P for Plotting, P for Polished, P for Enis …?

Today, we are delighted to welcome Jane O’Reilly to Romaniac HQ. Jane’s been managing without a P …

So you’ve (almost) finished nanowrimo – now what?

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If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve most probably heard of Nanowrimo. It’s kind of like Movember for writers – instead of facial hair, Nanowrimo involves growing a book. Fifty thousand words, written during November, cut and pasted into the Nanowrimo site which will, once you reach that milestone, declare you a winner.

So you have your 50K words. Or maybe a few more (or maybe a few less). But what to do with them now? Having been on a tight deadline which required me to have not just 50K words, but 50K polished and ready-to-send-to-an-editor words by the end of November, I thought I would talk about my personal process of moving from a first draft to a finished story.

This started for me back in October, when I was asked to write 2 25K erotic romance novellas with a fairly tight turnaround (5 weeks). I had plotted the first, had no idea about the second, and had no written words of either. I got to work and wrote a lot of sex scenes in a very short space of time. Some of them were weird. But we won’t talk about that. More disturbing was the weekend I spent on writing retreat in Devon (with lots of other lovely writers) when the P on my laptop decided to stop working. For the first 5 thousand words of the second novella, my hero had an enis. It was distressing for both of us.

By 19th of November, I had my first drafts of both novellas. Phew. After a couple of hours of recovering from the weeks of panicking that I wouldn’t get those done in time, it was time to start panicking about revising them in time. This is a different sort of panic. It’s not a blank page, I have so much to do panic, more of a what if the story is insane panic. The only solution is to open up the document and read it, preferably somewhere private. People tend to think you’re a bit strange if they see you talking to yourself and crying. We’re often told to take a break from a manuscript before revising it, but my experience has been that if a draft is left for any length of time, it is very difficult to go back to, especially if you have started a new more exciting project. And once you’re on deadline, you won’t have that option. By all means leave it, but for a couple of days. Not for a couple of months (which can all too easily become years).

For anyone who has never revised a draft before, I’d like to start by saying this: revising is more than fixing typos. You do have to fix typos, don’t get me wrong – but a draft isn’t finished when that job is done, and it should be low down on your list of priorities. The first step, for me anyway, is to check that the three act structure is in place. At this point in my writing career, I am definitely a plotter. I didn’t start out as one, primarily because I didn’t know how to plot, but now it is vital. I write to the following structure – ordinary world, inciting incident, turning points 1, 2 and 3 (with a midpoint change that needs to occur exactly half way through the book), high point, black moment, darkest moment and climax. I also try to have the end of the book mirror the beginning as much as possible (so in the first of the two novellas, the book opens at a wedding, with the hero catching the heroine doing something she shouldn’t. It ends with the hero and heroine doing that something at their own wedding). Got all that? Good. If the idea of 3 act structure is new to you, I suggest taking a look at The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. (Yes, it’s a tome. Yes, it’s worth it.) Alternatively, if you can get yourself on one of her courses, get the lovely Julie Cohen to explain it to you.

As well as a rough plan for the turning points, I also have a fairly good idea of what the book is about (the theme) and some sort of logline worked out before I begin, so that I know the conflict is enough to sustain the story. (For more on this, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain are both useful).

Even with a plan, however, it is still possible to take a wrong turn. Fix the structure first, and everything else will follow. Making sure the structure is right and that I have all the right scenes in the right order takes me through a second draft. Each of those scenes and the sequel that follows on from it also has to have structure – a character must enter a scene with a goal and fail to achieve it, and in the sequel that follows, the character must rethink and set a new goal. (For anyone looking for help with scene structure, I would recommend reading Scene and Sequel by Jack Bickham.)

The third draft involves making sure all the back story is coherent. You know, how the hero was her neighbour at the start of the draft and he was her best friend’s brother by the end. All those threads have to be tied together so that as you move from scene to scene, there is strong internal consistency. I also fix other inconsistencies I find along the way, like random changes of clothing and position, dialogue that doesn’t make sense, and the best friend who started out as Charlotte and ended up as Dave. Random animals have to be removed, together with any unnecessary Star Wars references and/or enises. At this point, I can also start to see where I’ve repeated myself and decide which bits to cut and which to keep. (Saying the same thing 8 times in a first draft is mandatory.)

