Posts Tagged NaNoWriMo

Working with an Agent plus NaNoWriMo

As everyone’s gearing up for NaNoWriMo next month I thought I’d give you an update as to where I’m at with my own writing.

Around this time last year I signed with the wonderful Juliet Mushens of the CaskieMushens literary agency. Juliet liked the concept behind my novel and could see how it needed re-writing to give the story a much better flow. She had some great ideas and, together, we greatly improved the manuscript through three rounds of editing.Diagrams by Jaspar Snowdon

In July of this year the book went out on submission to publishers. There were positive comments about the writing but unfortunately it didn’t find a buyer. Obviously, after all the work, this was disappointing but I’m not the only author to get so far down the line and then come away with nothing. I knew it could happen, which was the reason I didn’t shout about signing with Juliet at the time.

Juliet suggested putting that manuscript to one side and getting stuck into the next novel. So that’s what I’m doing.  I have a head full of doubts about my ability to actually create another full-length manuscript which will be of interest to anyone except me and my mum. However, having come this far and with Juliet willing to at least read whatever I come up with, I feel have to give it another shot.

I won’t be doing NaNo because I’m not at the right stage of the book for that but I am aiming to work on the new novel every single day in November and beyond.

By the way, if you’re wondering about the illustration on this post, it’s something which features in that unsold manuscript.

Good Luck to all of you aiming for 1700 words per day next month!

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Benefits of Writing Competitions

At the end of January Morton S. Gray celebrated the publication, by Choc Lit, of her first novel, The Girl on the Beach. The Girl on the Beach by Morton S GrayMorton’s success was the result of dogged perseverance and the culmination of a series of competition successes. Not surprisingly, she is now a great advocate of writing competitions and she’s here today to tell us how they helped her on the road to success:

Innocently entering a writing competition caused me to take my writing seriously! In 2006, a friend started a fledgling publishing business (sadly no longer trading) and she held a short story writing competition to raise the profile of the company. I entered, primarily to support her, and unbelievably won with my story “Human Nature versus the Spirit Guide”.
It was a wake-up call for me. I’d had a baby and not been well for a couple of years, so I was looking for a new direction. The competition win made me look at writing as a serious option for the future and it was relatively easy to combine with a small child still taking naps in the afternoon. I started to take courses to learn to polish my work. I entered several competitions and began to get shortlisted.

In 2008, I entered a Mills and Boon novel competition, the forerunner of their SYTYCW competitions. I quickly decided I wasn’t a Mills and Boon writer, as it is a particular way of writing and much harder than people might think to keep the focus on the main protagonists throughout a novel. However, the competition introduced me to several people with whom I’m still in contact.

Competitions give you a framework within which to work. They give you the discipline of a deadline and a word count. Not as many people enter these competitions as you may imagine, especially the smaller local ones. I’ve been involved in running a local competition and I was surprised not only by the relatively few number of entries, but by the fact that sixty percent of the entries were essentially the same story. Tip – think around the set theme for a while and don’t go for the obvious. Your entry will stand out if it is different.

Morton S. Gray

Morton S. Gray

I continued to get shortlisted for flash fiction, poetry, short story and novel competitions. In 2013, I came second in the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference competition for the first chapter of a novel and that resulted in an appearance on the Tammy Gooding show at BBC Hereford and Worcester Radio. All good experience. Later that year, I shortlisted in the New Talent Award at the then Festival of Romance, with another first chapter. I met a different group of writers, many of whom I’m still in contact with in real life and online.

These encouraging signs for my writing kept me going. It is easy to get despondent when writing, as it can be a very solitary occupation. Don’t spend your life thinking no one will want to read your work, imagining that it’s rubbish, not up to scratch, not worthy of anything but the bin. Been there, done that! Keep going, keep writing and get your work out to competitions, send it to magazines, publishers, agents. Writing is a constant learning process and is generally about persistence. You need an imaginative spark, yes, but you also need to be willing to check your work over time and again to make it the best it can be. What is the point of a manuscript in a drawer?

I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme and made sure I submitted a novel for critique every year. I also made a promise to myself to take part in the annual novel writing challenge NaNoWriMo and I’ve managed seven years running to write 50,000 words in November. One of these novels, when edited and passed through the RNA NWS critique service, I sent off to the Search for a Star competition run by a publisher I’d admired for many years, Choc Lit and I won! My debut novel, The Girl on the Beach was published on 24 January 2017.

I suppose the messages here are keep writing, learn your craft, polish your work and get it out into the world. My novel could so easily still be in that drawer under the bed. Competitions are a way of assessing how you are progressing, hopefully you’ll meet friends along the way and who knows, you might win a publishing contract like me.

