Tag Archives: completing your novel

Diary of a hopeful author: My top 10 writing scares this Halloween…Woooo!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Sometimes, I don’t know what to write. In fact, I’m sitting here now, and I haven’t a clue what to say. Well, okay, not exactly not a clue, but…Oh crap. See?

Not knowing what to write is something that scares me. Rather like used boxer shorts or two old people kissing, it’s something that gives me the heeby jeebies. It’s got me to thinking this week, therefore, about all things scary.

Today, of course, you lovely person you, is Halloween, that annual event where the expectation is that things scare you (as opposed to regular day scary stuff like, I don’t know, selfish politicians or iceberg lettuce) on a normalised scale. And so, I ask, what scares you? Indeed, let me take that one step further, if I may, and ask, what scares me?

In writing terms, I’d say everything scares the pants off me. I mean every-ruddy-thing. Not finishing a story. Not having any news ideas. Running out of ink. No juice left in my iPad when I need it TO EDIT!! You name it, there it is. And so, what I’ve decided to do this week, let’s say for fun, is compile a short, yet I like to think, comprehensive list of writing things that spook me right up. I may know what to do about them, I may not. You may have the same freak outs as me, you may not. But either way, it fills the page. Because, let’s face it, a blank page, writers, is the scariest thing of all…

My top ten scary writing things…

10. No pens – Yes, the laptop maybe the new pen, but no pens just scares me senseless. I need to feel the page, the glide of ink on paper. Call me old-fashioned. Or just call me old (my kids do…)

9. Being cold – Okay, I admit, an odd one this, but hear me out. I work at home. In the UK (one for the international folk. Hi!) In the winter it gets COLD. I mean shiver-to-your-bone-freezing. Trouble is, when you are sitting in one room in the house, it seems like a crime to put the heating on for just one person. So, I come armed with: a) a hot water bottle, b) furry slippers, and c) blankets. As I said, call me old…

8. Running out of coffee – Oh dear Lord, right. I ran out of coffee the other day and oh sweet Jesus, I couldn’t keep awake. It was 5 am and believe me, you don’t get much done when your eyes are clamping shut and your head is lolling on the key pad. My forehead, it turns out, can’t type that well. So coffee. Need it!

7. Running out of chocolate – as per above but in a different way. I don’t actually eat too much during the day as it sends me on a sleepy sugar low 20 mins later and all I want to do is crawl into bed and ignore everything. But, other times, chocolate is all you need. It can help me feel better! It has serotonins! It tastes so, so good! So if I’m out and I need it, well, god help me.

6. No internet access – What on earth did we do before the Internet? I mean, what? I cannot imagine researching my novel/column/where to go on holiday by library alone. The internet is so quick! So instant! And I don’t have to move. That gives me more time for chocolate.

5. Running out of ideas – Arrrggg! ARRRRRGGGG! Please! NEVER LET THIS HAPPEN OR I’M STUFFED! Enough said.

4. Writer’s block – Holy crap. Holy, holy crap. This scares us all, doesn’t it? Does it scare you? It scares the bejesus out of me. Usually, I can cut short a lull in writing by doing something else then coming back to the writing. Which leads me on to my next scare…

3. Not being able to run – It’s how I overcome a scribe’s blockage, if you will. Yup, got writer’s block? Go for a run. Or a walk. Or a cycle, whatever, just get out. Works for me so much that I cannot cope without it. And, it also means I can keep eating all that chocolate, so you know, every cloud…

2. My laptop breaking – Nope. Sorry. Just cannot contemplate this one. Uh-uh. No. NO!

1. Never getting a chance to write – It’s the number 1 and boy, what would I do without writing. I love writing. Love it. It’s my (cringe alert!) passion. It really, really is. It’s all I want to do for a job. It’s like a job that doesn’t feel like a job, and if you can achieve that, when you have to, as a grown up, work for a living, then you’re on to a winner, right? It might be hard at times, low paid for a looooong time – you may even start talking to yourself (hello, me!). Heck, people may say along the way that it’s a dream this writing lark, but I ain’t giving it up. Nope. No way. Because that really would scare me.