At this point, I usually put the document on to kindle and read it on that. Changing reading format will give you a completely different view of the story – you will suddenly see the typo in a sentence that you’ve read a dozen times, see which sentences are clumsy and awkward, see where you’ve used the same word 5 sentences in a row. (Yes, you can fix the typos now. You mean you haven’t done it already?)

The final step, which takes me to 5 drafts, is to get the kindle to read the book out loud. More typos and sentences that need to be put down will make themselves known. Plus you get to imagine what it would be like if your sex scenes were being read out loud at a robot book club.

By this point, robot book clubs aside, chances are that you are completely fed up with your book. You may even hate it. This is the point at which to stop playing around with it and send it wherever it needs to go.

But before you do, I have one last task for you. Run spellcheck.

Jane O’Reilly writes contemporary romances for Harlequin Escape and erotic romances for Carina UK. Find her on twitter as @janeoreilly, on facebook at www.facebook.com/janeoreillyauthor or visit her website at http://www.janeoreilly.com/

Jane O'Reilly Cover Pic

Blurb:

When tabloid journalist Erica Parker is forced to take a holiday, she’s determined to make it the most miserable holiday she possibly can, but not even her impressive imaginative powers could have come up with sharing a tent with survival expert Nathan Wilde.    Nathan was a married man with a successful TV show before Erica got to work on his life. Now the hottest man she’s ever met is single, furious, and he’s got her alone in the wilderness for three long days…

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Roving Romaniacs – Festival of Romance, Bedford, 2013

Wow! What a weekend!

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Me, Celia, Catherine and Vanessa at The Awards Ball

Last weekend (8th-10th Nov) saw myself and my fellow Romaniacs – Laura, Celia, Vanessa, Debbie, Jan and Catherine – all descend on Bedford town centre to attend the Festival of Romance, 2013. This event is particularly special to us Romaniacs as this is where, two years ago, we first formed as a writing group. We have some very fond memories, of which we continue to add to each year.

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Shortlisted authors for the New Talent Award

The other guests in the B&B that we were staying at, would’ve undoubtedly known the second we all met up because of the high pitched squeals we omitted. It was the first time we had all seen eachother in months – we are quite a vocal group of ladies once you put us together!

So we put our glad-rags on and took ourselves off to the awards. It was a fantastic evening full of laughs, congratulating hugs and generally having a good ole catch up with much loved friends. It was so lovely to meet up with my old friends and extremely exciting to have met some ‘new’ friends, with whom I had only ever spoken to online. 

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The beautiful New Talent Award

A massive well done to all those short-listed on the award, it is such an achievement in itself. You are all very talented, so well done. 

Congratulations to each and every one of the winners on the night and also to everyone who was short-listed for an award. And a massive thank you to Kate Allan for, yet again, putting in so much time and effort and organising such a fantastic event.

I am already thinking about what to wear for next year’s Festival of Romance!

Lucie xx

Let’s Get Emotional with ‘Doubting Abbey’ author Samantha Tonge

A very warm welcome to Samantha Tonge on the Tuesday Chit-Chat slot.  First of all big Romaniac congratulations on the publication of her debut novel ‘Doubting Abbey’.  Today Samantha is getting all emotional – but in a good way.

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Let’s Get Emotional

Part of the reason I’m so thrilled that my debut novel, Doubting Abbey, is finally ‘out there’ in the big wide world, is that I have several unpublished novels under my bed. It’s been a hard slog, getting published – although a rollercoaster ride along the way, filled with disappointment, yes, but many highs, like the excitement of a new project; my first positive rejection letter; getting the full manuscript requested; finally bagging myself an agent.

In retrospect I can see what was wrong with the very first novels I wrote and one aspect only really became clear in the last year or two, thanks to an editor I worked closely with in the short story world. She said I needed to put even more emotion into my work. It makes sense to me now. Readers love a story if they care about the characters – to care they must feel what those fictional people are going through. Otherwise they might get to the end and ask “what was the point”?

So now when I write, I try harder than ever to put myself into the characters’ place and convey their emotions according to my own feelings. Nerves? Yes, a twisted stomach or sweaty palms. Fear? A dry mouth and racing heartbeat. Love? Flushed cheeks and a warmth spreading through my chest. Someone recently recommended a book to me called the Emotional Thesaurus and it is brilliant at listing such reactions.

