Monday, 29 August 2016

Tip for Writers: Tackling Word Count

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post detailing the tricks and tips I’ve picked up during my writing journey, and I’ve been meaning to write one on word count for a while now. Finally, I’ve got around to doing just that.


When it comes to the length of the novel you’re writing, my advice is: don’t worry about word count, how long your manuscript is becoming. Just get everything on the page. You’re going to clean it up when you’re editing it.



Then, when you’re doing the re-writing, my advice is: don’t worry about word count. On a book-level. Meaning: let the novel be as long as it needs to be to tell your story.



I know there are guideline figures floating around about how many words should be in a romance novel, in a YA fantasy, and so on, but I wouldn’t take these too seriously. Keep them in mind – after all, knowledge is power – but don’t think that you have to adhere to those rules. If your story is a good one and you write it well, readers will enjoy it and won’t care how long it is. Unless it’s too short. You don’t want to rush a good thing. It shouldn’t feel like you didn’t spend enough time on your creation.



In saying that, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t worry about word count on a chapter-by-chapter level. My personal opinion is – and I’ve seen this in more and more recent bestsellers – every chapter in your novel doesn’t have to be of the same length. If they’re roughly similar in length and each chapter does what it’s supposed to, great. Otherwise, tackle word count on a chapter-level.

The length of each chapter in your book should, more or less, correlate with the events depicted. It might seem obvious, but when you’re writing some of your favourite scenes, you don’t want to finish them. You want to add more description, explain more of the emotions your characters are feeling. You’ll enjoy it, but your readers might think you overdid it.



For example, say you’re writing a romance novel and one of your chapters sees your female lead waiting for the new guy she’s met to call her, but he doesn’t. The whole weekend goes by, but still no phone-call or text. This is a chapter where nothing, literally, happens. So the chapter should be quite a short one. If it’s pushing towards the 2,000-words mark, you need to cut that chapter down, quite considerably.



When I was writing Someone Like You (The Soulmates Saga, Book 3), I started keeping a log of word count per chapter in a spreadsheet, next to a column with the events that take place in the chapter. Whether you’re in the process of writing your novel, or editing a finished manuscript, I would strongly recommend you do this.



In a spreadsheet, you need one column with the chapter number, the column next to it can be titled ‘Summary’ and the third and final column will record the number of words in the chapter. The ‘Summary’ column should be a very concise account of what happens in the chapter. You don’t need to go into details, include any quotes, just the basic events that occur. Very quickly, you’ll be able to see, from the size of each cell in the ‘Summary’ column which chapters have very little action and which have a lot happening.



You might consider splitting some of the action-packed chapters into two, or not, but in terms of word count, you’ll have an idea of which chapters need cutting down just by comparing the size of each ‘Summary’ cell in your spreadsheet with the number of words noted in the column next to it. A small, two-sentence ‘Summary’ cell next to the number 1,700? Highlight it for trimming.



Don’t just do this by eye though. When you’re editing, go down each row of your spreadsheet, each chapter of your book, and ask yourself, “Do I really need 1,700 words for a chapter where Joan is waiting for John to call?”


I do this for all my books now, and it serves another purpose: When you look down the ‘Summary’ column and the first several cells show that nothing interesting is happening yet, or there’s are a few cells in the middle of the column where there’s nothing exciting, you’ll realise you need to tighten up the beginning of your novel or add some drama to the middle of it.

You can find my others posts on writing tips under the 'Posts on Writing' section of my blog (if you're looking at the desktop version).

Monday, 22 August 2016

Pre-Order Poison Blood, Books 3 & 4 Now!

Yes, as the title of this post suggests, I have some new books coming out. I have been a very busy bee these last few months, haven't I? Hot on the heels of the launch of Someone Like You (Soulmates Saga, Book 3), I'm delighted to reveal that books 3 and 4 of my paranormal/urban fantasy series, the Poison Blood series, will be released this Halloween:

Poison Blood, Book 3: Prophecy
Poison Blood, Books 4: Apocalypse

They're both available for pre-order NOW! At a low introductory price of $0.99 each! And if you don't already know, you will only get charged the $0.99 on the day the book is released, not on the day you place the pre-order.

PB3: Amazon US | Amazon UK | iBooks US | iBooks UK | B&N Nook | Kobo

PB4: Amazon US | Amazon UK | iBooks US | iBooks UK | B&N Nook | Kobo

So order your copy now, as the cost will return to its normal price of $1.49 each after its released on October 31, 2016.

Books 1 and 2 are still free to download, so if you haven't gotten into this series yet, this is the time to take the plunge. Click on the name of the book and you'll be directed to the book page on this blog, where you'll find information on where you can download your copy today.

