Life Cycle of a Writer ~ Photo-diary ~ First year as a published author.

I can’t believe a year has passed since my debut novel As Weekends Go was published. I’ve been keeping a month by month journal to record all those exciting moments, both pre and post publication; something to treasure with fondness and pride and something I’d thoroughly recommend.

Here’s a taste of my ‘Year as a Published Author’ photo-diary …

Dec 2015 ~ Launch Day Celebrations.

Jan 2016 ~ Happiness and relief as some fabulous reviews started coming in (thank you, dear readers). I also set up my own blog and featured on several fellow bloggers’ sites with either a Q&A or guest post, all a joy to take part in and all hugely appreciated.

Feb 2016 ~ I discovered Canva –  a great site for creating promotional banners for social media.

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March 2016 ~ Cheered like crazy when As Weekends Go was selected for an Amazon Kindle daily deal promotion which subsequently saw it hit the top 100. Much Prosecco was cracked open and quaffed, I can tell you!

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I also visited York and Leeds in March for sequel research purposes which was highly rewarding.

April 2016 ~ Superb news! My book would also be coming out in paperback later in the year. Cue a virtual conga at Brigden Towers.

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May 2016 ~ One of my fave authors, Lisa Jewell, agreed to read my novel with a view to potentially providing a quote for my paperback (much crossing of fingers, toes and eyes!).

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June 2016 ~ I learned I’d made ‘The Bookseller’ who reviewed forthcoming titles in paperback. A proud moment for sure. My lovely publisher Choc Lit also celebrated 7 years in business this month.lcoaw-choc-lit

July 2016 ~ Photo-shoot month, don’t laugh! I knew I needed some updated author pics, and with my good friend Noreen being an ace photographer, a date was fixed. What a giggle we had. Here are a couple that didn’t quite make the final …😉

I also received my first ever royalty cheque this month, as well as this terrific quote from Lisa Jewell, following her ‘thumbs up’ for my novel : “I loved this gorgeous love story written with a sure touch and a big heart.”

August 2016 ~ The postman delivered these beauties ahead of paperback publication. I really did appreciate what it felt like to hold a copy of my book in my hands.

September 2016 ~ Paperback Publication Day on the 7th, and some brilliant messages from my fellow Romaniacs buddies: Romaniac Cheer  I even received a congratulatory tweet from Crystal Palace FC. I then discovered my book had been chosen as a weekly staff pick for Lovereading UK and was one of its debuts of the month.

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Towards the end of September I attended an author/blogger meet up in London which gave me a great chance to say hello to (and thank) faces both new and familiar. A good time was had by all, with much writerly and non-writerly chat and laughter. We were blessed with glorious sunshine too –  always a bonus.

October 2016 ~ I make no excuses. Not much writing took place this month as my staggered 50th birthday celebration pics reveal … I felt very loved and extremely pampered.

November 2016 ~ I managed to work on the sequel a bit more this month which lifted my spirits. It’s soul-destroying when the will is there but the self-belief and passion won’t play ball, so progress is progress as they say.

December 2016  ~  My book anniversary on the 4th, which I celebrated with a giveaway (runs until Friday 9th) with a chance to win a signed paperback of As Weekends Go plus some festive choccies. If you have a look at either my Facebook or Twitter page, you’ll see further details there🙂

And now on the run up to Christmas, I thank you all for your friendship and support. I will be forever grateful for all those wise words of advice and encouragement offered to me both pre and post publication.

Have a fantastic Christmas & New Year!

Love Jan  x

 

 

 

 

 

Life Cycle of a Writer – Feedback

Hello, Sue here, it’s my turn on Life Cycle of a Writer. I’ve recently been going through the editing stages of my new novel, Sister, Sister which is due out 6 January and what I love about the writing process is that it’s constantly evolving and I’m learning new skills and ways to do things all the time.

sister-sister-newThis is my fifth full-length novel to be published and this time I enlisted the help of two writing buddies, or beta readers as they can sometimes be called, for their feedback. It’s the first time I’ve asked for feedback on a whole manuscript from someone other than the RNA NWS, my editor or agent and I have to say, I found their comments invaluable. Not only did they pick up on different points, but they both had issues with some of the same points. The latter being a big red flag to me that those particularly parts of the novel weren’t working as I had intended and definitely needed looking at again.