Also, as the writer, you need to think of emotional actions, not just physical change. In Doubting Abbey, arrogant hunk Lord Edward is secretly a tortured soul. Hence the occasion when he’ll sit with his head hung in his hands. Pizza waitress, Gemma, who must pretend to be his posh cousin, Abbey, hates all the lies – which could be conveyed by a lack of eye contact and a wavering voice.

The emotional stakes can also be raised by particular storylines – in Doubting Abbey friends from the past are brought together. Reunions are emotional gold, making the reader care not only about the people in your novel, but also the plot and what happens – and not necessarily to flesh and blood. Lord Edward’s family must win reality show Million Dollar Mansion to save their beloved but run-down Applebridge Hall – a building I hope finds a place in readers’ hearts. With its cracked tiles and faded wallpaper, on the surface it’s just bricks and mortar – yet the family portraits from bygone centuries soon tell the tale of a place once filled with vibrant parties, kind-hearted residents, passionate love and unbridled laughter.

So next time you read a book, think about what moves you and makes you care. Have you laughed? Did your eyes well up? Did you fall just a little bit in love with the hero…?

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Swapping downstairs for upstairs… How hard can it be!?
Look up the phrase ordinary girl and you’ll see a picture of me, Gemma Goodwin – I only look half-decent after applying the entire contents of my make-up bag, and my dating track-record includes a man who treated me to dinner…at a kebab shop. No joke!
The only extraordinary thing about me is that I look EXACTLY like my BFF, Abbey Croxley. Oh, and that for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve agreed to swap identities and pretend be her to star in the TV show about her aristocratic family’s country estate, Million Dollar Mansion.
So now it’s not just my tan I’m faking – it’s Kate Middleton style demure hemlines and lady-like manners too. And amongst the hundreds of fusty etiquette rules I’m trying to cram into my head, there are two I really must remember; 1) No-one can ever find out that I’m justGemma, who’d be more at home in the servants quarters. And 2) There can be absolutely no flirting with Abbey’s dishy but buttoned-up cousin, Lord Edward.
Aaargh, this is going to be harder than I thought…

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Doubting Abbey Blog

Remembering …

Just a short blog today on the theme of looking back over your shoulder. It’s a day when children in schools all across Britain will be silent for 2 minutes (and that doesn’t happen often!) In different places throughout the country, people will pause. They’ll think about wars and the tragic waste of life that goes with them, but they’ll also have their own memories. Here are some of ours.

Celia: My much-missed Pa, about to give me away for the second time. Unbelievably, he is wearing the same suit! He said it wasn’t worth buying another one as this one still had years of wear in it. You can’t go wrong with beige, can you? Except if there’s tomato soup involved.

Wedding

Sue : My Grandad : Frederick Rowland  (1908-1982), Craftsman, REME, Served in North Africa and Italy

Grandad Rowland

Catherine : My Grandad

Catherine's Grandad

Laura: I was thinking about my Great Uncle Reg, who was part of the team that flew gliders to secure a bridge during WW2. Sadly, he passed away in 2005. A true hero.

I’m also thinking about my lovely mum and step-dad. Heroes of a different kind. My heroes.

Playing Fitball

Don’t laugh. I am attempting to hold back the spread – you know the one. I believe it dates back to the middle ages. Something like that.IMG_4659

I have rheumatoid arthritis, so I’m limited in the type of exercise I take. My swimming teacher and friend advised I should try a fit ball to help with my core. My husband bought one from a local supermarket. Fit ball. Not core. It would be so much easier if Asda sold new cores.

Muscles are hurting

Muscles are hurting

I understand why is it called a fit ball. Pumping it up gets that acid zipping through those muscles.

I chuckled at that suggested range of exercises. If I could get myself into those positions, I wouldn’t need to exercise. My intention is to sit on the ball whilst writing, or watching TV. Nowhere on the instruction sheet does it show a person sitting on the ball …

A 'finger in the dyke' moment. The air escapes with some force

A ‘finger in the dyke’ moment. The air escapes with some force

Wish me luck.

I need Gajitman to pump my ball up. It's a bit soft

I need Gajitman to pump my ball up. It’s a bit soft

I have no idea what this is or how to use it with the ball. My mind is boggled.

