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

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Life Cycle of a Writer – Hopes and Fears

I have a post-it note on my laptop with a list of all the things I want to achieve with my writing career. I started making the list when I first began writing seriously, which would probably be when I joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme.

The list initially started off small and, I won’t say simple because at the time, whatever was on the list was something I wanted to achieve and couldn’t be done without a considerable amount of effort on my part. The first thing was ‘Finish writing a whole novel’. Then it was ‘Meet NWS deadline’ and ‘Work on feedback’.

As my writing career progressed the list became more focused and this time last year I had added to it:-

‘Find an agent’

‘This book better than the last book’

‘Top 500 Amazon’ etc.

tgwl-new-pbWith my fourth HarperImpulse novel. The Girl Who Lied, I was fortunate enough to exceed my post-it note expectations. It became an Amazon UK #1 bestseller, a USA Today bestseller, sold over 200k e-copies and is going to paperback in November.  Wow! Some of these things may have been on my list, but I hadn’t in my wildest dreams thought they would be ticked off quite so quickly, if at all. I am, of course, eternally thankful to everyone who has been behind the book and the fantastic readers. It really has been mind-blowing.

So, although The Girl Who Lied is still going strong, in the meantime, I’ve had to work on my next contracted book, The Cuckoo. With a September deadline, it meant taking the laptop on holiday with me and spending most mornings hammering away at the keyboard. My husband has been super supportive and really helped with all the things that need doing, including keeping our 8-year-old daughter busy. Having said that, she did tell me that I wasn’t allowed to take the laptop on holiday with me again. Point taken.

the-cuckooI already had an idea for The Cuckoo so I found it relatively easy to get the words down, however, with the second book of my latest contract due in spring, I found myself in a bit of a creative black hole and the doubts started to creep in.

I convinced myself it was okay and I’d be able to come up with a thoroughly decent idea any time soon.  As each day drew to a close, I realized that I hadn’t moved any of the ideas forward.  Gradually, the mild panic began to settle and grow. What if I didn’t have any more ideas, full stop? What if that was it – no more ideas and no more books, yet I still had a contract to fulfill? I think I spent two days properly panicking.

I then gave myself a good talking to and made myself sit down and thrash out some plot ideas. Forcing myself to do it,whiteboard rather than waiting for airy-fairy artistic inspiration to strike, I put together a brief synopsis and made some notes about the characters and how I saw things developing. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something tangible that I liked.  Fortunately, I met up with fellow Romaniac, Jan Brigden, at an event we both attended, and we started chatting about my book where I explained to Jan that although I liked what I had, I felt something was still missing.

 

It’s funny how someone on the outside can so easily put their finger on what might be missing. Jan patiently listening and chatted the plot over with me. She was able to pinpoint what was missing – the thing that would make it my own story, the sort of one I wanted to write and not the sort I thought I wanted to write.

Although I’m eager to get started on the new project, I’ve been thwarted by the first round of edits for The Cuckoo arriving yesterday. There’s a lot to take in and mull over, to discuss with my editor and agent to see how I can make it a much better story, so for now, I’ll have to put the next book on hold until these edits are sorted.

doodle

Not sure what I doodled during my phone conversation with my agent, but I did make some useful notes too!

Sue

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Roving Romaniacs, Wimborne, Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke

Lisa Jewell & Lucy Clarke

Lisa Jewell & Lucy Clarke

Roving Romaniacs, Sue and Laura, headed out to Wimborne Literary Festival last week to attend a talk given by Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke. Here’s a few words and pictures.

Sue : Despite the awful rain, it didn’t take me too long to get down to Wimborne and after an Anneka Rice moment, managed to find the library.  Both Lisa and Lucy were lovely to listen to, very natural and engaging. It was interesting hearing how different their approaches to writing were and how they carried out research.

booksI’m a big fan of Lucy Clarke’s books and having already stocked up on her books, took one with me for her to sign. I haven’t read any of Lisa’s at this point, but her latest novel ‘The Girls’ had been on my wish list for some time. I was delighted to be able to purchased a copy and get that signed too.

