Friday, 27 February 2015

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday, everyone!

I am so unbelievably glad it's the weekend. This week has been tough - what with it being the first week back at school after half term, and having 101 things to try and get my head around in preparation for publishing Synthetica, I've just about managed to drag myself through to today.

But the fun doesn't stop here! This weekend, I'm planning on writing up my promo posts for Synthetica, as I'm planning on promoting my book properly from next week! Eek! I still can't believe it! I've outlined a lot of posts, so hopefully I just need to write them up properly now, and then schedule them in. I would apologise for promoting my book so much, but let's face it - as an indie author - if I don't do it, who will ;)? Also, as compensation for the amount of time that I'll be talking about Synthetica over the next month, keep your eyes peeled for a little giveaway I'm planning :)!

I'd also like to write a majority of my A-Z blogging challenge posts if I get the chance, so I don't have to worry about it closer to the time. If I don't start to do it now, I'll probably run out of time to do it altogether, and it would be a shame for me to give up on this challenge without really giving it a good go.

So that's my Friday night/whole weekend/all of next week/most of March sorted! I'm currently sitting here, eating pizza and outlining my Synthetica posts in more detail, before I write them up properly.

It's a glamorous life being a writer.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Monday, 23 February 2015


Forgive me for being slightly over-the-top, but I have some news to share with you all!

I say news - I actually set the whole thing up myself, but it's still exciting to me!

Look at this:

Yup, that's right, I've just entered my book on Goodreads :D!! AND listed myself as a Goodreads author!! Me! A proper author! Who would've thought?!

I was initially in two minds about whether to post my book up on Goodreads or not, but then I thought, y'know what? I have nothing to lose. If people don't search for it, or don't review it then that's okay, but at least it's there if someone wants to find it. 

Don't worry by the way - I know there's no cover there at the moment, but there will be hopefully by the start of next week when my designer sends the final cover over to me - eek!

I think I'm just freaking out, because as someone who's an introvert by nature, it's difficult for me to shout about my book. But no one is ever going to read it, if I don't at least try and get it out there. And I can't help smiling when I see that MY book is on Goodreads - it looks just like all the other 'proper' YA books on there :) (minus the cover, obviously)!

So, that's my news! Here's to the first small step of becoming a self-published author!

Happy Monday!

Hoot, hoot! Tweet, tweet!

So after much deliberation, I've finally signed up for HootSuite. I'm actually quite excited by this (simple things for simple minds...) - it kind of makes me feel a little more like a serious, grown-up blogger (although for those of you who have been here awhile, you know that's definitely not the case ;)...).

HootSuite is a program that allows you to link all your social media platforms, so you can post a link from your blog or a news article or whatever, to multiple platforms at the same time. It sounds complicated, but it's easier than it looks :). I was first introduced to it a few years ago when I worked in the marketing department at an academic publishing house - it was my job to look after all their social media, which included scheduling and posting tweets, and managing their website. I actually really enjoyed it!

Anyway, I realised that with the release of Synthetica coming up fast, and coinciding with the A-Z blog challenge - all of which will also be happening during the Easter holidays where I'll be at my parent's house for a majority of the time - I simply won't have the time to sit down and a) write my blog post every day and then b) advertise it on Twitter, as well as c) commenting on other people's blogs (which I love doing).

So I signed up for HootSuite. The plan is, I'll write a majority of my A-Z posts and Synthetica promo posts in advance, and then schedule them, both on my blog and on Twitter, by using HootSuite. If I was going to be at home for the Easter holidays, then I could probably just about manage to do it all myself, but the fact is, I'll be in Cumbria helping out on my parent's farm for most of the day (how's that for a glamourous release day?!) and I simply won't have the time. But as I'm serious about participating in the A-Z blogging challenge, and I want to promote my book as much as possible, I thought that this would be the best compromise. It means I'll have more work to do before April, but it'll definitely be worth it for peace of mind in the long run.

Also, I'm pleased to announce that I've FINALLY managed to figure out how on earth you even schedule posts in Blogger. I tried to do it a few months ago with an IWSG post, but it never posted. Then I realised that my blog wasn't on GMT time, it had been set to a different time zone. So I changed it, and I'm pleased to say that it worked! My quiet scenes post from yesterday morning was scheduled, and it seems to have posted with no problems! Yippee!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Quiet quiet is too quiet?

I received an email yesterday morning from a website that gives tips on how to write. I'd completely forgotten I'd signed up for this mailing list, but it was nice to have a little something to read that I wasn't expecting.

Anyway, the topic of this email was all about how to transform your quiet scenes into exciting scenes. Have you ever read a book where the characters all suddenly stop whatever it is they're doing and have a cup of tea? Or they all sit down and talk about their feelings? Or the author describes in loving detail how their MC makes Spaghetti Bolognese; from pulling out the long, thin strands of golden pasta and placing them lovingly into a pan of water that bubbles and boils, mirroring the inner turmoil of the MC's heart; to sprinkling that freshly shaved parmesan on top of the mound of rich, red mince and inhaling deeply, all their worries fading away as they breathe in the scent of a thousand Italian dinners past...

