What No One Tells You...

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…about writing a second book.

This time last year I’d finished my first novel, I was busy editing it, thinking about beta readers and querying.  I was conscious though that I wanted to keep writing after all that's part of the process that I love. I’d written a book already and logic told me therefore I could write a second one...

...but the thing is writing a book is like having one ball all you need to do is throw that one ball in the air and catch it - simple.  Especially when you have limited time because you're trying to do that in amongst all the spinning of plates you're doing with the your day job and the rest of your life.

What I was faced with was the realisation that I still needed to be throwing the first ball, that was in the editing phase, I needed to keep that one going. All this would be fine until you realise that once you finish a book your ball multiplies - it becomes two maybe even three balls; editing and rewrites, beta feedback, synopsis and cover letters.

After a couple of false starts I realised I really couldn't start a new book yet I was working pretty hard on my juggling act as it was and I wasn't ready for more balls. So I waited until my first book went back to being one ball, the one where I submitted to agents and waited.  

With a deep breath and the belief that I could handle juggling two balls I started writing my second book. This is when I discovered the second thing I didn't know and wasn't expecting about writing your second book and that is it's harder than the first.

You would think that you've gained all these skills writing your first book, you were pretty proud of yourself, you started from nothing and created a whole book.  That's the trouble you see when I wrote my first book I had no expectations of myself, I just knew I wanted to do it and I loved writing.  Writing my second book came with all sorts of internal expectations, a pressure that I hadn't put on myself the first time around.

All the while my confidence taking the knocks of rejection.  I haven't finished my second book yet but I'm 35000 words in and after a difficult time recently enjoying it.  I thought I’d been organised and focused writing my first book but the second time round has required a new layer of skills.  

This book has taken me longer to write but only I think because I have been in such a disorganised state.  I imagine when this book is written and I embark on my next project I'll experience a similar reshuffle of organisation and I hope that I'll be better prepared for it.



Author Confessions - Good & Guilty

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Today I thought I would give you some insights into my current WIP in order that you might know more and that I might remember why I started writing it.

1. My main character, Gwen, is a serial killer who genuinely believes her actions provide the justice that society and the law were unable to dish out.

2. Gwen tries not to make friends as it affects her ability to be detached, she likes her world ordered and isolates herself from others to protect herself.

3. Gwen comes across very matter of fact, but there are moments when you see that she feels really deeply the pain of others.

4.  She has very strict boundaries, she is not for hire and no one makes the final decision on who lives and who dies but her.

5. Gwen has been a loner all her life, bullied and misunderstood by her family.

6. Gwen has a little sister that she’s very close to and it’s her relationship with her and anyone else she’s ever bonded with that show a different side to her personality

7. At school she was well behaved, had excellent grades but was quiet to the point that on parents evening teachers had no recollection of her being in their classes.

8.  Every death begins with an investigation and this time she may have got herself in real danger.  I'm hoping that one of the other characters will surprise me and come to her aid before it's too late. 

That's an insight into Gwen my main character from current WIP.  I enjoyed writing this and it's helped reignite the spark in me to tell her story. 

WIP in Deep Freeze

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Happy New Year One and All :)

Welcome to 2018 I thought this would be an ideal time to let you know how my WIP is going. I’ll be really honest December was more like a work in stagnation.

I’m sure that I wasn't alone in finding myself with an unusually high amount of social and personal commitments on the run up to Christmas. In addition my husband and I were trying to get our decorating finished before Christmas Day. All in all by the time I went to bed on Christmas Eve at 3.45am I was exhausted.

I took the decision to take the rest of the month off and recharge which is what I absolutely needed.  And in doing so it helped get the creative juices flowing again.

Now it's 2018 and I'm back to my day job and my writing restarts in earnest. During my break I had a fantastic idea for a new book/series and I am really excited to write it. In fact I seriously considered giving up on my current WIP and doing this instead. Because, well it’s hard.

This has always been a challenging project even from its very inception. There’s been lots of times I’ve felt like giving up or putting it on the back burner. And recently I was wondering why I’ve persevered, the only answer I keep coming back to is that I feel the pull of the story and that might sound weird or a bit airy fairy but it’s all I’ve got.

