Closing the Book on 2017

I love looking back over the past year, especially if I can be pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve achieved! (More often than not it’s regret over another year that failed to meet its potential.) But this year, I really feel like I’ve had a shift. I really feel like I’ve stopped thinking like a hobbyist, and started thinking like a business woman. My mindset has totally changed.

So, let’s see what I have achieved this year.

The VisionaryFebruary saw the release of The Visionary, book 3 of The Paper Duchess Series, which was quickly followed by a March release of After: A Post Apocalyptic Story Collection (which has turned out to be unexpectedly popular!)

It was a bit crazy doing two book releases in such quick succession, and I feel like I’ve learnt an important lesson from that. It did not go as smoothly as I’d hoped, but that lesson has led on to exciting plans for 2018.

Edge-LitFast forward to July, and I was at Edge-Lit literary convention. While I was there, I attended a workshop on running literary events, and this sparked a whole heap of ideas I plan to implement next year. It also prompted me to approach the organiser of Edge-Lit with a workshop pitch.

The MothersOctober saw the release of The Mothers, the 4th and final book in The Paper Duchess series. I had officially completed an entire series of books which was quite monumental.

Again, I’ve learnt a lot of lessons through the two years I’ve been writing and publishing the series (which you can read about here), and it’s already making the writing of my next series so much easier in a lot of ways. You see; mistakes are never just mistakes if you learn from them. And lessons are valuable, and something to cherish.

NaNoWriMo 2017 Winner BadgeNovember proved to be a ridiculously busy month. I decided to give NaNoWriMo another shot. This was my 7th year doing it, and I had 3 wins and 3 horrendous losses under my belt. I hadn’t come anywhere close to completing it since having children.

But I felt determined this year. I spent all of October planning, and I put my success down to that. I stormed in at just over 51,000 words by the end of the month. And a very nearly completed novel draft (which is now completed).

Sledge-LitNovember also brought around Sledge-Lit, the Christmas edition of Edge-Lit literary convention. Remember that workshop pitch? This was my first ever time as a guest author, and my first ever time on a discussion panel. I also ran a very successful worldbuilding workshop which I’ve had amazing feedback from. You can read more about my Sledge-Lit experience here.

The Paper Duchess Series Box SetAs if that wasn’t enough for one month, I also put together and released The Paper Duchess Complete Series Box Set. This was not nearly as easy as I’d anticipated, and I spent days fiddling around with the coding and the format to get everything working properly.

But, I did it, and people can now get the entire series in just one file. Phew! What a year!

2017 has also seen a lot more going on, both on and off stage: promos, newsletters, giveaways, author takeovers, secret plans, upping my social media game, bettering book delivery, having a short story accepted for an anthology, and I could go on forever. It’s been so busy. And December isn’t going to let up either.

December has already seen the completion of my next book’s first draft, The Smudger, which was mostly done in NaNoWriMo. As long as editing stays on track, I’ll be sending it out to my beta readers before Christmas. And that means I can spend the festive period with my feet up (at least, as much as a mum can!)

I’ll see you in the new year to talk about my plans for 2018 (the non-secret ones, at least!)

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

How to Turn a NaNoWriMo Loss into a Long-Term Win

NaNoWriMo Participant 2017So here we are in November, and a whole load of overly optimistic (or overly crazy) writers around the world are heads down writing like mad for NaNoWriMo. Chances are you know lots of people doing it, but if you don’t know what it is, National Novel Writing Month challenges you to write a 50k word novel in just 30 days. Yes, you have to be a little bit crazy to try it.

I’ve been that crazy six times already. But I’ve only hit that magical 50k three times (since having children, I’ve not managed to come anywhere close!)

As many people as you know doing NaNoWriMo, you’ll probably know just as many who decry it as a joke. An event that promotes terrible writing (by encouraging quantity of words over quality). And they’re right. It is more than likely that your NaNo novel will be terrible. As all first drafts usually are (especially when written in a caffeine-fuelled blur of just 30 days). But what does that matter? Your first draft never sees the light of day.

Many, probably most, NaNo novels will never find their way through to publication, and are destined to languish on hard drives, abandoned and forgotten. But there is light at the end of the literary tunnel here. Let me tell you about one of my NaNo stories.

In 2011, I hit NaNoWriMo with a story called The Bottle Stopper. It was about a little girl, eight years old, living in the care of her abusive uncle. She was blind, because he had blinded her. She worked in the back of his apothecary shop, bottling his ‘miracle medicine’, which was, in actual fact, nothing more than river water and a sprig of lavender. I won that year, penned 50k words. 50k awful words. 50k words that sat on my hard drive for years.

In October 2015, I published The Bottle Stopper. It certainly wasn’t the 2011 version, nor was it any of the other three versions that had followed. It’s still about a girl, but she’s 17 now, and she can see perfectly well. The abusive uncle is still there, and she still bottles his medicine. Beyond that, it bears very little relation to the original.

