So you want to write a Novel?

Keep calm mug

So you want to write a novel? You’ve had an idea rolling around in your head for months, perhaps even years, and now you’re just itching to get it down on paper and have the world read your story. Having recently written and published my first novel and now working on the second, I learned quite a few things along the way. Here are 10 of my top tips.

  1. Have an outline. Write a plan, a rough guide, for what your story is going to be about, where it takes place, who your main characters are and a chronological order of events. You won’t stick to it but it helps to start with some structure.
  2. Word Count. Start small – many of you writing your first novel will perhaps be working full-time or you may be a busy parent or carer. Whatever your situation, it’s highly unlikely you can spend all the hours of your day totally devoted to writing – so have a goal. I aim for 1000 words every day. Sometimes I manage 2000 words in one day, on other days I only manage 500 words. It’s fine if you don’t always hit your daily target but if you have one it helps to keep you motivated. John Grisham began his writing career as a lawyer. He got up early every morning and wrote one page – we can all manage that. And Jodi Picoult said, “You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
  3. Give yourself a weekly deadline. It can be a word count, percentage of progress, number of pages, whatever. Have something to aim for, and someone who will hold you accountable.
  4. Have a set time to write. Be strict with this and try and stick to it. After a bit of experimenting I’ve discovered that writing in the morning works best for me. Work out what’s best for you and don’t let yourself off!
  5. Choose a place to write. It doesn’t really matter where it is, your spare bedroom, the kitchen, your study (if you’re lucky enough to have one), wherever, just make it unique to your writing. I personally need to work without interruption. However, some of my family members think if I’m writing it’s okay for them to keep disturbing me. As a consequence, I now carry out a lot of my writing in the spare bedroom at my parent’s house.
  6. Get early feedback. As soon as I had finished my manuscript I had several copies made and kindly asked likeminded friends and colleagues to read my novel and provide me with honest feedback. I was lucky in that some of my first reviewers included journalists, writers and editors.
  7. Accept constructive criticism. Reject destructive criticism. Not everyone will like your story or style of writing but there will always be those who do. Study the constructive criticism and see if there is anything you agree with or had niggling doubts about and decide if you need to make changes.
  8. Re-write. Accept that you will have to re-write your novel several times before you can honestly say it is finished. Early feedback will help highlight any weak points or indicate any links that can be strengthened within the story or between the characters.
  9. Proofread. Get someone to proofread your finished manuscript – I can’t stress how important this is. It doesn’t matter how good you are at proofreading the work of others, you are too close to your own work and you need fresh, expert eyes to pick up what you will miss.
  10. Don’t give up. Get your first novel out there. Send it to a publisher or self-publish if you prefer. Accept it may not be a masterpiece and it may not be your best work. Some authors are embarrassed by their first book. But without that first novel, they never would have learned the lessons they did. So get it out there and move on to your next project. This is the only way you get good. You practice. Edgar Rice Burroughs said “If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favour.”
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Guest Post by Donna Maria McCarthy – Author of The Hangman’s Hitch

Donna Maria McCarthy

 

I’m very pleased to welcome Donna Maria McCarthy as my guest author today. Donna is the author of the soon to be released The Hangman’s Hitch, described on Amazon.co.uk as,

“The inn at the end of your world.
Where satanic practice is the order
And your soul required to pay for your stay…”

Here, Donna describes her journey to publication.

SERENDIPITY

Two years ago, or there about, I finished what I believed to be an accomplished piece of work, The Hangman’s Hitch, and after encouragement decided to see what the publishing world would make of it.

Initially I realised that it would need revising to be submission ready, which I did, although being so green to the process it added a further three months to the wait!

Submissions themselves were sometimes gruelling, sometimes eye opening and on fortunate days, encouraging! in fact I found that some even had me draw positives from negatives, rejections can sometimes be tempered with praise and useful advice from the most aspirational of sources. All is not as harrowing as a newbie might be lead to believe.

Fast forward twelve months and with another novel brewing and my time took up between work and submissions, I felt a harsh decision needed to be made, to shelve ‘The Hangman’s Hitch’ and move on with my new idea.

One last ditched attempt, I thought, as’ Britain’s Next Bestseller’ came up on a search I was deleting, why not! It felt right, strangely as though I had been waiting for that very moment, and no nerves…I never trust nerves… so I submitted and before long was contacted by Murielle Maupoint, the company founder, asking if I would like to embark on a campaign with BNBS, saying that she thought my book had enormous potential!

