Let me help you write a novel!

Have you ever wanted to write a novel? Are you a NaNoWriMo virgin or are you a seasoned pro?I talk about NaNoWriMo every single year, because it’s the most fun part of my year, and this will be my 10th year in completing it. 


Whilst I could harp on about what it’s all about I’ll refrain and, instead, tell you about what I’m doing in October – Planning my novel. So I’ve called it ‘Plantober’ and I’m rather fond of it. No, I haven’t looked up whether anyone else is using that word. I’m pretty sure people use ‘Preptober’ but I do not like the word prep and so let’s move on!


I am a typical Pantser when it comes to NaNo – most years I have a decent idea of what I’m going to write about but I don’t have a plan in place. This year I decided to switch things up and plan my novel throughout October (because I’m not doing Inktober this year) and I figured why not make it an interactive thing?


I know a lot of people want to write a book – or at least attempt one – but get scared because they don’t know how to start or they lose their way and fizzle out before the end. 


I’m not saying I’m an expert in writing – far from it – but I do know how to write and get the job done, so I’ve put together a plan for each week in October with tasks of what to do to help you get ready to write a book. They aren’t foolproof and I have probably missed a bunch of stuff, but still. THIS MIGHT HELP YOU! It will hopefully help me! 


If you want to know what the plan is please watch my Youtube video – this is where I’ll be sharing all the info – and let me know if you’re going to give it a go!

– Sam

The process of querying: Finding an agent

So you wrote a book, now what?

If you’re at the stage where you wrote a book, you’ve already edited it a few times, you’ve had someone proof read it, you’ve editing it again… you’ve potentially hired a novel consultant and ironed out some details… you might be looking at your work and thinking IT’S TIME!

I hear you! Whilst I am a proud Indie Author, I am also someone who strives to find an agent and go down the commercial publishing route. I long to work with a team and get involved in the mainstream publishing world and I have queried 1 book (which didn’t land any interest) and I’m currently querying another. So, how does it work?

You might be surprised to learn that querying is as time consuming and brain-melting as writing your first draft. Or maybe you knew it would be hard, and you’re mentally prepared! Either way, the hard work doesn’t stop once you decide to find an agent.

Research

Once you’ve finished your manuscript you will want to do a lot of research into agents. A great way to find agents to send your book to is the Writers and Artist’s Yearbook which is republished every year. The book is helpful in many ways (including giving examples of what to put in your covering letter and query letter) but, obviously, out of date as soon as it’s published! A great way to find agents is potentially looking at the authors you enjoy reading and finding out who represents them, and also do some Google searches and look on Twitter; where agents love to talk about the kinds of books they’re looking for!!

Finding the right agent is, of course, the most important thing. There’s no point contacting someone who is interested in crime novels if you write horror. It will be a waste of everyone’s time! Look for the agents who enjoy the kinds of books you write!

My personal advice is to make a list of the agents you find, with a note of who to contact and what they require to be sent – as this can vary agent to agent. If you enjoy making spreadsheets this part will be fun! 😛

Requirements

Whilst every agent does have a specific list of things they require for submission I’ve found that having these items will help you in the long run. If you’re anything like me (scatter brained), you’ll probably end up creating these documents once you’ve finished your book. If you want to be better than me (which I recommend), try creating these documents as you write and edit! It will make it a lot easier when it comes to querying:

Query Cover letter/ Email – This will be mostly standard and you’ll just need to change who it’s addressed to, with perhaps a few other amendments based on what an agent wants to know about your book. Definitely research how to write a query letter and don’t be afraid to find help. I personally have received help from fellow writers, professional consulters and a NYT best-selling author who I paid to help me!

Elevator Pitch – It can be a great idea to work on your elevator pitch before you’ve even started writing your book, to keep you on the straight and narrow! A zippy one liner about what it’s all about is both beneficial to you to remind you what you’re writing but also helpful to have on hand should an agent ask you to provide a condensed idea of what you’re work is. 

Compelling blurb – We all know how cool and snappy book blurbs can sound. After the book cover the blurb is the place readers go to check out if a story is for them. Take a look at the blurb on a few of your favourite books; what do they all have in common? Try to emulate those when writing your own and don’t be afraid to write a few different ones and edit them until you’re satisfied! 