What scares you about writing? Or about, hey, anything else for that matter? Tell it to me.

 Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about the wrongness of the objection to the solar panels in Thornbury’s Castle Street…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to find more time to write…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 Time’s a devil, isn’t it? I mean, a right old devil. It’s rather like a teenager; one minute it loves you and gives you a kiss good night, the next it hates your guts and will do anything it can to sabotage your day.

Well folks, I’m here to tell you that rather like marmalade and ham, or a fleece with heels, say, writing and time do not always go together. Unless you’re my daughter, in which case, apparently marmalade and ham are as tasty as a chocolate covered marshmallow.

You see, as a writer, one of the things I find myself uttering is, ‘I haven’t got enough time.’ Sound familiar? Heck, if you’re a mum/dad/busy employee/avid House DVD box-set watcher, you’ll know exactly what I mean, too. Because we never have enough time, do we?

Our days are packed, stuffed, if you will, to the rafters. Like a cupboard that is rammed full of clothes we don’t want but haven’t yet sorted, our days are fit to burst with things to do. Work. Making dinner. Eating dinner. Having dinner flicked on you by child. Seeing friends. Phoning friends. Ebaying till the wee hours of the morning to win the all-wool blazer you’ve had your eye on (long story – it’s coming up to winter here…). Either way you split it, time ain’t on your side. And that’s before you even begin to do something as taxing as writing.

And this is the thing. Writing, if that’s your bag, is the job that gets shoved to the bottom of your to-do list. ‘I don’t have time!’ we wail, crawling into bed, our minds alert to the fact that in 6 hours we’ll be up and on that living treadmill again.

So what do we do? Well, apart from eating our body weight in chocolate and watching re-runs of Friends, we stop. Yup, you didn’t miss hear me. Stop. Go on, put those feet up. That’s it. Now  breathe. Because, halting what we do, you see, strangely, gives us – yes you’ve guessed it, you bright spark, you – time.

This time slot though, is different. It’s different because this time haven gives us time to think, and as writers our ability to think is one of our best assets. So, if we always fill our time and never stop, how will we ever, you know, think? You with me?

So, once you’ve let your brain loose on some free-range thinking, your next task is to be honest. No, I don’t mean fess up on the knock-a-door-run you used to play on your neighbours when you were 9 (it wasn’t me, honest), but be honest with yourself. Come on, get it out. How much time do you really waste? We’re talking honesty here, remember? I bet you my entire chocolate stash that, if you really thought about it, you could identify little pockets of time where you either : a) waste; b) take on too much; or c) procrastinate. Me, I can answer a safe ‘yes’ to all three. See? Me, being, you know, honest.  Virtual high fives.

Now, once you’ve been honest, take that thinking time you’ve stolen and get time slotting. When do you think you could snatch some writing time? Thought yet? I’ll help a little. You see me, I’m a morning gal. Sad, so sad, but true. So for years now, morning writing is my thing. When my kids were babies, I would rise at 5am to get a couple of hours writing under my belt before the day’s vomiting/feeding/bottom wiping/gurgling would commence, and that was just my husband (joke…).  Today, the girls are a tad older, but I still get up early where I can. My hubbie is not like me. He is a night owl, and while I fall asleep in front of the TV, mouth dribbling like a carp on a ship deck, his brain is just beginning to whirr into action. Me, I am useless to no one at that time.

So, that’s the next nugget – pick your time poison, so to speak. Are you a morning dude or a night rocker? And don’t forget those middle-of-the day snippets, too. 10 minutes of writing here, 20 minutes there. Grab a pen and write down whatever waffle comes into your head (or look! Write a waffle blog…!) And of course, folks – and here’s the silver lining – reading counts as time well spent when you’re a writer. I know! Yup, who knew that reading books was a job-ish. Dammit – it is! If you don’t read, you can’t write – and that is the joy (jammy sod element) of our craft

So go grab that time, people. Go! And when you get it, stick it between your teeth and don’t let it go until you’ve written something. And me? I’m releasing my jaw on this, my own sneaky little writing time slot…now.

