Aug 142014
 

ShirleyHolmesIt has been a while since my last post and a lot of things have happened since then, mostly to do with the writing of my fiction series.

In May I had finished writing the first two novellas in the series, which had the combined word count of 70,000 words. Both books went through the ‘beta reading stage’ and in June were on the brink of being send to my editor.
Something was wrong, though. Even though the beta readers were mostly positive, I felt that both books could be much better. The plot, the characters, it felt like everything was only 80% there.

After some soul-searching during my holiday, I came to the conclusion that the books simply weren’t at the publishing stage yet. Then a brainstorming session with my developmental editor Eva, confirmed what I deep down already knew. I wanted to start from scratch. Change the concept, find the right genre to write in and rewrite both books.

This might sound crazy, specially keeping in mind I had already written 70,000 words, but my decision felt right. I want to publish the best possible product and simply have to be patient and wait until I am there. No use publishing a book that is only 80% right.

The facts are now as follows:

  • My series will now be a cosy mystery series, revolving around two main characters, Jacob Hicks (neighbourhood warden and amateur sleuth) and Paddy the Rat (keen observer of human behaviour).
  • It might well be that the length of the books turn out more than novella length, although I have no idea about that yet.
  • I want to publish the first three books close together somewhere next year, most likely the autumn.
  • I have also decided that the series will be published under my penname ‘Annie Appleton’, about which more in another post.

I have a good feeling about the changes, even though it means that my readers will have to wait longer for a new book to come out. I hope they will find it worth waiting for!

Go to Jacob Hick Mysteries for more info about the new series.

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Dec 212013
 

houseThe above seems like an obvious statement, but as a non-fiction writer who now tries her hand at fiction, it has taken me an awful lot of time to realise it.
How hard can it be to write a fiction story? You just invent something and write it down. Well, it didn’t work like that for me.

After writing two books about architecture and two travelogues, I wanted to write more books. Having had some weird things happening to me while I lived in England, I decided that a series of shorter books, novellas, based on my time in York, was the way to go. However, I didn’t want the books to be travelogues, like before, but fictional stories.

I came up with the story of rats invading the back garden of my main character Emily, much like my own back garden had been invaded by them. I wanted it to be more over the top, though, so I invented parts of story. To me that felt like real fiction.
My beta-readers disagreed. They liked the idea, but felt something was missing. And so did I actually, when I looked at it from a reader’s point of view. So, I added a fictional neighbour with who Emily gets into a fight about the rats. I added action and still more over the top story lines and the rats became main characters in their own right.

All this was a huge step forward, but to me it still didn’t feel right. I was now six months further down the line and it had dawned on me that the series, instead of being about Emily, was more about her neighbourhood, with different people taking on the role of main character in the different books.
And like creating backstories for my main characters to make them real, I also had to create that neighbourhood. However much I could vividly remember myself living in that neighbourhood, it wasn’t the same place! Maybe it looked like it, but it was fictional, not real and I could make it any way I wanted.

That penny finally dropped yesterday. Now I have the task to invent a neighbourhood that feels real, but isn’t. I have to forget about where I lived before and just make it up! And that is a lot of fun. Like my fellow author Des Birch said on Facebook the other day, ‘What unique pleasures we authors invent for ourselves’.

It might feel like I wasted a lot of time over the past seven months, but it is now clear to me that it was a process I needed to work through to come up with the best result. I am sure that with what I learned, I can write the next books much faster and better.

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Related blog post: Making My Characters Real

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Dec 152013
 

woman confusedI had a revelation a couple of days ago. I’m still not sure if it was the result of some clever reasoning of my sub-conscience, or because of all the bottles of cough syrup that I drank this week. Having an ongoing cold is never much fun…

In any case, I now realise that I have been a bumbling fool writing my new book.
‘What?’ I hear you say. ‘You have written five books, so you should know what you are doing by now!’
Indeed, I should. However, the fact is that for the first time in my life I have forayed into the realm of fiction, where before I stuck to non-fiction. And let me tell you, those are two very different puppies.

When I first started writing the new book, I very much treated it as I did all my non-fiction projects. Think up a story, divide that into chapters, write the chapters, book finished. This resulted in the new book being an interesting, but flat story without much depth. Although my beta-readers said they liked it, bless them, they also all indicated that ‘something was missing’.

