I am a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I am also a member of their blogging team. At the end of last year I was invited to launch a new monthly blogging series on the RNA blog interviewing book bloggers and reviewers.
The latest in the series went live earlier this week and I am attaching a link below so you can take a look.
I don’t often use my blog to talk about my achievements when it comes to my writing – it’s usually my sounding board when things are going less well!
On this occasion however I have decided to change things up.
My debut novel The Flower Seller was released in June 2016. I worked hard to make The Flower Seller the best version of the book it could possibly be. As an indie author I was keen for my novel to stand out so I put a lot of thought and effort into how the cover would look and engaged a fabulous cover designer to assist. Step forward the wonderful Berni Stevens http://www.bernistevensdesign.com/index.htm
I also made sure I didn’t stint when it came to the story inside the covers – I worked with an editor and a proof reader to make sure the book was as well presented as it could be.
It was at this stage of the process that I became aware of Awesome Indies. If you are unfamiliar with them here is a link to their site http://www.awesomeindies.net/
Their Mission Statement as stated on their site is as follows:-
“Our editors award the Awesome Indies Badge of Approval to indie books that meet mainstream standards of quality. Readers buy our books safe in the knowledge that every one is a professional product. We are the unique voices of quality independent fiction.” Tahlia Newland, founder.
Their approval is the equivalent of a Kite Mark of quality.
Details of how to submit your novel for consideration are given below:-
Whilst it is nice to be independent, it is still wonderful to be given the approval of your peers.
And I believe anything that can distinguish good quality, well produced indie books from those that are thrown on to the market with very little thought or care has to be a good thing for all writers and particularly for all readers. Don’t you agree?
Technically, the answer to that question is yes. Not everyone, however, is cut out to do it and fewer still can do it and enjoy it.
As with so much, it comes down to how much you want something and how much time and effort you are willing to put in to achieve it. Too many people say they want something but baulk at the work it takes to accomplish it.
Being an indie author is not easy. Whilst you can build up a support network, you need to have a strong sense of who you are as an author and where your books sit in the market place. You need to be able to trust your own judgement. You are the only one who has your back.
As an indie author, even if you hire others to do some of the work for you, the ultimate responsibility for what they produce lies with you. You have to check and recheck and check again to ensure a quality of output is achieved that you are happy with. You are the Managing Director, the CEO, the buck stops with you.
The glory, however, needs to be shared. Remember to thank people for the work they have done. It costs nothing to be nice. If people pay you a compliment on your cover, don’t forget to mention your cover designer. If people praise the professional look of your book, namecheck your editor and others who have contributed their time and talent to making your dream happen. Always, always acknowledge and thank and pay it forward.
And Don’t rush things. Your goals should be to produce the best books you can and build a sustainable career for yourself. That won’t happen overnight. Have patience and plan out a schedule that is achievable. Remember there are only 24 hours in every day and you should be sleeping for eight of them! You might want to do it all, you may even succeed for a while but eventually you will crash and burn. Remember that story about the tortoise and the hare from when you were a child? A slow and steady approach is better both for achieving longevity and for your health.
I finished my novel last weekend. High fives and glasses of wine all round. It’s gone off to my editor. Before I know it, it will be back with a myriad amendments to be made but for now, I have planted the words ‘The End’ like a flag on a mountain top.
Whenever I reach the end of a novel I always feel a huge sense of relief. Relief that I went to the well and there were words there to find. Relief that I had an idea and a half decent novel emerged from it. Relief that those characters that I thought about and worked so hard to create have taken on lives beyond those I imagined for them. I gave them wings and away they flew. Relief that I can still do it. I can still pull it off. I can still spin a plot and weave the magic. The muse hasn’t abandoned me. Yet.
Am I alone in my feelings of relief? I often wonder about that. Do other writers experience joy, happiness and pride when they reach the end of their novels? I am always so drained by the end of the writing journey that those feelings occur further down the road to publication. At the instant I finish and for the immediate days after, relief is all I feel.
It is not relief that the writing is over, you understand because I am always writing. There are always a dozen ideas waiting to be developed and explored. It is relief that I can still do my job. I am still a writer.