Do you have enough time to write, or to do anything, for that matter? What are your time-snatching secrets? Share it with the people – come on! Let’s hear it.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about the NHS and how privatisation of it is wrong. So very, very wrong…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Hey! How an iPad can help you edit…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 These iPads are the thing aren’t they? I mean, really, they’re snazzy. Have you got one? Tap it. Go on. Hmm? You‘ve not got one? Okay, so reach over and tap someone else’s. What’s that? It’s the bloke’s next to you sat on the train? What the hell. Give that screen a little slide.

You see, as I write this, I have an iPad by my side all flat and sleek like washboard stomach at a gym. But, thing is, I haven’t used it much for writing. Well, I say much, not at all really. And the Love Film app, it turns out, doesn’t count. You see, if you follow this Wednesday Waffling/Diary blog (and MASSIVE thanks if you do) you’ll know from previous entries that I am in the throes of editing my second novel. It’s not been going so well.  Thankfully, I’ve figured out that editing a book is like painting a picture – it’s got to be done in layers, like the colours on canvas. I’ve also figured out that it takes time and patience. I know, doesn’t take Einstein to figure that one out. 

The tricky thing I’ve been finding this week though is that when I’m editing my novel, I’m not reading it, you know? I mean really reading it, like a reader. But woman! You may be saying. You are reading the thing, goddammit, you’re editing it! And yes, my friend, you’d be right. But, trouble is, I’ve not been reading my novel like I would if it wasn’t mine – and this is the nut at the centre of my issue. 

iPads- snazzy & handy for editing. Who knew?

You see, when you’re at stage one of editing a novel you have to look at the bigger picture issues. Does the plot make sense? How is the characterisation working? Is the POV – the point of view – right? All bullet-landing questions and ones, I’ve discovered via mild swear words muttered at my laptop in the small hours of the morning,  that I cannot fully answer when I’m pouring over every detail on the laptop screen, my eyes literally seeing double as I stumble jelly legged to the kettle in desperate need of more caffeine.  

So, imagine my surprise when I discover that the answer to all my problems lies not in a new foundation from Bobbi Brown (although, given my current caffeine complexion, that may also help), but in the iPad. My iPad. And, specifically, the Kindle app on my iPad. 

What I didn’t know that I do now is that you can send PDF files to a Kindle/Kindle app and then read it on said technology. Whoa! This is the gold nugget, people. Because, you see, reading on a Kindle is, you know, just like reading a book. Are you with me? And so, if I sent my draft novel as a PDF to the Kindle app on my iPad… yes! Do you see where I’m going here? Of course you do, you sharp tack in the box, you! By reading my novel on my iPad/Kindle, I can view it JUST LIKE A READER WOULD. Ta-da! Seriously, I cannot believe I didn’t think of this before. It’s like discovering that I actually do like dark chocolate all over again. 

So, what I am doing now is going through the 1st edit stage of my novel using my iPad/Kindle. I read my draft as I would any other book on the Kindle app and then, on the table, I have open my laptop on which is the novel as a word document. Then, when I read something that needs editing, I tap on the laptop and hey presto! Progress! You knew? It’s the ‘reading it like any other book’ bit that’s the key here. By reading my novel in this way I am more objective. I can see what readers might see, not just what I see, which is, let’s face it, coming from a highly critical stance. Yup, writers are their own worst critics, and, as it turns out, their own worst eyebrow pluckers, but that’s another story (why do tweezers hurt so much?).

So, for the rest of this week I shall be iPadding. I will be using my iPad Kindle app thingy to edit my book at this all-important big picture stage. Hopefully, it will help me steer the novel in the right direction. And if not, at the very least, it will mean that I am using my iPad. It has apps! It has games!  It has instant celebrity gossip magazine access! Oh yes, iPads really, really are the thing.