I have no idea what this is or how to use it with the ball. My mind is boggled.

Laura x

Lizzie Lamb: No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

A very personal perspective of indie publishing

Lizzie Lamb Nov 13

When I self-published Tall, Dark and Kilted (October 2012), there was much talk of Amazon changing the algorithms.

The what?

My head was so full of ITIN/ISBN/W8-BEN/uploading/downloading that there was no room for another buzz word. So I filed it away to be examined at a later date and concentrated on launching Tall Dark and Kilted and organising five book launches with the other members of my indie publishing group: The New Romantics 4.newromanticstwitter

When the furore of publishing day and book launches abated, I decided to ‘get my name out there’. As a result, I signed up for KDP Select and offered my novel for free download for five days in late December. My intention was to make the most of the pre-Christmas kindle sales and hope that people who were giving kindles as Christmas presents might download my novel and give it a temporary fillip.

It was a widely held belief – at that time – that if you made your book available for free download it would rocket up the top 100 list and become more ‘visible’. The book would then ride on the crest of the wave and continue to sell after the ‘free’ period ended. And indeed, it did work that way for me. Over a two day period, Tall Dark and Kilted ‘rose’ to #1 in contemporary romance, #3 in best seller free kindle store (UK) and #25 throughout all books and #9 in contemporary romance (US). All of this was achieved without any promotion whatsoever on Twitter, Facebook et al. I took the novel off free download after two days as I’d given away 12,000 ‘copies’. In retrospect, I should have let it ride for the full five days to see where it would have ended up – and to give myself greater exposure. After all, I was doing this as a sort of ‘experiment.’ Although I quickly disappeared from the top 100 (the algorithm, see), I continued to sell well throughout January, February and into March. I did especially well thanks to ‘borrows’ on the Kindle Prime Loan – which I hadn’t really considered when I joined KDP select.

BookCover Boot Camp BrideFast forward a year and here I am, about to publish my second novel: BOOT CAMP BRIDE – romance and intrigue on the Norfolk marshes. I’ve been considering all options available to promote it and the thousand dollar question is: Would I make Boot Camp Bride available for free download?

The answer has to be an emphatic NO – and here are my reasons. The algorithm has changed and free downloads no longer count towards your overall amazon ranking.

(1) Smart readers know that most books will be free at some point and wait for that to happen.

(2) Some readers have up to 400 free books on their kindle which they have no intention of reading, let alone reviewing. If they don’t read your ‘free’ book, how will they learn about you as a new author, let alone be prepared to buy your next book.

(3) You may attract readers outside of your genre/readership simply because the book is free. They may hate your book and give it lower star rating because they didn’t ‘get’ you, your novel or your genre.

(4) It makes more sense to target readers who purchase books in your genre and build up a readership/following through social networking and word of mouth. I find this is working really well for me, thanks to Facebook, Twitter, my blogs/website and guest appearances on other writers’ blogs.

(5) Some pundits believe that free downloads don’t work for new authors because they don’t have the necessary readership/sales to keep the book at the top after the promo ends. In retrospect, I think this is probably true.

(6) I think the amount of free books being given away can be detrimental to authors overall. I mean, come on, anyone whoTDK BookCoverPreview (2) isn’t prepared to pay 99p for something that may have taken up a year (or more) of your life isn’t going to stay with you for the long haul.

(7) There is a common perception that free books may not be very good, are unedited/proof checked and the rest. If a writer has offered free downloads in the past, some readers are prepared to sit it out until the author’s next novel becomes available for free download too.

So – How am I going to promote my next book and the one(s) after that? Why, by making Amazon notice me!

I’m exploring ways of making my book ‘ping’ with Amazon and increase its visibility to readers by: new review postings, changing categories, honing sub categories, keywords/phrases, changing the pricing, updating the ‘Product Description’ to over 500 words, and asking friends to put it on their Amazon ‘wish list’ or to ‘LIKE’ it on my page. I’ve also learned that it’s better to have a slow drip of reviews than have them all arrive on your Amazon page within the first month of publication and then never receive another.  As an indie author I can do all of the above with my book without waiting for an agent/publisher to agree and give me the go-ahead.