Short synopsis (1 paragraph/1-page/3-page) – The synopsis is the writer’s White Whale. It’s also a very important document which, as you can see above, needs to be prepared in varying lengths. Personally, like a fool, I always end up writing a synopsis after I’ve finished everything else, which means having to go back through the whole story just to write down the flow of the book… to then create a synopsis. I have a very non-linear was of thinking and I always kick myself for it. I’d suggest working on a synopsis as you go, which you can then edit as you need it! A synopsis should include all the details of the story, including all the secrets and plot twists that happen. You don’t want to hide anything from the agent you’re writing to – you want to share all the fun elements of the story! Don’t forget: Your synopsis and whatever version of your book you’re submitting will need to be formatted correctly (which can impact page length); usually 12pt font with double line spacing. 

Pages of your manuscript (First 5 pages/ First 3 chapters/ First 30 pages/ Full manu.) – All agents will ask you for an example of your work to be sent to them up front. This can range from the first 5 pages to the full manuscript so make sure your whole book is finished and formatted before you start querying. The requirements are usually: 

  • Your font should be black, size 12 and in Times New Roman or Arial
  • Set your margins to 1 inch on all sides
  • Create a title page with the Book title in the centre, with your name and contact details underneath
  • Double space your entire manuscript
  • Add a header with your name, the book title and your email address
  • Add page numbers 

I’d definitely recommend you Google how to do this as well, as there are videos showing how to format Word (which can be tricky, depending on what version you have!!). 

 

This list is probably not definitive but I hope it helps anyone who is thinking about querying! A good mindset is, by far, the most important tool to have when putting yourself through the process!! 

Good luck!

 

Sam

 

 

 

 

 

Dystopian Books with a slight Coronavirus VIBE.

Sure, the Coronavirus is a little bit terrifying and a little bit silly all at once (the panic and general-public reactions, not the fact that it’s really taking people out!) but in light of all the news and mass hysteria it really got me thinking about some of my favourite books which focus on the theme of the viral-apocalypse.

Check out my top picks for some thematic reading – sure to keep you entertained and, potentially, give you some skills to surviving in this new era (I’m kidding. I hope).

Wither (The Chemical Garden, Book 1) – Lauren DeStefano

What if you knew you exactly when you would die?

In our brave new future, DNA engineering has resulted in a terrible genetic flaw. Women die at the age of 20, men at 25. Young girls are being abducted and forced to breed in a desperate attempt to keep humanity ahead of the disease that threatens to eradicate it.

16-year-old Rhine Ellery is kidnapped and sold as a bride to Linden, a rich young man with a dying wife. Even though he is kind to her, Rhine is desperate to escape her gilded cage – and Linden’s cruel father. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in what little time she has left.

Enclave (Razorland Trilogy) – Ann Aguire

New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20’s. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters–or Freaks–who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight–guided by Fade’s long-ago memories–in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs.

Outwalkers – Fiona Shaw

The border’s closed, Jake said. No one can get into Scotland, just like no one can cross the Channel . . .This is England and it’s no longer a free country. The Government can track anyone, anywhere, from a chip implanted at birth. But Jake has escaped from his Academy orphanage, and he’s got to get to Scotland with his dog, Jet. When the Outwalkers gang grabs him, they go off-grid while the Government hunts for them. The closer they get to Scotland, the more dangerous it is. Because now, it’s not only their own lives that are at stake . . .

The Maze Runner – James Dashner

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything – even the Grievers, half-machine, half-animal horror that patrol its corridors, to try and find out.

Gone – Michael Grant

In the blink of an eye all the adults disappear in a small town in southern California and no one knows why. Cut off from the outside world, those that are left are trapped, and there’s no help on the way. Sam Temple and his friends must do all they can to survive. Chaos rules the streets. Gangs begin to form. Sides are chosen – strong or weak. Cruel or humane. And then there are those who begin to develop powers . . .

If you have any recommendations for books about pandemics etc please drop them in the comments! Hope everyone is staying safe – it goes without saying; wash your hands well, don’t touch your face, and eat healthily.

Sam 🙂

Fan Fiction

What are your thoughts on fan fiction?

I know that it’s a crazy big deal on the interwebs and I have always loved the idea of it but I can hardly keep up with reading as it is, let alone open myself up to more options for sinking into fantasy fiction!

