need to be aware of giving their characters certain traits and then using the same trait throughout the story. Does your protagonist always snort while laughing or always scratch their head when confused? If they do, mix it up a little and make it fun for both you and your reader.

Do you always start each chapter describing the same weather conditions? Maybe your characters have the same place in certain scenes. Are they constantly stood by the kitchen window, or do they move around the room?

It's easy to get lost in the moment when you're writing. I do it all the time. But it's crucial to be aware of these things so you have a chance to fix them before you bore your readers to death.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Traits Of A Great Writer

It is said that writing is not a destination, it's a journey. A journey that takes a lifetime to perfect. Writing is a craft, an art that gets better the more practice you have.

Most people can write to a certain degree, depending on how much effort they're prepared to put in. But just one factor separates the mediocre writer from the great writer and that factor is how much they are willing to learn.

Writing is an art and I am not arguing with that. Many people say art is subjective and therefore it depends a lot on personal taste. And that is true ... to an extent.

But there are also people who use that as an excuse not to continue perfecting their craft. They have the mindset of: I think my writing is totally wonderful and therefore I am right. If other people don't like it that is their hard luck and I won't be willing to listen to their criticism.

And while a thick skin is crucial in this business, there's a major difference between being able to pick yourself up again after a blow, and arrogance beyond belief.

So, what are the traits of a great writer?

I believe that the great writer has an insatiable hunger for knowledge. They'll stop at nothing in order to better themselves. They'll listen to every piece of advice and criticism and digest the lot before considering their next move. They will read all the best writers to see what worked for them. They will read mediocre writers to avoid their mistakes. And they will pay attention to their editor and worship them like a god.

I believe you can be a great writer without a formal education in the relevant subjects. Having an English degree will not guarantee a place on the best seller list. Whether you have been to university or not, if you truly want to write for a living you must realise that the learning doesn't stop on your graduation day.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Does Location Affect Your Writing?

As writers we're always told that location matters in a scene. We can't expect to write a book without giving the reader some indication of where the story takes place.

But what about our own location? Do we need to feel content with our surroundings before we write our next masterpiece?

I'm lucky enough to live by the coast where the air is always fresh. Oxygen is vital for the creative brain so I needn't worry about getting enough of that. But I'm also conscious of the major town I live next to and its statistics prove it's one of the roughest places to live in the UK. Because of this I rarely frequent the area unless I absolutely have to; not only because of the high crime rate but because it leaves me feeling so utterly depressed. The last time I visited the town (sometime in the last two years) I joked that I wouldn't return, not even if someone paid me!

Writers all have their personal routines and favourite spots to write. And what works well for some writers may not work for others. I know when I put pen to paper my surroundings have to be quiet with as few distractions as possible. But I know other writers thrive with background noise and people around them. The perfect location for them to write might be in a coffee shop or library.

I was lucky enough to visit New York last month. I could definitely see how this vibrant city attracts writers and all sorts of other artists to live there because of its fast and upbeat pace. Out of the many places I've visited in the entire world, New York definitely buzzed the most. The energy of the area was constant; it did not falter once. And although it's a major city, my creative mind was still fresh. I felt more awake and alert than I have done in a long time.

But when I returned my energy levels sapped back down to their usual level and it was then I gave this blog subject some serious thought. Writers are like sponges: we soak up our environment more than most folk. And surely it's not so crazy to think this might affect our writing.

So what do you think? Does your location affect your writing?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Should Amazon Allow ebooks To Be Returned?

This subject usually generates a lot of discussion among the indie author community and the debate can sometimes be heated. Refunded ebooks are not something I think about as I focus on writing more material. But when I do get a book returned I often wonder the reason behind it.

For every hundred books I sell I usually get one return. When my book was at a cheaper price this figure was higher, suggesting my books were often bought on impulse. The number of negative reviews I received was also higher, again suggesting impulse purchasers with customers failing to read the sample chapter.

