Writing Update

Hi there! It seems a while since last I posted about my own writing, so I thought I’d give you an update of how I’m progressing with my next novel.

For What it’s Worth is about a married couple whose marriage is under stress because of two main factors: Hugh is out of work and Yvonne is working too hard; and despite years of trying, they have been unsuccessful in their efforts to start a family. Two problems many people face, sometimes even together. So Yvonne and Hugh’s story is one many people can relate to. But we all deal with things in our own unique way, don’t we? So, although you might know someone who has been in their position – you might even have been in that position yourself – I haven’t written their story, or your story. I’ve written Yvonne and Hugh’s story. It’s about how they handle the stress, how they decide to move forward. You might not agree with their choices, but I hope you’ll be cheering them on.

This novel is not part of The Reluctant Detective Series, but it is a spin off from it. Yvonne is Mirabelle’s sister. If you read the series, you’ll probably remember that Mirabelle was the main character – and quite a character, quirky, eccentric and unpredictable – and she has a part to play in this new novel, but as a supporting character.

She was too much fun to write about to let her go 🙂

If you’re a writer, have you ever found it hard not to go on writing about a certain character even after their story has been written? It’s like keeping in touch with an old friend.

For What it’s Worth has been drafted, redrafted, edited, beta read, edited, redrafted, edited and is now with some more beta readers. Depending on their feedback, it will hopefully not be too long until the final proofread and polish before publication.

Tell me, when you read a book, do you like to think of the writing process that book had to go through before it landed on your bedside table? I must confess I love reading author interviews and profiles, learning as much as I can about the author and their work. I find it helps me understand where the story might have originated, and so enhances my understanding of it.

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To learn more about me as an author and about The Reluctant Detective Series or any of my published novels, please check the sidebar or click on my Amazon Author page.

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Introducing a Revamp

We all know that hard work generally brings the best result. You can only get out of something what you put into it, can’t you?

And, of course, that’s no different for writers.

If we want to get better at it, it isn’t just about writing more and more words, it’s about studying how to write, reading about writing, reading the work of other well-acclaimed authors, putting in the hours, weeks and months of hard work editing and polishing. Writing the first draft of a story is often the easiest part. In my experience, it is always the easiest part.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about how my writing has developed and, I like to think, improved over the years I’ve been working at it. I’ve certainly put in a lot of hard work. So I went back to the first book I published and cast a critical eye over it. I was pleasantly surprised with how happy I was with the development of the story. But still, I published Family Matters as a paperback in 2008, followed that up with the eBook in 2013 – so – time for a revamp.

I decided Family Matters needed a new cover, then a bit of fine-tuning. I asked my artist daughter-in-law, Michelle Campbell, to come up with some art for the cover. Once again, she didn’t disappoint. I love the new cover she designed. It’s more modern and relevant to the subject matter – subject matter that I scrutinised and checked until I felt happy.

Next step? I thought I’d share the result with you in the following video. If you haven’t read Family Matters, perhaps you’ll enjoy the excerpt I’ve included.

Thanks for watching, folks. Hope you enjoyed the video. Hope you enjoy the book.

Here’s the link if you wish to purchase it or to READ IT FOR FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

And the link to my Amazon Author Page if you’d care to check out my other books.

Thank you.

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Why not share in the comments what you think of the cover? Or the book?

And do share your stories of the hard work you put into the things you do.

Do you think hard work does pay off?

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Oops, I’ve done it again!

In August, I wrote about Tunnel Vision, about emerging from a tunnel and seeing all the things that had been hidden from view. If you read the post before or if you have followed the link and have just read it, you will know that I was talking about how engrossed I get when writing a new novel.

Well, I’ve done it again!

I couldn’t resist taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Once again, that meant writing a new novel – well, the first draft of one, anyway. The target is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, a daily average of 1,667 words for thirty days. ‘Since I’ve managed to adopt the habit of writing every day since February, how hard could it be?’ I asked myself. The answer? Only as hard as I make it. So I decided to plan this new novel out and get to know my characters pretty well before I embarked on the actual writing on November 1st. That really helped. Throughout the month, I was never lost. I always knew where my story was headed – or I thought I did.

Right at the end of the month, my main character seemed to develop a mind of her own and she decided to take me in another direction. I guess she didn’t like the ending I’d planned, and in one pivotal conversation with another character, the story swung off my carefully plotted route.