I love Morton’s encouraging message and I love the blurb for The Girl on the Beach – the novel is now sitting on my Kindle hankering to be read. I think it might tempt some of you too:

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.
For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …
But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.

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Catching Up

Over the past couple of months I’ve mentioned a few of my writing-related activities and I thought it was time to give an update.

At the beginning of April, I announced that I was going to use April as a ‘private’ NaNoWriMo and try to write a rough first draft of my next novel.  This actually took longer than planned. Partway through I realised that one of my minor characters had much more potential than one of my main protagonists. So I had to re-work much of what I’d done. I killed off the boring main protagonist (when he was only a baby!) and brought the minor character to the fore. I now have 58,000 words and a LOT of work to do.

At the beginning of June, I wrote that I’d uploaded Bedsit Three to Smashwords in order to get it into the Overdrive store, from which many public libraries purchase e-books. Once I could see it available in Overdrive, I went to my local library to ask for the contact details of Birmingham’s e-book buyer so that I could make myself known as a local author. Unfortunately, I was told that there was no budget at all for new books – not even e-books. On the plus side, they were receptive to the idea of an author event and (fingers crossed) will be contacting me in September when all the school holiday activities are over.

A couple of weeks ago, I launched a price promotion on Kindle for Bedsit Three. I reduced it from £2.25 to 99p for 2 weeks. I calculated that I needed to sell 4.5 times as many books at 99p as at £2.25 to make it a viable long-term price point. That number of sales hasn’t materialised so, barring a sudden surge today (30th June 2016) the price will rise again tomorrow.

And finally, I was pleased to receive a gift from Iain Pattison this week – a paperback copy of That’s Why The Lady is a Vamp. It’s a collection of off-beat comedy tales, full of unexpected twists and lots of humour. Plus, the high spot is a guest appearance by yours truly! If you’d like a free e-copy of one of Iain’s books pop along to his website now.

So that’s me. Anyone else got any news?

That's Why The Lady Is A Vamp

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Generating Publicity

It’s a universal truth that marketing and publicity are difficult skills to master. If an author constantly shouts ‘Buy my book! Buy my book!’ then people get irritated and start pressing ‘unfollow’ or ‘unsubscribe’ (No! Don’t all rush to do that now!). But if the same author says virtually nothing at all then very few people know that he has a book available or how good that book is.

The key is subtlety. And in my own subtle fashion I have been popping up in different places this week.

Gadgette.com is the smart woman’s guide to tech, style and life.  Because I am a smart woman, I was invited to give them 6 Easy (and free!) Steps to Publishing Your First Ebook. It’s only a two-minute read and worth it if you want to find out what this e-publishing lark is all about.

Kobo Writing Life is the self-publishing arm of Kobo (similar to Kindle Direct Publishing) and has a very useful blog. As many of you know, Bedsit Three was shortlisted for a competition partly organised by Kobo, so when the novel was published they invited me to do a blog post for them. Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins
Birth of a Novel explains how Bedsit Three emerged from NaNoWriMo 2013. If you’re struggling with last few days of this year’s NaNo, you might find some encouragement in this post.

Readers’ Favorite is a US book review website. It’s readers review books for free (sometimes there is a long wait). The review isn’t posted on Amazon but it can be quoted from in book descriptions and it appears on the Readers’ Favorite website. Here’s the Readers’ Favorite verdict on Bedsit Three.

I hope I haven’t irritated you too much – and keep your finger OFF that unsubscribe button!

 

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Birth of a Novel

My first novel has just been launched into the big, bad world and I’m sitting here fretting. Perhaps it will sink without trace or people might hate it … Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins

So, to stop me brooding, I’m going to tell you about how it came to be.

Let’s go back two years to October 2013. I went on a weekend writing course organised by Lois Maddox of Relax and Write. The title of the course was ‘How to Write the Mystery Novel’ and it was led by Eileen Robertson. At the same time I spotted a free-to-enter novel writing competition organised by WordPlay Publishing, there was no theme or genre specified but the hero had to be named ‘Ian’ (incidentally, that competition is on-going annually until 2017 if you want to have a go). I combined these two things together for NaNoWriMo 2013 and drafted the first 50,000 words of Bedsit Three.

I spent December 2013 writing a synopsis and polishing the first three chapters. I submitted to the competition just before the 31st December deadline. Then I gave up being a novelist and went back to short stories.

