Hello Everyone, I know I’ve been particularly quiet on here recently but trust me, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes!
Over the last few months, I’ve been plugging away at my current work in progress – a thriller set in a secluded landscape in the UK – and I’m so pleased to have finally finished the first draft of my adult thriller!
I was initially writing the first three chapters, as a writing exercise, when a trusted reader really wanted to know what had happened to one of my main characters. Hopefully, I’ll do them justice when the final draft is complete.
Alongside this, I’ve been editing my first book Burn at the Rootsand looking at various cover designs that would best suit the genre. It’s so exciting to finally start looking at what my book will look like!
Whenever I’m writing, I tend to take a break from reading in case any ideas overlap into my writing. I love to read but it’s something I really struggle with when I’m working on a project.
If you would like to see additional pieces of my writing on here, feel free to drop me a comment.
I also use Ko-Fi, where some smaller snippets of my daily writing can be found. If you want to support my writing journey, you can also do that on there too by buying me a coffee! My writing is mainly fuelled by coffee so any donations are always really appreciated.
I just wanted to end this post with a big thank you to all those who currently support me.
I may have been a little quiet on here but I’ve been extremely busy behind the scenes writing new content that I think you’re going to be excited about.
Over the last few weeks this question has been dangling over me like a carrot. Self-publishing seems to promise me, readers and full ownership of my book but is it really too good to be true?
This form of publishing is one of the routes I’ve been itching to try all along but often felt like it had a negative stigma attached to it.
I’m currently in between querying my first YA novel and whilst I’ve been spending time writing another book, I’ve noticed a few things about my writing style.
I prefer writing for adults.
I prefer the freedom I have with my audience but it’s made me question what to do with my YA book. I know I would’ve loved reading something like this when I was growing up and if it were successful, I already have a series in mind for it. So, I still want to try and publish my book, but which route is best for it?
Free Reign of Your Book
When I say free reign, I mean it.
Self-publishing allows you to literally do what you want with your book. From editing, to production, to marketing. It’s all yours to play around with. For me the concept of making my book look exactly how I want it to and marketing it in a way I think will work best, is like music to my ears. The more involved I am in my book, the better.
However I know not everyone will see it in this way. It can look daunting to someone who’s never tried to create book covers or market their work before, yet alone if your IT skills aren’t the best. It’s also worth considering the time it would take to get all of this up and running in comparison to getting published the traditional route. It could mean more work on production and marketing your book than writing it.
Publishing Houses v Self-Publishing
Doing all of the work means you’re going to need your novel to stand out from the crowd. This will be full of not only other self published authors but indie presses and publishing houses. Although publishing houses may validate the quality of your writing for some people, that doesn’t mean that everyone will view your writing in this way.
Yes you will instantly have a platform if you’re traditionally published to some extent. However, if you self-publish you can still have a platform. In fact, because it’s your book, you’ll probably spend more time promoting it than a publishing house would, meaning a larger audience overall with possibly more engagement.
The Profits of Publishing.
For some it might come down to the price of publishing. In traditional publishing, the average royalties for a new author can range from 7.5% – 12% depending on experience and genre. In self-publishing however, royalties can range from 35% – 70% according to KDP.
A big difference right?
Before you think it’s a no brainier, don’t forget to look at further details. Each book will have its own amount of VAT and tax and may also incur postage costs too. Not only this but once you’re at the end of the tax year, you’ll have to sort your own finances to ensure you’re not doing tax invasion.
Sound like a faff? Stick with traditional publishing. Not fazed? Then look further into self-publishing.
If these points haven’t fazed you or have even excited you about self-publishing, then I’d recommend taking a closer look into the industry. Hopefully I’ve opened your eyes to some of the nitty-gritty parts of self-publishing that you might not have considered before. Only you know whether it’s worth persevering for.
For me personally? I know my audience engagement would be better online and may attract more YA readers. So for me, I’ll take a closer look into self-publishing and if I gain more readers by self-publishing then so be it. For me, it’s all about the readers when it comes to my writing.
I’m sure you’ve seen it by now. It’s between Christmas and New Year. The decorations are coming down, the inspiration is building and your motivation is beginning to peak.
At this point, remember that slow and steady wins the race. Most people ignore this and jump straight in. It can be great at first, your motivation is all shiny and new, you even see results fast! However as the weeks progress, your motivation dwindles and your progress begins to plateau.
