Category Archives: Novel Inspiration

Diary of a Mad Writer: Weeks 2 and 3: IT PAYS TO TAKE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

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nimue

Working like a dog… never understood that. My dog doesn’t do much more than sleep or mooch about the house, although here she is checking out my sales stats. She isn’t impressed.

In an attempt to satisfy my grumpy border collie, I’ve had a busy two weeks. (She has been for a very long walk which has made her a little less grumpy, for the moment at least). As you can see above her picture, you can now subscribe to my newsletter. I’m busy writing a free book I can give away to new subscribers, a DI Jesse Rider novella. More work on top of an already busy schedule, but I’m not a mad writer for nothing. The more works-in-progress I have piling up, the happier I am.  I’m certainly not suffering from writer’s block which made me ponder whether writer’s block actually exists, or is it an easy excuse for (please don’t get mad) lazy writers?

Years ago I went through a phase when I considered myself to be an arid desert when it came to ideas. Nothing was growing. It was sand as far as you could see. Each oasis turned out to be a mirage and there were very few of those. In desperation I signed up to a writing course with The Writers Bureau. I didn’t actually complete the course, (I’m now an English graduate, always wanted to say that), but what I learned during my short time taking part gave my muse a kick up the arse. When I looked out at that rolling expanse of golden sand, I saw a small sapling. That sapling was my first Hunter Cade novel which has now grown into a mature tree and triggered new trees to grow. What I’m trying to say is, I thought I had writer’s block. I may well have had writer’s block, but by learning ways to force inspiration, I have never suffered with it since.

This is where the title for this post comes into it. It pays to take affirmative action. If you aren’t getting any ideas, find a way to make the ideas come to you: pick up a book in a genre you might not normally read; watch a great box set (you can’t go wrong with Hannibal); grab a sheet of paper and get started on a mind map or a cluster map, start with a single idea (and I sometimes use a novel I’ve enjoyed and feel inspired by, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl for example) and begin branching off topics until you have a premise you can work with. Take affirmative action. The floodgates will open and you may just find yourself inundated with book ideas.

That cluster map with Gone Girl in the center of it gave me three standalone romantic thrillers to work on, one of them I am actively writing as part of my Diary work. I have gone so far as to buy the 3 covers, very inexpensively. I use The Book Cover Designer (http://thebookcoverdesigner.com), especially bettibup33, and I have also used Melody Simmons pre-made covers (http://ebookindiecovers.com).

As well as hitting word count targets, I have been taking part in the Self-publishing Success Summit hosted by Chandler Bolt (http://selfpublishingsuccesssummit.com). With presentations from experts such as Joanna Penn and Daniel Decker, (http://www.thecreativepenn.com and http://www.danieldecker.net respectively), it has been a bottomless well of information. Okay, it does have a bottom, but I’m trying not to think about that because I’ve been having so much fun, knowing it’s going to come to an end is too much for me to cope with. I bought a book right before I signed up to the Summit from author Nick Stephenson (http://nickstephensonbooks.com). Supercharge your Kindle Sales:(http://www.amazon.co.uk/Supercharge-Your-Kindle-Sales-Strategies-ebook/dp/B00MMQN0VG) and was overwhelmed by the response I got by implementing just one of his strategy ideas. I was extremely excited to learn he was also going to be a guest speaker.

Finally, I  contacted a few blogs in the hopes I could take part in an author interview.  I was blown away to receive a response from Lisa Haselton (http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.co.uk). This is my first author interview, it should be up in August or maybe September. You should check out her existing author interviews because they’re great. I always find it fascinating to get inside the head of writers, to find out what makes them tick and what they’re working on now. Thank you Lisa for giving me this opportunity.