Now, remembering I’m already in that tunnel, already have tunnel vision, but the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel has been growing bigger and brighter for days. Suddenly, the light felt like an oncoming vehicle instead of the way out of the tunnel. Could I avoid crashing? Would this be the end of the road for my novel?

Don’t be silly. Of course not. We writers can’t let our characters totally take over. They need us to guide them. They may think they’re in charge. We may even talk about them as though they are. But they are not. They are our creations. We are in charge.

I hope you heard the stern tone in my voice there, because that’s the tone I took when I sat down with Rosanna – yes, that’s her name, this wayward character in my latest novel, Gold Plated. We sat down with a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of cake and sorted this thing out. Okay, she wasn’t comfortable with the original plan, but I wasn’t happy with the direction she looked like taking. It couldn’t lead to the destination I’d had in mind from the outset. One of us had to give, didn’t we? Or could we compromise? Could Rosanna have her say, speak her mind as she just had and still get back on track?

Of course she can. I’m in charge, remember. It’s up to me to bring her round by carefully constructing a wee diversion that allows us both to feel happy with the outcome. And that’s what I did, bringing in the first draft of Gold Plated at 59,000 words by the 30th November, just as I emerged from the tunnel.

It’s only the 1st of December, so I’m still blinking in the light, but I see I have neglected this poor old blog again. I owe it an apology. I’d love to think someone might have missed me.

So, back on track. Still fleshing out Gold Plated, but with a little less intensity so there’s time and energy for all the other writing-related projects I delight in, including the final edit of For What it’s Worth the spin-off of The Reluctant Detective Series I was writing. My lovely daughter-in-law, Michelle, has almost finished painting a gorgeous cover for it and soon I hope it will be all systems go for publication.

What fun we writers have 🙂

Did you have a go with NaNoWriMo this year? Do tell me in the comments how you got on.

Or have you read any good books lately? Ones that take you off into that glorious tunnel of trees, where everything is beautiful but you can hardly see anything outside it – the dishes, the ironing, the cat’s empty saucer …

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You can read Christine Campbell’s books for FREE with Kindle Unlimited, or buy them in eBook or paperback format here on Amazon.

4 Plot Pitfalls You Need to Avoid – ProWritingAid

Okay! So it seems I need to go back to the current draft of my WIP brandishing a large red pen!

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 Some great suggestions in this article, along with the comments from my beta readers, have made me re-examine my plot. I now know why there were parts that felt sluggish to my readers and to me, and what I think I’m going to do about them.

This article was published on the ProWritingAid website on April 16th, 2016,  written by Kathy Edens, a blogger, ghost writer, and content master who has extensive experience helping clients reach their readers with compelling and engaging material. You can find Kathy at www.kathy-edens.com

I’m so pleased I stumbled upon the article.

It’s so hard to ‘kill your darlings’, as William Faulkner and Stephen King would have us do. I knew there were scenes in my WIP that didn’t fulfil two important criteria: to move the plot along or to develop the characters.

Strike one!

But I like those scenes. There is some great writing in them: some clever, witty dialogue, some great observations on life, some handsome metaphors. But the story could live and thrive without them. One of my trusted beta readers (she’ll know who she is :-)) tactfully pointed them out when she said I didn’t have her whole attention at some points in the story – backing up my intuitive feeling.

Strike two!

Then I read this article. “If a character with a subplot isn’t absolutely vital to the denouement, use that red pen,” Kathy says.

Strike three!

I’d already deleted part of one character’s involvement. Now I think more the rest of her part needs to go.

There’s another character, Elouise, who I know I shall keep, but I don’t need to tell her story. This is not her story. It is Yvonne and Hugh’s story. She can play a part in it, but it is not about her, much and all as Elouise would like it to be.

“Think of it this way,” Kathy says. “Don’t kill your darling; simply move her to a new novel as the main character.”

Elouise is a great character and her story is interesting, so I shall delete those scenes in this WIP and use them in the novel I already planned to write about her at another time. I know she’ll be pleased to have a novel all about her. She’s that kind of girl. Win/win.

What fun editing can be when you listen to the wisdom of others who know the craft, and you find the courage to take their advice.