In May 2014 I received a phone call out of the blue. It was Michael Barton of WordPlay Publishing to tell me I had won the competition! The prize was formatting for Createspace and Kindle plus 250 Euros marketing budget and a financial contribution towards a cover design.

After my elation subsided, I realised that I had to knuckle down, finish the manuscript and get it ready for publication. When I thought it was done, Anne Harvey acted as a beta reader and I also had a critique from Patricia Fawcett. Lots of changes followed, including getting rid of a superfluous character, an unlikely coincidence and a lottery win. The ending of the novel also changed.

Then I decided that if Bedsit Three had won one competition, perhaps it could win another. So I entered a few more and was shortlisted in the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition. This gave me confidence and I had the manuscript professionally edited by Mark Henderson. Then off it went for formatting and I looked for cover designers. I chose John Amy. He gave me five initial designs which I showed to a handful of people and their verdict was unanimous.

The back cover blurb was put to the vote in this blog post and I am most grateful to all of you who took the time to comment.

My first novel looks and feels very professional. Here’s the Amazon blurb that goes with it:

“A word of warning to anyone who picks this book up: be prepared for a sleepless night, because you won’t want to put it down until you get to the end,” Michael Barton, WordPlay Publishing.
A stupid mistake ended Ian’s marriage. Now he’s trying to put it right.
Sandra was a teenage mum. Now she’s fighting to make a good life for her daughter.
Maxine made an important decision behind her boyfriend’s back. His reaction devastates all their lives…
Every mother tries to do her best for her child. But sometimes that ‘best’ creates a monster.

Bedsit Three is a tale of murder, mystery and love. It won the inaugural Wordplay Publishing/Ian Govan Award and was shortlisted for both the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition.
Michael Barton, Founder and Managing Director of WordPlay Publishing said of Bedsit Three, “This novel is well-constructed and well-written. But it’s also far more than that. It’s a book that elicits emotional reaction, drawing the reader into the story and placing him or her in the middle of the action page after page.”

‘Bedsit Three’ is available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon and also as an e-book for Kobo.

 

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Christmas Presents for Readers and Writers

According to the latest Tesco magazine, October 24th is the date that most of us start our Christmas present-buying frenzy. Christmas Tree

So, to get us (slightly) ahead of the crowd I’ve come up with a few budget suggestions for readers and writers. Buy them now and you’ll have November free for a successful attempt at NaNoWriMo.

For the book lover who adores keeping records or who (like me) easily forgets what he’s read and what he thought of it : A Moleskine Book Journal
It features “alphabetically organised sections to personalise, 6 blank sections to be filled in as desired, blank pages, a complimentary bookmark and 202 adhesive labels to further personalise the notebook. It also features acid-free paper and a double expandable inner pocket.

For the longhand writer who’s bored of blue and black ink, or who likes to write different characters in different colours : A Set of Rainbow Ball Pens
There are ten assorted colours and the pens have “ergonomic triangular barrels for effortless, fatigue-free writing and a particularly smooth writing performance.”

For anyone who needs inspiring or motivating : An Inspirational Life Quotes Colouring Book
This book is full of positive quotes and designs that will help you to relax and ease any anxiety that you may have. Forget any stress in your life and have some fun.

And if you fancy treating yourself now, have a look at Chris Baty’s book, No Plot, No Problem. Chris is the founder of National Novel Writing Month and shares his secret for knocking out a novel in no time. This could be useful if you’re tackling NaNo for the first time and feeling nervous.

Happy shopping and a successful NaNo!

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The Winner of The Ian Govan Award is …

ME!

You may remember me telling you about The Ian Govan Award award several months ago.

Ian Govan

Ian Govan

This is an award running annually until the end of 2017. It is in memory of Ian Govan of WordPlay Publishing

The brief is to send the first three chapters, character study and outline of a novel featuring a main character called Ian. It can be set anywhere, and be in any genre (except erotica). But if it has some humorous content, and perhaps a little social commentary, then all the better. Ian was known for both when he was alive.

The prize is free publication through WordPlay Publishing and €250 (£210) towards the winner’s marketing budget.

Entry is FREE and the competition closes on 31st December each year. Entry is by email.

I was over the moon to get a phone call recently informing me that I was the winner of last year’s competition (which I believe was the first). My entry was based on the manuscript I produced during NaNoWriMo last November – so all that typing for thirty days was worthwhile!

Now I have twelve months to get the novel into a publishable state. There’s no editing included in the prize, so if anyone’s got any experience of paying for editing services, do let me know.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a novel to work on …

 

 

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NaNoWriMo & Nottingham Writers’ Club Short Story Competition

I did it! I wrote 50,000 words! 2013 NaNoWriMo Winner

I hit the NaNoWriMo target on 25th November – I had planned to write 2,000 words per day and, amazingly, I managed to stick to it.