Of course I accepted! Not only because the concept was new and exciting but also because I found Murielle very personable and approachable, once again that thought, ‘This just feels right’.

Throughout the whole process BNBS were in regular contact with me and the encouragement I received was not only pertinent at the time, for it has made me a far more confident person now and so cleverly administered that I didn’t notice myself changing.

I now have a full contract with BNBS and for me, personally, will always endeavour to retain them as my publisher. They have opened the world up to me, inspired me, made me laugh and introduced me to so many good friends through social media, something I had never been interested in before.

It seems right, at this point, to introduce the lady herself with a few words from her on what has inspired her to work so tirelessly, 24/7 sometimes, with her BNBS authors and hopefuls, and her hopes for the future.

“There is such phenomenal writing talent in the UK. Britain’s Next Bestseller gives authors the opportunity to land a publishing deal based on whether readers like the book or not. We believe this is the way forward to discover fantastic new books that can be bestsellers of the future. What drives me is my passion to empower people to achieve their dreams. By removing some of the major barriers new authors face in pursuing their writing ambitions I believe we are making a real difference… plus we have built a buzzing family of authors who all support and guide one another to succeed. There are friendships that have been made between authors on Britain’s Next Bestseller that I know will last a lifetime. It’s a feel good business and every time we help an author achieve their dreams it puts a huge smile on my face and fuels me to keep going.”

I can vouch personally for all of the above, and more, Murielle is truly  a remarkable lady and I wish I had half her energy!

Lastly, on that word, Serendipity, a lucky chance or magical happenstance? For me it perfectly sums up the last twelve months of my life.

 

You can find Donna on  Facebook here  hhtps://m.facebook.com/Potion666/  and

Twitter @roast914_k

The Hangman’s Hitch is due for release on 8th April 2016 and can be pre-ordered here.

 

 

 

Guest Post by Audrina Lane – Author of the Heart Trilogy

I’m very pleased to welcome Audrina Lane as my guest author this week. The Heart Trilogy by Audrina Lane is currently available on Amazon.co.uk here and Amazon.com here.

Today, Audrina explains how and what inspired her to write and publish three novels.

Childhood Fairy Tales to Book Boyfriends

It was only meant to satisfy my sudden craving to write a book, well that’s not quite true it was an ambition I’d held since I was a teenage but until the age of 40 loomed on the landscape I’d never took the time to see if I could. I’d been a voracious reader ever since my Nan read all the classics to me as a child. I went through the looking glass with Alice, tended goats with Heidi and fell in love with Laurie in Little Women. But my favourite character was Jo, the ambitious writer. My first jottings were short stories for my younger sisters that I would read aloud to them, my favourite being “The Return of Mr Tibbs” about a cat returning as a ghost to tell the children where his body was so they could bury him beneath his favourite apple tree.

Skip a few years and my world fell apart at age seventeen. My first love called a day on our relationship, we’d been together since I was fifteen, and I was completely devastated. He had taught me everything and never questioned the person I was or wanted to become in a way he still is my soul mate despite the twenty five years that have passed. So two years later I started to write out all my frustrations at his betrayal as well as all my memories of the good times we’d shared. The book was called “Take my Breath Away” title taken from the song and the fact that it had been “our song”

I was so obsessed that I wrote it in under a month, I kept my notebook under the counter at work and just wrote whenever the shop was quiet. Then I spent hours at my Mum’s typewriter transferring the written words and it was finished – all 30,000 words of first love and anguish. I shared it with a friend’s teenage daughter as I’d written it in a similar style to “Forever” by Judy Blume. I was thrilled when she returned it and wrote me a letter saying that she loved the book and my character Stephanie and that it had made her cry in places. I wish I still had that letter because the thrill of it was beyond measure. But then what? The story was my baby, it was filled with my memories and I just couldn’t bear the thought of sending it off to a publisher and being told it was rubbish! So I placed it in a box file and it moved house three times until I found it again in 2013 – the year of the big 40.

I read it through and cringed but also thought it still made a good story but how to bring it up to date when it was firmly set in the 1980’s a time before mobile phones, a time when long-distance romance involved writing letters? So with fingers poised over the keys of my laptop I began my first ever novel. I wanted it to be relevant now but still remember the 80’s so I set it in 2012 but included diary entries from 1988. To take me back in time I compiled a playlist of all my favourite 80’s songs and with the music all the memories tumbled back. Again I was obsessed, every free moment I was tapping away on the keyboard turning my fond memories into a story that I hoped would be relevant for all ages 16-60!