I don't know what it is about this series of books about teen vampire Ellie Dalton, but whenever I come to publishing them, I'm always busy with other projects (as well as with life) that I don't have enough time to throw a proper launch party for them. When I released the series opener, Poison Blood, Book 1: Revelation, and the second book, Poison Blood, Book 2: Absolution, I was writing other novels and had a lot going on in my personal life, so I sort of rushed the launch process. 

I've made no secret that I regret publishing the first two books before I'd finished writing the whole series, and because of that, I've decided to release the the last two books on the same day and make them available for pre-order from the same date. I've suffered enough setbacks in life and kept my readers waiting for too long, that I just want to publish these books now that they're ready. Just in case something pops up and I can't publish the fourth book at the planned date.

If you're one of those readers that enjoy a title reveal, cover reveal, then a blurb reveal and a whole host of other launch ceromonies, I'm really sorry that I can't deliver on this occasion. I've finally overcome my writer's block and I just want to prioritise the creating and the writing. Who knows what future holds? There's no guarantee that I'll have plenty of time (or the right circumstances) to write my other books if I take a little time away from them now to market the novels that I've already written.

Hopefully with my next releases, I'll be able to launch them with a lot more finesse :)


Monday, 15 August 2016

Book Recommendations – Do People Actually Do It?

I don't think the majority of readers do.

Not when it comes to independently published books written by unknown authors. It’s not necessarily because readers don’t want to spread the word about a book they really enjoyed reading, loved even, but rather the lack of opportunity to do so.

Avid readers aren’t always surrounded by others like them. Though they might ‘hang out’ online with other readers on Goodreads, in their day-to-day lives, the typical bookworm can be found amongst the uninitiated. How many times have we heard someone say, “I love books, but none of my friends, family or colleagues are into reading”? With technological advances and SmartPhones in every pair of hands you see, reading as a valued past-time is becoming more and more uncommon. Lives are busy. Schedules hectic. Time to entertain ourselves is limited. As a result, people are more likely to invest what little free time they have in less time-consuming activities that will (supposedly) entertain them in the same way as books will, maybe even more so.
 
The other point to make about recommending lesser known authors and their books is that people are wary as to what their peers will think of their suggestions. It’s easier to say you’ve read the latest John Grisham thriller or the current chart-topper and highly recommend them, than it is to broach the subject of a novel that only exists in digital format or doesn’t have the logo of a publishing house printed on its spine. They might worry that their social circle will think it’s odd that they’re reading books written by authors that haven’t made it. And you can’t blame them, not really, because you know you’ve posted on Facebook many times about watching the latest must-see movie that everyone’s raving about, but have you ever boasted about how much you enjoyed the short film your friend made in his or her media studies course?

What happens when a reader does recommend a book to their friends and family? The book gains an extra reader/download more often than not. One of the book bloggers that agreed to review my book Chasing Pavements said that she loved it so much that she phoned her mother “and told her to buy her own copy”, and sure enough, her mum downloaded my book from Amazon that same day. 
 
I convinced two of my friends – one a frequent reader, the other not so much – into reading the Twilight Saga when they weren’t at all keen, sceptical in fact. I really loved those books and told them they ought to give them a go. Both of them ended up enjoying the books and also the films. 
 
I downloaded the Fifty Shades of Grey series only because one of my closest friends – the occasional reader I mentioned above – highly recommended it. Until she’d read the trilogy and urged me to read it because she’d really enjoyed it, I had no intentions of reading a series of books that I would never read in a million years. I struggled through the first book but couldn’t finish the second – I’d been right all along; these books weren’t for me. However, I’d purchased them because I trusted my friend’s opinion. It’s not her fault that I didn’t like Fifty Shades – I’ve enjoyed other books she’s lent me – but the point I’m making is, we’ll try books outside of our comfort zone and outside our favourite genres if someone close to us shows passion for them. 
 
One of my friends recently said that though she doesn’t feel comfortable recommending books to her peers, she will read a book that’s recommended by someone she knows. Especially if it’s a new or indie author. 
 
Word-of-mouth recommendations really go a long way in getting indie authors a readership. We value the opinions of our peers and trust their judgement. Friends and family can ‘bully’ us (lovingly, of course) into reading different books, in a way that an author or their publisher’s marketing department can’t. 
 
Now, I’m not going to make the usual plea to readers to make a song-and-dance about all the indie books they’ve enjoyed, or at least about my books. They don’t have to. They don’t know me – hardly anyone knows me! – and after paying for my book with their hard-earned cash and getting what they wanted out of it, there really isn’t much more they owe me. And if they don’t feel particularly comfortable about telling people what they’re reading, they don’t have to. Not for me, a stranger. 
 
BUT. But if you want to help an indie author’s work become better known, if it doesn’t matter what your peers will think about what you’re reading, if you talk with your friends/family/colleagues about what you’re doing in your spare time, mention the latest book or a good indie book you’ve read and encourage them to read it. You’ll be surprised how much value your friends will give your opinion.