If you’re unaware of the term and world of fan fiction let me break it down for you! It’s the term used for fans of a particular existing canon (think harry potter, star wars, doctor who) who write their own versions and spin offs of the shows, films and books they like.

Honestly, I have a million fan fiction universes inside my head at all times. When I watch a film, TV show or read a book my mind instantly thinks of spin offs for each of the characters, often inserting myself into various adventures just as a way of entertaining myself when I’m doing mundane things. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember but I’ve never written any of them down. Probably because when I starting thinking these things up fan fiction didn’t exist or at least not in the way it does now!

Of course, we all know where this is leading. I want to know what your favourites are, if you have any… and I wanted to slip in that I am actually writing something right now that I’m going to release as a free download… somehow. I haven’t ironed out the kinks yet but it’s a fun side project (like I need another one) that is bringing me much joy!

So tell me your faves and link them if you wouldn’t mind. I’m going to try to dedicate some time to reading some next month!!

Sam

The writing process

I’m not about to start blathering on about how to write a book – although I can if you want me to; I certainly know how to write one! – but I am trying to be better at keeping a running commentary on my writing life… somewhere.

You see, writing is a very secluded, often lonely, process.

I can lock myself in my office and work on a manuscript for hours (accompanied by various playlists that no one in my building thanks me for), and the whole ordeal, whilst great for me – The Introvert – is not great for the whole ‘author’ life I’m trying to carve out in this fledgling world.

My whole plan for this year was to be more visible online as an author *cough cough*… I feel silly referring to myself as anything other than that blob of a girl who would rather be eating pasta and bread than anything else but author is the goal so that what we’ll go with!

In order to adhere to such a threat I thought I’d just nip over here and let you know what I’m working on. What part of the process I’m at!

A while ago I wrote a WHOLE series

And last year I began work on getting the first of the series ready to send out to agents, you see, you can’t get published without an agent so you have to convince an agent to like you and your work first and they help you sell to a publisher and then the work really starts… If you want me to write a blog post about the process of book to print please let me know. I feel like, for me, it’s something that’s quite well known but I know I’m looking at that from an insider perspective!! If you’d like me to talk about it or you have any questions about it just shout up!

Back to me (Hi, I’m an attention seeker).

Once I decided to get the first book ready for an agent I went through a first edit; which means I re-read it for the first time since writing it and changed all the things I hated (to be honest, there wasn’t that much I hated, which I think is a good sign). I then sent it out to a BETA reader who gave me some feedback and I implemented THOSE changes. And then I sent it to an editor for a consultation and THOSE are the changes I’m working on right now. So what kind of edits, you might ask?

At this point my spelling is all good but it’s things like adding a bit more information on character intention, making sure I’m not switching from night to day within a short space of time (I seem to like to do this a lot) and making sure my protagonists and villains are all on the same page – by which I mean that they’re all working for and against each other in a way that is believable and entertaining!.

The edits take a while

Because a. you wanna get it right and 2. I’m dyslexic and sometimes reading a lot of words on a computer can send my brain into a tailspin! The plus side? I LOVE the story I’m working on. I don’t want to give anything away because it’s fun to keep things under wraps but it’s a young adult fantasy adventure and I love the characters and also the location. Writing gives you the chance to visit places completely different than your own home/town/country and my overly active imagination lets me sink right into imagined worlds! If you’re a writer and you hate the cold, like me, write about hot places and all the sunshine. It does wonders for your mood!! 😛

Well – that’s what I’m up to with writing right now and I’ll be posting more on here about other projects that are coming up, and the processes, because I have two books -AT LEAST- to release this year, a potential graphic novel I want to develop and a fun and silly fan-fic story I just need to figure out where publish! (If you read fan-fic please tell me where you go for it).

Thanks for dropping in!

Sam

Book Review – Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Hi and welcome to my first book review on this site! I’m going to attempt to write a short review per book I read just for fun so stay tuned if this is your thing.

I started reading Descendant of the Crane in December but, due to the manic holiday season, I only finished it in January! For some that might not seem like a long time but for someone who likes to read a book in a week it felt really drawn out.

To be fair, I enjoyed the fact I took a while to read this as the story is so different to what I’m used to that it was nice to dwell within the pages, soaking up the atmosphere Joan created.

