My top 4 blog posts for #newwriters and #IndieAuthors

As 2015 draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about my New Years Resolutions. Apart from the usual eat healthy, drink less and exercise more, my top resolutions have to be to write more and blog regularly.

With that in mind, I decided to look through my posts of 2015. I have only been blogging for about 6 months and amongst my 40 odd posts I wanted to share my favourites aimed at aspiring writers and indie authors. Click the links to read the posts in full.

I summarised my Top Tips for New Writers, ranging from attending evening classes, using beta readers and professional services in My Top Ten Tips for New Writers

Ready to proof read your novel? Use my Proof Read Top 10 checklist to give you a head start.

For those who plan to self publish in 2016, I’ve shared my tips on How to Survive Publication Day and The things I wish I’d done before Publication Day to help your publishing experience go smoothly.

For me 2015 has been a year of learning lots of new skills, of frustration when things haven’t gone to plan, but ultimately I’m left with a great deal of satisfaction knowing I’ve achieved one of my biggest dreams – publishing my first novel as an ebook and paperback.

I hope to publish my second novel next year and to continue building my author profile as well as reaching new readers and writers. I’m planning a blog tour in early 2016 and my Goodreads Giveaway (which closes 14th Feb 2016) is already attracting attention.

The world of indie publishing is full of opportunities and I look forward to the new challenges 2016 throws my way.

Bring on January 2016, I’m ready for you!

My first poll experiment – contractions in fiction

I’ve never run a poll before. As I’m planning to write a blog focusing on what I’ve learnt about editing, I thought this little experiment might be fun.

When my editor, Alison Williams, first mentioned to me ‘There are places where your writing sounds a little too formal, a little strained, usually where you haven’t used contractions’ I was a bit confused. I’d always thought you could only use contractions in dialogue.

I headed straight to my overflowing bookcase and checked out my favourite fantasy authors (David Gemmell, Robin Hobb) and a whole selection of other novels in every genre I own. I checked old and newly published works, and of course I researched the subject online. I was amazed to find that authors have been using contractions all this time and I hadn’t realised. It’s one of those things you just don’t notice unless you’re looking for it. I hope I’m not alone in my confusion, it certainly seems to be a much covered topic on the internet.

Please join in the poll, share and comment. If it works, I’ll be writing about the results next week.

10 Top Tips for New Writers.

I’ve been writing over 20 years, and in the build up to self-publishing my first novel I would like to share what I’ve learnt.

 1. Online courses

I’ve completed both novel writing and short stories courses. You learn as you write and having your assignments critiqued by experienced tutors helps you improve as you go along. Online course can fit around your life, which was helpful to me with two young children.

 

2. Go to writing workshops and creative writing classes.

I’ve attended several terms of adult education classes over the years, and a couple of one day workshops. Meeting like-minded people was a real turning point for me. Critiquing and editing others work helps you look at your own work more objectively. Also having others critique your work helps you develop that famous thick skin all writers need.

I’ve made writing friends from classes too. It’s so important to have people in your life who understand the struggles of a writer. Now with online forums, and blogs etc. it’s easier to connect with other writers, but I still think the workshops play an important part in the learning process.

 

3. Enter competitions, especially those offering critiques

There’s nothing worse than sending your story into a competition and never hearing anything again. Not knowing where you’re going wrong. The critiques can help you grow as a writer. And if you follow the suggestions made, next time you may just get placed.

 

4. Don’t rush. Don’t pitch too soon.

I’ve made this mistake way too many times. Thinking the book is ready and contacting the agents I would love to work with, or the publishers that accept unsolicited submissions. Once they’ve turned you down, there’s no going back. It’s the same with novel competitions; once they’ve seen your entry you can’t resubmit when you’ve made a better version.

(Despite this advice, I think self publishing will suit me. I’m in control. I don’t have to wait months for agents and publishers to see the potential, I can reach out to readers directly.)

 

5. Start building your online profile now.

I only started six months ago and I became a bit obsessive trying to get everything working smoothly, and everything linked. It’s so much better to do this over time and give yourself a chance to build up a readership. And there are lots of writers out there to connect with too.