The last two words of the previous sentence holds the vital clue to why this debate continues to rage. Authors argue the sample chapter is crucial when deciding whether to buy a book. After all, if you were in a physical bookstore you'd be daft just to buy a book blindly without flicking through a few pages first. And although you cannot physically do that while online you can read the sample that's on offer.

So why can customers request a refund from Amazon if they do not like the book?  Smashwords does not operate this policy because they state this is the reason for the sample chapter. People can read a book in a day but Amazon will accept refunds for the following seven days, giving its readers ample opportunity to read the book and then return it.

But people argue they accidentally purchase books all the time. I think that if an honest, genuine mistake was made then a refund should be allowed, providing the return happens in the same day. But I think a week is far too long for refunds to be accepted. What kind of message does that send out?

If people were allowed to ask for a refund every time they watched a film at their local cinema which they didn't like, the film industry would be in dire straights. I can't actually remember the last time I paid to see a film that I actually enjoyed. That's why I no longer go to the cinema these days, especially as the prices are not cheap. Again, this is another argument against refunded ebooks. Most ebooks are so cheap it's almost petty to go to the trouble of receiving a refund. Sometimes free ebooks are refunded which I think is mind boggling.

But from another angle I suppose I'd rather a refund than a negative review. As far as I'm aware refunds do not affect your book's ranking like reviews do. If customers weren't allowed a refund they might be more inspired to write a scathing review instead. And refunds are more of a private issue too. Nobody views the refunded figures except the author, whereas a bad review is on show for the whole world to see.

So, what's your perspective on refunded ebooks?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Writers: 5 Reasons Why Readers Are The Most Important People In The World.

As writers we all cherish our readers. But sometimes we actually forget their importance as we place things like marketing and networking ahead of them. Of course, these two points are crucial to any successful author but other than writing books for readers to buy in the first place, our pivotal aim should be to have as many happy readers as possible.

E.L. James is one of many writers who can testify this statement. Without positive word of mouth from her readers, her books may not have seen light of day. To writers, readers are the people who make the world go around.

Here are five points to keep in mind when you're writing a book and want to please the reader.

  1. Create real and interesting characters. Your characters don't have to be good all the time and it's crucial to have a villan - everyone likes a baddie - but they do have to have an element of realness about them. Readers want someone who they can imagine meeting in the street or walking past in the supermarket. They don't neccesarily have to identify with their situation but they do have to care what is about to happen to them next.
  2. Have a story that makes sense. Your characters may be the best in the world but if your overall story is more confusing than a maze, readers are unlikely to use all their energy trying to make sense of it. I know I certainly get bored when the plotline is too difficult and vague to follow.
  3. Too little action. Every book has to have an element of action and suspense to it, even if it's chick lit or fantasy. Don't be fooled into thinking that just because you're not writing thrillers, action or adventure, you can leave this vital point out.
  4. Keep the book as focused as you can make it. Readers want to find out what's going on as quickly as they can. If you bore them with la-de-da language and too much flowery description instead of tackling your themes and plotlines, and making the characters have one disaster after another, readers are going to wonder why they picked up the book in the first place.
  5. Have your masterpiece edited by a professional. No writer can skip this crucial part. Being self published doesn't make you immune from errors. If anything you're more likely to need the guidance of an editor.
Last week I received a brilliant and outstanding review for my second book, so I must be doing something right. You can read the review here:  and see why I was over the moon.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Does Having A Second Job Make You More Focused To Write?

I have just returned from an amazing holiday in New York. I spent a whole blissful week there and I could not have enjoyed myself more. Okay, maybe the weather could have been a little warmer. The temperatures were at or below freezing most days and it snowed a couple of times but that did not stop me from making the most of my time in the city I have wanted to visit for years.

During my stay I was far too busy to write. However, I did take my pad and pens just in case inspiration struck. But the more I got into my holiday the more I thought I deserved my well earned rest. Usually I work seven days a week doing one of my jobs. I now have three and that includes my writing. And I have found that having these two other jobs makes me more focused to write.