So what d’you think? Is the iPad really the thing? What’s your thing for editing or, hey, reading, you know, books? Let’s hear it.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m going back to wind turbines and looking at the cold, hard data, people…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How to edit your novel like a painting…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 Do you sometimes have days where you don’t know what to do? Well, welcome to my week. Yup, these past few days I have been procrastinating with a capital P, and here’s why: my editing sucks. There said it.  The editing of my second novel is going worse than a knees up at a party political conference and it’s doing my head in. You may recall me mentioning my editing issues before, and for this, I apologise. Thing is, it is now reaching boiling point and do you know what? I know why. I do. So, I’m going to be honest with you now. The reason why my editing is going so badly is because I am utterly impatient.

When I first began writing books some years ago, editing seemed easy.  Yes, it appeared like a breeze on the wind after a long trek through the desert. But now I know better. Oh yessurey. You see, editing a novel cannot be done in one go, as it turns out.  And it is this I have to come to terms with.  Think of editing a book as a painting. Paintings are full of colours, textures, layers, but of course, they were not all put on in one go. Oh no. And, hope you’re sitting down, because here is my analogy.

Look at all those layers..!

Paintings have a base layer of colour. For a book, this base layer is equivalent to edit number 1. Yes, edit number one is your base edit. ee? It is the very first edit of your work after the idea has spilled out of you on to the blank page. At this first stage, you need to edit your style. Read through each chapter, adjust your lines, your dialogue.  Ask if your writing is good. How are you characters?

What you can’t do at the same time as edit one is figure out pacing. Pacing goes to edit number two, or, if you’re a painter, your next layer of colour. This is the one that gives the artwork dimension. The pacing for the novel is how the chapters flow together. Ask yourself is it fast enough? Slow enough? Cut and mold your chapters. Include here too how the characters fit together. Cull also anything you don’t need.

When your washed out doing that then your ready for the final edit – edit number three. This is your final layer of colour, if you will, the layer that makes the eyes visible on the face (stay with me). At this stage of the novel edit you need to proof check like crazy. And then read the entire thing back through again. Check for the flow after all your work from the other edits. Read it as if you are a reader. Ask yourself would you buy it. You may find you need to tweak, and God forbid, you may need another mini- edit, but it will be the signature on the canvas, so to speak.

And so there you go – the reason why I am impatient. Because editing comes in layers. If I want to do it well  – and I really, really do – then I have to do it like this. I have to stage my edits, polish my work so it ends up shining enough for someone to want to read it. And all that takes time.

So, I guess I’m going to have to suck it up and get on with it. Yes, it’s going to take forever, but it will be worth it. Better than a knees up at a party political conference any day. Now, where’s my paintbrush.

How do you edit? Do you do anything different? Or does it take forever too?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about the badger culling in Gloucestershire…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Would you want your old life back?

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I went to a music festival at the weekend. I know! Get me! It was the amazing Nibley Music Festival and we all had a whale of a time. Many a band played on the stages, some of which were new and local, others which were older and well, not local. One of these bands was The Christians. Do you know them? They were big, in the UK at least, in the 1990s and sung songs like Ideal World and Hooverville. (If you don’t know them I’ve stuck a link below so you can watch them on You Tube.) Anyway, there we all were right by the main stage watching them when it got to in between songs and the lead singer spoke. He talked about how things were back in the 90s when they were really big – and then he said something that made me stop in my dancing tracks. ‘We want our lives back,’ he said. That phrase stayed in my head for the rest of the day – even when I was boogying to Dodgy and laughing my little head off, not that I’d had a festival drink, you understand (red wine).  