It had the joys and fears of first love brought to life though Stephanie’s diary (yes I kept my heroine’s name) and juxtaposed it with her teenage daughter Charlotte’s experience as she meets and falls in love for the first time.

When I pressed publish on Amazon I sat back and felt both satisfied but nervous. Would my friends who had vowed they would buy and read it actually like it? Would they see me in Stephanie and guess that it was about my own experiences. Would my first boyfriend mind that I had used his name for the hero? Waiting for the first review was nerve-racking, but when it appeared two weeks later I was thrilled – 5 stars but who was Viper?? I asked everyone I knew but it was none of them. The reviewer had picked up the Top Gun film references in the book and I knew that Viper was a call sign for the instructor in the film, believe me I’ve watched that film a million times!

Then the penny dropped, a message was blinking on my Facebook page from a name I’d never forgotten. He’d been flattered by my memories of our relationship and I think kind of liked the idea of being a romantic hero in a novel. Then he asked me the question “What happens next?” Even I hadn’t thought of that, could there be a next? I mulled the idea over and then as more reviews appeared and more readers started to ask the same question I thought I might just write some more. So the first story spawned two more and I cried as I pressed THE END on the final book in the trilogy I’d been on such a journey with my characters and entered the realm of ‘what if.’

Well the journey has been a long and fun one, three book’s in three years and guess what number four is in progress. It’s called “Bloodstained Heart” and I am hoping to publish it in June of this year. Then perhaps I can move away from the characters of my Heart Trilogy and begin to breathe life into new characters, in new places with new stories to tell.

Audrina is currently working on her fourth novel “Boodstained Heart” and you can find out more about Audrina and her books on Facebook here and here. Audrina is also on Twitter @AudrinaLane and her website address is http://www.audrinalane.co.uk/.

Audrina Author pic

Night, Night, Sleep Tight!

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The birthplace of William Shakespeare

Last weekend I went to visit the birthplace of the Bard – William Shakespeare 26 April 1564  – 23 April 1616 – English poet, playwright and actor during the English Renaissance, Elizabethan Era. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire and widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. His works have been translated into 80 languages – including Star Trek’s Klingon – apparently!

Whilst wandering around the beautiful house of his birth on Henley Street I got talking to one of the volunteers about the reproduction beds on display. The mattresses were quite clearly supported by ropes which, I was advised, would have needed to be pulled tight to provide a well-sprung bed. There were wooden turning posts placed along the sides of the bed, connected to the ropes, and it would have been the action of turning and twisting these posts that would have enabled the ropes to be pulled tight. This is something William and his brothers would have been expected to do.

Hence the saying “Night, night, sleep tight.” If the ropes were not pulled tight and one then slept badly as a consequence, one would then state that they had had a “Ropey night’s sleep.”

How true this actually is I’m not entirely certain but it got me thinking about other popular sayings and their origins. Although we’re not always aware of it we probably all quote history on a daily basis. The English language is filled with common sayings, bits of slang and idioms often derived from historical events and legends. Sometimes the connections are obvious, whereas other phrases have become so commonplace that most speakers probably never stop to consider their source. So, just for a bit of historical fun I’ve listed a few more for you to peruse at your leisure including some coined or popularised by the Bard himself.

Turn A Blind Eye

The phrase “turn a blind eye” usually used to refer to a deliberate refusal to acknowledge a particular reality is said to date back to a legendary chapter in the career of the British naval hero Horatio Nelson. During the 1801 Battle of Copenhagen, Nelson’s ships were pitted against a large Danish-Norwegian fleet. When Nelson’s superior officer flagged for him to withdraw, the one-eyed Nelson supposedly brought his telescope to his bad eye proclaiming, “I really do not see the signal.” He went on to score a momentous victory. Some historians have dismissed Nelson’s famous quip as battlefield myth, but the phrase “turn a blind eye” persists to this day.

A Foregone Conclusion

A decision made before the evidence for it is known. An inevitable conclusion.This originates from Shakespeare’s 1604 play Othello: But this donated a foregone conclusion: ‘Tis a shrewd doubt, though it be but a dream.’ This is a response to Iago who says that what he was telling Othello was “just a dream” of Cassio’s, who was supposedly dreaming of Desdemona. It is important to know that Iago is the villain of the play, though, so this could be a trick. 