I’m hoping that by the time I type The End I can look back and think I’m glad I kept going, it was worth it.  Maybe I won’t have to wait that long.  Maybe by the next WIP update blog I’ll have positive news.

Until then this is very much to be continued...

In the Right Direction

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A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about my new WIP.  It had been an idea that I had a bit of a stop start approach with but it had started coming together when I last wrote about it.  I thought now is as good a time as any to give you all an update. 

This work has been a real challenge for me. I am writing from a first person POV and I know that for lots of people this is their go to but for me this has been a point of view that I have really struggled with in the past. The book I'm currently querying started life as first person POV and was an absolute pile of garbage until I changed it. Maybe past experiences are affecting my approach to this aspect more than the challenge of the work itself.

Despite the difficulties this WIP has thrown at me I now feel like it is coming together and building into a solid foundation. It's a stretching write for me which in honesty I'm not sure I would have even considered attempting a couple of years ago.

Because this isn't an easy style for me one of the things I have been doing recently to help myself is reading a lot of books written in this style to help me get some hints and tips in how to naturally incorporate description and build other three dimensional characters.  I find that doing this kind of supporting reading can help you see your manuscript clearer and help you to identify where mistakes have been made or where opportunities to add depth have been missed.

I look forward to each time I sit down at my computer and get the opportunity to write more.  I’m now at that stage where I know the characters and they’re starting to take real shape for me. I always know when I’ve got into a grove with a WIP when I start imagining and creating scenes whilst I’m driving home from work. This is the time I use to work them through in my mind to think about what this adds to the overall story and how my MC will react and what impact it will have on her future actions.

I guess in short what I’m saying is that I’m really starting to enjoy writing this. It started out as a story that was nagging me to be written without me necessarily connecting with it fully. Now after 20,000 words I'm on solid ground and I’m looking forward to discovering all that this first draft has to offer.

I'm Late...

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In Novemberish of 2015 I had an idea and that idea grew and allowed me for the first time in a long time to believe I could have a life other than the one I had. Don't get me wrong I was already in an extremely lucky position. I have a wonderful husband that is truly supportive and an amazing daughter who I am incredibly proud of, I have a job and a nice house.

It was one of many occasions in 2015 when I asked my self the question ‘what’s in this for me?’ I was doing a job that had more downsides than up. It took me away from home more than I had intended, it had made me miss my husband’s birthday for the first time ever and the goal posts were ever changing. Every time I asked myself the question the answer just wasn’t satisfactory.

What that job did give me was the kick up the arse I had been needing for some time. It made me question what I really wanted. It made me think about what it would take to get what I really wanted and it made me believe that if I worked really hard I could have it.  

Long term plans scare me there are so many things that can change over a five year period that setting plans for that length of time seemed unrealistic so this was the first time I had used one in earnest. I still work for the same employer albeit doing a job that works much better with my work life balance. I don't hate that job but I want a life where I love what I do and I am not getting any younger, I decided this was my opportunity to grab what I wanted by the balls and make this plan. 

Five year plan sounds quite dry and unappealing so I call this my escape plan. I'm almost a year and a half into this and while the first nine months went according to plan the other have been lagging behind. In part this is due to some very naïve expectations on how long the editing and beta reading process would take and how much rework I would do to polish the edges after the beta process. I hadn't considered how challenging the synopsis would be to write. Also I had unrealistic expectations that I would be able to write my second book whilst editing at the same pace as the first. 

Whilst I was prepared for and expected the wait to hear back from agents I started that process months later than I intended. I considered extending the length of the plan but this was not really something I wanted to do. The first year and a half was the timeline that I had built the most structure for from the beginning, what I'll do next will be to look at the structure of the next eighteen months and see how I can make up lost time and reshuffle the plan.

Yes I am behind schedule but that's ok because the learning that I have gained and what I have achieved so far makes up for it. And even though I am running late it doesn't mean I can't cross the finish line when I planned. The most important thing is that I keep running.




Author Confessions Part 2 - The Long Lie

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Way back in August when occasionally it still felt like summer I shared some author confessions on the book I have out for query at the moment and I felt it was high time I shared some more.