Now the not so good bit. As soon as I hit 50,000 words I abandoned my routine. I had planned to keep going all the way to November 30th and thus amass 60,000 words. But once I knew I’d done enough to be a NaNo winner, I could no longer drag myself out of bed at 6:15 am to write 1,000 words before breakfast.

So now I’m gearing myself up to write the last little bit of the story, and then it’s the scary part – reading back through it all and discovering it’s all mumbo jumbo!

And if you’re looking for a new project now that NaNo is over:

Nottingham Writers’ Club are holding their first National Short Story Competition. The winner gets £200 and there are 15 prizes in total. ‘Emotion’ is the theme of the competition and the word limit is 2,000.

Entries can only be submitted between 1st and 31st January 2014 and, “All entrants must be non-professional writers. For the purpose of this competition, we define ‘non-professional’ as a writer who has earned less than £500 from short story writing during 2013”.

Request an entry form and further details here.

Finally, a quick shout out for Alison May. Alison is a fellow member of the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has just had her debut novel published via Choc Lit Lite.
It’s titled ‘Much Ado About Sweet Nothing’ and is available initially in e-book format.
Congratulations, Alison!

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NaNoWriMo Write In

There’s no doubt that doing NaNoWriMo is a slog and sometimes you need a break from fighting through all those words by yourself.

NaNoWriMo Origami Bunny

My 10,000 Word Bunny

So, the other Saturday I went along to a NaNoWriMo ‘Write In’ in Birmingham city centre. The organisers had reserved several tables in a café and, apart from the expectation that each participant would purchase refreshments from the café, the event was free.

When I arrived it was easy to spot the novelists – they all had laptops and their fingers were dancing over the keyboards. It was at this point that I realised I hadn’t fully thought through what a NaNoWriMo event might entail. I’d come armed with a notebook because I wanted a break from the computer screen and time to think about some additional plot twists and/or characters. I hadn’t expected to see such industry.

Nevertheless I was made welcome.

As well as offering the time and space to write, chat or do whatever else NaNo related you fancied, there were some organised activities during the afternoon.

We were given the word of the day to incorporate into our stories. It was ‘pyknic’, meaning ‘short and fat’.

Then it was time for the first ‘Word Wars’ session. The aim was to write as many words as possible in a timed 45 minute session. Without a laptop it was difficult to join in but the silence and atmosphere of work during that time was fantastic and I found myself scribbling outlines for several possible scenes to act as triggers over the forthcoming days. It was definitely time well spent.

There was an interlude to catch our breath and discuss general NaNo stuff. Also at this point the origami bunnies were brought around. For every 10k words completed, a bunny was awarded. I got one because at that point I had around 17,000 words done.

Coffee cups re-filled and cake bought it was time for another ‘Word War’.

As I was leaving a ‘Word Sprint’ was getting under way. Each individual picked a lolly stick at random. The stick contained a number of words and a time limit in which those words should be written.

So, for those lacking motivation or those just needing/wanting to get through a whole pile of words – get yourself along to a NaNoWriMo ‘Write In’. But don’t forget your laptop!

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Mystery Novels, NaNoWriMo and the Review Winner

English: Weetwood Hall Hotel

Weetwood Hall Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weekend I went on a Relax and Write course at Weetwood Hall in Leeds.
I went to learn ‘How to Write the Mystery Novel’ with Eileen Robertson. We did character sketches of our heroes and villains, we thought about their motivations and what had brought these characters to where they were at the start of the novel. We gave brief descriptions of how our plots might develop and everyone chipped in with their own suggestions for each other’s storylines – something I found useful.

The accommodation and food for the weekend were excellent (although the bar prices were rather high!).
But it was the other course participants who made the weekend particularly enjoyable. We all got along and, as most writers seem to be, everyone was very generous sharing their experiences and advice.

Several of us are intent on doing NaNoWriMo during November (National Novel Writing Month). So you might notice this blog go rather quiet as I try to churn out 50,000 words. I did it about four years ago, so I know how tough it is. I’m hoping the challenge will kill off procrastination and give me the skeleton of a novel that might be worth spending more time on.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that Chris Sullivan is the winner of the Book Review Competition that I ran a couple of weeks ago. Chris has a book review blog at The Voyage Out – do go over and have a look at it if you enjoy reading.
Many thanks to everybody who took the time to download, read and review Karen’s Story and any of my other books. It was much appreciated and I’ve taken all your comments on board.

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