 

6. Beta readers can make a huge difference.

Especially those who are writers themselves, who understand the structure and techniques of writing. I’ve been lucky enough to have made some really good friends from the writing classes. We’ve kept in touch and still occasionally meet up to critique each others’ work. They’ve offered honest criticism about where I’m going wrong, but also shown me my strengths as a writer and their encouragement has been a big boost to my confidence. (They’ve been so helpful that I wanted to acknowledge them personally in my book.)

 

7. Join a book group

I’ve been a member of several book groups. It’s really interesting listening to readers critiquing books you’ve read, and to imagine how your own book might be seen from the readers’ perspective. They also force you to read outside your comfort zone.

 

8. Get all the professional help you can afford.

Advice from a critique editor at Writer’s Workshop, Geraldine Harris Pinch, is something that really stands out here. Her report cut me down and I did shed a few tears, but ultimately she was honest and she was right.

She said that I excelled at characterisation, but she thought I hadn’t yet found the story I wanted to tell. She suggested merging the two storylines in the novel, following the two wizards stories 350 years apart, rather than using diary entries and having a prequel to Visions. I didn’t know if it would work, but I’m so pleased I took her advice. Now Visions of Zarua is a book I can be proud of.

I paid for professional editing via Alison Williams. She helped me cut the word count by almost 10k, which is astonishing considering I thought the novel was in good shape before I gave it to her.

I paid for a premade cover that I adore, though I did look through 1000’s of covers before I found one that worked for my novel.

There are people who can prepare and upload your work as ebooks. I did it myself and it’s not that hard to do, but it’s very time consuming and often frustrating.

 

9. Know when to let go.

This is probably the hardest thing. To tell yourself it’s finished, and let go.

I will never be satisfied with my writing, that’s a fact I have to live with. I have to tell myself Visions of Zarua is done. It’s been edited and redrafted dozens of times, read by trusted beta readers, spell checked constantly, critiqued by professionals, professionally edited, and finally I have proof read it.

Now that’s it, Visions has to stand on its own. I can’t do anymore.

 

10. Enjoy the journey, and celebrate being a writer

It’s an amazing feeling creating worlds and characters, and not everyone can do it. It takes hard work, dedication and absolute determination to succeed.

Now that Visions is out there, I can truly say I am a writer.

And now I’ve let go of this novel, I’m ready to concentrate on the other novels I’ve written in draft. I can’t wait to start reliving these characters lives, and look forward to the day I can share their stories with my readers as well.

Final thoughts

Each stage above has given me something different and helped me become a better writer. My book would not be half what it is now. Well it would be a lot longer, but not half as good.

#Writinganovel – what to expect from an editor

I wanted to share this post for anyone out there looking for an editor. Alison certainly knows what she’s talking about, and she delivers on every point. She really helped me with both the final edit of my novel and my social networking profile. She was also there when it all got too much, offering me support and words of encouragement.
Even though passing your work to an editor may seem daunting, it’s so rewarding when you see how much better your work can be.

Alison Williams Writing

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Since starting my editing business, I have worked on more than seventy projects. I feel very honoured and very privileged that these writers have trusted me with their work. As a writer myself, I understand how fellow writers feel about their work, and also how difficult it can be to hand that manuscript over to someone else, often someone you don’t know, and trusting them to do a good job. Choosing an editor is a minefield – there are so many out there now, so what should you expect from an editor? And what should you look for when choosing one?

Testimonials

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Look for testimonials from previous clients. If an editor can’t provide testimonials find out why. When I began my business, I provided free edits in return for honest testimonials. This way I began to build a reputation and a client base (most of those clients that I provided…

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A whole new level of distraction

I have to admit that I’m easily distracted from writing. Usually it’s editing, I just can’t let go. And then there’s the mundane tasks of everyday life – cooking and cleaning (well perhaps more thinking about doing these things rather than the actual execution of them). In the evening I can be tempted away from the laptop by the promise of an action packed film, and as the cold nights draw in I’m partial to a bath, a book and an ice cream.