You get the picture.

There is nothing wrong with having a few well placed quiet scenes throughout your book. It gives the reader a chance to breathe, and reflect on what's happened and what's to come. The main issue with quiet scenes is that - as you can tell from my horrendous example above - sometimes scenes are a little too quiet. How many of you switched off while reading that above passage? I know I switched off, and I was the one writing it.

Quiet scenes don't have to mean that there's no action going on. There might be tensions underneath the surface between two characters, which should come across in their dialogue. Depending on your POV, one of your characters might know something another one doesn't - or maybe your MC knows something that no one else does - and you have to ask yourself: how does this change the scene? Will they be nervous or scared? Or angry? Or maybe your MC is completely oblivious to the tension, and keeps chattering happily, while everyone else is looking dagger at each other? Or maybe there could even be small, subtle hints throughout the conversation that hints at a bigger picture?

What about the setting? It's fine if you want to have a conversation taking place between two characters over dinner, or a mother and daughter having a heart to heart over a cup of tea - but don't forget what the point of this scene should be. It should be moving the story along. You only have a limited amount of time to keep your readers interested; every single one of your scenes should contain vital information for keeping your story flowing. It doesn't always have to be some huge revelation - it can be something small, but which may have bigger consequences later on. (But be warned, don't take this too far - quiet scenes aren't for info-dumping. An info-dump will more than likely lose a reader's attention just as quickly as my Spaghetti Bolognese story did).

Quiet scenes are great. I actually like it when I read a book and the author gives me a moment to think about what's happened so far and how the MC is feeling. Sometimes I think that, in YA books especially, authors feel as though everything has to happen at breakneck speed. All the action happens in quick succession BAM! BAM! BAM! and there's no time to explore how the characters are feeling (insta-love doesn't count. That's JUST AS BAD as not explaining anything at all! Ahem, sorry...), or what the consequences of their actions might be. This, to me, feels even more unrealistic that everyone suddenly sitting around a table and having a good ol' catch-up. I find it extremely difficult to get into books where the heroine or hero flits from danger to danger, without pausing for thought. I feel as though I never really get to know any of the characters, or what their motivations are.

All in all, quiet scenes don't have to mean boring scenes. They can be a fun way for getting subtle (or maybe not-so-subtle) information across to the reader. Just remember - you can have tension in the most normal of circumstances and it's up to you, the writer, to capture the reader's attention throughout.

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Weekend reading: the truth about writing...

I read an interesting article on The Guardian website today about the life of a writer, and the public perception of what a writer's life looks like.

This article, entitled 'You think writing's a dream job? It's more like a horror film' really made me think. In all honesty, at first I was quite annoyed at the author - Tim Lott seems to complain a lot about his life as a writer, even though to all extents and purposes, he's enjoyed what I would consider to be a very successful writing career to date. Winning awards? Generous advances from publishers? Sign me up on the dotted line!

But as I read through the article, I realised that what he was speaking was the truth.

Writing is lonely. There's no way around that. If you're not comfortable in your own company, then you probably won't get very far as a writer. As an author, you have to spend A LOT of time in your own head and it's not always pretty. You have to get used to spend every spare minute you have furiously scribbling away, obeying the whims and commands of the imaginary people inside your mind. If this was any other profession, you'd probably be sent straight to a psychiatrist to have a long chat. But we're writers - it's simply what we do. And if you want to write for a living, it's just something you have to get used to. You don't have to completely cut out everything in your life - but you do have to be prepared to make some sacrifices (watching TV/generally relaxing in the evenings is one for me) if you want to get serious about your writing.

Writing also takes a lot dedication and time. Unless you have that burning passion - that fire to write a story because if you don't you'll simply explode - you might as well give up right now. I'm not saying that in order to be a writer you have to churn out book after book in quick succession - time is irrelevant. Some of the greatest literary masterpieces took decades to write, but that's okay - the point is, they got written. The authors simply had to write their character's stories, no matter how long it took them. And I think this is one of the few industries (barring professional sports) where perseverance is key. Every day you've got to have that self belief in your writing, you've got to believe that you can finish your book, you've got to keep going - because if you don't do it, who else will?

And finally, I'm going to re-quote Tim Lott's quote by George Orwell, which I'm going to remember from now on:

"...Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon which one can neither resist nor understand."