After the talk, Laura and I dodged more rain and headed for The Kings Head for lunch. I encountered more rain driving home, but it didn’t matter as I had a really good day out.

Laura: Wasn’t it a great day? Wimborne is a forty-five minute drive for me, which I consider local, so I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to meet and listen to Lisa Jewell and Lucy Clarke, both very lovely people. I met up in the first instance with another writing friend, Kathy Morgan, we found a quaint café in which we sheltered from the rain and chatted horses, cats and books. We then went onto to the library, where we met with Sue.

This was the first author talk I’ve attended where the two authors interview each other, and I loved it – what a great idea. It’s a format I would consider using the next time The Romaniacs go on tour. It worked so well; it was relaxed, humorous, interesting and warm, and Lisa and Lucy shared information about their books, writing processes and how they initially got into writing.

I had a lightbulb moment, courtesy of Lisa Jewell, who explained she takes herself away from distractions and writes a thousand words a day, no matter how long those words take to write. Due to recent health problems, I’ve returned to writing longhand, and I sit in my conservatory, away from technology, and it’s then when I am most productive. It dawned on me it’s probably because I am more than a click away from social media or Words For Friends. It’s not that I didn’t realise technology, housework or making coffee are distractions, but I think I was in denial and hearing an established, successful and very down to earth author telling it as it is, helped the message get through.

And I will sit in my conservatory until I write a thousand words, or in the case of the next fortnight, with a deadline looming, two thousand words.

Lunch with Sue was excellent. It’s amazing how many topics of conversation we can get through in an hour.

A wonderful day, well spent.

Laura, Lucy, Lisa & Sue

Laura, Lucy, Lisa & Sue

 

Elaine Everest talks about The Woolworth Girls, Book Jackets and Models

 

Hello, Elaine and a very warm welcome to The Romaniacs’ blog and congratulations on the publication of your novel THE WOOLWORTH GIRLS.

Rom Blog Elaine Everest book

Thank you, Romaniacs, it’s an honour to be your guest.

Could you begin by telling us a little about yourself and your publishing journey?

This is where I realize how old I am! I’ve always written and like fellow writers love a new blank notebook and possibly a fountain pen in my Christmas stocking. Pip the pixie was my first novel on a Petit Typewriter. I have no idea what happened to that masterpiece! In my fifth year at secondary school I had a teacher who realised I could write and made me feel special and not the shy girl at the back of the class. But, being a writer was not an option at my school so I trained and worked in accountancy for many years moving onto office management. I also had a Saturday job as a Woolies Girl that has come in handy recently.

My lovely dad died in 1997 and it made me think about my future. I knew I wanted to concentrate on my writing. I’d also walked away from a horrid job with bullying bosses so decided to attend adult education classes and just go for it. I started selling short stories and moved to articles and features, always learning along the way. My specialism was the world of dogs, as that is another part of my life, and I was commissioned to write three non-fiction books for dog owners. All that time I was dabbling with writing novels but it wasn’t until I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme that I knuckled down and concentrated on my novels. My second year submission was a saga and was picked up by a publisher – I was now a full member of the RNA! It also led to a fortuitous meeting with Literary Agent, Caroline Sheldon who signed me up on the strength of a one-page outline of a story called Sixpenny Sarah. I had written three chapters when Caroline secured a two-book contract with Pan Macmillan and the hard work began.

The Woolworths Girls is a great title and I’m sure will bring back fond memories for many readers. Did the title come first or the setting? What inspired the story?