Now I find myself with a whole new level of distraction. Poppy, the lunatic kitten has been with us 5 days and is taking over. As I type this she is stalking my fingers. And she keeps dashing across the keyboard so I constantly have to delete her additions to my work. This kitten needs a time out or a naughty step.

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The final part of proofreading my novel has also been given the Poppy treatment – she’s either attacking the pages or stealing my pen. Maybe she thinks she can do a better job!

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At least the proofing is finally done; the read through part anyway. It turned into a bit of an editing exercise, I just can’t help myself.

When I next get the chance, I shall make the final few changes to the novel. The word count will go down by at least a few hundred. It’s amazing how many small changes can be made, even after extensive editing by myself, beta reads by writing friends and professional editing.

Now is the point where I have to call it a day. To finish it, before it finishes me. This novel has been a bit like a naughty child or kitten. It’s given me years of grief and sleepless nights, but it’s grown into something I’m proud of and I can’t wait to share it with the world, though I’m sure a lot more sleepless nights are still to follow.

Poppy is finally asleep, so I guess it’s time to start tackling those changes.

Unexpected bonus of proofreading

Since I started proofreading my novel last week, I’ve managed to finish editing a short story so it’s ready to send to competitions, edit a flash fiction piece which is also ready to submit when I’ve found the right title, and write two new flash fiction pieces. I’ve also got plans to revisit two short stories that received very helpful critiques from Writer’s Forum. Finally, it gave me the idea for this short blog, so I really think I should proofread more often.

Time to put my Proof Read Top 10 Checklist to the test

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The kids are back at school today and apart from feeling a little nervous for them, I’m also feeling nervous about the task I have set myself; to proofread 153k words before self publishing later this year. I’ve printed my Proof Read Top 10 checklist (with a couple of additions from other writers) and have everything set up ready.

Now its time to shut down the internet, disconnect the phone and escape into the summerhouse.

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Wish me luck!

5 Rules For Chapter One Of Your Book

It was interesting to have my novel in mind when I read through this blog. It’s great advice to focus on when editing that all important first chapter.

Dan Alatorre

I... must... read... more! I… must… read… more!

1. Start the story as late as possible

2. Have a grabber opening

3. Make the reader care, usually via the MC

4. What are the stakes? What can be gained or lost?

5. End with a cliffhanger so we go to chapter 2

Need more info? Let’s read on then, shall we?

(Learn more about writing better stories HERE)

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I'm already 45 minutes overdue! I’m already 45 minutes overdue!

Start the story as late as possible

Most authors bury the really interesting stuff a few paragraphs in, or worse, in chapter two or three. What’s the first interesting thing that happens in your story? Start there.

(Learn about tightening your story HERE)

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Have a grabber opening

Holy cow, am I intrigued by this prose! Holy cow, am I intrigued by this prose!

I like a “grabber” opening to a story and especially the opening chapter. Stories that hook a reader right away and keep…

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Proof Read Top 10 Checklist

I’ve just printed out my novel for the final time. As soon as the kids go back to school next week, I shall lock myself in the summerhouse and set about my final proof read. I’ve read lots of articles on proof reading and done plenty of editing over the years to have come up with a checklist that works for me.

  1. Use a hard copy (it’s too easy to skip over errors on the computer)
  2. Read aloud (but make sure the neighbours can’t hear you)
  3. Read it slowly, word by word (at reading pace your brain skips over words it expects to see and doesn’t pick up the errors)
  4. Use a ruler or blank page to highlight the line you’re reading (this ensures you don’t get ahead of yourself)
  5. Keep focused and hydrated by drinking lots of water (this helps keep you awake, and the trips to the toilet provide plenty of short breaks)
  6. Use a colourful pen to highlight the error, mark the sentence in the margin and fold the corner of the page over (triple insurance against the error being missed when updating on the computer)
  7. Avoid all distractions (escape from the phone and the internet)
  8. Keep a notebook handy (make notes of any last minute niggles to sort out)
  9. The editing should already be done at this point so focus on grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice and spacing errors.
  10. And finally, there’s no harm in resetting the computer spell checker and giving it one last go.

Then it’s ready for the next stage, uploading to Kindle.

Have you got any last minute proof reading tips to share?