The Blurb:

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

The Review:

As someone who loves reading about different cultures I loved dipping a toe into this historical Chinese-themed kingdom.

From the get go the world that Joan wrote about was alive in my mind; I could see the market place thriving and the palace walls rising up around the intricate structures.

Hesina, the princess turned queen, follows the stereotypical character arc of being thrust into the unknown, struggling with change and relying on those around her, only to be stripped of all her beliefs and support to come out stronger at the end. It’s predictable in that way but not to its detriment.

The surrounding characters and twisting plot add all the extra details you need for an entertaining read and whilst there were some obvious surprises lurking around palace corridor corners the fact that each character has such a believable storyline and drive (rather that just being a sound board for the protagonist to bounce ideas off) means that some of the bigger plot twists were shocking.

At around 3/4 of the way through the story does seem to dawdle, particularly when Hesina begins to help the Sooths in the city, however the finale ramps up to reveal some un-obvious choices for other character progressions which make the story seem more real and vibrant and definitely leaves me, personally, wanting to read more about this world. I need to know what happens next!!

As someone who loves a good ‘rise above the authority’ story this one really did hit the spot – it was different, creative and vibrant. The world building and characters were complex enough for me to really sink into it and, especially when reading over the winter months, the book whisked me away to a place the flowers bloomed and the sun shone. I very much enjoyed it!

Grade: 4/5 stars

Reason: It wasn’t a 5 star book for me because, whilst I enjoyed it, there were small things that pulled me out of the story – the overused phrase of ‘death by a thousand cuts’ was jarring and Hesina herself was annoyingly stupid at times. I would have liked a little bit MORE romance as well!

2020 Book Releases

Hello friends!

I wanted to let you know what my 2020 release aspirations are just so you can mark them in your diary… haha, just kidding, but it’s nice to shout my book releases out into the void just so they’re real, y’know?

At the moment I don’t know the exact dates of these releases but it will most definitely be *after* May due to other projects I’m working on (readying a manuscript to submit to agents, trying to get my bookshop off the ground), so you can expect the following from me towards the middle of the year:

Etta – Volume 3 – Without giving too much away, the third instalment of Etta’s journey will see her trying to navigate the orphanage she found herself in at the end of Baby Steps. Despite being on her own for book 1 and 2, she always had to rely on old friends and family to help her along. How will she get on alone? Will she pull anyone else into her crazy world? You’ll have to read it to find out! Due Out: After May 2020

Seven Princes of Hell – Volume 2 – After Saul’s introduction into the world of the seven princes of hell we’ll tag along with another of the brother’s to see the world from a slightly different perspective, following the mystery of the murder and learning more about the dark destiny that awaits them all. Due out: After July 2020

Working titleEDEN‘ – A graphic novel I’ve been working on for a while in terms of character & world creation. I’m currently working on the first draft of the story so I’ll either be writing and illustrating it myself or else finding an artist looking for a collaboration project. If I do manage to find an artist to work with I image this will go to print via a kickstarter campaign instead of Amazon but we will see. I’m hesitant to release the plot idea for this at the moment so I suppose watch this space for future updates!

Apart from these self-publishing projects I’m working on a full length YA novel which I’m shopping to agents (mission: get agent, get published, repeat) as well as stoking a fire under another novel in order to get it at least part way ready for a proof reader/ editor to have a bash at it. Writing is a continuous journey of writing, editing, writing, editing, publishing, writing, writing, editing… forever! It’s none stop and it can take a long time for work to see the light of day (especially when you have a day job and three side businesses) so I’m really hoping this year is the year a lot of the work I’ve done over the past ten years starts to pay off!!!

Here’s to a very wordy year!

Sam

Reading Resolutions for 2020!

Happy new year, readers!

As the new decade begins I wanted to pop over here and make sure you all got the books you wanted for Christmas?! I did; the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was waiting for me under the tree, along with a graphic novel, a copy of Sharp Objects and the 2020 Almanac (a must for anyone who loves nature and trying to live a holistic lifestyle). Of course, they all go on top of my current TBR pile… but at least I’m starting the year with a good reading plan!

Which brings me to my reading resolutions!

I know a lot of people set reading goals, particularly on Goodreads… which I used to do until a few years ago… but I’m not actually setting a reading goal this year.