Afterwards, as we trooped on home, our legs weary, our ears ringing to within an inch of their lives, I got to thinking about what he had said. What makes someone say that they want their life back? The life The Christians had when they were big must have been amazing – fame, fans, um, fine food …(sorry, was going for an alliterating three fs there…) What must have happened to them along the way to make them want it all back a decade or two down the line? Take a look at our own lives and how does this relate? Do we all want our old lives back? Bachelor days, student days, child-free days, successful days? Aren’t there times in our lives when we all think: I’d just like to re live that time again just once? The whole thing made me think about my writing. When I was younger, writing wasn’t my goal – I was too distracted by other things and my career choice was marketing and I was going to conquer it! (think power suits…I know…I had big hair, too).  Don’t get me wrong, I always wrote a little – poems, plays, bit and bobs – because I did like to write. But it was only as I got older did I realise that it was my passion, that I had to do it, had to go for it. And I guess that’s my point: I never had it, the success, so I can’t wish for it back. Does that make me lucky? Are we lucky if we come to something later than earlier in life? Or is it just a case of whichever way the cookie crumbles?

I do wonder sometimes if my life would be the way it is now if I had gone into writing when I was younger. I might not have met my hubbie, not had my kids – who knows? This week, my book, The Boy Who Played Guitar, officially came out in paperback and when I held the actual copy in my hands on Monday I couldn’t actually speak (miracles do happen…). Tears sprung to my eyes. I have been working at writing allsorts now for 15 years in between everything else – in between getting married, working and commuting to London, having two babies, more work. But do you know what? Even though it was hard all that writing with minimum success, I wouldn’t change anything (okay, except for my feet, I’d change those – they are truly appalling. Who knew nails could get that thick? Sorry.)

We’re off on holiday next week (hoorah!) and while we’re away, the hubbie and I are going to talk (drink French wine) through the launch party for my book (just the phrase launch party makes me want to run around screaming) and finalise marketing things for it (plus synching it with the Kindle version – not quite happened yet, dear Amazon…) Who knew all this would happen? Who knew I’d make great friends with lovely Twitter and blog people along the way who are always 100% supportive (like Make Shift Mummy and Citizen of Ville Joie)? And I’m pushing 40! With some (lots) eye wrinkles!

So if someone said to me do you want your life back, I’d say, nah, you’re alright, I’ve already got one, thanks. Yup, our lives now may not be the ones we had mapped out for ourselves or had lived 20 odd years or so back, but do you know what? They’re pretty okay, actually. So, if you were asked the same question – do you want your old life back – what would your answer be?

Links: Nibley Music Festival

To get The Boy Who Played Guitar in paperback (only if you want to…), here are the links: UK Amazon   USA Amazon Europe search link    PS A bit cheeky of me, but if you do kindly read it, could you stick a review on Amazon or your blog? Enormous thanks!

Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about equality and how women should be Bishops…**

Diary of a hopeful author: My book’s soon out in paperback..!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 My book is going into print! A paperback! This is not quite what it seems but to me, this week, it might as well be everything. ‘Your dark circles are getting bigger, mum,’ says my youngest. I give her a hug and sigh. ‘Sweetie, when you get to my age everything gets bigger – and it’s not my favourite thing.’ She narrows her eyes at me. ‘I want to get bigger.’ I smile. ‘I know you do. And that’s good! You are growing.  A big girl!’ I think of my dark circles. ‘Not quite the same for mum, I’m afraid, love.’ She looks at me then announces she’s going to play with her Lego.

I make a coffee, and, as the rain slams against the window (who knew this was July?) I think of the past few days and, namely, my growing obsession with Amazon’s Create Space. Yup, I’ve been on Create Space. If you don’t know it, but it’s a new venture, if you will, by Amazon, and it allows self-published authors to create print-on-demand books of their own, well, books.  It means that every time someone orders your paperback book, they print it off -there are no reserved stocks or need for reprint. So, for example, take my novel, The Boy Who Played Guitar – I can now stick it on create Space, get it all set up and ta-da! One book in print and, get this – in my hands! I know! I shake just at the mere thought. Having your own book, printed in your hands is well, like every hopeful author’s dream. What they don’t tell you though is that dream will consist of days of frowning, formatting and some occasional swearing. ‘Are you still on there?’ asks my hubbie as I frown away at the laptop, the Create Space website open.  ‘If I. Could just. Understand how to. Format….Ah! There’s some information!’ I tap away at a ‘how to’ guide on formatting your book ready for printing to Create Space. My hubbie tuts.’You’re mad – lovely – but mad.’ I scratch my head and my hair sticks up – I fear he is right.

