Writing Highs – And why you should enter the Rethink Press New Novels Competition 2014

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It has been just over a year since I learnt I had won a package with Rethink Press to have my novel, Dead Letter Day, published and as I edit the sequel I am taking a moment to reflect back over the highs of the last twelve months.

Writing can be difficult. Depending on the day, staring at the blank page can be either terrifying or exhilarating. The story is in your head, but finding the right words to put it down on paper so other people can enjoy it can be challenging. You have to breathe life into characters, write believable dialogue and create realistic, but interesting scenarios that will make a reader want to turn the page.

To any aspiring writers and certainly anyone toying with entering the Rethink Press New Novels Competition 2014, let me share with you why persevering was worth it for me.

1/ There is no greater high than having someone read your book and then take the time to tell you how much they enjoyed it. I honestly had no idea how Dead Letter Day was going to be received, but the response was amazing and I have dozens of emails from people I have never met telling me how they were kept up most of the night unable to put the book down.  Several of these lovely people have continued to engage regularly through my Facebook Author Page, as they wait for the sequel, and I am so grateful for their support. I was also invited to talk to two book clubs – a surreal experience listening to the members discussing and dissecting my story, but also very rewarding – and both clubs are keen to invite me back once they have read the sequel.

2/ I never expected to get a good critical reception to Dead Letter Day. I always believed professional critics to favour literature over popular fiction; therefore I read the reviews of my book in the local press with trepidation. I honestly couldn’t have asked for better write ups and these helped restore my confidence and belief that I am good enough to do this writing lark.

3/ Holding the hard copy of your book for the first time is a feeling you will never forget. All the years of hard work, rejection and periods of self-doubt are sitting there in your hand. Dead Letter Day looked fantastic thanks to the folks at Rethink who designed a slick, classy and striking cover and seeing it sitting on the shelf in Jarrold Book Department alongside established authors such as Dan Brown and Mark Billingham just about blew me away.

4/ Finally, I turn to the Amazon sales ranking. Dead Letter Day spent much of the first month or so inside the top 5,000, which when you consider the millions of books on sale means it was doing pretty well. But the ultimate high came about three months after the release when a surge in sales saw it almost break into the top 1,000. The geek in me had to capture a screenshot to remember the moment.

Two months before I learnt of the Rethink Press New Novels Competition, I was sitting in a dead end job with a bleak future. I had taken so many knockbacks with my writing I had thrown in the towel, concluding I just wasn’t good enough. If this is you, do not give up on your dreams. Yes, I still have to do a dead end job, but winning has restored my faith in my writing ability and I know I have a future in this industry. I have just completed my new novel, working my butt off putting in ridiculously long days, but it has been worth every minute.

No I have not become an overnight success, but let’s be honest, how many people do? What I do have is the belief and the determination, and now the foundations to build on the opportunity I was given. And if you enter and your book wins, you could have this too.

For more details about the competition, please follow this link.  http://rethinkpress.com/new-novels-competition-2014/

Good luck to all of the entrants.

Writing versus Social Media

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I have been very bad of late, ignoring my blog in order to work on my book.

For a while I tried to juggle both, wishing there were more hours in the day, but this took a toll on my writing and eventually I had to commit myself to finishing the novel, with my only social media coming in the form of brief Facebook posts on my author page.

As I hurtled towards the finishing line I even turned my back on Facebook and was reminded of the importance of daily interaction as I saw my ‘post reach’ tumble from the 1,200 down to just 500. I need to build this back up while editing Dead Write and also to start engaging on other sites, getting the word out about the new book, in order to give it the best chance possible.

It really is a chicken and egg situation and I know I am not alone, with every other author experiencing the same dilemma. Writing is the most important thing, right? This is your product and it is what you are trying to sell. It has to be good, the best work you can produce, and it takes time and concentration to get it right. But without social media, how will the finished article reach a wide audience? You may have written the best book in the world, but what is the point if no one knows about it?

I don’t regret the time spent working on Dead Write. It is currently with my test readers and the four who have finished it so far all think it is better than Dead Letter Day, which is definitely a step in the right direction.

So I will edit and send the manuscript off to my publisher, and I will become a social media whore for the next few months, trying to get my face and name everywhere. I played the game once before with moderate success and this time I want to spread the word wider, get my book on the map.

Love me or loathe me, expect to be hearing a lot more from me over the next few months.

 

Grammar is sexy

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Let’s face it; women are fussy, right? Most of us have a list going on that all dateable men must tick.

Must be independent, must show signs of intelligence, must be reasonably attractive, have own teeth, decent levels… of hygiene. Must be witty, must be confident; must be capable of holding a conversation that doesn’t just consist of grunts.

Well that’s all fair enough, but then I have to take it to a whole different level, which is why I will probably be one of those spinster types who grows old with a whole bunch of cats (and dogs hopefully) in a house covered in animal hairs and stinking of pee.

Fine by me, as I like my own space, a lot. I like being fully selfish over how I spend my time, I like my stuff to be exactly as I want it, where I leave it, I get cranky if people are even breathing around me when I am writing, I’m in charge of the remote, I eat what I want, when I want, and I don’t ever have to consult anyone over decisions.

Now I’m not stupid, and I know there is plenty to be said in favour of relationships, but it would have to be someone pretty damn special to make me want to give up my bachelorette life. And it doesn’t help that in addition to the usual list above I have other no-no’s.

It goes without question that my man would have to be an animal lover. Cats, dogs, horses, donkeys, elephants, dolphins, you name it. Nothing warms my heart more than reading heroic tales of men rescuing helpless kittens and puppies (perhaps why I have a thing for firemen and paramedic types) or the policeman who stops the traffic to let a mother duck and her baby ducklings cross the road in safety.

I like a man who reads. I don’t care what the material is, but there is something very sexy about a man with a book in his hand.

My other thing is spelling. I can forgive the odd mistake, hell, I make typos all the time and who can forget grizzly gate? But I couldn’t date a man who was unable to spell basic words, was unable to differentiate between the correct usage of their, there and they’re, or your and you’re.

The possession of correct grammar is a very sexy quality.

I don’t do text speak. Fair enough I can accept the odd ‘c u’ and ‘2’ in a phone message (though expect my own messages to be fully spelt out with capital letters and correct punctuation), but if you write like that in real life I will want to punch you in the face.

And then there is the word ‘honey’. One of my biggest pet hates is people calling me ‘honey’, ‘dear’, ‘babe’ or ‘darling’. I hate these words at the best of times, but especially when they’re coming from people I’m not intimately involved with. And if you’re going to use the word ‘honey’, at least bloody spell it right. ‘Hunny’ and ‘hunni’ are not words and when I see them written down, I just think ‘oh, hello, stupid person alert’.

See, I told you I’m fussy.