Okay, so this is all very well to talk about in theory, now I have to see if I can go through with it. Where’s that red pen? Gulp!

What about you? Is this article helpful to you? – well, I know, you’ll have to read it first, but after you do, why not let me know in the comments?

I’d love to find I’m not alone in this.

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Over to you Kathy …

We’re going to spend a little bit of time on plot this month—talking about what NOT to do. Sometimes it’s hard to see plot problems while you’re writing and you don’t notice them until the end. This will send some writers into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Others will white-knuckle their way through half-hearted revisions. Here are a few common plot pitfalls and what you can do to rectify them.

Source: 4 Plot Pitfalls You Need to Avoid – ProWritingAid

Tunnel Vision

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I’ve just emerged from a tunnel and I’m blinking in the light.

Goodness, what a lot I have neglected!

I see it now.

But I was quite happily engrossed in my tunnel until it came to an end.

It wasn’t the kind of tunnel that plunges you into total darkness. More like a tree tunnel, with light getting through but no way to see beyond the trees to what’s going on outside. You know the kind, I’m sure. A pleasant tunnel to be in.

I’ve had tunnel vision before. It happens with irregular regularity, each time I’m engaged in writing a novel. Because I am in the habit of writing every day, it’s been quite some time since I suffered from writers’ block – if I ever truly did. Most times, I think the trouble was that I was out of the way of writing, my writing muscles were sleepy and had to be prodded awake each time I felt like adding to my word count, and that was much harder when it had been a long time since I wrote.

Having said that, a few years ago I didn’t write anything other than the occasional blog post for almost a year after my mother died. It had been a traumatic time – not just because she died, but more to do with other things that happened around her death – and I went into a very different tunnel for quite some time – a long dark one that blotted out the sun and most of the joy it can bring. When I emerged from that tunnel, it took me a long time to adjust and I found that my creativity had all but dried up.

I was recently reminded of a blog post I wrote about what helped get me writing again after one such longish phase of losing my creativity. You can read it here if you choose.

When I’m reading a good book I get tunnel vision too. You know that way, when you can’t put a book down and you read well into the night in order to finish it, then you close your eyes and can’t stop thinking about it for ages. When you finally open your eyes and look around, you blink in the light. You realise life has gone on while you were happily in that pleasant tunnel with the book.

I had a lovely review for Rusty Gold just recently when that seems to have happened to one of my readers:

“I really enjoyed the Rusty gold series. I just couldn’t put the 3rd book down. I was desperate to see how it ended so was stirring the soup with the book in my hand! Off to bed early to read in peace and quiet and, of course ,when it was finished I wished that I had made it last longer. Now, that is the sign of a really good read. It would make a great T.V. series. How good would that be?” ~ Barbara R.

Needless to say, it’s very encouraging to receive reviews like that. It always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and I can’t thank my readers enough for them. If ever I meet one such reader, I’ll give her the hugest of hugs.

So, you know what I’m talking about – that kind of tunnel vision.

And, like I said, I’ve just emerged from such a tunnel.

I’ve been busy writing another novel, and what a happy tunnel I’ve been in. I got so caught up with my characters, I found it hard to leave them.

This WIP is now in the hands of some beta readers, and I must wait to get their feedback before I can write the final draft, but, meanwhile, I find I’m still thinking about Yvonne and Hugh, and their story. I’m having to hold myself back from writing the next part of their story – because that’s for another book, another tunnel.

This one, called For What it’s Worth, is not quite another in The Reluctant Detective Series, more a kind of spin off, and while Mirabelle and Sam feature in the story, the main protagonist this time is Mirabelle’s sister, Yvonne.

Yvonne only featured peripherally in the three books of the series, but the dynamic of her and her husband, Hugh, kept asking to be explored, so I did, and have written their story – so far. I say, ‘so far,’ because just as our lives don’t stop when we settle into a routine after some great adventure or happening in our lives, so too, characters can seem so real that I just know their story could continue on. And my mind is already buzzing with what happens next in the Yvonne and Hugh saga.

Meanwhile, I have to see to all the things I neglected when I was so engrossed in writing For What it’s Worth – blog posts, promotional posts, guest posts, interviews, lots of interesting things like that. No matter how bonnie that tunnel of trees in, no matter how beautifully the sunlight dapples through the branches, I don’t want to hide inside it for ever. I look forward to driving through another one soon, but for now, other writing tasks need attention, there is other fun to be had, other vistas to view.