PS. Some tips if you plan to do some word-of-mouth promotions:


Be as positive as possible. Mention what you liked (good plot, relatable/interesting/unique characters, good writing etc.), how it made you feel, if you’re glad you read it, and so on.

Avoid things like:

“It’s probably not your thing, but you should give it a go and see…”

“It might be too romantic for you, but…”

“It might be too dark for you, but…”

Monday, 8 August 2016

Sneaking Up on My Readers

For those of you that read the title of this post and thought this would be about me tracking down my readers' whereabouts and sneaking up on them on the street while they did their grocery shopping or caught their latest Pokemon, I'm sorry to disappoint you.

This is more to do with surprising my readers with a new release. Well, two new releases.

Hot on the heels of the launch of Someone Like You (Soulmates Saga, Book 3), I am delighted to reveal that books 3 and 4 of my paranormal/urban fantasy series, the Poison Blood series, will be released this Halloween.

The two new titles are:

Poison Blood, Book 3: Prophecy
Poison Blood, Books 4: Apocalypse

And they're both available for pre-order NOW! Yes, now.

At a low introductory price of $0.99 each!

PB3: Amazon US | Amazon UK | iBooks US | iBooks UK | B&N Nook | Kobo

PB4: Amazon US | Amazon UK | iBooks US | iBooks UK | B&N Nook | Kobo

So order your copy now, as the cost will return to its normal price of $1.49 each after its released on October 31, 2016.

Books 1 and 2 are still free to download, so if you haven't gotten into this series yet, this is the time to take the plunge.

I don't know what it is about this series of books about teen vampire Ellie Dalton, but whenever I come to publishing them, I'm always busy with other projects (as well as with life) that I don't have enough time to throw a proper launch party for them. When I released the series opener, Poison Blood, Book 1: Revelation, and the second book, Poison Blood, Book 2: Absolution, I was writing other novels and had a lot going on in my personal life, so I sort of rushed the launch process. 

I've made no secret that I regret publishing the first two books before I'd finished writing the whole series, and because of that, I've decided to release the the last two books on the same day and make them available for pre-order from the same date. I've suffered enough setbacks in life and kept my readers waiting for too long, that I just want to publish these books now that they're ready. Just in case something pops up and I can't publish the fourth book at the planned date.

If you're one of those readers that enjoy a title reveal, cover reveal, then a blurb reveal and a whole host of other launch ceromonies, I'm really sorry that I can't deliver on this occasion. I've finally overcome my writer's block and I just want to prioritise the creating and the writing. Who knows what future holds? There's no guarantee that I'll have plenty of time (or the right circumstances) to write my other books if I take a little time away from them now to market the novels that I've already written.

Hopefully with my next releases, I'll be able to launch them with a lot more finesse :)

Check out the book pages on this blog to read the blurbs, and here's a sneak peek at the two new covers:

Monday, 1 August 2016

How I Decided on the POV for My Books

POV is extremely important to the reading experience and it’s not a decision to be taken lightly by the author when penning their story. Should the story be told from one person’s viewpoint? In the first person? Or a third-party narrator? Would it be beneficial to have members of the supporting cast telling a portion of the story too? What if each chapter was from the POV of a different character? Wait, what if it’s necessary to flit between the various characters’ perspectives within a scene/chapter?

And what will the readers make of it? Some like to get inside the heads of each of the main characters of the story, whereas there are those who prefer to see the world through the eyes of one character only. I recently read a review on Goodreads where the reader stated that they won’t even consider reading a book if it’s from multiple POVs. Writing as a neutral, all-seeing, all-knowing, third-party narrator isn’t easy, either…

I will outline below why I decided to write my Poison Blood Series in the first person POV and why I opted for a ‘third-party narrator’ for my Soulmates Saga.

When I sat down to write the first scene of my debut novel Chasing Pavements (The Soulmates Saga, Book 1), I was going to write the contemporary romance novel from Mukti’s POV only. She’s thoughtful and observant, making her the perfect story-teller. Before I wrote the first sentence however, I realised that wouldn’t work. The male character, Jamie, is introverted and not particularly verbose. It would be difficult for Mukti to relay to the audience what was going on inside his head, because he rarely told her. And there are events that Mukti doesn’t know about, which are instrumental to the story and need to be conveyed to the audience. I also wanted the readers to get a peek into Jamie’s head too.

This meant I’d need to write from Jamie’s POV too. The problem was, I’d recently read a very good historical novel where the author wrote from the POVs of several characters (one character per chapter) in the first person, and I hadn’t enjoyed the mind-hopping. The characters were so well-developed and the author had really gotten inside their heads, and I think that’s why my head hurt a little when reading the multiple POVs.