The good thing about mad though is that it gets things done. My obsession with Create Space has now produced a book waiting to be printed. My book. Mine! Oh God, I feel sick. If you fancy going down this route with your book too, a top tip – download their word template which has all the formatting built in and then insert your book into it. I didn’t realise you could do this at first and it took me ages to sort out, I mean ages – I didn’t wash for 2 days and the discarded mug mountain next to my computer could have qualified for an art installation.

The Create Space format is prescriptive and if your book doesn’t adhere to its format, it’s not going to work. Take a look at a paperback book and you’ll see that each right and left page have different margin sizes. The font’s specific, too, plus the headers and footers. All that is pre-formatted for you if you use the template.  With the cover, back and binding, there is a full service of formats ready to use. You can insert your own artwork, which I tried, but it turned out the pixels weren’t high enough (it needs to be a minimum of

The new cover – what d’you think?

300 pixels – this is opposed to ‘pixies’, as my daughter read it. Not the same thing. Although, nice mental image…) This means that, sadly, I have had to change my book cover. I’ve stuck it on this post – see what you think compared to the old one. Let me know what you reckon to the new one. I swear I took at least two hours deliberating what to do about the cover. I know, daft, but it’s things like this you end up obsessing over, because, once it’s done and out there, it’s really hard to turn back.

After the cover was done, I switched to pricing and, drum roll, royalties. Before you get excited, let me tell you something – the royalties are tiny. Tiny! The minimum price you can charge for your book on Create Space is £5.30, which, is reasonable, but earns you peanuts. I opted for a steady £5.99, which equates to $7.99. This earns me a small royalty per book. So why not just stick to Kindle editions, you may think? Well, the great, great thing about a digital download of your book is that it is cheaper for the reader (mine just £2.48) and the royalties are much higher for the author. But,  there are still many people who either prefer or want a paper back (over 70% of global book sales are still print formats, even though digital sales are shooting up and print declining). So, it means by making The Boy Who Played Guitar available in print format, I am tapping into 70% (run with me here) of the market that I couldn’t access before. Crikey, no wonder I’m cream crackered.

The old cover…

Anyhoo, I can happily report that in the next few days you can buy a paperback of my book from Amazon. How cool is that? Mind you, if you see a sales increase it will probably be me and my very excited family and friends buying loads because we are, you know, very, um, excited. I really hope it works out. I’m off this week to do a blog tour, pushing The Boy Who Played Guitar to be reviewed, hoping to get it read by a wider audience. And then? Who knows? Maybe the whole thing will grow and get bigger. Just as long as my dark circles don’t expand some more. I think might go and buy some more concealer today. I need it. Nice to meet you, by the way.

Right – over to you. Which book cover do you prefer for The Boy Who Played Guitar? And have you used Create Space? How have you found it? Are your dark circles growing, too…?  We’ve all got to stick together…

Links: Amazon’s Create Space

 Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about green wheelie bins (honestly)…*

Diary of a hopeful author: How to be better at proof reading-ish…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 

It’s been all about the edit this week. But not as we know it. Last week I (finally) finished my second novel, and while I’m chuffed to bits, I am relieved not to look at it for a while because the amount of things to do while I wrote it have been piling up around my head – the biggest of which is my first novel. ‘Honey,’ my hubbie says as he reads through my weekly column before I send it to my editor, ‘I corrected a few mistakes there for you.’ I nod my weary head and take the laptop from him.

You see, as well as not being able to cook for toffee (I burn soup), I am utterly rubbish at proofreading.  I’ve mentioned this slight downfall of mine in this blog before and how it is a bit of a pain, considering my profession. It’s a bit like a doctor saying diagnosing isn’t their strong point, a government saying it’s not really the best at closing tax-haven loopholes (little bit topical there, see…) or a dog not quite being able to aim at the lamppost correctly – it’s supposed to be what they do.