How about you? As a reader, do you get so engrossed in a good book that you can hardly bear to put it down? Do you emerge at the end blinking in the light?

As a writer, is that how you feel about the first draft of a new novel? The second? The third? And all the rest…

Please do tell me if you have felt like that when reading or writing – or doing anything else. I’d love to hear about the books you’ve read that held you entranced and why.

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You can find the three books of The Reluctant Detective Series and four more of Christine’s novels here on Amazon

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Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading? by Guest Author Wendy Janes @wendyproof

Excellent advice from Wendy Janes on getting the best value from your proofreader.

Lit World Interviews

Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading?

I love my job as a freelance proofreader, but sometimes authors make it very difficult for me to do my job effectively.

However brilliant your writing, however delicious your story, if there are too many errors and inconsistencies, you are asking too much of your proofreader to spot everything.

Here are a few examples of things that should have been removed by the author/developmental editor/copy editor prior to proofreading. Just in case you’re wondering, they are all products of my fevered imagination:

  • A tear-jerking family saga opens with Davina playing with her five-year-old brother, Oliver, on the sprawling lawns of their darling papa’s country estate. When our feisty heroine rescues sweet young Oliver from his evil kidnappers two years later, he is ten years old. The hapless Oliver dies in a fire soon after his rescue, and (miraculously) reappears at Davina’s sumptuous wedding to…

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Point of View

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There are many ways to write a novel, so how do you decide on the best way? Get it wrong or muddled, and you could end up having to rewrite the whole story. With that in mind, it’s well worth taking the time before you start to think through the method and the mode you want to use to convey your story, to write your novel.

One of the first things to consider is whose story it is and who you want to tell it. Once you have decided that, you must write the story from that chosen perspective, at least for a chapter or a section of a chapter. While you are writing from that person’s point of view it is important to stay in that person’s head. You can only think or feel as that one person.

“… when you are writing a scene, you follow the character almost like a camera on the character’s shoulder or in the character’s head. You are looking at the character performing a specific set of actions or important actions in vivid detail.” — Jenna Blum in The Author at Work, 2013

If you want to tell your reader what someone else is thinking or feeling, you should wait until it’s their turn to tell their side of the story – in a new chapter, or at least a new section, often denoted by leaving a blank line between the sections.

What is not a good idea is to head-hop between characters, telling us what they all think and feel in one mish-mash of information. It can become confusing and does not make for easy reading.

If it is a story you as the author want to tell, or it is your story as the author, but you want to tell it as though you are an observer, if you are telling it, narrating it, rather than showing it, then you, the narrator, are limiting yourself to what you can see, hear, or assume about the characters. You cannot know what they think or feel, only what they do or say. This gives an unbiased point of view, an outsider’s point of view.

In the third-person narrative mode, each character is referred to by the narrator as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, or ‘they’. In third-person narrative, the narrator is not involved, not a character within the story, but conveys the story to the reader. This is the most flexible and most commonly used point of view used by fiction authors.

In a first-person narrative, the story is revealed through a narrator who is also a character within the story. In this case, the narrator can only express his/her own opinions, thoughts or feelings, and cannot convey any other character’s thoughts, feelings, opinions or perceptions unless the other character expresses them in dialogue or shows them in action.

The second-person narrative mode, in which the narrator refers to him or herself as ‘you’, is not often used in fiction. It distances the narrator from the story. If he/she is also a character within the story, it is as though he/she is watching his own life from a distance. An example of this:

“You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might become clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside you insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already.”— Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City

This can be an interesting way of handling your story, but sometimes difficult to maintain and can become confusing when other characters enter the story and want to play a part.

It is, of course, possible to switch between points of view within one story, but such switches really are best kept to within chapter boundaries if possible, section boundaries at least. Never within a section, a paragraph or a sentence.

So how do you decide how you want to convey your story to the written page? How do you decide from whose point of view the story should be told? This goes back to the first question: whose story is it?

Through whose eyes are you going to let your readers ‘see’ the story?