1. I spent valuable time researching and choosing a title for my book way back when it wasn't a fully formed idea. I regret this, not only was it a waste of time I came to really dislike that title and then had to spend time finding a new one at the end.

2. I am not good at waiting and I find this part of the query process excruciating.

3. Sometimes I think Ava my MC is so bad tempered and I find it interesting how easily I tap into that type of emotion and find it satisfying to write.

4. When I feel like my work is rubbish I read the original first draft and remind myself how far I've come .

5. Ava's brother was killed in the first Iraq war in the 1990s they weren't close and Ava wishes she knew him more, that's why she cherishes the car he left her even though she used to hate it when he was alive.

6. The dialogue was my favourite part of the writing process.

7. I can't bring myself to write the next book in the series until I know the fate of this one that my current WIP is a stand alone.

I hope you have enjoyed the insight into the book and myself.  I promise to post more author confessions in the future.

If At First You Don't Succeed...

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All of my recent submissions have now with been rejected by email or by the stony silence of the agency time frames running out. How do I feel? Ok actually, surprisingly I'm doing fine. Would it have been nice if someone had replied wanting more pages or the whole manuscript - of course if would, but I started this journey with the full expectation of rejection. I've talked plenty about how it has made me feel, got me down etc. But now I feel strangely motivated by the experience.  

I have gone back to the drawing board with my synopsis and covering letter.  I've also looked over my manuscript with critical eyes asking myself it if it really is the best job I can do. I have emerged with a synopsis that I think is so much better and a covering letter that makes me feel more confident. All through this process I have been learning and growing as a writer. I have accepted that this is another element to that.

This might be a fork in the road but giving up has never been an option so I'm going to continue on the road to publication. More than anything this experience has shown me how serious I am, not getting to disheartened at the first signs of challenge and difficulty, not running for the hills considering giving it all up as a silly idea.

Dreams only stay dreams if you choose not to work on the plan, so I'll continue grafting towards my ultimate goal. It might not be achieved with this novel, but luckily I'm a writer, I have lots of stories to tell.

Shiny New WIP

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A couple of months ago I started playing around with an idea for a new story, the premise of which popped into my head on my commute to work. In the beginning all it was, was one line of speech. I was looking for a new project so I started to think about how that line could evolve and what the story could become.

I created a brief outlines, details pretty vague as per my usual style, but there was definitely something there. So I went on to create the first few chapters and then I stopped. And some you may remember me talking about how I didn’t like my characters and it wasn’t a project I felt properly passionate about. The thing is I’d hit a brick wall, I wasn't sure that I had got the format right, but I knew in essence it was a story I wanted to tell.

I walked away, left it to ferment for a while even started on a different project one I thought I was more drawn to but the other story was still there in the back of my mind constantly popping up and wanting attention and this week I've come back to it. Had a re-read and thought there's something here. I decided to reach out to a couple of trusted Beta readers to get some feedback from the little I had already written. The feedback was they wanted to know what happened next and that this was a project they encouraged me to complete.

It's very different from what I've written before; I'm writing from a different POV and the dynamic of the characters is completely different. I feel stretched when I write it, in a good way.  

I still sometimes miss the characters from my first book and their sequel is definitely in my plans.  But for now I'm enjoying that feeling of creating something absolutely brand new and developing new characters. It's harder than last time but a little hard work won't hurt me and often it can result in something quite special. So fingers crossed.

Author Confessions - WIP The Long Lie

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I feel I've reached the stage in my journey that I want to share some more information on my book so today I thought I do a few author confessions.

1. I like one of my secondary characters more than my main character most of the time and although she doesn't know it she would be less without him.

2. My main character, Ava is a lesbian, but this isn't a big deal because it was important to me to have her sexuality there but as incidental like it is with heterosexual relationships.  

3. This book evolved from a really crap idea into something quite special.

4. My book is a police procedural crime book.  I wanted to write crime but intention was never for it to be a police procedural that's just how it evolved.