  1. Much like last year (where I only read 18 books), I’m just going to naturally read but consistently. As you know – because you’re here – I am also writing, so that takes a good amount of my time. I also work full time and am getting a second hand book shop off the ground! Adding a set amount of books will only stress me out so I’m taking a softer approach!
  2. Read more indie author books! As an indie author myself, I know how important it is to buy books from people doing it on their own and I’ve read some fantastic indie books over the years – I want to keep that up!
  3. Leave all the reviews. I haven’t left a book review in a good while. It’s helpful to writers and readers but also for me; to think about what made a book either good or bad will hopefully make me more aware of my own writing!
  4. Only buy new books from book shops, only buy other books second hand or borrow from the library. I hate buying books online from BIG companies (only when it comes to standard publication, not self publication) because it’s not supporting the economy or the world in any way! I want to keep bookshops and libraries alive so I’m going to double my efforts to show them my support this year.

In terms of this blog – I’ll be on here at least twice a month with fun things about writing, reading and all the things in between! Check out my page on Amazon and buy my books if you want to!! 😀 Don’t forget to tell me if you have any reading resolutions!

Sam

Seven Princes of Hell – Pinterest Character board

Now that Seven Princes of Hell – Saul has been out for a while I figured I’d share the Pinterest board with you!

I LOVE doing Pinterest boards for stories I’m working on. I pin ideas for places and people, helping me understand the vibe I’m going for. I’m a very visual person so it really helps me zone into the world I’m creating. I have many, many boards on the go. Some of them might be public, a hell of a lot of them are private!

I made SPoH public when the book was released because I wanted people to see what the characters look like in my head. I’m going to admit – I have no clue who any of these people are. They’re random pictures I came across on my Pinterest travels (is everyday too much?) but they spoke to me!

When I write characters I tend to shy away from very detailed descriptions. I love to throw in an eye or hair colour, a general build of body and such, but I don’t like being really detailed because, as a reader, I love just seeing what my brain comes up with when I’m reading and so I like to create the same experience with my stories.

So head on over to Pinterest to take a look – let me know what you think; do they match what you had in your mind or not? If you’re a Pinterest user don’t forget to follow the board because it will be added to as the story continues and more characters and places are introduced!

I hope you’re enjoying the book!

Sam

NaNoWriMo 2019

If you follow me on my other social media accounts you might know that I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo this year.

What’s NaNoWriMo, you may ask?! It stands for National Novel Writing Month and it’s a challenge writers both new and old take each November to practice their writing habits and write… every day… in November. The aim is to hit 50,000 words which seems like a lot, and it is. Which is why it’s a fun challenge… not selling it to you, am I?

That’s OK.

This year I am, for some inexplicable reason, ahead by a few days and I’m writing a story I both love and loathe. You know when you have an idea in your head but when you come to do said idea it doesn’t turn out the way you had envisioned? That’s currently happening to me.

I can’t say it’s a familiar feeling because most of my books go in the way I originally dreamt them, but this year the story is veering into an unknown place and I’m not particularly happy with it, but I know enough to trust my brain. It will figure it out as we go.

Every year there is a theme – I don’t think I’ve ever followed the theme before so maybe that’s part of the problem. I’ve added elements to the story to fit the theme and that’s what’s sending me on a wild goose chase… where is that plot? The theme is time travel. I love time travel. Anything in TV shows, movies and books that has time travel in it captures my attention and imagination. It’s my guilty pleasure but I’m finding that I don’t write it as well as I consume it. But do I quit? Hell no!

You see, NaNoWriMo is a time to explore writing in a friendly-competition-esque manner. It doesn’t require good writing. It doesn’t require fantastic plots and characters. It just requires words on a page which is what I excel at! The fine tuning comes later for me – my editing process is where I hammer out the details, finding the curves and lines, the shape of something within the mass of clay I’ve slung.

I would give you more details about what I’ve written but I’ll save that for a future post. Just for fun! (Although, if you’re a super sleuth you’d be able to find details somewhere online). What I will do is share with you the title – Pitch Fork.

I’ll also share with you my Pinterest inspiration board – something I love doing for each novel I work on. Finding characters and ideas within pictures really helps me visualise the story so I hope you enjoy!

Based on these little snippets of information… what do you think this book is about?