The Writer’s Workshop says:

“Fiction is about inner worlds and inner journeys. If you use a particular POV repeatedly, then you must fully characterise that person. That means, a fully developed inner life; a fully developed character arc; a full set of challenges, encounters and personal change. If you work from a POV where the character in question is only partly developed, then this part of your writing will never come to life. if you aren’t sure whether a particular character is fully developed, then he/she almost certainly isn’t.”

This is such good advice. What is required is that you understand your characters. If you are a man writing from a woman’s POV, can you do it convincingly? Or do you write what you wish women were thinking? Can you imagine how a woman feels? Or do you assume she’ll feel much the same way as a man?

Similarly, if you are a woman writing from a man’s POV, you’d need to ask the same questions: can you imagine how a man might think and feel in a certain situation? Can you ‘put yourself in his place’? ‘Walk in his shoes’?

What about age and ethnic origin? These are also areas where research is needed to try to sound authentic. If you are writing your story from a child’s point of view, it would be important to find out how children think, feel, talk and walk. Don’t rely on your memory of being a child. That becomes overlaid with your adult interpretation. If you don’t have children of your own, go meet some children, ask your friends who have children if the family would like to join you for dinner so you can talk to them, play with them, observe them. *** I’d recommend caution here – you don’t want to seem creepy. Explaining that you are an author and need to do some research on children might be a good idea.***

Ethnic origin can be approached in a similar way, get to know some people of the ethnicity you want your character to be. Learn about their culture. Endeavour to understand where they come from.

Already written your novel but wondering why it doesn’t feel quite right? Try editing with coloured highlighters, highlighting when you are speaking with each character’s voice, one colour for the person whose story it is, different colours for when you pop into someone else’s head for a sentence or two. The whole of each chapter should be one, uninterrupted colour. If it is not, you’re head-hopping and that is a big no-no.

To correct it, look at each portion of a different colour and decide if it is necessary for that information to be included there. If not, remove it. If yes, find another way to convey it. Think about it: would the viewpoint character know what that other person was thinking? No, of course not. Not unless they told them or showed it in their facial expression or actions.

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The Writers’ Workshop also offer this helpful handful of no-nos. Few of them are absolute rules, but if in doubt, you’d be very well advised to follow them.

  • Don’t switch Points of view in the middle of a scene. If you start a scene with Mary, don’t end it with Tom.
  • Don’t write a scene from the Point of view of somebody who is killed in the course of it. If you really want the last minute on tape, as it were, then you can end a scene with a final sentence like ‘He looked up. The gun barrel was pointing straight at him. He felt nothing, only emptiness …’ But not much of this, please.
  • If you are writing a scene from Jo-Jo’s perspective then don’t relate information that only Ki-Ki could have seen. Choose a Point of view and stick to it.
  • If you are writing a scene from Roger’s perspective, then you can’t relate emotional information about Fanny. If you want to tell us something about Fanny, you have to do it via information which Roger could plausibly have access to. ‘Fanny’s lips were tight and white. He knew the signs of her fury well enough by now …’
  • If you start a book with a good number of scenes from Laura’s perspective, then you can’t just ditch her halfway through – or at the very least, you need a jolly good reason to do this. If you’re not sure if your reason is strong enough, then it certainly isn’t.

http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/PointsofViewinFiction.html

I hope you find them helpful.

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Christine Campbell, author.

Family Matters ~ Making it Home ~ Flying Free ~ Here at the Gate

Searching for Summer ~ Traces of Red ~ Rusty Gold, coming soon…

Jumping into Self-Publishing

It is my pleasure to introduce a guest blogger today.

Drae Box

At the age of fourteen, Drae completed writing her first book, The Royal Gift, and didn’t stop. By the time she left college, she had gone on to complete six other books’ first drafts and was writing the scenes for another twenty-one books. This year she publishes for the first time, launching two books on 16th December: The Royal Gift and Kateti. Kateti is currently available for free download by subscribing to Drae’s email list, and a free preview of The Royal Gift is available at her website.

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Welcome, Drae. We look forward to reading about your journey into self-publishing.

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Back in 2003, I wrote a tale of a girl, slightly older than me, heading off on what appeared to be a hopeless mission. I didn’t realise it at the time, but The Royal Gift and it’s protagonists would continue to sit with me, on buses, in cafes, in boring theatre productions and terrifying dreams.