Every writer has different approaches to their novel writing process and I was interested to find out what works for others. Bestselling authors Sue Moorcroft and Louise Jensen were kind enough to talk about the way they gain feedback and use beta readers.

Sue Moorcroft

tcpI’ve used beta readers for ages. It began with being critique partners with Mark West, who writes chillers and gritty crime and was in the same writers’ group as I. We read all of each other’s stuff, in those days. (As I got a bit wussier and some of Mark’s stuff was scary, this arrangement became more one-sided but now his stuff is a bit less scary I’m sometimes reading for him again.)

I struck up a cyber-friendship with another writer, Roger, who wrote erotica and SF (sometimes in the same story) and we beta-read for each other until he sadly left the world.

I also ask for beta-reading help from anybody who has helped with a significant amount of the research for a particular book and I became friends in this way with Dominic via ‘Dream a Little Dream’. His feedback was so analytical and helpful that I asked if he’d fill Roger’s shoes for the next book, which he has done ever since.

It’s very useful for me to have male beta readers. I write partly from the male point of view and they can tell me when I’m not thinking like a man. I take a lot of notice, especially when they both have issues with the same aspect of a novel. Mark and Dominic send me such pithy, wise, and mickey-taking comments that I always look forward to receiving them.

Louise Jensen

the-giftWhen I decided to write The Sister I was lucky enough to apply for, and gain a place on, The WoMentoring Project, a scheme which provides free mentors for up and coming female authors. I was able to get the first few chapters of my novel looked at and some great feedback as to where I was going wrong. When I felt I had gone as far as I could go with my novel a friend read it for me and suggested some changes, but after I had done these I still didn’t have the confidence to submit my manuscript. I paid for a critique and that was a real turning point for me. Getting professional advice on the market I was entering was enormously helpful as well as an overall view of my plot.

Writing The Gift I have been up against a very tight deadline. The same friend has helped me out again but also a couple of readers who loved The Sister have been happy to give me their opinion on my new story.

Now I am in the infant stages of book 3 I regularly meet up with a couple of writer friends so we can all support each other. I have found that both being critiqued and providing critique have really helped me progress as a writer.

So, now the majority of my edits are complete for Sister, Sister, I’m waiting for the final proof-read and currently working on my next novel for which I shall definitely be calling on the help of my writing buddies and beta readers.

Sue

x

Life cycle of a writer – Lucie’s hectic juggling act

 

Well, what a crazy few months it has been for me. I haven’t done an update for the Life Cycle series for ages and there is a reason for that. I had been waiting to do mine until I was able to share some incredibly exciting news with everyone, however, that time hasn’t come yet and I cannot put it off any longer so I am doing my update now.

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Just be aware that a VERY big announcement is coming up VERY soon… I do love a little tease! (sorry!)

So, what have I been doing with my time recently?

 

As some of you know, I am juggling studying for a degree alongside my wrting journey. Over the summer I completed my first year and passed (hoorah!) and have since begun my second year of study. I am studying Early Childhood Professional Studies at Anglia Ruskin University and totally loving it. Being at university is a lot harder and a million times more stressful than I ever thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I was aware that I had signed up to a degree course so I knew it would be challenging, but as a mature student (yes, I know, at the ripe age of…30?!) I not only had to study for my degree, but I felt I had to learn how to learn again – how to retain information after being out of education for 11 years and not using that aspect of my brain. It was hard. But in my second year I feel I am slowly getting there. I am loving using my creativity for my projects – although academic writing is SO hard compared to creative writing and I don’t think I will ever get to the stage where that style of writing comes as natural to me as writing a fictional story. I have a great year group too which makes the journey that much more enjoyable.

20161121_173140I also ran for Course Representative for my year group and was elected by my peers which was a huge achievement and a very emotional moment, knowing I had the full support of my classmates – so a huge thank you to them. Throw in some committee meetings etc and I have managed to make my university experience much busier (but ten times more rewarding).

Alongside university, I am also writing my books and attending writing related events and experiences. I have recently enjoyed author events meeting some fab writers and catching up with my writing buddies at things such as the RNA Conference back in July.