It’s because of my little weakness that I find myself in the frantic position of having to re-edit my first book, The Boy Who Played Guitar. The fantastic thing about publishing on to Amazon has been that it has put me out there and given me amazing feedback on what I can do. I’ve been lucky; everyone has been positive. The reviews have been good and readers have loved the heart-warming, sad tale, the twists, the turns, the characters. The only downside is the odd mistake littered here and there because of, quite frankly, my crap proof reading skills – and readers deserve a well-proof read book with as little mistakes in it as possible. I did proof read the book before I self-published it – and it got amazing feedback from literary agents – but the thing is I did it all my myself, pulling an all-nighter to do so, so that, by the time I reached the end of the novel, I was bleary-eyed, grumpy and unable to check a my kids’ homework for errors, never mind a piece of writing. In fact, have you spotted any mistakes in this piece? No? Go on, have a look…See, told yoo…

One of the most crucial things I have learnt since first publishing my book is this: get someone to help. Anyone will do. Your neighbour (I did), your mates, parents, spouse (it only causes a few arguments, so…) Just be ready for some clear, honest critiquing and always pick someone who is going to tell it to you straight. Best not pick a politician then. I have been proof reading The Boy Who Played Guitar now since Saturday and it’s – touch wood – going okay. I did stay up until 2 a.m. on Saturday night, but got so tired I had to have two cat naps to keep going. When it got to my eyes dosing off for the third time I decided to call it a day, well, night – I’d make more mistakes proofreading half asleep, and believe me, I can make mistakes at the best of times (just ask my kids…).

Our youngest is off ill today, so I’ll spend the day catching up with paperwork and emails while I keep an eye on her (sore throat – poor poppet) That means I should be able to finish proofreading tonight and all day tomorrow. After that, I’ll be ready to re-upload it to Amazon and then? Contact as many blogs I know who take submissions of books for review. A scary thought, but highly essential. Once that’s done, it’s back to more editing, but this time of my second novel. Dear God, no wonder I’m cream crackered. ‘Mum,’ says our youngest, ‘I’m cream crackered, too.’ Her voice makes me jump – she is behind me, reading as I type. ‘Honey, you snuck up on me.’ She smiles. ‘Sorry.’ Then, as she gets back into bed, she says, ‘Mum, you spelt ‘you’ wrong in paragraph three.’ I look. She is right. She’s 8-years old. Told you I was rubbish at proof reading.

Spotted any errors? Or do you have any proof reading top-tips to share? Do let me know – I need all the help I can get…

Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about stepping in dog-muck…*

Diary of a hopeful author: I’ve finished writing my novel!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I’ve finished writing my novel! Blimey, feels, quite weird typing that, but there you go, it’s true. This week, well, yesterday to be precise, I finally completed my second novel and the one thing above anything else that is on my mind as I type the last of the 90,000 words is, not ‘well done, me’, but: sweet God,  my shoulders feel like breeze blocks.  ‘Why do you sit like that?’ says my hubbie one morning walking past the study. I pause mid- typing and frown. ‘What d’you mean?’ He nods to my posture. ‘You are all Hunchback of Notre Dame there, honey.  Sit up a little.’ He pops his toast back into his mouth and leaves. I check out my arms. Bent. I try to look at my back but this means craning my head and this hurts. Giving up, I shuffle in my seat and sit up straight, and for a couple of minutes all is well – and then I slide back down to my Quasimodo position.  But, being on the final straight of writing the book, I do nothing about it, and so keep on typing.

When it gets to the following day, I get up at 5 a.m, write for an hour, get the kids ready and to school, then resume writing until 12 noon. I type that fast that I think you can see smoke coming from my laptop (I say this figuratively, but actually, that’s only because I’m using my newer netbook – the old laptop actually did give off smoke, so…). When I finally type the last word, I slump back into my seat and stare at the screen. I cannot believe it. I am done! Six months of research, character development, long, hard outline planning (not my favourite part, but, unfortunately vital to do), learning criminal law ins and out, and then actually writing it. Nope, cannot believe it. It’s a bit like travelling around the world and then getting to your final destination and realising that this is it, you have to go home now. I blink at the screen and, shutting it down, wonder how I can celebrate this little achievement. Shall I go for a run? Have some chocolate? Watch a film? Oh no. I do none of these things. I finish my 90,000 word novel – and then go and hang the washing out on the line. It is a sunny day, and, give it’s been tipping it down the past week, it’s a chance to get the clothes dry and it really is a lovely day for the washing to dry. Who said writing books wasn’t life on the edge, hey?