I was writing for fun. For my own pleasure. Nobody else was reading about Raneth and Aldora, I still write for my own pleasure, but it’s changed since 2003. Now, I also write to share my characters’ lives with others, and give others a small piece of entertainment that I hope, when they get to the end, only makes them want more.

In 2007, I was in college, and had written more books since The Royal Gift. I sent a few unsolicited manuscripts out to literary agents, following their requests of exactly what to put in those envelopes, but it wasn’t my focus. My focus was Raneth and Aldora, along with their friends and enemies, and characters from other books I was working on,
I didn’t get an agent, but I did get one possibly personalised rejection in 2009, with the at-the-time latest version of The Royal Gift.

Life struck after that, and the adventures of my characters slowed down as I sought jobs, moving home multiple times when I got them. My writing routine was broken. It wasn’t until 2012 that I kicked myself in the butt, reminding myself that Raneth and Aldora were waiting on me. That year I focused on writing again, hard.

2013 was the year I started seriously looking into self-publishing.

I read articles around the internet, watched live Hangouts and recorded Skype chats with self-publishing authors who shared their knowledge and experiences. I took a few notes. I bought ebooks on publishing and marketing, I watched more self-published authors talking about their experiences, listened to podcasts, watched more author interviews. I even bought a self-published author’s book to check the quality of a Createspace printed book.

Fast forward to June 2014 and I was fairly certain that I would be self-publishing The Royal Gift and the others of its series. I wanted to keep the rights and I wanted to pick the front covers. Just as importantly I wanted to have ultimate control over what happened to the characters I had created as a fourteen year old avoiding homework.

If I was going to do this, if I was going to launch The Common Kingdoms Series as a self-published series, I wanted to do it right. That meant an editor, and a decent book cover just for starters. I reread The Royal Gift from start to finish, then hesitated. Was it good enough? There had been scenes where even I went off to go and do something else. That wasn’t a good sign, was it?

What had I gotten myself into? Was I ready for this? Even if I wasn’t, I was committed, and soon the 2009 version of the story was in the hands of my editor and out of mine. She had it for a month, and I grew increasingly excited. What would she have to say about the story? How many things would we agree on?

When the month passed, I had a structural report, and I was chuffed. Yes, Raneth did go through too much, and less fighting would be a good idea, as would axing out a lot of scenes later in the book and even a few characters.

After a good deal of wondering how best to work with the structural edit suggestions, knowing my writing was different to what it had been in 2009, I decided one final rewrite from scratch would do the job. December came, and I was still writing.
I wanted to achieve a completed task related to The Royal Gift that year though, so off I went to 99Designs. It resulted in two covers I fell in love with. Several voters picked my second choice, and so I selected that one as the winner, and my book cover.

Things were picking up. I felt that I was making friends with other self-published authors, and a few hybrid authors (those that are both traditional and self-published – this is what I’m working towards). My fledgling author site was getting a good chunk of visitors every day, and I was finding that others around me were excited for me. I felt positive, energised, and excited. I was back in full writer mode, working not just on The Royal Gift’s final rewrite, but on some other books too.
Writing makes me happy. That everything was going well again was a good sign I was (am) on the right track.

I cut back on my hours at the office job, and did my best to keep on top of all the client commissions I was getting on the side for my web services. I installed LED lights around the flat so my energy bills would go down because I knew my income would be down for a while, maybe longer. I started hoarding free ebooks thanks to Bookbub, Booktastik and other reader lists that alert you to free or discounted ebooks. Cutting your wages is tough, but manageable with the right, “can do, will do” attitude that I learned not from myself, but Aldora. Who said you couldn’t learn something from your own characters?

I kept my editor and my little band of email subscribers appraised of The Royal Gift’s progress, and Kateti’s. Both books were to be launched on the same day. I’d decided to set a date they would share so they could help each other get more visibility, and work in unison to make more readers aware not only of my name (so my characters could piggyback off it), but also my website and email list, so the next books’ launches would go nicely with a bit of groundwork already laid.

My editor is amazing, and she soon handed me the line-edit suggestions. I looked over them, agreed with almost all of them (because I trust her experience and skills, but also because they made sense). Within two weeks, both books had their edits done, and I was loading them into Scrivener, ready for formatting and converting into epubs, mobis and any other formats I might later want or need. It took several tries to get each book looking right when I uploaded them to Kobo and Kindle.