I have always loved writing and view that as my top priority. Everything else in my life just comes second best. I work my other two jobs as a way of making money to supplement my writing career - a way to pay for an editor while making sure I still have money to feed myself and my beloved dogs. Until I earn enough money from the sales of my books I know I have to carry on doing this. But even if I didn't have to work, I would still want to do something else as well as write. I have found that writing alone just isn't enough to satisfy my needs. I end up writing all the time and then eventually run out of things to say. If I just had writing in my life I wouldn't have a proper balance.

While on holiday I noticed the Americans are far more work orientated than the English. They would think nothing of having several jobs and still find the time to write. I admire this mindset very much as I've always been a workaholic myself. The Americans work far longer hours than we do in England and have less holiday time as well. If we think we have it tough in this country, the Americans have it far worse.

But the Americans are also well known for being efficient and organised. They are great communicators and have a constant drive for improving services. They also seem to be constantly pushing their businesses to find out how they can make more money while also benefiting everyone else.

So I'll leave you with this interesting thought: Does having a second job make you more focused to write? I know I have plenty of American followers so I'll be keen to hear their thoughts. Do you think your nation is made up of workaholics and does this make you more focused on your writing career?

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Does Marketing Work With Just One Product?

Most writers are baffled with the concept of marketing. They want to do what they are naturally good at and that is write. But sensible authors realise they have to do battle with this extraordinary subject once in a while to actually sell some books. They blog, tweet, promote on Facebook and participate with LinkedIn discussions. And if they really have time and patience they will try to navigate their way round the complex maze of Goodreads.

Some new and naive writers think all they have to do is write just one book and they will become an instant bestseller. Although that might be true in some very rare cases, it is still the exception and most writers will slog away for years without any recognition. Because of this, writing is tough and it's not a business for the faint hearted or the commitment phobic. Besides, some authors appear to write their first best selling book and readers naturally haven't heard of them before. It's only after a certain amount of time that the writer will reveal they've been writing for the past ten years but no one has bought their other books. And it's this common way of thinking that tricks people into believing they'll only have to write one book to be famous.

A lot of writers will argue that before you try and publish or promote anything you have to have a decent backlist of books to release over a short period of time. They say this will ensure that readers will not forget you, and if they enjoy the first book they are naturally going to want to buy more from the same author.

But what if you're not one of these authors? A lot of writers just start out with one book to publish and promote. I suspect that writers with a large backlist were trying to get published the traditional way. And while they were waiting for agents and publishing houses to take them on they wrote more books. Then they decided to self publish these books and away they went.

Joe Konrath recently blogged about a similar topic. He said readers most often bought what was right in front of them whether it was their initial choice or not. If readers only have have a small selection of books to choose from, if they are determined to buy something they will pick one of these books. A year ago he also said that some types of marketing don't appear to work. And a lot of writers will agree that when they appear on a radio or television show to promote their books, sales are largely unaffected.

I'm not saying that marketing doesn't work. I'm saying that a large percentage of what we do as writers doesn't work. Of course some aspects of marketing will work but the major problem for anyone with a product to sell is knowing just what they have to do to generate sales when most marketing strategies just prove fruitless.

But another thing most writers seem to agree on is this and this may be the best marketing advice to date. The more books you write the more you will sell. This is just one basic law of Maths. The more books you write the more you will hone and polish your craft. The more books you write the better they will be. Dean Wesley Smith is a huge fan of this formula.

So keep writing. Do as much writing as you can and only then promote your work. Spend time promoting your books when you're busy collecting ideas for the next one. That is what I plan to do. I want to finish my fourth book (I'm currently writing my third). And then I will stop and have a rest and spend time marketing my current books.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Were You Born To Write?

Two weeks ago I blogged about mental illness and creativity with the possibility the two were linked. To date that has been my most successful blog post and I was overwhelmed by the discussion it generated.

Now this post could be seen as similar as I am asking the question: Were you born to write?