I’ve learned a great deal from reading blogs posted by writers in the US (who are often a year or so ahead of us in understanding how Amazon ‘works’). It will be interesting to see how Boot Camp Bride fares compared to Tall, Dark and Kilted. Watch this space; but above all, download my new novel – it costs less than a cappuccino and won’t be ‘free’ this time round. (end of sales pitch!)

Other authors might have a different experience to mine. So if you have something to share, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Boot Camp Bride – Romance and Intrigue on the Norfolk marshes – November 2013

UK: http://tinyurl.com/bootcampbride

USA: http://tinyurl.com/nnmzjha

Tall, Dark and Kilted – Notting Hill Meets Monarch of the Glen – 2012

UK- http://tinyurl.com/o9js6pl

USA – http://tinyurl.com/o4vor4z

https://www.amazon.com/author/lizzielamb

Lizzie’s Links

www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter

www.facebook.com/newromantics4

lizzielambwriter@gmail.com

website: http://lizzielamb.co.uk/

blog: http://newromantics4.com/

Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/cbla48d

twitter: @lizzie_lamb             twitter: @newromantics4

Lots of sparkles on the blog today!

Happy Launch Day to Nicky Wells and her seasonal novella

Spirits of Christmas: A Rock’n’Roll Christmas Carol

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At one time, up-and-coming rock singer Jude had it all: a great band, a platinum record, a loving girlfriend. This Christmas, however, he is well down the road towards spontaneous self-destruction.

Unwitting at first, Jude has progressively alienated his band and driven away the love of his life. Tonight, the night before Christmas Eve, he has broken the final taboo during a disastrous gig. Yet Jude doesn’t see how badly his life has derailed, not until a ghostly procession of legends passes through his bedroom with a series of vivid and powerful wake-up calls.

Will the Spirits help Jude put the friendship, love, and rock music back into his Christmas?

Spirits of Christmas is a modern-day rock’n’roll adaption of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. This novella will enchant romance readers, rock lovers, fans of ghost stories, and everybody who adores the festive season.

Amazon.co.uk Kindle | Amazon.co.uk Paperback
Amazon.com Kindle | Amazon.com Paperback

Inspiration for Spirits of Christmas…

Writing this novella was a bit of an inevitability for me, all things considered. If you don’t already know me, you have to understand that I simply love rock music. Rock musicians are like Viagra for my soul. I’m also a sucker for romance and a good-old fashioned happy ending. Moreover, I love the Christmas season: the lights, the sweets, the laughter. Combining all those things ~ rock, romance, and Christmas ~ was one of the most delightful writing projects of my career so far!

The idea for this book came to me the very night after I launched my second book, Sophie’s Run, in February of this year. I was hyped up with excitement, I had finished writing my third book and was waiting for publisher edits, and I had already planned my fourth full-length novel. I was utterly and completely unable to sleep with everything that was going on, and quite unexpectedly, the whole story was in my head. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of my favourite Christmas stories both in the original and its many varied adaptations. I suddenly thought… why not bring it into the rock’n’roll domain?

My wonderful husband, Jon, was somewhat taken aback when I presented him with this plan the following morning.

‘I’m going to write a Christmas novella,’ I said.

‘But you’ve got another book launch in September, and you’ve planned your fourth book already—how’s this going to fit in?’ he responded enthusiastically, if pragmatic.

‘I’ll figure it out.’

And so I did. It took me just over a week to write the first draft in May 2013, and another few weeks here and there to tweak, fine-tune and polish it over the following months. But here it is. Spirits of Christmas. I hope you enjoy!

Portrait6About Nicky Wells: Romance that Rocks Your World!

Hi! I’m Nicky Wells, your ultimate rock chick author. My books offer glitzy, glamorous contemporary romance with a rock theme ~ imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS Notting Hill! If you’ve ever had a crush on any kind of celebrity ~ rock, pop, movie or other ~ you’ll connect with my heroes and my leading ladies!

Like my first leading lady, Sophie, I love listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When I’m not writing, I’m a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and regular contributor to The Midweek Drive show on Lincoln’s Siren 107.3 FM. Rock on!

My books: Sophie’s Turn | Sophie’s Run | Sophie’s Encore | Spirits of Christmas

Join me: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Romantic Novelists’ Association | Sapphire Star Publishing | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest