A belated start is not a bad start

Happy New Ears

Happy New Ears

Ah… a new year. New plans, new resolutions, new me… these are the things that I think we ALL want to kick off on the 1st January, and yet they are the very things that can hold you back. It’s the usual call to arms: go to the gym, stop eating chocolate for breakfast, give up alcohol for a month, BE MORE PRODUCTIVE!

The start of the new year for me is really that dreaded ‘first day back’ – this year, that was Monday 4th January. All over the Christmas break (which I expected to be difficult, for several reasons (like this), but which actually turned out to be lovely and relaxing), I thought about all the things I want to do in 2016 – they aren’t resolutions, they are just things… and many of them are things that I am always trying to do (with variable success), such as:

  • Write a book (last year saw the publication of Black Wood, and the writing/editing of Willow Walk)
  • Write another book (I have plans for three this year… the third one set in Banktoun, plus two others that I’ll just knock up in my spare time… HA HA)
  • Become re-motivated with the day job (it’s a necessary evil, it’s really not that bad, but a delay with a project has seen me adrift since November, aka, a bit skint…)
  • Do 20 minutes of exercise per day (easy, right? Yeah… some days it is. I need it to be EVERY day, or else with a sedentary job, plus writing, I am likely to have curled into a turtle-like shape before my next birthday)
  • Eat less crap (an ongoing mantra… often this is successful, often it isn’t, but to be honest, life is too short to worry about the odd blow out… as long as it’s not every day)
  • Reduce time spent on social media/internet (tricky, as I use this to communicate with writing friends, readers, bloggers, book clubs and anyone else who feels like a chat… working from home in both the day job and writing can be lonely without this – but I am becoming increasingly worried about repetitive strain injury… and my fingers are my job!!)
  • Also, THIS 🙂

Anyway – I thought I was geared up for all of this on the 4th, but as it turns out, I sunk into a panic of stress and anxiety, worried about not being able to do it all (apparently the ‘first week back’ is the most challenging week of the year for everyone – so really it’s best not to set too high expectations during this period.) It’s been a very up and down week, but I think I’ve finally come out the other side. I’ve got a daily planner to try and stop myself from doing too much and focus on one task at a time… the day job has recommenced… the brilliant Alex Sokoloff has helped me realise what I need to do regarding structuring my current work-in-progress… and as a nice little bit of icing on the cake – I’ve got a flash fiction published today in Litro magazine.

So, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Mine started today 🙂

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Click HERE to join my ‘Book Love Club’ – there will be giveways of lovely bookish things, as well as news and competitions (the emails are very infrequent, so don’t worry about me clogging up your inbox) – in the last competition, one lucky winner won this…

You can find me on twitter and facebook too 🙂

7 days to go… and a sneak peek

(Click image to read sample)

This time next week, I will be a published author. I started to write Black Wood in January 2013 and was lucky enough to secure an agent in June 2013, which led to my book deal in May 2014. Back then, the release date seemed so far off, but now that it’s nearly here, I can’t quite believe it!

I’ve loved the journey… I’ve learnt so much about the process of writing, editing and the business of publishing, and I’m still learning. But for now, I will celebrate this huge milestone by letting you know that you can now read a sample! This is the first time that any of this work has been available publicly, so I really hope you enjoy it!

Please let me know in the comments 🙂

…and if you do, then stayed tuned for next week’s ebook blog tour… details below:

You can still pre-order the ebook for 59p – but the price will rise soon, so if you like the sample, get in quick!

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And just to remind you that it’s not all about me… Coming up later this week:

Ding Ding – Round 2

First of all – Happy New Year to all my readers, followers and those who have stumbled across this by accident and have no idea what I’m going on about 😉

As you may remember, 2013 was a pretty big year for me, what with me getting an agent, finishing my first novel and sending that novel out to publishers for their consideration…

How’s all that going? I hear you ask.

Well… so far, there’s been a fair bit of this:

Which is a bit like getting kicked in the teeth over and over again, no matter how many nice things they have to say about your writing… especially when several of them ummed and ahhed and said that even though it wasn’t quite right for them, they were sure it would be right for someone else… a bit like in The Voice…

when nobody turns round because they all think one of the others is going to…

*SIGH*

But there was also quite a bit of this:

“Ohhhhh so close, but we’re not sure about this bit or that bit…” etc etc.

I did a bit of a rewrite for one editor, but it still didn’t work for them – so I decided that this wasn’t really the way to go. I could do that forever and still never get it how they wanted it.

Eventually, I had to make a decision… try to address what wasn’t working with the plot, or write something else… and considering the amount of work my lovely agent (who has unwavering faith in me and puts up with my stream of self-doubting emails…) had already put into trying to find my novel a home, and not wanting to throw in the towel too early, I decided to try and fix it. After all, the feedback on the strength of my writing was unanimous – the concerns were with certain elements of the plot… but the problem was, most of the feedback was contradictory. So I decided to get an editorial report from an independent editor, one who I knew was an expert in my genre. Which led to this…

The report was excellent. It made me fall in love with my book again; made me realise it really was worth working on. It highlighted a couple of big issues (and lots of smaller ones, but the trick is to use the report in the best way for yourself) and after discussion with my agent we decided on two key changes… adding some ’emotional intensity’ to my main character, who had a tendency to be overly cold and detached, thus not giving the reader a character to root for, and making the ending less complicated by spreading out the reveals and removing unnecessary strands (okay, maybe that’s three things…)

Anyway… that’s what I did in December, and in early Jan (the deadline I had set myself) I sent it back to my agent. I should hear his thoughts next week. After that, we decide on where to send it next…

Wish me luck!