So you see, having a can-do attitude, and actually implementing it by getting out there and not being afraid to be rejected, has positive results. This has been a good two weeks for me, and I hope for you too. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to  so leave a comment or email me. Or, if you really really want to, subscribe to my newsletter 🙂

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Filed under Book Promotion, Diary of a Mad Writer, Motivation, Novel Inspiration, The Business of Books, The Writing Process, Writing and family life

Diary of a Mad Writer: Week 1: FIRST DRAFT NERVES

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I want to share my favourite writing related quote. If you’re a writer, particularly a fiction author, you’ve probably already heard it. It’s from Stephen King: ‘Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work,’ (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/156272-amateurs-sit-and-wait-for-inspiration-the-rest-of-us). He also said: ‘Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones,‘ (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/stephen_king.html). I agree with Stephen King on both points. Inspiration is a fickle master (or mistress), one who comes and goes as he (or she) pleases and doesn’t always give up the goods. When I was writing my debut novel AFFLICTION, I would quite often sit down at the computer at 9 a.m, after the school run, and I wouldn’t have a clue where to start. Two full length novels and a novella later, I’m still doing the same thing. I’m sat here now, writing this blog post (firstly, because I really, really want to, I’m a writer after all. But secondly) because I don’t have a clue where to start. I’m at chapter five. I’ve managed to hit my daily word count target. I have more than a general sense of the story, and where it is headed. But as for how I’m going to open chapter five, or what’s going into it, I’m as lost as a blind rat on a ship she can’t remember getting on to. I have to force myself to get inspired, and I do that in a number of ways. Music is one. I have a playlist, a sort of soundtrack for whatever book I’m working on at a given time, and when I’m working on a first draft I often listen to several songs over and over again. I’m not particularly into music; songs I like generally spark an image or a feeling in me I can use to get the ball rolling. Presently, I’m listening to Milky Chance, Stolen Dance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX-QaNzd-0Y), and Vance Joy, Riptide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJ_1HMAGb4k) My list ALWAYS includes U2’s With or Without You (my all time favourite tune) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmSdTa9kaiQ, and Hoobastank’s Inside of You (which is a rare ten out of ten too) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcSZ7deAHbw . When I want to get away from the computer I’ll walk my dog Nimue, a double-merle border collie who’s partially sighted and very active. I more than often leave the house with no idea what’s going to happen to my characters next, only to arrive back home with a clear plan of the following chapter at least. Walking and listening to music are my two top ways to force inspiration to cough up, with ironing and washing up close behind. So, yes, we do plonk our butts down and work whether inspired or not, but we also have our ways of whipping Inspiration into shape. I’d love to hear about other ways to get the ideas flowing. King’s second quote, about all books having lessons to teach us, particularly the bad ones, applies to the books we are writing, (not only the ones we are reading). It isn’t for me to say which category my novels fall into, certainly I’m never going to be one hundred percent happy with anything I write, but certainly, my first drafts are always rubbish. I used to scrap… a lot. Now I don’t. Those awful manuscripts, they can teach me a great deal, like how to commit to a story, how to fill up holes in plot points you could drive a bus through, how to sharpen my vocabulary and swap weak words for strong ones. Inevitably, I am always happier with my subsequent drafts and all because I stuck with it. Talking about books that can teach you a thing or two, this week  I invested in a non-fiction book: Supercharge Your Kindle Sales, by Nick Stephenson (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Supercharge-Your-Kindle-Sales-Strategies-ebook/dp/B00MMQN0VG). I have next to no budget either for marketing, or book covers etc, but this was money well spent (and it was inexpensive, less than a cup of coffee from Costa). I have implemented ONE of the points  – Keyword Strategy – and have already seen my sales increase. Finally, I subscribe to Joanna Penn’s (The Creative Penn, http://www.thecreativepenn.com) newsletter and learned about the Self-Publishing Success Summit, July 12th – 23rd. I’ve checked out the schedule and there are some great talks lined up. I’ve got my ticket, it’s free as long as you listen live or within 72 hours. http://selfpublishingsuccesssummit.com. Happy writing

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POSITIVITY

Sometimes, thinking positively is the hardest thing in the world to do.