A lot of writers I network with state this to be the case. The majority were writing fictional stories as soon as they could pick up a pen. And I admit I was one of them. Creative writing was always my favourite lesson and more often than not my teachers would end up reading my work to the rest of the class. The stories just seemed to effortlessly appear in my mind. I wouldn't even think about a topic  before the ideas came to me.

I suppose story telling and quick wit can be linked together as well. I know my mother is always complaining about the lack of her imagination. And she says she always tries to be quick witted like my father used to be but she fails miserably. Again, this is not a problem for me. Just like stories appear effortlessly in my mind so does the instant humour one needs to be quick witted. I obviously take after my dad.

This blog could also be linked with the topic: Can writing be taught? I blogged about that subject a year ago and that generated a lot of discussion too. Artists who can draw and paint seem to have a natural knack at it. Quite often they come from a family with similar traits. Writing is unlike that. Anyone can tell a story but whether the story is of decent quality is another matter altogether.

None of my immediate family are creative. I suppose my dad thought outside the box on regular occasions but he wasn't an artist of any description. I have some distant relatives who can paint and write poetry but I can't do either of those things.

Tell me what you think. Can creative writing be successful if you aren't compelled to tell stories?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I would like to thank Elisabeth Zguta for nominating my blog. You can view her website here:

I do try to keep my blog varied and my posts have generated a lot of discussions over the past two years. So I am honoured my blog has been nominated.

Now I've got to tell you seven things about myself and also nominate other bloggers/authors to do the same. All they need to do is to link back to me, choose their nominees and answer 7 things about themselves and post links to their nominees.

So the seven things about me are:
  1. I may only be 27 but I have seen most of the world and some countries that some people would never even dream of. I started my travels in Ireland before backpacking Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Mongolia, America and Canada. I have also travelled extensively through Europe to places like Austria, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and Poland.
  2. I own two dogs as the result of being a huge dog lover. I have a Border Collie and a Pomeranian I adopted from a friend.
  3. My favourite music artists are Chris Martin, Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury as I love rock and indie music
  4. I have always written but have previously worked in a psychiatric setting which proved to be very colourful indeed.
  5. My favourite authors are Chris Manby and Sophie Kinsella.
  6. I love Indian and Nepalese food. My favourite cocktail is the Cosmopolitan.
  7. My favourite genre of film is comedy.
Now comes the list of bloggers who I nominate:

Anne R. Allen:

Ollin Morales:

Joanna Penn:

K.M. Weiland:

Joe Bunting:

Tony James Slater:

Dana Sitar:

Do We Need To Be Crazy To Be Creative?

This question has fascinated me for years. I am interested in psychiatric issues as I have worked in an acute mental health unit for three years, and I have always been creative so there have been more than a few occasions where I have wondered whether the two subjects can cross over. And of course there have been many case studies to prove this is true.

Some people picture the creative person as slightly eccentric. They may be dressed as a hippy and wear outrageous accessories. The music artist Jamiroquai is a fine example of someone who takes a piece of clothing to make him unique. No one can wear all those crazy hats and look as cool as he does.

But he's an example of someone eccentric who does not suffer mental health issues. He's part of the argument that goes against this particular question. He's an artist who has managed to lead a successful and fulfilling life.

Artists like Amy Winehouse prove that success and fame do not always provide guaranteed happiness. They still battle their demons and the results are sometimes tragic. How many people like this can you think of?

Many writers also battle depression, proving you don't always have to write song lyrics to fall into this category. Writers like Marian Keyes openly speak about their troubles, discussing in detail how they feel on a day to day basis. Mental illness can sometimes be the result of negative thinking patterns, and every writer knows that in order to produce books you have to do an awful lot of thinking. It just depends on whether you think mostly negative thoughts or positive ones.

I don't consider myself as someone who suffers from mental health issues as I have seen some severely ill people over my lifetime. However, I do recognise that I sometimes worry to excess and I put this down to my over active imagination. My brain seems to be lacking the switch which turns off thoughts before they snowball. And once I have a particular thought that troubles me I find getting rid of it very hard indeed.