 

 

 

I have been spending some time rooting for my fantastically talented friends on their writing achievements and helping to spread the word about their amazing books – although I have had to start trying to allocate time for social media for such tasks as I am very easily distracted and can pop onto  social media for a quick browse and lose two hours of my life in an instant! I know I am not alone in this…

I have also been writing some little notes and drafts of some children’s book ideas that I have been thinking about. Studying within this sector has made me realise that I would also love to write within this genre and I hope that one day I will get the chance to write for children as well as adults. I’ll add it to my ever growing ‘to-do’ list, because I don’t have enough to do…

Lastly, I feel I should acknowledge the fact that I did sign up to NaNoWriMo this year with the view to getting the first draft of my next book idea down.

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The finished room make over

How I thought I could fit in 50,000 words of novel writing in a month which saw my daughter turn 10 (with two sleepover parties and a bedroom make over to do) and at a time of the year where I had TWO presentation exams to prepare for and present at university. I love a challenge, but I think this was one step too far and I had to admit defeat and say that it was not going to be achievable. In life, it is good to set yourself challenging goals, but sometimes, the best thing to do is to know when to say enough is enough and take it back a step. Saying this, I finish university for Christmas in just a couple of weeks and I have the whole of January off so I have a clear 6 weeks of full time writing to settle down with – with a little writing retreat thrown in too – so I just had to juggle a few tasks to that time instead of running myself into the ground. Sometimes life just needs to have a jiggle round – everyone loves a jiggle from time to time!

 

So there you have it. Whilst it may seem like, at times, I am quiet on the writing front, it is most definitely not the case. And once I can reveal more, all will become clear.

Until then…

Lucie

xx

Life Cycle Of A Writer: NaNoWriMo – Sinking, Swimming or Soaring?

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Erm…I’m not too sure about this. It’s my first time. Be gentle with me, NaNo. I’ve wanted to get to know you better for a long time, but…well…life got in the way before. Can we stop if I don’t like it? Will it hurt?

Those were my ponderings in early October, still buzzing with the prospect of no work commitments this autumn; no planning or marking, no Christmas play to create – just writing, writing writing. Or so I thought…

Within a week, we’d had a sudden death in the family meaning trips up north and lots of sadness and my beloved firstborn was in difficulties health-wise. Add to the mixture a close friend needing lots of help and poorly in laws, and things lurched from tricky to downright worrying. Was it unreasonable to try to carry on and do NaNoWriMo anyway, whatever else was happening?

I decided to plunge in and have a go. If nothing else, starting something brand new would be a distraction, and I’d be bound to get at least some words down on paper. But 50K? Hmmm. Maybe if I launched myself into a children’s book, I could get the whole thing finished by November 30th?

So Arthur Angel and the Nine Lives was born – the tale of a disgraced Guardian Angel forced to come down to earth to complete his missions in cat form.

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To start with, the story seemed to tell itself. I went back into school and worked with my favourite class of nine year olds to get their junior NaNo going and to have feedback straight from the ones who count. The first chapters flooded out.

Then the first trip up to Northumberland knocked the ground from under my feet. I’d become seriously addicted to the little graph that appears on your personal NaNo dashboard, and I was flatlining! There was snow on them there hills, not just in Arthur’s story, my nose and toes were freezing and my brain absolutely refused to cooperate.

But better progress was just around the corner. Back home again, the tide turned in the right direction and although life is still very turbulent to say the least, the words are flowing again. By the end of today, I might be back on track, but even if not, I’m loving the challenge, and it’s very hard to bite your nails when you’re typing. I’m having to miss the RNA meetings and party this time but the writing…let’s hope it carries on, if only for distraction purposes.

Here’s the first chapter if you’re interested. Wish me luck. I’ll see you on the other side…

 

Arthur Angel and the Nine Lives

Chapter One: Getting In

 

Yuck. I hate snow. I pick my way along the track through the woods to the cottage and stop by the door to shake the worst of the slush off my fur. Disgusting stuff. It gets in your paws and sticks to your dangly underneath bits in lumps. And the trouble with being mostly white is that if you get lost in a snow storm, nobody can see you.

To be honest, getting lost in the snow comes a long way down the list of problems of being a cat. Number one’s got to be the D word. Why do dogs have to chase us? Why? Who tells them it’s a good idea?

The flea thing’s not great either.  Don’t look at me like that, I didn’t ask them to come, okay? They just seem to like me. And don’t get me started on catching mice.

Someone’s just opening the door – that’s my first lucky break for years. Have you ever tried ringing a doorbell when you’re on four short legs? Now, watch and learn. This is one of the trickier bits. Here’s what you need to do if you ever need to find yourself a cushy fireside and a kipper.