The relief comes hot on the tail of the fear that stalks me: that one day the words will not come, that the plot will not gel, nor the characters take flight. One day I will have an idea and not do it justice. One day I will not be able to capture lightning in a bottle. One day I will fail.
During my rewrites of the work in progress I came across a section which has given me trouble from the word go. Rewrites have improved it but I was still struggling to make it sing. Nothing seemed to work. All the usual tools in my writer’s toolkit weren’t able to get to the heart of the problem. Dispirited after another fruitless attempt to bring it up to the level of the rest of the book, I abandoned my study and stomped off.
Needing a boost I decided to watch The Devil Wears Prada on DVD. I’ve seen the movie several times. I can quote my favourite lines as they are being said but it always makes me laugh and I was in need of comfort. When the movie finished I decided to watch the outtakes and then look at the deleted scenes whilst listening to the director’s commentary.
What became apparent with a lot of the scenes that had been cut was that there was actually very little wrong with them. In most instances the point of the scene had been made better in a different scene making the cut scene superfluous or the movie was simply running too long and a scene had to be trimmed with the vital parts of that scene being retained and anything else being cut. Most of the scenes that were cut were beautifully shot and yet had no place in the movie because they didn’t carry their weight.
I knew I could use the logic of this process on the section I was having difficulty with.
The next day I returned to the study, buoyed up and ready to attack the troublesome section with a pair of metaphorical scissors. For the next couple of hours I transformed the section from flabby to tight. With my Director’s Cut take on things I was able to zero in on the pieces of the work that were crucial and the parts that could be done away with – however nicely written.
By the end of the day, the section worked. Up until that point I had been working too closely with it. What I needed to do was take a director’s bird’s eye overview of the piece and then it became apparent where the problems were.
So the next time you are having difficulties become the director and get your metaphorical scissors ready for action.
I had been worrying away at trying to make a section work and failing spectacularly to understand why the piece wasn’t coming together.
My time away made me realise what was wrong. I was trying to make the characters act out of character to suit the plot.
It was so obvious when I went back it. Suddenly I could see that shoe horning the characters into the boxes that the plot dictated took away what made their characters work in the first place.
It was a salutary lesson. As soon as I stopped trying to make my characters act against their will, the scenes began to come together and the writing started to flow.
No plot is written in stone. It can always be improved upon. As soon as I made the necessary changes and allowed my characters to act in a way that suited the personalities I had built for them I stopped trying to push a boulder up a hill.
And the next time you are struggling to make a scene sing, ask yourself if you are making your characters act out of character just so that you can preserve the plot and if the answer is yes don’t sacrifice your characters, change the plot.
As some of you will know who follow my blog I am in the midst of rewriting a novel I wrote some years ago. It needed bringing up to date – smartphones have rather taken over our lives and I needed to address some inherent problems with the plot. I blogged about it here in Easy Option – https://goo.gl/qPP5SO
Now I am deep in the heart of the rewrites and my confidence is sometimes high but mostly low as I grapple with the mess that was once a cohesive novel albeit a troubled one. I am sure you are all familiar with the saying ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’. Well my desk is covered in broken eggs right now and it is hard to keep the faith.
One part of the story was giving me more trouble than any other and I spent a couple of days beating myself up at the keyboard wondering why I just couldn’t make it work. Sometimes you can just be too close to a piece of work and all it takes is a little distance to see where you were going wrong.
Exhausted by the process of getting nowhere, my brain aching from turning the same problems over in my mind and not reaching any satisfactory conclusions, I decided to take a complete break from writing for a couple of days.
It was a brave thing to do (some might say foolhardy) given I had a self imposed tight deadline but that in itself was adding to my stress levels. When you can no longer see the wood for the trees your writer’s spidey senses are hardly going to be at their best. So I decided to pull the plug for a while.
I stopped being Ellie Holmes the writer and just enjoyed being me. It took a few hours for the white noise of a busy writer’s brain to calm itself. A dose of reality TV and comfort food helped. And once peace reigned, I lived for a few days like normal people live. You should try it some time. I highly recommend it.
As you can tell from this blog, it didn’t last long. A brief holiday from my writer’s self was all I needed to recharge the batteries and rev up the creative engine. But as with a traditional mini break I came back refreshed, reinvigorated and ready for the challenge.