The Seven Stages of Novel-Writing

Jane Casey

This week I am very, VERY chuffed to share a spot-on post from one of my favourite crime authors, Jane Casey, where she imparts her solemn wisdom about the process of writing a novel. I haven’t made it to #7 yet. I mostly hover between#3 and #5 then go backwards… 

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The Seven Stages of Novel-Writing

The highs and lows of writing are pretty legendary. There doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid passing through these emotions on the way to The End. For your entertainment – and fair warning – here are the seven stages of writing a novel.

 1. Exhilaration

You have an idea and you think it could actually become a book. Spoiler: this is the best bit, because nothing has yet gone wrong. Exhilaration is what gets you through writing the synopsis. Writing a synopsis is almost as painful as writing a book, except you can skip large chunks of plot development without actually having to think about how they might be developed, or even if it’s possible to develop them without being a different writer in a different genre. This will cause you problems later, but for the moment, pat yourself on the back for being a genius. It’s downhill from here.

 2. Confusion

You sit down to start writing the book but oh dear, you’ve forgotten how you planned to do this. The synopsis makes no sense. The story makes no sense. The basic idea might make a novella, or a short story. Or 140-character flash fiction. It is not going to stretch to 120,000 words, which is what is in your contract. You do a chapter plan. Many of the chapters have blank spaces where their plot is supposed to go. Never mind, something will occur to you.

 3. Panic

  • You have forgotten how to write.
  • You write.
  • You cry.
  • You write some more.

 4. Wavering confidence

It’s all coming back to you. And you’ve managed to get your characters off the first page and into the story. Nothing can hold you back now.

It’s a shame it’s TERRIBLE.

 5. Despair

So much left to write. So little time to the deadline. So little point in even switching on the computer when it’s STILL TERRIBLE.

 6. Determination

You’re not a quitter. Besides, there’ll be editing. It will get better. You just have to finish it.

 7. Euphoria/Exhaustion

You type THE END.  For all its flaws, the book exists – not as you imagined it first, to be sure, but it lives! And you think it might be your best yet. Or possibly it’s your worst. You can’t be sure. All you know is that you’re very, very tired.

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About Jane

Jane Casey was born in Dublin and worked as a children’s books editor before her first novel, THE MISSING, was picked from an agent’s slush pile and published by Ebury Press. She writes crime novels for adults (the Maeve Kerrigan series published by Ebury) and teenagers (the Jess Tennant series, published by Random House Children’s Books). The first Jess Tennant book, HOW TO FALL, has just been published. Married to a criminal barrister, she lives in London. She is currently working on her seventh novel.

You can find Jane on twitter @JaneCaseyAuthor

You can read more about HOW TO FALL via the links below:

It’s an excellent read that works for both the intended audience, i.e. Young Adults, and the slightly-older ones *ahem* like me who just wish they were sixteen again 😉 It’s a great twisty-turny mystery with well drawn characters that left me very nostalgic for my youth! I’m really looking forward to Jess Tennant’s next outing.

What the Dickens? Literary Magazine #WTDzine

I’d like to tell you about my latest exciting news from the world of writing… I’m very pleased to announce that I am now a regular contributor to the fabulous What the Dickens? Magazine! I was lucky to have a short story accepted for Issue 1, and then a couple of flashes in subsequent issues (you can find the links here) so I was delighted to be asked to be involved on a regular basis.

If you haven’t seen this magazine before, you should go and check it out now… It comes out bi-monthly and each issue has a theme – this one being ‘The Pumpkin Edition’. As well as lots of features about writing/reading, it also contains info on other creative arts including music, theatre, screenwriting and everything else ‘creative’ you can think of. There are reviews, author features, writing prompts, photos and competitions, not to mention a wide range of short stories and poems. The magazine is currently available online only, but watch this space as there is more exciting news to follow soon!

Click on the magazine cover to read online (you can also find all issues in the kindle store).

My article in ‘The Curious Creative Life’ section can be found on Page 65.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it ~ W. C. Fields

It’s interesting how the thought of entering a writing competition can fill you with horror, pain and excitement all at the same time. While a large part of your brain is telling you, ‘This is crap, I’ll never win, there are much better writers than me entering and they’ll probably have 100s of entries.’ The other, smaller, hidden-in-the-wardrobe part says, ‘I have just as much as chance as anyone.’ So with the wardrobe part fully functioning today, I decided to actually enter something. The deadline is 15th November, its a 1000 flash (my favourite) and I thought, ‘I’ve got weeks left to think of something.’ Well, being the procrastinator that I am, I realised I didn’t really have time to think of something new (except for 100-worders and nano stuff for twitter) because my head is fully engaged in plotting and outlining for my upcoming first stab at the wonder that is NaNoWriMo. So I started looking through my back catalogue of unpublished, un-entered wonders… Actually, someone else has to take credit for me doing the story-trawling (not to be confused with TROLLING, cos that’s just horrible) – the lovely person who is setting up my brand new website… you know who you are.

Anyway, I found something I’d written in January 2010 for a website comp. It didn’t win, didn’t even get a mention (I already took that defeat on the chin, no need to bring it up again) but I still like the story, in fact I had doubts that I’d actually written it as it was actually quite good… So, with a bit of re-reading and a few minor edits, it was ready, and off it has flown in cyberspace to the desk of the writers-online folks from Writing magazine (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/). It’s called ‘Baskets and Buckets and Life’. I hope they like it, but if they don’t, I’m not going to sweat it, I’m going to keep going with the thought that all the best authors got rejected more times than we’ve all had hot dinners and they still didn’t give up.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow ~ Mark Twain

Hi there… so, for anyone interested,  I am going to start blogging about my current writing activities. At the moment these are centred around wasting time setting up a blog. Hopefully one day it will become useful. I have a list of competition entries to send, and I am counting down the days until I start NaNoWriMo in November. Come join me. It will get more interesting than this. I promise.