For me, writing is not a choice. Thinking up new story ideas is not a choice. I didn't just sit down one day and think, 'hey, you know what would be fun? Writing a novel! Let's go!' It's just something that I've always done from a very young age. I don't ever remember a time (barring the 'Black Period' where I suffered from extreme anxiety and panic attacks and thought I was going mad. But more on that another day) when I haven't been constantly making up different scenes and characters in my head. Apologies for the cliche, but I do strongly believe that writing is my calling in life. It's the one thing that's always stuck with me, no matter what else has been going on. I am completely and utterly a slave to the stories in my head.

But unlike Tim Lott, who would apparently rather swap his life for George Clooney's, I never would. There is nothing in this world that I would like to do more than write for a living. Even if I'm not successful; even if I don't win any awards or become a millionaire, I know that in the end, I wouldn't give up my writing for the world.

So what are your thoughts? If, given the choice, would you give up writing...?

Friday, 20 February 2015

Happy Friday, Everyone :)!

How on earth did it get to be Friday again so quickly?? I swear someone keeps bewitching the clocks so they run extra-fast...

Just a quick update, for those of you who are interested :) (which is EVERYONE, obviously ;)....) - I've finished the last polish of Synthetica - hooray! I've sent the final version out to my beta readers, so fingers crossed! And I know, I know, I'm supposed to have things like this done months before the publishing date, but what can I say? I live on the edge ;).

That 'last polish' took me two whole days of writing. I actually haven't been out in the fresh air since Tuesday morning, which is a tad worrying...but I have officially declared today to be A Day Off. I've had a lovely lazy morning drinking tea and watching Pokemon (because I'm grown-up like that...) and now I'm off for a spa day with my future mother-in-law and my future sisters-in-law :). I'm looking forward to getting out of my own head and having the time to just relax!

So that's it really!I know I haven't emailed reviewers or anything like I was going to, but that's a task for the weekend I think ;).

Have a great Friday, and a lovely weekend everyone!


Monday, 16 February 2015

Hooray for half term!

For the last few weeks, I have been dragging myself to work and anxiously counting down the minutes to Friday the 13th. Why? Because this week, it's half term! Yippee!

However, I quickly realised that this week is not going to be the lounging around, reading a book a day, stuffing my face with chocolate/tea/cake week that I envisioned - if anything, I'm going to be working harder this week than I do normally.

Why? Because in just a few short weeks I'm hoping to self publish my first novel. And because I've only got this week to do everything, I can't afford to kick back and relax just yet. This week I've got to do the last tidy up on my rewrites, email reviewers to see if they'd be interested in reviewing my book, book a blog tour as well as starting to put together all my blog posts and topics for April's A to Z blogging challenge. I know it probably doesn't sound like a lot - but to me it is. This is the first time I've ever done anything like this, and I want it to go as smoothly (ha!) as possible.

I'm incredibly lucky that I have a whole week just to work on my writing. It's been so hard trying to fit it in around my normal job and I feel so grateful that - although I do have a lot to do - I've finally got the time and the breathing space to work on my novel. My only worry is that I'll waste my time somehow (I'm a huge procrastinator) and that I'll get to the end of this week without having done anything important. But let's not dwell on that. I'm going to power on with full steam ahead and see how far I get. Already this morning I've ticked off everything on my 'Monday to-do list' that I wrote last night - including coming up with the last of my A to Z blog topics and sketching the outline for a new novel idea - so that's something I guess.

And now - although I really REALLY don't feel like it - I have to go and work on my actual novel. Y'know, the one that people will actually be reading in a few weeks time?...Yeah, that probably should come top of my to-do list from now on ;).

Have a great Monday, folks!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Happy 100th post!

Yup, that's right, this post marks my 100th post on this blog!

I never thought I'd manage to keep this blog up for this long, but I'm finding that the more times goes on, the more I enjoy writing on my blog and connecting with other writers :). But its down to YOU, all my lovely readers, that have made it possible for me to continue for so long - thank you so much for believing in me, and coming back again and again to read my little posts :).

I just wanted to give you all a quick update and to say thank you so much to everyone who visited my blog and commented on my IWSG post :). I've been sick since Thursday and I couldn't even face my laptop until yesterday, so I haven't commented back yet - but I'm going to catch up now!

I was actually rather annoyed at myself for being sick - I thought that for the two days I was off work I could maybe cross one or two little things off my rapidly growing to-do list, given all the work I have left to do before April. But I genuinely wasn't up to the task. I literally slept all day Friday! But by yesterday, I was feeling almost back to normal and I managed to power through some more edits on my novel - I was actually quite proud of what I managed to do, considering I normally don't like writing in the afternoons, and I didn't get started until 1pm! So I'm happy I'm slightly more caught up now :).

Also, it's half term next week, which means I'll be starting to really up the pace - not only have I got to make sure my novel is ship-shape, I've also got to start contacting reviewers, book in my blog tour (if I decide to do one - still in two minds about that one), and start my posts for April's A-Z Challenge, because if I don't get started on it now, I know I'll run out of time! As well as catch up on normal everyday things, that are unrelated to writing. I know I've got a lot of hard work ahead of me, but you know what? I'm genuinely so excited :), I can't wait to get started!