5. My setting made me really explore and think about my home town/county in a way I hadn't done before.

6.  Only one of my beta readers guessed who the killer really was.  This made me feel proud of my work.

7.  I don' t plan my work so when one of my characters threw me a curve ball regarding a murder weapon I was as shocked as Ava.

These are just a few but I  hope you enjoyed them. 


Life is a Rollercoaster

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As Ronan Keating said Life is a Roller Coaster you just gotta ride it. Whilst I can not know for sure what motivated this particular set of lyrics I guess what he was really saying is that in life there are going to be ups and downs and there is no use fighting it so you might as well enjoy the ride.  That's a lot of clichés to start a blog with, I'm aware. The trouble with a cliché is that often it comes into existence because there is a little truth to it.

This week I received my first rejection from the query process and it sucked. Now I’m not deluded of course I expected rejections, I don't think anyone in the history of writing has had everyone they queried say yes. The truth is that no matter how aware I was of this inevitability I still didn't like it. And for everyone out there saying I'm not sure you're meant to - I know.

Just over a year ago I put into motion the plan to change my life and do the one thing that I've always wanted to do - become a writer. Now you could say that as I've written a book I have achieved that goal. I would for the most part agree with you there but there was a secondary goal there too and that was become a published writer.

The second part of my goal is some what not entirely in my control. I strongly believe that no matter how good a book is or how talented a writer may be there is still an awful lot of right place right time involved. I’m hoping that my query has landed on someone's desk at the right time.

I'm a little bit old school and traditional publishing has always been preferred route.  However at the same time I am fascinated by the evolution of self publishing and remain in admiration of Indy writers that take that option. In fact there have been plenty of times that I've wondered that it might be more alluring than traditional publishing.

It turns out Ronan is right life is a bit of a roller coaster and I'm not ashamed to say there's been times when I've had to cover my eyes. It might make me feel sick sometimes but at least I got on board and that's a lot better than watching it go by from the side lines. 

Me & My Characters

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I think if you had imaginary friends as a child then it's a clear indication that you might be a writer. I did and in truth I liked them and the imaginary worlds I made up a good deal more than real life. I think as a child your imagination can be a safe haven, a place where people are kind and you can process the things in your world that don't seem quite right. Looking back I think that the ability to submerge myself like that protected me from a lot of unpleasant experiences.

I enjoy the company of my characters from my WIP and I spend a good proportion of my commute home from work imagining conversations they might have and how they might make discoveries which help them unlock the case. I consider their reactions and the affect situations might have on them in the short and long term

One of my favourite things about the Beta process was when I got the feedback around how much my betas enjoyed the dialogue and the interactions between the characters. It made me feel comfortable that I had got it right and that they were whole fully believable people.

In between finishing my first book and during the editing process I would imagine what my characters would be doing whilst I wasn't in a position to start book 2 in the series. I wondered if they would be working on cold cases and if they would think that was interesting or dull or frustrating.

I think we all have relationships with the people we create even the villains. Bringing them to life and telling their story is fulfilling. And I've created people that I would want on my side or to share a beer with and I'm glad they're with me on this journey. 

Preparing for Submission

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This last week and a half I've been preparing my book for submission to agents. As anyone who has ever done this will confirm it sounds easier than it is.  

My book is ready to go and actually I've been pussy footing around this bit for too long, it got to the stage where I had to give myself a talking to and a kick up the arse. So if you're wondering why if my book was ready was I wasting time procrastinating, then this is the reason:

I loved the process of creating my book, I even came to enjoy the polishing process which is editing.  I was chuffed to bits with the feedback I got and that the readers suspected who I wanted them to and felt excitement and frustration where they were meant to. But the idea of writing a synopsis and a letter and maybe a personal CV was daunting. What do you say, how do you stand out, what if you don't get it across well.

This is really unchartered territory for me. I spent a whole day doing this (and drinking tea).  I was moderately satisfied with the first draft of it all. I'm nearly there.

I still have one thing holding me back and it's a biggy.  I've decided I don't like the title of my book!  

Now yes, I chose it. In fact I would say that at the beginning of this process I expended way, way too much energy on trying to come up with a title and for a while I was pleased with myself. Now though it just feels a bit cheesy and uninspiring.