My short story, Kateti (set in another world to that which Aldora and Raneth are in), is now available for free to my email subscribers. Sharing it with them was one of the most exciting moments yet in becoming self-published, though one emailed me back and said they refused to download it, because they wanted to buy it when it was released later, to support me. That was an unexpected but heartwarming email I didn’t expect.

My journey into self-publishing doesn’t end here. It may never end.

Both books are awaiting their release on the 16th December 2015, and will be followed by others in 2016.

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New Person, New Paragraph

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It is a long time since I was at school and I know things change a lot over the years, but has English grammar really changed that much? New words, yes. New sentence structure, not so much.

So what is the problem?

There is one problem I seem to keep coming across in the books I beta read, edit, proofread, review or just read for pleasure, and that is a basic rule of writing that gets broken all the time.

When to start a new paragraph.

I’m beginning to realise it is not always taught in school these days, or even in college. One lady author I beta read for lately was somewhat embarrassed to tell me that she was a qualified English teacher for many years, had degrees in creative writing as well as English Literature, yet had never been taught the basic rule:

New Person, New Paragraph.

Another way of putting it is New Subject, New Paragraph.

To be complete, a sentence only needs to have a subject and a verb. – He ran. She jumped.

The verb is the fundamental part of the sentence. It can describe the action or state of the subject. – He ran. She jumped. He was handsome. She was beautiful.

The subject is the star of the sentence: the person or thing the sentence is ‘about’. – He, she or it.

We group together a number of sentences to form a paragraph. That paragraph is about one subject – one person or one thing – and what the subject is doing or being.

So, when it comes to forming paragraphs, each time we are talking about a new subject (person or thing) we start a new paragraph.

According to https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/606/01/

“A paragraph is a collection of related sentences dealing with a single topic. Learning to write good paragraphs will help you as a writer stay on track during your drafting and revision stages. Good paragraphing also greatly assists your readers in following a piece of writing. You can have fantastic ideas, but if those ideas aren’t presented in an organized fashion, you will lose your readers (and fail to achieve your goals in writing). The basic rule of thumb with paragraphing is to keep one idea to one paragraph.”

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This is especially important in dialogue. A paragraphos (Ancient Greek: from para-, “beside”, and graphein, “to write”) was a mark in ancient Greek punctuation, marking a division in a text (as between speakers in a dialogue or drama).

There are few hard-and-fast rules for paragraphing. Often times, there are different ways to structure paragraphs, and they all might be “correct.” However, there are guidelines that will help you to create paragraphs that don’t confuse readers.

But there is one hard-and-fast rule of paragraph structure.

Never, ever mix what one character says or does with the dialogue or actions of another character in the same paragraph or the reader will have trouble keeping up with who’s talking. For the other character’s answer, switch to a new paragraph. Also, keep in mind that sometimes, the other character might answer nonverbally or with an action—start a new paragraph for those kinds of answers too.

Example:

“Are you not speaking to me?” Sally asked.

Bess looked away.

“Oh, come on. Don’t go in the huff.”

“Leave me alone.” Bess ran from the room.

You’ll notice that correct paragraphing make the use of dialogue tags in every line unnecessary. Readers can keep track of who’s talking because every new speaker has a paragraph of its own.

The actions and thoughts of a speaker belong to the same paragraph as the character’s dialogue. Keep what one character says, does, and thinks in the same paragraph; otherwise, readers will think the action or thought belongs to a different character.
Example:

“What on earth’s that smell?” Sally asked.

Bess looked up from her book. “Oh, no,” she said, remembering she had meant to surprise Sally. “I forgot the stew!”

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I like to illustrate it this way:

Imagine you are watching a tennis match on TV. You’ll no doubt notice how everyone looks the same way, turning their heads to look the other way in almost perfect unison. That is because they follow the ball from player to player each time it crosses the net. So let’s imagine we are reporting about that tennis match.

Let’s start with player X. He receives a ball from the ballboy. He throws it in the air and serves it to his opponent.

We all turn to look at player Y as he hits it back.

Again, we turn to look at X as he smashes it into the net.

Simple!

Each time we turn our heads, it is a new paragraph in our report.

What about a different scenario?