After all....

Happy Monday, everyone!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

IWSG February: Am I crazy...?

Welcome to February's IWSG post! You can check out the official IWSG website here!

This week I made an announcement about my novel Synthetica – I've decided to self-publish it. My proposed publication date is 1st April, which is less than 2 months away now. I am so so excited about the prospect of self-publishing. And yet I can't help asking myself: am I completely crazy??

There's a part of me that feels like a huge fake. What on earth do I think I'm doing? There's no way I can organise everything in two months! I've got to do the final tiny edits to the book, I've got to finalise the cover design, I need to email other bloggers to see if they'd be interested in reviewing it, if I'm having a blog tour, I need to book it in ASAP for April. Don't get me wrong, I do love being busy, but there are moments when the panic descends and I completely freeze.

But there's also a bigger issue. Whenever I read about other people self-publishing their novels, I think, that's great, good for you! And yet, the idea of me self-publishing a novel seems absurd. Who am I to think that my novel is good enough for the world? This time last year I didn't even have a novel to publish – what makes me think it's even any good to be published now?? I feel like I'm missing out on some huge secret in self-publishing, or that I'm missing a step and I don't know what it is. Essentially, I think this comes down to the question I seem to ask myself everyday, no matter what I'm doing: Am I doing this right??

There's a lot more leeway in self-publishing that traditional publishing (found a major mistake in your manuscript? Cover not working for you anymore? Simply take it down and re-work it til you're happy!), but even so, I've always been someone who strives to get it right first time. I'm so scared of being a failure before I've even begun. I guess at the end of the day, if I let these doubts overwhelm me, I'll never have the confidence to publish my novel.

It's like anything in life - you don't know until you've tried. But it would be nice to know that I'm not just stumbling my way through everything for once ;).

Sunday, 1 February 2015

It's never too late (or early) to start writing...

As I was browsing Twitter today (for research reasons, obviously...), I came across these two articles from the Guardian Books website and I just wanted to share them with you all.

This first article tells the story of Tony Schumacher, who left school with a U in his English GCSE and published his first novel at the age of 46. But it was this second article is about a girl called Helena Coggan who published her first novel at the age of 15 that made me want to write this blog post.

Helena's story resonates with me more than Tony's does. Growing up, all I remember thinking in my teenage years was 'I'll have written a book by the time I'm 16.' When I turned 16 I thought to myself, 'okay, I'll definitely have finished writing a book by the time I'm 18.' 18 came and went and I began to get a little more desperate - 'I will DEFINITELY have finished my novel by the time I turn 21/by the time I've graduated' - and, yup, you guessed it, that elusive novel never fully materialised. Although, to be fair, I did actually give it a damn good go that time, but my graduation rolled around quicker than I anticipated.

I applaud Helena, not only finishing her novel, but for getting it published too. Writing a book is no easy thing. It takes time, dedication and perseverance and and incredible amount of self-belief (which, for someone who suffers from extreme anxiety like me, can be a little thin on the ground sometimes). But there's no greater feeling of satisfaction than writing those last few words with flourish and thinking, that's it. I'm done.

I have finally finished my first novel. It's taken me a few years longer than I originally anticipated, but when I look back over my journey as a writer, I wouldn't wish for it to be any different. Who knows, perhaps if I'd the determination to finish my novel when I was 15 instead of 24, I'd have sold it to a publisher and made my millions before I turned 20. But I seriously doubt it. There was no way any sane publisher would've wanted any of my earlier work, even if I had managed to flesh them out into 100,000 words.

But the thought that I'm going to take away from these two articles is this: it is never too late, or too early, to start writing.

Whether you're 15, 20, 35, 50 or 85, there is only one time to start writing, and that is right now. If you have a passion for reading and writing, and you want to share your own stories with the world, go on and do it. At the end of the day, the only thing that will ever hold you back from writing (or baking, or woodworking or whatever your dream may be) is you. You are the only one that can make your dreams come true. It doesn't matter whether you only want to write for you, or if you want to write Harry Potter fan fiction and share it with other HP fans, or if you want to write the definitive guide to flower arranging - write whatever YOU want to write, and start writing it NOW.

It's taken me a full ten years to realise this. But now that I know that the only person responsible for my writing is me, I'm going to keep chasing my dream of becoming an author. This time last year, I hadn't even written a novel. In eight weeks time, I'm going to self-publish my first book. Is it the way I thought I'd get published? No. But I don't care. Once I've published that book, I'll move onto my second one. And then I'll do another one after that. And then another. And then another. Until my crazy brain either finally runs out of steam, or I can't physically write any more. There's nothing to hold me back, there's nothing that can stop me...except me!

So, what are you waiting for?? Get writing!