I guess these days I expect more from myself and I have realised it isn't important to have all the details figured out at the beginning. I'll continue playing with new title ideas whilst I polish my submission information. I'll keep you posted on my progress. 

At a Cross Roads

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I've just completed the third round of editing and I'm pretty pleased with how it's coming together. I finally feel like it's a work I can be proud of. I feel like Have found my editing grove and it’s nice to see how taking the time to polish the manuscript is really paying off. I still have a couple of rounds to go before I'm ready to start contacting agents and thinking everything all that that entails.

I find myself in this strange place where there is still work to be done on my finished book but I'm not doing anything new. I find that I really miss the writing part the creating new stories and events.  

What I decided to do was start a new work in progress.  My current book is the first in a series. I decided that until it had a home I would work on something different a stand alone project. I had a good idea and I thought why not just go with it.

After 10000 words I'm not really feeling it. I don't like the characters and yes I know I created them so there is a weird irony in the fact I don't like them. The truth is I can only think of what the other guys are doing waiting for me to get round to giving them a new case to work on. I have to be true to myself. I have shelved the stand alone book for a time that it's ready to come into its own.  

The idea of working on my second book excites me. I have a fair bit of research for this story line to work so that's where I'll start but I'm not going to lie I have already worked up an opening scene. I know how important it is to give my attention to the work I've already finished. I also know that I need to write and create.

The Next Steps

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I thought I would feel elated and in truth I allowed myself to feel it a little for about 24 hours. I had after all finished my book. Let me tell you anyone who says that writing the book is the hard part isn’t, in my opinion, being wholly truthful.

Writing the book is the start. I’ve said it before, you can’t do anything, take any more steps towards your goal if you don’t actually write the book. 

Let’s be honest though, that’s the good bit, the exciting bit. I wanted to create and develop stories, plots and characters. The what comes next while nowhere near as fun, however is equally important. I wasn’t about to say ‘Well, jolly good I’ve written a book I’ll get that sent off to publishers right away’  Because I take the business of being a writer seriously.  And I want agents and publishers to take me seriously too.

The next step towards my goal is editing. I know having got caught up in the creativity of the writing, seeing it all come to fruition in front of me that that there would be some errors. That did not prepare me for the cringing embarrassment I felt when I discovered how many times I’d used the wrong ‘your/you’re’.

There were also plenty of times I took a red pen to chunks of the page because it just wasn’t good enough, made no sense or was irrelevant. It would be easy to get disheartened during this first edit, I won’t, what I’ve done so far is important to me, getting my book published is important to me. When I’m ready to make enquiries with agents I want to know that what I am putting forward represents the best version of my work otherwise all those hours typing away and all that elation would be for nothing and for me that’s not ok.

Before I wrote my book I had never written anything of this length and as a result I've never edited a book either. This is all new to me and I'm learning as I go along and sometimes it's easy but most of the time it's hard work and frustrating. What I have accepted is that by letting editing be my friend not my enemy I will end up with a much more polished complete end result.

Setting

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When I set out to write my book I thought a lot about setting.  Now in some ways I'm lucky because my book takes place in an actual place.  If you write fantasy or sci-fi then I know world building will be a huge part of your process and you’ll have so much more to think about.

I’ve lived near to Edinburgh all my life and I was pretty confident I knew it well. It’s an amazing city, people have heard of it so I thought it was perfect. But by the end of Chapter One I had realised that I didn’t know Edinburgh nearly as well as I thought or needed to.

This left me with two options

  1. Go out discover more of Edinburgh, research.  Look at maps.

  2. Change my setting.

I gave this a lot of consideration but in the end I decided to change my setting and not because it was the easy option. It was because this dilemma had forced me to sit back and really think about why I had chosen that setting in the first place. It made me realise that right on my doorstep was an amazing setting that I actually did know well.

Fife and more specifically Dunfermline. The allure of Edinburgh was strong but the pull of Fife was more personal. I understand the local colloquialisms, It's where I've lived most of my days and the more I thought about it I couldn’t believe that I had overlooked it for the shiny lights of Edinburgh.