We watch as player X receives another ball from the ballboy, bounces it a few times, throws it up in the air, lets it drop from there, catches it, looks at it, decides he doesn’t like it, throws it back for another ball which he puts in his pocket while he bends to tie his shoelaces before straightening up, taking the ball out of his pocket and bouncing it a few times. Then he looks across the net to make sure his opponent is ready, sees that he is, throws the ball up and serves.

Still we stay with the player who has the ball. Yes, we make note that he’s checked on his opponent. Yes, we make note that he nodded to the ballboy. But we stayed with him till the ball crossed the net, because he was the one all these verbs were talking about. He was the subject of each sentence. He receives, he bounces,  he throws, he lets drop, he catches, he looks, he decides, he bends, he straightens, he looks, he sees, he throws, he serves.

It doesn’t matter what he bounces, where he looks, who he looks at, who he sees, he is still the subject of the sentences. The ball, the ballboy, the other player, these are all the objects of the sentences. The verbs are not about them.

But …

If we decide when player X looks across at the ballboy that we want to see what the ballboy is going to do and we look at him, and report that he throws the ball, he would become the subject of the new sentence that tells the reader, ‘The ballboy throws another ball.’ We would need a new paragraph.

If we decide when players X checks to see if his opponent is ready that we want to check for ourselves and we look over and report that he is jumping up and down and looks to be ready, he would become the subject of the new sentence that tells our readers, ‘Player Y is jumping up and down. He is ready to receive.’ We would need a new paragraph.

Because, very importantly, player Y, his opponent, NEVER, EVER joins player X on his side of the court. They are never standing together on the same side – we do not write about what X did and said in the same paragraph as what Y did and said.

We give each player, each subject, each person his own side of the net, his own place, his own paragraph.

Clear as mud?

Maybe that illustration is not the one that works for you. Perhaps the camera lens is the one you use to explain when to use a new paragraph, perhaps something else. But whatever illustration you prefer, whatever explanation you use, it all comes back to the one simple rule:

New Person, New Paragraph.

If none of that helps you, there are any number of grammar books and grammar sites you can look up. Please do check them out. Getting this aspect of formatting your novel right, does make a difference. It makes the difference between your novel looking professional or not.

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We Are the Gatekeepers

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One of the accusations made about Independently Published books is that the quality of indie published books is poorer than traditionally published works because there are no ‘gatekeepers’: that the book does not have to go through an agent and the rigorous editing, copyediting, proofreading and all the rest that goes into Traditionally Published books.

Now, while it is true that it doesn’t have to go through all these processes, that does not have to mean that it won’t. Just that it won’t all happen ‘in house’ with one of the large publishing firms.

But it does still need to happen.

Indie Authors, we must become our own gatekeepers.

In order to refute the allegation, we must help one another achieve the highest standards of publication that we can. How?
Well, for one thing, we must make sure our own manuscript is absolutely as good as it can be, then we must be honest with our fellow Indie Authors.

I advocate honest reviews.

It is too easy to think that by ‘banding together’ and giving one another five star, great reviews, we are supporting one another. I don’t believe we are. I welcome the odd three star review if it gives me pointers as to how I could improve my writing – especially if the reviewer happens to PM me too with more of their reasoning. I want my work to be taken seriously. If it takes a few stinging reviews to help me improve, I’m up for that.

To give five star reviews just because it is a fellow Indie Author is not actually helpful. It perpetuates the accusation and it doesn’t help the author improve in the necessary areas. Yes, it may help them make a few sales of their book, but it won’t help them sell the next one.

If a book you are reviewing needs editing, why not PM the author and explain what the problem is. Is it the spelling and punctuation? Tell them. Is it the paragraphing? The plotting? The character development? Tell them. Offer helpful advice. Add some links to expert advice on the subject. Give them a second chance, an opportunity to put the problem right before posting the review, before deciding on the star rating.

What if you are on the receiving end of such a PM or a three-star, stinging review. Don’t feel hurt or annoyed. Look at the reasons. Be honest with yourself. Is there room for improvement? Every one of us can become a better writer. Try not to be daunted by the prospect of all that editing again. Your book is worth it. Your readers deserve it.

In short: if we want to compete with Traditionally Published books in the marketplace, if we want to hold our own or make our mark in this fiercely competitive business we are in, we must be our own gatekeepers.

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