Crocodile tears

The phrase “crocodile tears” is used to describe a display of superficial or false sorrow, but the saying actually derives from a medieval belief that crocodiles shed tears of sadness while they killed and consumed their prey. This myth dates back to the 14th century and comes from a book called “The Travels of Sir John Mandeville.” Extremely popular upon its release, the book tells the stories of a brave knight’s adventures during his travels through Asia. Among its many inventions, the book includes a description of crocodiles that notes, “These serpents sley men, and eate them weeping, and they have no tongue.” While factually inaccurate, the account of weeping reptiles later found its way into the works of Shakespeare, and “crocodile tears” became an idiom as early as the 16th century.

Tow Rag

The phrase Tow-rag comes from the pad of teased out old rope that Royal Navy sailors of the 18th and 19th century used to use when they visited ‘the head’ (toilet on the bow of the ship). Paper was far too expensive to use, so old rope, known as tow, was used and was then washed out and kept in one’s pocket until needed again. Hence the derisory term to call someone a tow-rag.

Running amok

Originally beginning its life as a medical term “Running amok” is commonly used to describe wild or erratic behavior. The saying became popular during the 18th and 19th centuries, when European visitors to Malaysia learned of a peculiar mental affliction that caused otherwise normal tribesmen to go on brutal and what appeared to be random killing sprees. Amok – derived from the “Amuco,” a band of Javanese and Malay warriors who were known for their penchant for indiscriminate violence – was initially a source of macabre fascination for Westerners. Writing in 1772, the famed explorer Captain James Cook noted that “to run amok is to … sally forth from the house, kill the person or persons supposed to have injured the Amock, and any other person that attempts to impede his passage.” Once thought to be the result of possession by evil spirits, the phenomenon later found its way into psychiatric manuals.

What A Piece of Work is Man

Man is a supreme creature. This originates from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602:

“What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.”

More recently, the phrase ‘a real piece of work’ has been coined to mean ‘a bad character, lacking morality and scruples’. This goes further than Shakespeare’s usage which, while appearing to glorify man, is ironic in suggesting that man is very far from a masterpiece.

Another great review of 183 Times A Year

Thank you to Mrs Walshie and her lovely recent review on Amazon.co.uk.

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This is about a family that I think a lot of people would recognise as similar to their own. What do I mean? Well, it’s about a Mum to Cassie and Connor and Step-Mum to Maisy, a Dad to Maisy and Step-Dad to Cassie and Connor, two teenage daughters and a son.

The daughters are dealing with raging hormones and your typical teenage worries and dramas.

The Mum is dealing with job security being in question, keeping her relationship spark alive with hubby, two teenage daughters that love to hate her, a son that she doesn’t want to grow up because he still shows her love and affection and a house to maintain while picking up the pieces her ex husband leaves their children in because they aren’t included in his new family.

The Dad is away a lot because of his job so the Mum constantly feels like she is the monster disciplinarian while he wants to keep the waters calm when he is home.

The son is existing. He seems to be upstaged by his sisters and their teenage angst.

Like I said, it is a familiar scene by many so the characters are easy to relate to, sometimes you want to slap them, other times you want to grab them and hug them tight! There will be many laughs, and OMG moments, and there will be tears. BUT, you will see a family working as a family, the bonds they have and the love they hold for each other. Enjoy.

Does rejection make you depressed or determined?

If you are a writer you will experience rejection – that’s a given. The trick is to learn from it, embrace it and carry on regardless. Take a look at this inspiring piece about rejection – and then get back to writing!

Take Five Authors

Like most authors, I’ve had my share of rejection slips. I suppose I’m lucky in that most of mine were what is rather sweetly termed ‘rave rejections’. In other words, they generally took the line of ‘We love your writing, but in the current marketplace … risk of signing a debut novelist …overcrowded women’s fiction market …’ and so on.

I take a little consolation in knowing that ‘twas ever thus. The list of writers who were serially rejected is huge. Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times. (It has sold 30 million copies.)

Agatha_Christie Agatha Christie, via Wikimedia Commons

Agatha Christie had to wait years before she was accepted for publication – now she is the biggest selling author of all time, excepting William Shakespeare. JK Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers (who must be bitterly regretting their decisions now). I can go on – Stephenie Meyer (Twilight

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10 Interesting Facts about Libraries and Librarians

Libraries equal equality – access to books for everyone regardless of background and opportunity. Use them or lose them folks!

Interesting Literature

Great facts about famous libraries and librarians around the world

We thought it was about time we saluted that noble institution, the library, with some of our favourite interesting bits of trivia about libraries and librarians.

Jacob Grimm, Philip Larkin, Casanova, David Hume, Jorge Luis Borges, and Lewis Carroll all worked as librarians.

Another word for a librarian is ‘bibliothecar’.

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