I approached the New Year with a mind full of the best intentions. I was going to continue my lifelong dream of being a published author by putting everything I had into writing and editing the next two or three installments in my Hunter Cade series, plus I was going to develop a new series. I was going to dive into a fitness plan that was not only  going to see me eating more healthily and losing the three stone I managed to put on whilst getting my BA (Hons) in English, but was also going to increase my barely existent self-esteem levels immeasurably. I was going to become the person I always thought I could be, now that I had overcome a mountain full of challenges.

Then January first came.

I felt awful.

I’ve had an ankle injury that wasn’t improving and was making any kind of exercise painful and so therefore, I told myself, I had to wait to start the fitness program I had been so excited to get going in December. I sat down to continue the novel I had begun before the Christmas break and found it impossible to muster up any enthusiasm for it. I love the story. I loved the story. Something wasn’t sitting right in me. What was wrong? I knew it wasn’t bad, so then it must be me. My connection with everything I wanted to achieve this year had somehow been broken between cooking the turkey and listening to the fireworks going off on New Year’s eve. Was I suffering from the January blues? Or did I just not have what it took to take control of my life and make the improvements I wanted to make?

This is the part when I should be telling you how I overcame my dip in motivation, how I became inspired again, or discovered something that put me back on a motivational track. I can’t. I haven’t. I didn’t. As I’m writing this I still can’t grasp the thread of positivity I need to be certain I can achieve my goals for 2015, but I did make a small breakthrough. I realised that good or bad, I was a writer, and the best way to deal with my slump was to write. I had my ankle checked out and I’m fine to exercise so first thing next week I’m adding that to my schedule, I’ve already gone through magazines and cookbooks and found some great, healthy recipes. The work in progress: I’ve learned writing isn’t magical, not on the surface. It’s hard work. It takes commitment and determination and quite often inspiration is a flighty bird you have to actively go out there and catch. You catch it by working. Then the magic creeps in.

I don’t know how this year is going to end, none of us do. But I do know I can control how I let my lack of positivity affect me. So as soon as I’ve finished here I’m going to head straight back to the draft which knocked my confidence, and I’m going to work on it. Taking some inspiration from Hunter Cade, I can control what I do just like I can control who I am.  The January blues, or just a knock in confidence, either way I’m going to continue striving to achieve my goals, battling through the fug until I find the magic.

There. I feel more positive already.

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NANOWRIMO – The Baby Book Boom

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In 2006 I decided to participate in a little heard of challenge called National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo to its friends  (http://nanowrimo.org). Five years later I had the rough drafts of five novels completed and the realisation that if I could achieve the mammoth task of writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I had the discipline needed to one day see my dream of being a published author a reality.

Back in 2006 I had no idea what I was getting myself into – or how addictive it would become. My final published novel is none of the rough drafts I penned for Nano but in essence it is all of them. Certainly the skills I learned by being disciplined, writing for at least two hours every day, using every waking moment when I wasn’t at the computer to plan and plot (ironing and washing up are particularly productive times to do this, something about letting the right side of your brain work subconsciously whilst your left side is occupied) were detrimental in accomplishing the final outcome.

It was hard work. The first week went by pretty easily, I was motivated, excited to be part of a community of lovers of language like myself. By the second week I found my feet dragging slightly, and the third week was really tough. I decided what I had written was nothing better than toilet paper waiting to be printed. My motivation waned. Why continue? I lamented, when all I’m going to have at the end of it is 50,000 words I’m going to scrap.

At week four though, something amazing happened. I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could see myself actually reaching the finishing line – and I would have something at the end of it. It might not be pretty. It certainly wouldn’t be nice. It was like Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters. Both of them, rolled into one, then given an ugly pill. Primitive is a good way to describe the Nano novel – or rough draft, because that is effectively what we are talking about, a rough draft, possibly little more than a detailed outline. By the end of November I had a finished rough draft, 50,000 words of a complete story I would never have had had I not challenged myself in this way.