So, what do you think? Do you have to be crazy in order to be creative? Do you suffer from the issues I have raised?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Does The Weather Affect Your Writing?

If you're a British citizen like myself you'll know the problems the country has when faced with bad weather. In fact, I think it's likely we're the laughing-stock of the whole Northern hemisphere when it comes to dealing with snow. It doesn't take much to ground the entire country to a holt. But over the pond our American and Canadian friends bumble around quite easily - or so it seems to us - in ten foot of the stuff.

It's snowing again today, and while looking out of the window in my nice comfortable lounge, it gave me the inspiration to write this blog post.

In weather like this I like nothing better than to count my blessings that I don't have to go outside. I make myself a mug of Cadbury's hot chocolate, settle down under my blanket and curl up to write.
I suppose the majority of people hate going out when it's snowing or raining, or even blowing a gale, but does the weather really control our activities that much?

Some people suffer from the SAD sydrome - or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is quite common for people to be depressed during the winter months and want nothing more than to hibernate away. And when the summer arrives they're the happiest people on earth.

But it seems to work the opposite for me. I seem to be happiest in the winter months. I love to spend the dark afternoons writing, tucked up under blankets with the fire on. And when the summer comes I'm often too hot to even think, let alone write. There seems to be more going on during the summer months so that distracts me away from my writing.

So, how much does the weather affect your writing? Do you write less or more during the winter months? Or do you write the same amount each day no matter what the weather is doing?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

How To Become A More Efficient Writer

Most writers do not have the luxury of unlimited time to write their next novel as life in general gets in the way. Instead they have to battle with their kids, their other job and their spouse on a daily basis to get some time to write. And when you're a tired writer creativity does not come easily. At the end of the day when everything else is done you seem to have the time to write but your creative power is zero.

So, what's a writer to do?

  • Change the time you write. If you're a morning person just getting up half an hour earlier could be the key to writing more. Think of all the words you could get down in thirty minutes. Alternatively, if you're anything like me, you could designate certain tasks for each day of the week. This could mean that Monday's task is writing, Tuesday's task is blogging, Wednesday's task is typing up written notes and Thursday's task is researching. Just because you're a writer doesn't mean you have to write every single day. If you're that pressed for time assigning one particular task for each day could be a very effective thing to do. Don't feel like you have to do everything everyday. After all, you're a writer - not Superman.
  • Don't waste your time editing while writing. It's surprising how much this can slow you down. Set the clock for a cetain amount of time and just write. You can edit afterwards. Remember it's impossible to edit words that aren't there. Don't be a perfectionist at this early stage.
  • Do all your prep work at once. If your writing a crime book and you're dealing with a tricky murder scene, do all the forensic research for it at once. There's nothing more distracting than constantly clicking on the Internet while you're trying to write. If you find your need to do the research abandon your writing to focus on that. Alternatively, move on to writing the next scene.
  • Find your space to write. I like to work in different places depending on my mood in general. Sometimes it's a coffee shop and other times it's in my bedroom. It doesn't matter if you write best with music in the background or have complete silence. It's all about experimenting to find what suits you best.
  • Don't forget to have a life as well. Taking regular breaks is good for the soul but it's crucial to a writer. Writing is a solitary business so it's important to go out and visit the real world once in a while. I see my friends for coffee or take the dogs out. Just visiting a shop to buy something is helpful too. Don't forget you're so much more than just a writer.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Live Life In The Present Tense: Why Ambition Can Be Negative

As a writer I am a naturally driven and ambitious person. I constantly seek out each day ways in which I can improve myself, my life and my craft. I have lists of goals as long as my arms and I often find myself thinking if only I could achieve more than my life would be better.

But I have read several blog posts over the past month that stress having this particular thought pattern isn't always good for us.