But that idea, those characters, and that conflict carried through to the book as it is today. It may have taken another four years, but that book was finished, and published. It also contained a whole supporting cast of characters rescued from other unfinished books (some of which were written for NaNo). The Bottle Stopper is the first book of The Paper Duchess quadrilogy.

So what I’m saying is this: a good idea never dies. Even if your NaNo novel is utter trash, the ideas are salvageable. The characters can be resurrected. And the story can still be played out. Some day. And my terrible NaNo novel evolved into an entire series. So a loss at NaNo doesn’t need to be a loss forever. It can, in time, become a great big win.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

There Let Us Wallow (How to Accept Criticism)

EditingIt’s a scary moment when you send your writing out into the world. This thing you’ve created from part of your own soul, this thing you dreamt up and gave life to, your baby. You want to protect it from everything, want to keep it safe. But you can’t. Once it’s out there, it’s up for scrutiny, and not everyone will love it like you do.

So how do you cope when you receive criticism?

There will be a lot of people jumping in to tell you to ignore it, to learn from it, and not to dwell on it. “Learn to shrug it off”, they’ll say. “You’ll need to grow a thicker skin if you want to be a writer.” And it’s fantastic advice, it really is, but remember this too: your initial feelings are not only completely valid, but they can be healthy too.

So feel free to wallow, or cry, or shout, or swear you’ll never write again. Feel free to binge eat ice cream, chocolate, or cake. Get drunk. Shout obscenities. Climb under your duvet and hide there. Stamp your feet, thump a pillow, scream at the sky. Do what you have to do to get those feelings out.

Then go to bed.

There’s a reason people say that things will look better in the morning. It’s because they usually do.

So feel free to wallow today, but tomorrow, wake up ready to kick some butt. Wake up ready to prove your critics wrong by bettering yourself, improving your work, strengthening your weaknesses, and accepting feedback with grace and self respect.

Feel free to wallow, but tomorrow’s another day, and if you feel like you lost today, get up and march for victory in the morning.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: At the Cliff’s Edge

Insecure Writer's Support GroupToday is September’s instalment of Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which sees hundreds of writers and bloggers worldwide post about their insecurities, support others with theirs, and offer up advice for overcoming them. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Every writer knows about blank page syndrome. Those moments before you write your first word, when possibilities are endless. The terrifying unknown and the paralysing fear that you might be about to write the worst thing you’ve ever written. Or the best. Because both outcomes are equally scary.

But there’s another phenomenon, at the other end of things. Facing the ending. As I approach the ending of any story, I slow right down. The words come reluctantly, and my fingers wade across the suddenly treacle-like keyboard. It always happens.

The end of a story holds equal fears to the beginning. Those endless possibilities. Because, as we all know, every ending is also a beginning.

I’m currently stood at the end of, not just my latest book, but my whole series, editing its fourth and final instalment. I’m stood at the cliff’s edge gazing into the abyss of possibilities. It’s scary. But it’s exciting too.

Are you at the beginning? Or the end? Or both? Does the fear affect you?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Sunscreen and Scary Stuff

Insecure Writer's Support GroupToday is August’s instalment of Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which sees hundreds of writers and bloggers worldwide post about their insecurities, support others with theirs, and offer up advice for overcoming them. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Do you remember that song; Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)? Basically a long list of good advice put to music. I had it on CD. Loved it. Tried to live by it.

There was one particular line that still resonates: ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’. For me, that’s not difficult. I’m scared of everything. Some days, just stepping out of the front door is scary enough.

But I still do it. Because I think it’s important for me to push myself. When I look back over my life, I can see all the things that would have never happened if I didn’t do things that scared me. And the sense of accomplishment when I have pushed through my fears is like no other high.

I’ve just agreed to do something that terrifies me. Later this year, I’ll be appearing at a literary convention. I’ll be running a workshop, and, scariest of all, I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion. On a stage. With a microphone. In front of an audience. An audience expecting me to be clever and insightful. (Thank goodness there’s no expectation for me to be funny!)

This terrifies me. I’m sure I’ll simply sit there, gaping like a fish, unable to get a single word out. I’m hoping that my theatre training will kick in and get me through it. But I know how good this is for business. How important it is. How many doors it could open.

Have you ever been on a panel discussion or led a workshop? What are your top tips? What scares you, and how do you push through your fear?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Progress is Progress. But…

Insecure Writer's Support GroupToday is July’s instalment of Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which sees hundreds of writers and bloggers worldwide post about their insecurities, support others with theirs, and offer up advice for overcoming them. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

I’m currently plugging away at the first draft of The Mothers, the final book in my Paper Duchess series.

It’s moving forward nicely enough, following the plot, but it’s slow. With life and family pressures and distractions, I have very little writing time, and this one really seems to be dragging. Or maybe I’m just feeling more impatient because it’s the last in the series.

With a lot of writer friends currently rocking Camp NaNo, I feel like I’m a snail being left behind. I know that progress is still progress, and, even if I only manage to write 100 words a day, it’s 100 I didn’t have the day before. But it’s not easy to convince myself.

Are you a slow writer? What do you do to speed up production? And where do you find pockets of writing time during the day?