What I know now…

I had my first book published in 2013, and since then a further five books have made it into the world with my name on the cover. Despite this I still feel like a ‘new’ author – though looking back at what I thought then, and what I know now, I have learnt a few things.

What I thought before I was published – and what I know now.

1) Published authors make a living from their writing

There are many who do, but there are so many more who don’t. So many authors who write books in between their day jobs. The image I had of writing books by my poolside has been sadly shattered. Jackie Collins managed it. Kathryn Freeman sits in her study and squeezes her romance writing in between her medical writing. At least I have Jenson Button for company. [insert photo]

2) Writing is a solitary existence

It’s true the only way to get words onto paper is to ignore everyone and everything around you for a while and just write. For those who miss face to face interactions though, there are plenty of conferences and local writer group meetings that provide opportunities to chat with other writers. People who understand when you mention sagging middles (of the book variety) and head bopping points of view. Then there are the virtual interactions on social media. Comment on a blog, reply to a tweet – the writing community (authors, bloggers, readers) is hugely supportive. You don’t have to do it alone.

IMG_1329

3) Editing is about correcting plot inconsistencies, spelling and grammar

Editing does feature all of those – but by heck it’s about a whole lot more. My editorial reports are often split into sections: plot, characters, pace, romance, timing and style. All of these are looked at in the first edits – well before the spelling and grammar. I’ve had to add chapters, delete thousands of words, combine two characters into one, soften my heroine. All far more complex – and challenging – edits than my naïve unpublished self had thought. Then again, my unpublished self believed the book I’d written and submitted was as good as it could be. I had no idea what a huge difference an editor can make.

4) I’ll run out of plot ideas

I’ve found that having the ideas isn’t the problem – it’s knowing which of them to run with that’s the hard part. As is keeping focus on the book you’re writing, while in your head you’ve just had the most brilliant idea for another book…

5) Writing is easy

Yes, that was the most stupid of them all. When I started out, I was writing around 4,000 words a day. I thought it was a doddle. Funnily enough, that first book never did get published. I’ve recently revisited it, and was horrified by how terrible it was. In hindsight, writing it again would be have quicker. So writing is easy – it’s writing something that people will want to read that’s bloody difficult.

 

This post is brought to you by Kathryn Freeman.

That time of the year

It’s that time of the year when the crocuses are sprouting, the snow drops nodding their heads in the breeze. The evenings are getting lighter. The weather…okay, perhaps we won’t focus too much on the weather right now but we know warmer days, sunnier days, are on the horizon.

Crocus

 

Spring is here, and my thoughts turn to…Christmas.

If you’re a writer, you’ll be nodding your head in understanding. If you’re not, you’ll be thinking I meant to type Easter. And of course March is the month when the sane amongst us begin to picture fluffy bunnies and baby chicks. Gambolling lambs and chocolate eggs. I, on the other hand, will be imagining pine trees, fairy lights and reindeer. Because I’m about to write a Christmas novella.

Sax reindeer

A more organised writer would have started this book a few months ago – perhaps actually during Christmas. I was too busy finishing my last book, too busy juggling my other (medical) writing work. Now I’ve left myself just a few months to write my story so that by the start of the summer it can be edited.

And by November it will hopefully be published.

Is it hard to conjure up Christmas in spring? Actually no, it’s not. You see, I’ve lived through a lot of Christmas’s – far more than I’d like to admit to – so the atmosphere, the feeling, the spirit of the season is firmly embedded in my memory bank. Easy to draw down on whenever I need it. I’d find it much harder to write about something I’ve never experienced. I am in awe of those who create new worlds, different species. Who go beyond the human, into the supernatural. I don’t have that creativity.

Thankfully, when it comes to dreaming up characters and how they might meet, interact, in particular for me (as I write romance) how they might fall in love, my imagination is fully on board. Just as well, because writing a Christmas book isn’t about describing baubles or pretty snow scenes in perfect accurate detail. It’s about creating compelling characters people will want to read about at any time of the year. Their story just happens to occur around Christmas time.

So enjoy the spring. Enjoy the warmth of the sun on your face (when it finally decides to show up). Enjoy watching the buds begin to blossom. Enjoy those Easter eggs. And I’ll enjoy tucking into my mince pies.

mince pies

 

This post is brought to you by Kathryn Freeman.

 

Writing essentials

It’s been nearly three years since my first book was published, and since that time my hobby has become my work. When I started writing The First Book (still lurking in my computer files somewhere, unloved and unwanted) I did it when I had a spare moment, grabbing pieces of paper to scribble on when thoughts came while waiting in traffic, emailing chunks of text to myself when inspiration struck at work (shhh). Opening my laptop on a Sunday morning and firing off a chapter in bed.

Now my job description includes the word ‘writer’, and I’ve had to learn a new routine, and become much more disciplined about my writing. As Somerset Maugham once said: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

So what do I need in order to work?

 

Physical essentials

  • My study. At one time it was the study, the one I shared with the rest of the family, but since I became self-employed I painted it pink (I write romance, what more can I say?) and took control.

My study

  • Computer – a desktop, because I prefer to see what I’m writing on a large screen. It also means I can easily flick between twitter, email and my work in progress. Not always a good thing.
  • A cup of tea and toast. My reward for starting the day with a run or a swim. The endorphins kick start my brain and the toast feeds it.

tea and toast

  • Jenson Button. I write about handsome heroes, so I need a little inspiration.

Jenson cut out vertical

  • Pens & sticky notes. Although the writing is done on the computer, I often jot down things as they come to me. Did she say something similar in the last chapter? Was he wearing a black shirt earlier? How many times have I used the word slumped?
  • Essential for when the edits come through, so I can pick out the key points I need to change, colour coding for the different characters.

 

Non-physical essentials

This is harder to list, but the more writers I’ve met, the more writing I’ve done, these are what I believe distinguishes a writer from a person who writes a book.

  • Thick skin. Needed at first to read those rejections, later to stomach those poor reviews (umm, hope that’s not just me?!) – and yet still want to write.
  • Bloody mindedness. It doesn’t matter how hard it is to find an agent, a publisher, to write a best seller. A writer perseveres. It will come with the next book. Or the book after that…
  • A drive, a passion, a need to write. A writer finds it hard to stop thinking about their characters, about plot lines and the next book. A writer doesn’t read a book without making a mental (or often physical) note of phrases, ideas they admire or pitfalls to avoid. A writer doesn’t watch a film, listen to a conversation, stare out of the window without thinking yes and parking an idea in their brain for later.

I think what I’m saying is a writer has to write. It’s their job, their hobby, their relaxation. It’s what they do, but also who they are.

 

This post is brought to you by Kathryn Freeman.