Every published book had to start somewhere

Every published book had to start somewhere

Nine years later and my dream has come true. My debut novel AFFLICTION (http://www.amazon.co.uk/AFFLICTION-Hunter-Cade-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B00NGOXY3M) was published in September 2014 via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, but it probably never would have come to this if I hadn’t jumped feet first into the crazy, fast-paced, sometimes teary, oftentimes exhilarating experience of National Novel Writing Month. It’s taken several years developing the story and re-writing, editing till my fingers had blisters and my eyes blurred, but I’m pleased with what I ended up with. It’s easy to give up when things don’t seem to be going well, but getting that rough draft written is the best thing you can do for your novel. Because without it you have nothing to edit, nothing to polish, nothing to prove to yourself you had it in you all the time.

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5 of the Best… ABANDONED LOCATIONS

With Halloween approaching, my thoughts turned from the usual most interesting ways to murder someone (for fictional purposes only) to my second favourite thing to get excited about – abandoned locations. There’s something about the inherent beauty of a decaying hotel, the earthy scent of long forgotten cellars, the colourful spray paint spelling out equally colourful vocabulary on crumbling brick walls that gets my heart racing.

Is it the distant echo of a long forgotten past reverberating down empty corridors, or the spine-tingling sensation of some ethereal being looking out through grime-obscured windows that does it for urban explorers and ghost hunters alike? Or the sense of history on the cusp of being lost that inspires documentation of these often disregarded time capsules?

I suspect it’s all of these things plus a sense of romanticism, and reminiscence that subconsciously makes us remember our own mortality. Either way, I thought it might be fun to share my top 5 abandoned locations which may or may not be haunted.

1: Poveglia Island – not open for tourists which scuppers my plans of visiting but I’ll settle for the time being on repeatedly watching the episode of Ghost Adventures in which the crew take on this abandoned plague island. Located in the Venetian lagoon, Northern Italy, this wonderful island has had a colourful and poignant history having twice been used as a quarantine station. In the 1920’s some of the existing buildings were also converted into an asylum for the mentally unstable.

2: Waverly Hills Sanitarium in Kentucky, USA is purportedly one of the most haunted (if not the most haunted) place on earth. Originally a wooden construction, the imposing brick hospital was constructed in 1924 and opened in 1926. A self-contained community for patients with tuberculosis, Waverly Hills was closed in the early sixties after a treatment for TB rendered it obsolete. It was reopened as a Geriatric Sanitarium where alleged patient abuse caused it to close twenty years later.

3: Pripyat in the Ukraine is a city abandoned after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, a real glimpse of what the world would be like post an apocalypse. A much photographed landmark is the Ferris wheel located in the amusement park, see http://news.distractify.com/culture/arts/the-most-spectacular-abandoned-places-in-the-world/ and check out this website further for its collection of breathtaking images of some of the most haunting abandoned locations in the world including an underwater city, abandoned railway stations and an auditorium that opened on the same day the Titanic sunk.

4: West Park Mental Hospital in the UK, see http://www.abandoned-britain.com/PP/westpark/1.htm for some amazing images, was opened in 1923. With beds still remaining in some of the wards, paintings still visible on the walls of the hospital’s nursery, and a burned out ballroom you can’t help but feel the presence of the many people who once walked within its walls.

5: Chadderton Swimming Baths, UK – a derelict Art Deco swimming pool – was opened in 1937 and closed in 2006. I stumbled across this location whilst perusing 28 Days Later, http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/, my favourite Urban Exploration site and the source of much inspiration when I’m sketching out locations for my novels. There’s something about abandoned swimming baths I find interesting, I guess its the amazing architecture and the fact they have been visited by numerous people who I almost imagine I can see and hear hurtling off the tiled side into the water, screaming with delight. For more images of heart-wrenchingly beautiful decaying public baths check out http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2476434/ and you’ll see what I mean.

Abandoned asylums, abandoned hospitals, abandoned hotels; abandoned fairgrounds and amusement parks, theaters and swimming baths; ruins underwater and ruins underground; derelict locations which look best from the air; crumbling, peeling, contemporary archeology. There is plenty of inspiration in the derelict and decaying debris of recent past human existence to keep a writer in location ideas for more than one lifetime.

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