The setting came first. I set my sagas in North West Kent where I was born and grew up. The town of Erith, before it was razed to the ground and replaced with a concrete jungle in 1966, was a lovely place to live. On the bank of the River Thames with a thriving shipping and retail area we had everything required to shop locally. I’d lived in a Victorian terraced house close to the town and knew it had survived two world wars. I’ve often thought what stories that house could tell. It became the home of my main character, Sarah, when she lived with her nan, Ruby. Sarah was starting work and would meet her two new friends, Maisie and Freda. Where better than the Woolies I’d known and loved and a store known by many people with fondness. It was a joy to write.

Have you always wanted to write in the era The Woolworths Girls is set in? What attracted you to it and what sort of research have you had to do?

I love the thirties and forties. In many ways it was a time of innocence for women and so much happened on the home front while the men went away to war. It was the women who interested me most. How they lived and loved and carried on despite the horrendous situations they found themselves living in at times. Just imagine sending children away not knowing where they were while worrying about a husband fighting on foreign shores or high in the sky. I’m lucky that Woolworths had a fabulous museum and the curator came up with all kinds of information for me about the Erith store. The London Borough of Bexley (Erith has now slipped into the London Boroughs) has so much information about the era I’m interested in and on Facebook I belong to local groups where members are only too pleased to tell me stories of their family during the war.

I’m never really sure if a book set in and around the 1940’s is classed as a historical or not. Is there a rule for this?

1940 is definitely classed as historical. In fact I’ve been informed that the sixties, and even the seventies, can be historical. That does make me feel old! (Sue : I think it makes a lot of us feel old! The seventies … historical!)

I think I read that you were able to pick the models for the cover of The Woolworths Girls, could you tell us about the process?

Yes, my editor and the production team were extremely generous sharing the cover plans with me. I was sent a large file of images of professional models and was able to point out who I thought looked like Sarah and Maisie. It was hard to look past the modern hair-styles and make up to see my girls from 1938. Fortunately the models I chose were in the shortlist. As the photo shoot day approached Pan Macmillan had to source uniforms of the period and again the curator of the Woolworths Museum came up trumps with the right style although the colour was not correct. After the shoot was complete I was sent many images and told to ignore the grey uniform as the colour would change. It was hard to find a short list of images as they were so good, but again my choices were considered and then the sales and marketing people took over, they are the experts on the right image for the book shelf but by then I was convinced they had done a super job.

Rom blog Elaine EverestThank you, Elaine for taking the time to answer our questions. Wishing you every success with your novel.

Thank you so much for sending such interesting questions.

Amazon

Facebook Author Page

Twitter: @ElaineEverest

 

Life Cycle of a Writer – Creating Promo Posts

Ah, the dreaded word ‘promotion’. Love it or hate it, like any other business, writers have to do it. Not only do we have to promote our books, but we have to find interesting ways of doing so, ways that will catch the eye of someone scrolling through their social media timeline. But it’s not just the subtle ‘buy my book’ posts that have to be interesting, it’s good business sense to make our profile pictures, our Facebook banners and Twitter headers look appealing too. They need to say something about our books or us as they are our advertising board, either directly or indirectly.

Keyboard

We had a little chat about this at Romaniac HQ recently and the various different apps/software we use. We thought it might be handy to give a quick Romaniac Which Guide.

Canva used by Laura and Jan (www.canva.com)

Cost : Free unless using Canva’s paid for options.

Previous Knowledge : None – Easy to use.

Best thing about it : Is ideal for all types of social media, and can upload own images.

Any difficulties : I’ve found nothing difficult.

Overall : I can create smart, professional graphics in a matter of minutes.

Canvacanva Jan

 

Photogrid used by Catherine on her iPad

Cost : It’s a free download.

Previous Knowledge : None – very easy to use.

Best Thing : You just add the photos you want to use and can then add backgrounds, text, icons etc.

Any difficulties : I haven’t found it difficult to use with practice it’s fairly easy to use.

photogrid

 

Photoshop used by Sue  (www.photoshop.com)

Cost : £17 approx per month

Previous Knowledge : Would need some knowledge to do the basics. Tutorials can be found on YouTube.