1) Fluff up the fur

2) Put your head on one side

3) Open your eyes really wide.

4) Miaaaaaaaow in the most pathetic way you can manage.

5) Be ready to roll over on your back at the first sign of them cracking – that one never fails

Right, here goes. The door’s wide open and now someone’s shouting from inside about not letting the cold in. Pah! He should try being me. It’s a GirlKid on the step. They’re usually the easiest of all. Wish me luck.

‘Dad. DAAAAAAAD!’

‘Rosie? Is that you bellowing again? Are you going to shut that door or have I got to come and do it for you?’

Heavy footsteps…coming closer. Great, now I’m going to have two of the human creatures staring down at me. The shorter one – the GirlKid – is quite nice to look at, if you like that sort of thing. She’s got curly ginger hair, nearly as good a colour as the bits of me that aren’t white, and she’s smiling. That should help.

‘Look, Dad. There’s a cute little kitten on the step. I think he’s hungry. Can I let him in? It’s so cold out there tonight.’

Kitten? What’s all that about? I’m a fully qualified Guardian Angel, I’ll have you know, GirlKid, and I’m at least three hundred years old, give or take a few months. Is it my fault if I’ve been sent down here as a smallish white cat? No, it isn’t.

‘Let him in? Aren’t four mouths enough for us to feed? I thought you’d have learned your lesson after last time.’

The big one isn’t smiling. He starts to shut the door but she stops him.

‘No! We can’t leave him outside. Look at his little face. He’s so sad.’

I do my best poor little me expression and start to wash my whiskers with a paw. That usually goes down well. I tell you, after three times of being sent down here as a cat instead of a human-looking angel, I’m getting to know all the tricks.

‘Aaaaaw, look at him. Dad, he’s soooo sweet. And anyway…I bet Jake’d like him, wouldn’t he?’

They look at each other and I can tell she’s won the first round.

‘Oh, go on then. At least we can shut the door. Your Gran’s already under two blankets.’

Result! I’m in before they can say kippers, down the hallway and into the living room, and I’m heading for the old lady with the rugs over her knees. She must be the brains around here – fast asleep and snoring, right in front of a roaring log fire.

She wakes up with a jump and closes her mouth just in time to stop her teeth dropping out. I take a big gamble and leap straight up onto her knee. Have I got it right? Is she a cat lover or one of those loopy humans who flap their arms at us and make a big fuss.

The old one reaches out a wrinkly hand and starts stroking me even before I’ve settled down properly. ‘Oh, what a beauty,’ she wheezes, ‘Where did you come from, my fine fellow? You remind me of my Charlie. He was handsome just like you.’

Time for my best move. I roll over on her lap and stretch out, revealing a very fine furry tummy, if I say so myself.  I start to purr deep in my throat to show her I’m a big fan of all this fuss.

The GirlKid’s on her knees next to the old lady’s chair now, looking up at the Dad person.

‘Look, he likes us already. Can we keep him? Please? You know Jake loves cats…well, he used to, anyway…’

As she says this, all three heads turn to look over to the far wall. My eyes swivel to follow them. I don’t want to stop all this attention, but there’s someone else there. It’s a BoyKid with the same curly red hair as the girl version, but he’s nothing like her in any other way. For one thing, he’s not making a sound. For another, he’s sitting in a chair with wheels on it. His face is much paler than hers and he’s all dressed in black, whereas she’s like a walking rainbow.

He’s not looking at me, or at any of the others. It’s as if he’s trying to pretend he’s somewhere else. The fur on the back of my neck stands up, just like it always does when I realise why I’m down here. This BoyKid needs the services of Arthur Angel.

 

 

 

LCOAW: A tribute to Carole Blake

In our Life Cycle of A Writer posts, we hope to expose the reality of being a writer. We try to show the sides of writing you perhaps don’t hear about. It is somehow fitting then to include a tribute to Carole Blake, agent extraordinaire, here. Carole truly shared with the world all aspects of what being an agent involves: everything from her book, ‘From Pitch To Publication,’ to the Facebook posts she shared. Here Catherine shares one of those moments:

Catherine: I have lots of snippets of memories of Carole. From the time I flaked out on a sofa next to her in the early stages of pregnancy and she was gracious enough to not think me strange and included me in the conversation, to more recently chatting to her at the RNA conference about Hattie, her assistant, who has gone on to become my agent. I think this video and the following interaction from Carole is my all time favourite personal FB comment from Carole and perhaps sums up why she is so missed.