People can waste hours each day thinking about things that are sometimes unachievable. How many times how you thought that by winning the lottery your life would be so much better? Of course I am sure it would be in many ways but realistically - how are you going to achieve something like that?

Having goals and ambitions is great so long as you keep a sense of realism and perspective about them. If you lack the last two things your goals and ambitions are likely to become something negative. If you always think about the future and what your life would be like if you had the things you wanted, you are actually missing out on life's present tense and what you have to do now in order to achieve these goals.

I once had a friend who was exactly like this. He was always thinking that his life would be better if it was easier to find jobs that the current recession has stolen. He was unemployed but instead of actively seeking out ways to resolve this he would blame anyone he possibly could for his current issues. In the end I concluded the man was a lost cause because he failed to see that the only person who could do something about his life was himself. No matter how hard you tried to help him there was always an excuse for why he hadn't followed anything up.

So, whatever your ambitions are in life make sure you're doing everything you possibly can in life's present tense to achieve them.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

How Reality Differs So Much From Fantasy

As a writer I have written two non fiction books and now I am over 14,000 words into my third book.
But although I have written before, I find writing my third book to be very different indeed and that's because my current WIP is fiction.

When writing my travel memoir books I recalled vivid memories to help me tell the stories. And although I had copious amounts of diary notes to help me with bits I couldn't remember, I still wrote my best material from memory.

But now writing is not the same as it was before. Now I have absolutely no memories to recall and I find that if I want to write I have to make entire scenes up which is more than an obvious thing to do when writing fiction. But I find writing takes me so much longer these days as half the time is spent thinking up the next scene. Even though I have written a detailed chapter outline I still find my writing takes on a life of it's own.

And that is where my inspiration came from when I thought about writing my current blog post.

Don't you find that fantasy is so much different to reality? You have enthusiasm for your new job only to find out your job role isn't what was advertised. You start a new relationship that's full of hope and promise only to find that somewhere down the line your beloved isn't the person you thought they were. You buy a house that looks stunning from the outside only to find it crumbling on the inside.

But sometimes the cruel reality works in your favour. Your rose tinted glasses have been yanked away from you but then you're forced to look at life in a different light. How can you get out of the job that was falsely advertised, how can you end the relationship your heart is no longer in? How can you fix your house?

As you're forced to view things differently you're forced to come up with different ideas.

Sometimes life has a funny way of making you appreciate the things you already have by showing you your perceived fantasy is actually worse than reality.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Does Keeping A Journal Make You A Better Writer?

I've always kept a journal, or a diary, as I prefer to call it. Especially when I was growing up I couldn't wait to transfer my emotions onto the four lined section I had for that day. Telling my diary just what fun, exciting times I had during my teenage years. Writing how much I loved my life on every single page. That's a complete lie by the way - growing up I hated pretty much everything about life.

But I always found that writing down my feelings helped me a great deal to process them and to put my emotions into some kind of logical order. I had a better insight to why I felt how I felt, instead of just trying to work out the thoughts in my head. 

It's no wonder I felt better because countless pieces of research have proven that writing down your problems does actually help you to solve them. Your brain can see the physical evidence through your writing that there's a difficulty which needs to be solved and it quickly goes about finding potential solutions to the problem.

I had a huge diary when I was travelling. I went out and bought a A4 one to keep a record of my experiences throughout the year. And I wrote in it every day, something which most of my fellow travellers could not understand.

But I am so glad I did because it was these diaries that gave me the inspiration to write my first two books. I wouldn't have had this inspiration if it wasn't for them.

So the pivotal question of this blog is does keeping a diary make you a better writer?

I believe it does, even if you're writing pure fiction books. You don't have to write memoirs for it to be helpful. Keeping a diary helps you process your thoughts, condensing them into succinct notes. It forces you to cut the bull and focus on the main points. And this tool is invaluable to all writers. When you're faced with writing out plotlines I believe if you're used to keeping a diary you'll find the process easier.

So, what about you? Do you keep a regular diary of day to day life? Do you find it helps when you're writing?