Best Thing : You can size things accurately and layer/blend/merge different images.

Any difficulties : Using and understanding the terminology, especially when trying to Google a question.

Overall : Probably overkill for promo ads but if designing your own book covers, then would highly recommend.

web blog banner

Vanessa uses various different software packages in her day job, such as, Photoshop, Indesign and Quark. In the past, I’ve used PowerPoint but it’s very difficult to not only get the sizing right but the quality and sharpness too – these are often lost when they are uploaded.

I’m sure there are lots of other apps and software out there. It would be interesting to hear what everyone else uses.

Sue

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Roving Romaniacs – Life Cycle of a Writer goes to Chichester

The Life Cycle of A Writer has been a popular feature here on the blog for over a year now where we all take it in turns to update what’s been going on in our writerly worlds. Last week saw the first live date, when The Life Cycle of a Writer went to Chichester library. It went really well and we are hoping to book some further dates at other libraries along the south coast. Here are a few photos and words from Catherine, Laura and Sue to sum up the evening.

sue laura catherine chi library

Sue: It was a great evening and although I was nervous to start with, once we got chatting I felt much more relaxed. It was good to see some familiar faces in the audience and we received some really positive feedback. Thank you to Chichester Library who were fantastic hosts.

sue laura chi library

Laura: I agree with Sue. It was a great evening. The audience was attentive and engaged and asked interesting questions, the library was a superb venue with lovely staff, and going on tour with Sue and Catherine was fun. I was chairing the panel, although that involved little input from me as the discussion flowed naturally and all three Romaniacs kept the conversation moving forward. I was in my element. I was ‘on stage’, and chatting about writing and books. I’m very much looking forward to taking the talk to more venues, and would love to return to Chichester library. So pleased we were able to encourage and help new writers.

library6

Catherine: I’m the one that talks with my hands. As I waved through my parts of our talk, it was great to have an audience to engage with (us writers normally have to chat to ourselves) and the Q&A session provided some excellent questions. Thanks to everyone who joined us and hopefully they’ll be another one soon. 

library7

Life Cycle of a Writer – Sue Fortin

This is my first Life Cycle of a Writer post this year, my last post was at the beginning of December, click here for a recap. So, since then a few exciting things have happened.

I had a fantastic few days in Shropshire where I met up with the other Romanaic girls and we had our Sparkle Weekend. It was a 70’s theme and we had great fun dancing in the kitchen and belting out some old school tunes.

edits1In my last update, I was waiting for news on the submissions I had made for my fourth full length novel. Since then I have had one official rejection, one assumed rejection as I never heard anything back, two offers of publication and one offer of representation by an agent, Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency. I was delighted to accept Kate’s offer which I blogged about here and was grateful of the advice as to which publishing offer to accept. HarperImpulse,who published my previous three novels, will be publishing my new novel – we are still deciding on a name for it though.

Last week I actually finished the first round of edits for Book 4 and I am now waiting for the next round to come in. Hopefully, we can get down to sorting out a name and book cover soon.

I’ve also been drumming up interest for the library talk myself, Laura and Catherine from the Romaniacs are giving in Chichester on 25 Febrary. Ticket sales are going well. If anyone is in the area and fancies coming along for a chat, we’d be delighted to see you there.

The Life Cycle of a Writer

After giving my house some love this week, aka doing the housework, I’m going to get back to the novella series I’m working on. The French Retreat was released last Autumn and I’m currently in the middle of writing book 2 in the Falling For France series; The French Affair. I had to put it to one side while I dealt with my edits for Book 4. I’m looking forward to going back to France with the novella and, fingers crossed, that we (me, husband and youngest) can get out to France for real and visit our cottage. We haven’t been for a while and are getting withdrawal symptoms. It will also be a good chance to do some research.

christmas hayley 089

Sue 

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