I wanted to alternate between Mukti and Jamie’s thoughts in the same chapter, but in a way that wouldn’t make the reader feel like they were constantly jumping from one person’s head to another. So, I decided to go for a ‘third-party narrator’, which would be ‘biased’ towards one character at a time. It’s like writing from the first person POV, but instead of saying, “It was awfully quiet in my head,” it would read, “It was awfully quiet in his head,” and use the character’s name or he/she instead of I/my/me. Once I was done writing a scene from Jamie’s perspective, that section would end, either as a chapter-end or, if it’s the same chapter there would be a * underneath the final sentence of that segment, before switching to Mukti’s viewpoint.

It turned out to be a great decision because, as the novel progressed, I wanted to write from a few other supporting cast member’s viewpoints too. I changed the style and vocabulary to suit the different characters’ personalities, the sentences longer and more convoluted for some, and shorter and concise for others, depending on how their minds worked, how they looked at the world. This meant, you really got a feel for each of the characters’ internal workings, but weren’t completely immersed in their ‘voice’ to feel discomfort when the narrative switched to someone else.

With my paranormal romance series, Poison Blood, I knew that the majority of the series would be from one character’s POV, Ellie’s, and so I went with first person POV in the present tense. I hadn’t written in present tense before, or from one POV, and really enjoyed it.

The downside is that if the other characters in the story are keeping secrets from your protagonist, secrets that the audience needs to know about, your readers will not have all the knowledge you want them to have. And you can’t have a big bulk of the book dedicated to the protagonist learning those secrets, with the required amount of detail - the commentary becomes long and boring. In the Poison Blood series, I decided that Christian’s secrets (well, the majority of his secrets) were worth sharing with the readers, so I wrote one whole book from his POV (Poison Blood, Book 2: Absolution) to shed light on the events of Poison Blood, Book 1: Revelation and throw a few extra questions out there too.

So, that’s how I decided how to approach the narrative for my books. Simply put, I chose what made most sense for the novel I wanted to write and the message I wanted to convey.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Someone Like You (Soulmates Saga, Book 3) is Out Now!

Someone Like You, the third book in my contemporary romance series, the Soulmates Saga, is out now, yay! A massive Thank You to those that pre-ordered your copy - I hope you enjoy reading it!

Hang on, did someone say they've yet to read the first two books? Well, why ever not? Chasing Pavements and Make You Feel My Love introduce you to Mukti and Jamie - two very unique characters that you can’t help but get attached to - and set the stage beautifully for the epic third instalment. If you haven’t gotten your (digital) hands on these, download them now (at Amazon USAmazon UKiBooks USiBooks UKNook and Smashwords). There really is no excuse for you to not start the Soulmates Saga this year.

Now, just because these books share their titles with singles released by the brilliant Adele (who I love, love, love!), don’t interpret it as a gimmick, a marketing ploy, to cover up sloppy, poorly-written love stories. No, there’s some serious writing going on in there, I should know, I spent the last six years writing them!

Not quite convinced yet? That’s okay. You can download free samples before you buy and have a look at my favourite reviews that I’ve added to the book pages on this blog.

Time for an FYI. If you haven’t read the first two books but are interested in getting into this saga, stay away from the Someone Like You book page, don’t read the blurb, don’t look at the cover, just leave it alone. Why? Spoilers, that’s why. Trust me, you will enjoy the first two books a lot more this way.

Monday, 4 July 2016

When Life Imitates Art ~ An author's tale (Part V)

How is this 'life imitating art', you ask

So, if you've read the last four posts, you might be wondering whether a) I decided to give up my passion - my writing, and b) how any of what I've talked about relates to the main heading of the blog post.

The answer to the first query is a big fat 'NO'. I want to write and publish books, it's what I love to do. Whatever reason is behind my struggle accessing once-familiar words, I will fight through it. I will re-learn what I've lost and add to my repertoire. I'm determined to finish the books I started writing all those years ago and get them out to my readers as soon as I can.

I won't answer question b) with great detail, as I don't want to give too much away about my future releases. All I will say is this: art imitates life all the time. We write about our experiences and work them into our stories. It's natural and we sometimes do it without thinking about it.

But how often does an author's life start imitating her work?

A few years ago, before I'd even heard of the term Chiari malformation, I was writing about a character undergoing brain surgery. I'd always been afraid of the general anaesthetic and so I explored this fear through my character. When I found out that I'd need neurosurgery, one of the first things that popped into my head was the question of whether I'd tempted fate by writing about brain surgery. I wondered this a few years ago too, when my mum had an accident which led to a blood clot in the brain, which had to be surgically removed.

Now, I'm not superstitious enough to stop writing about illnesses and dangers in fear of bringing the tragedies upon myself or my family, but I can't deny that it's something that'll always be in the back of my mind.

Here's hoping I'm not one of those writer's whose every plot twist comes to life, in some form the other