Little did I know that fiction writers sometimes spend months creating a world and the characters that populate it. They give their characters back-stories that never even make it into the book, just to achieve a sense of reality. Just a few weeks ago on the Indie Writers Unite Facebook group, someone asked what attracted us to a character in a book. Most of the answers were that the fictional beings had to ‘be real’.

I realised that the characters in my book were not real enough. They talked to each other and had adventures, but they were not real. I needed to fix this.
Googling the words ‘character development’ I soon found pages and pages of ‘questions to ask your character’. Finding one questionnaire that seemed to fit the best, I copied it into a word document and started answering the questions as one of my characters. The results were surprising. Just by giving the characters a childhood and back-story, their actions in my book started to make sense.

As I said, I was a bumbling fool. Probably still am, but I am looking forward to finishing the questionnaires for all my main characters. It’s a lot of work, but it is worth to see them come alive.

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Curious to find out which questions I asked my characters? Have a look at the Questionnaire.

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Aug 302013
 

newsletterThis is already my final post for the Indie Block Party. Can’t believe it has gone this fast.

One of the most important things an Indie writer must do is building a name for themselves. Creating a brand for yourself is hard, but a must, as readers need to start recognising your name (whether your own name or a penname) and know what books they can expect.

Yesterday I mentioned that sometimes I write articles voluntarily. I am not paid for this, but it helps building my brand, as my name is mentioned on websites and in local newspapers.

One thing I whish I had known before I started self-publishing was the importance of having a brand and thereby the opportunity to start marketing a new book even before one word is written.
Building a new-release-mailing-list is the first thing a new author should start doing. Get a website (they can be set up for free in five minutes via site like WordPress.com) and give visitors the opportunity to register for the mailing list. Mailchimp.com offers free mailing lists.
Also, set up an author page on Facebook and start building ‘likes’. It is best for a mailing list and likes on Facebook to grow organically, which takes a lot of time.

Indie writers are a helpful bunch, who congregate on forums and Facebook groups to help each other out. Instead of seeing other writers as competition, Indie writers have found that sticking together they sell more books.
Some groups and forums that writers should join or visit regularly are Indie Writers Unite on Facebook, the KDP forums and Kboards, which have a special section for writers.

Keep in mind that most people don’t like seeing loads of ‘Buy My Books’ post in their newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter. Of course, it is important to let people know your books are for sale, but it is more important to socialise and connect. If people see that you are interested in them, it will reflect favourably on the brand that you are so carefully building up.

Above all keep writing! There is no better way to get more sales than publishing a new book.

I have had loads of fun these past two weeks meeting new writers! Good luck to everyone!

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Interested in reading about the other writers in the Indie Block Party? Then follow this link! (Scroll down the post a bit until you see the picts of the participants.)

Aug 282013
 

typingWriting definitely become easier the more you do it. My number one tip would therefore be to keep writing and practising as much as you can.

This doesn’t need to be full-length novels. I personally write a lot of short articles, many of them for a local historical society. I am not paid for that, but it helps me improve my writing. It also gets my name out there, which is important for marketing, but more about that tomorrow.

Fiction writing and non-fiction writing are two very different things.
I have the most experience in non-fiction writing. You choose a subject and do lots of research. Then you write it all out. Sounds easy and it is, as long as you know enough about your subject.
Fiction writing is different in that you have to set the scene, built a world and populate it with characters. In addition, you need a story, a plot. I have found that centring my stories around something that happened to me and then elaborate on it, works for me. I do have an imagination, but I am not at that level yet, that I can come up with just anything. My work in progress is in fact an experiment to see if I can pull it off to write fiction as well. So far, it seems to be working.

Sometimes I get a bit of a writer’s block. I usually break it by leaving that particular part behind for a while and start a new chapter. This seems to work for me as well as for many other writers.

Another very important thing in the writing process, specially when you want to publish your work, is getting beta readers and an editor! If you have decided that you want to make some money with your writing, you need to be professional about it from the start! Of course, you feel that your story is the best that was ever written, but it also means you are far too close to see its flaws. Don’t be stubborn and listen to your beta readers and editor. They are there to help you, not to throw you under the bus.

My WIP is a good example. My beta readers liked it, but felt there was something missing. I have been thinking about their remarks for the last three weeks and have concluded that all of the 20,000 words need to be rewritten. Difficult, but necessary and the book will be much better for it.

Keep writing everyone!

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Interested in reading about the other writers in the Indie Block Party? Then follow this link! (Scroll down the post a bit until you see the picts of the participants.)