I put the video of my twins up with the caption: My editor and agent hard at work.

Carole responded saying: Yep that’s exactly how I spend my day. But she’s better dressed.

Me: Does your office attire not include sparkly star tops and Easter bonnets, Carole?

Carole: I now have a role model & shall aspire to sparkly tops. It’s good to have a goal in life.

I’m not sure if her wardrobe ever did feature a sparkly top, but there was that gorgeous pearl necklace. And as for role models, they don’t come any better than Carole. She will be missed by so many, but her major tribute will be in the future generations she has inspired.

Life Cycle of a Writer: When School Holidays Hit.

Life Cycle of a Writer: When School Holidays Hit.

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For many parents and children in the UK it’s the half term holiday – the first week off since the new school year, and for many, a welcome break. It’s been a busy month-and-a-half rising at the crack of dawn Monday to Friday, attending lessons and completing homework.

A less frantic schedule comes with a sigh of relief in our household – we enjoy the occasional lazy day, and since my children are old enough to occupy themselves, fitting in writing time is not a problem. But that wasn’t always the case.

I can recall many times when my son waltzed into the kitchen, where my desk is situated, asking if I was planning on making dinner. The answer was always yes, but the time varied, as did the number of times my son had to remind me. These days, he and my daughter will see to themselves if I’m in the writing zone or the edits cave, and will send care packages to my desk consisting of coffee, biscuits, crisps and passing hugs and kisses.

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This half term holiday I’m enjoying spending a few days with them as I’m not racing to hit a deadline. Activities include bedroom tidying, going to the cinema, or having friends over to the house. I intend making the most of this time as I’m aware I may be exceptionally busy come the Christmas holidays, but that’s all part of the life cycle of a writer.

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How do you manage the holidays? What tips can you share? We’d love to know.

 

LCOAW: Six Years At The Bus Stop (Avoiding the slush pile)

Strictly speaking six years at the bus stop is an underestimation. My quest for a literary agent started when I was about twenty-one and didn’t have a clue what I was up to. So, to be absolutely accurate, and for anyone good at math you can work out my age, it’s really been fourteen years at the bus stop.

In my first, very naive attempts to get an agent, I sent the first three chapters of a book called Child Y?. I wrote it at university and it was way too short and proved how much I didn’t know. Friends read it and enthused and I had one handwritten response, but every other submission was followed up with standard rejections. I left University as a qualified physiotherapist and was soon too busy to even tinker with writing until ill-health caused me to consider a career change.

This time I didn’t want to find a literary agent through the more traditional route of searching through the Writers and Artists Yearbook and sending off submissions. In my earlier attempt I’d found it a bit disheartening and faceless. Those six years at the bus stop were spent making contacts, having one-to-ones, gaining feedback, making friends, and learning where to source up-to-date information. It might have been a longer route, but it was a way of avoiding the slush pile. In the end, I had two offers of representation and I’m delighted to say I’ve signed with Hattie Grunewald of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency. 

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In no particular order, these are the ways I found to approach agents without being part of the slush pile:

  • Entering competitions – sometimes literary agents are judges and it’s a way for them to potentially read your work or even meet them. I entered the London Book Fair Write Stuff competition and ended up on the stage pitching to a Dragon Den style panel of agents.
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    I’m the pink dot on the stage

  • Online events like #PitchCB – This is a monthly event that takes place where you can pitch your book and potentially get invited to submit your work.
  • Open submission periods – There are occasions when publishing houses and agencies will have a featured submission period. For example, United Agents held an open house across August.
  • Friends recommendations – Often writers will know when agents are looking to add to their list and in what particular genre.
  • One-to-ones – Conferences often offer the opportunity to have one-to-ones with agents and publishers. It was as a result of a one-to-one that I ended up signing with Carina.

I’m lucky enough to have had success with all the above in one way or another in a close space of time, but it’s important to remember that it was the result of sitting at the bus stop for years and years. And for every bus that flew by, spraying water on me as it went by, I never stopped tapping at the keyboard or believing that one day, if I worked hard enough, the buses would start stopping for me.

If you’re on the quest for an agent, the secret isn’t in never giving up, the real secret is to never stop typing.

Catherine x