As I hang out the washing, I think about the novel and what I have to do next, namely The Edit. A lot of writers aren’t so keen on editing, but me, I love it. What’s not to like? You have a page that is full of words and that has to be better than a blank page staring back at you, the computer curser winking at you reminding you that you still. Haven’t . Written. Anything. The great thing this time round is that I have had two people reading my book as I write it – namely my mum and her friend.  And I have to say it has been the best move ever. It’s meant that they have kept an eye on things such as pace and consistency for me, which, when you are writing chapter after chapter is vital because things tend to blur and you are so close to the plotline that the words begin to merge together (this did actually happen one day, the words merging together. I had to stop typing and stand back, blinking. I was concerned I’d wrecked my eyes until it turned out there was a bit of sleep on my contact lense…).

The other handy thing about editing this time around is that my outline has been solid. I loathe writing outlines. I really do. But without it, it is way harder to actually write the book – rather like a house without foundations or running a marathon without doing the training first, without the outline in place first, the novel will all fall down. For this book, I put together a 50-page outline. I split the plot into four acts and did an eight-point arc for each Act. Then I broke it down into chapters, developing the plot into an eight-point arc per chapter, meaning each chapter had its own structured development and climax. It is a bit daunting to start with, but I did find that using the 8-point arc to map out each chapter helped enormously and reassured me that I was constructing each chapter properly so the reader felt it was good and the pace kept up.  While an outline is my most pants things to do, the plus side is that, if you write a thorough outline, then by the time you begin to actually write the novel, you can do just that – write. The plot is already worked out, so you can just let things flow. I did change the plot along the way as the writing developed, but that worked fine. If anything needed changing, I simply stopped writing, re-wrote the 8-point arc for that particular chapter, checked it against the other chapters for consistency, and then started writing again. See? Easy! Yeah, right. It’s frustrating at times, to be honest, but, as is becoming my favourite phrase these days, ‘it’s well worth it.’

That evening, washing back in and dry (living on the edge right there!), I call my friend and we meet for a cycle and walk as it’s a lovely sunny evening – plus she wants to feed me a glass of wine for finishing the book, so, you know,  I couldn’t say no. We say ‘cheers’ and taking big gulps (we had walked 4 miles…) She asks me what sort of book it is. I pause. ‘Do you know what, I think I may have written a thriller.’ She swigs her wine. ‘Really?’ I nod. I know it’s daft, but even though that’s the sort of book it must be – a thriller, drama type thing (it’s set in a prison with a Spanish doctor as the new convict) I’ve never actually acknowledged it. But d’you know, I’ve loved writing it. Turns out, I quite like this plot twist and turn thing. My friend holds up her glass. ‘Here’s to your thriller then,’ she says.  ‘Well done, mate.’ ‘Cheers,’ I say, and we drink (down) our wine.

That night, I get ready for bed and chat to my hubbie. ‘So are you pleased it’s all finished?’ he asks. I nod and brush my hair. ‘Yup. Just the edit now and I can get it sent off.’ He smiles. ‘Cool.’ I nod and reach up to scratch my back. ‘Aaargh!’ My face scrunches to a grimace. ‘What is it?’ asks my hubbie. I edge to the bed and sit. ‘My shoulder. It’s locked.’ He comes over and tuts. ‘I told you you were sitting at that laptop funny.’ I sigh. ‘Like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you said.’ He rolls his eyes and rubs my shoulder.  I wince. I have turned into Quasimodo. A Quasimodo with a second novel.

Are you in the middle of writing your novel? Do you use the 8-point arc or want to know more about it? Let me know.

Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about Dementia…**