All of your intentions were right, right from the very beginning, but your execution? That could do with a tweak.
At work, we are always told to use SMART targets. It stands for Specific Measurable Accountable Realistic and Timely. It might seem like a lot more effort creating goals in this way but they can be easy to do once you’ve had a little practise. For example:
Specific – I want to run 5k / I would like to write a book
Measurable – I will run twice a week to begin with / I will create a chapter breakdown of my book’s plot.
Accountable – I will complete my runs after work / I will allow 1 hour each morning to write.
Realistic – I will use my time after dinner to achieve this goal / I will use 1 hour before bed if I am unable to write in the mornings.
Timely – I will complete a 5k run for a charity event/ I will complete my novel in one year.
If you set yourself a goal like this each month, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll achieve your goals. Not only that but you won’t run out of motivation by running straight into what you want.
Give this a go and let me know in the comments with how you got on!
With influencers rapidly increasing their net worth, it begs the question – What’s happening to all the bloggers?
It was only recently that I started to discover that some bloggers – not all may I add – began to describe themselves in this way when their main source of traffic was via Instagram.
With #bookbloggers as one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, it’s made me wonder… Are bloggers leaving their blogs for grid-style Insta?
I flicked straight to my WordPress account and began to scroll through all of the blogs I could find in relation to either writing or reading.
It was eye-opening.
I was showered with blogposts that showcased creative writing (short stories, prose, poetry, flash fiction…).
Although great to see, I wanted to find something that resembled the online article structure that I tried to use within my own blog.
I kept scrolling and came across bloggers who posted regularly. The catch?
The posts were really short.
After a good twenty minutes of searching the web, I managed to find some book blogs that resembled a larger showcase of their Instagram pages. They were filled with their monthly book goals, brief reviews and their views on plot, theme and narrative.
I’d found the book blogger that I used to love.
I clicked a like and follow on their blog straight away and felt instantly assured.
Looking through the blogosphere really reinforced why I love blogging so much. The blogs were clearly the writer’s own space within the digital world to ponder their thoughts.
It was refreshing to see; they reminded me of a digital diary that gave me an insight into the writer’s thoughts and beliefs.
I always used to think that a blog had to be long and focused around a key idea or theme.
Now I’m noticing that it’s great to add multiple visuals, whether that’s images or videos, and that size doesn’t really matter when it comes to word count.
In fact, they can come in all shapes and sizes and they’re all a joy to read.
And yes, that includes the short posts too!
But don’t take my word for it, have a look yourself.
Go to WordPress.com, Medium or Tumblr and search a topic you want to read about. I’m almost certain you’ll find a something of interest.
This beautiful balance is sometimes really tricky to achieve and has become even more difficult when working remotely.
Thankfully, I found something that works for me and hopefully it’ll work for you too!
Stick to your timings – whether you work 9-5 or you spend each morning on your writing, make the time for it. Then, once that time has hit, stop working and start living. Admittedly this seems a little cut throat at times BUT it can be effective.
Create a commute – once you’ve finished work, go for a walk around the block. This will be a way for your mind to wind down, reflect on the day and to prepare yourself for home life. This worked so well for me during lockdown, definitely worth trying!
Create a list! – After work we can sometimes have work preying on our minds. Oh I forgot to photocopy that, argh I meant to write 20 pages instead of ten! Writing a list will allow you to express these worries and begin to consider how to tackle them. Once you know how, you’ll find yourself at ease and will allow yourself to relax whilst enjoying your home life.
You’ve probably came across some of these ideas before, and that’s absolutely fine… but did you try any? If not then now’s the time, but don’t worry… it’s better to be late than never.
Give these ago for a full week and see if any of them significantly impact your work life balance.
If you have your work life balance down and you’re just being curious, don’t be selfish! Share your great ideas! Drop your comments below for any other work life hacks for others to use!
First lines matter. Whether they are in a blog post, a newsletter or a novel, the first line is crucial.
Whilst you’re in the editing phase of your writing, it can be easily forgotten to revise your first line. The first line will have different purposes in various texts but there is one thing it needs to be. Good.
Your first line, if writing for a newsletter or a blog, must intrigue your reader and invite them to read more. Your purpose here is to keep them reading right until the very end. A great way to revise your first line is to read your writing as a reader. Would you be interested? Would it stop you scrolling? What could you add to the line to make it more gripping? If you’re still unsure, it could be worth letting someone read the first line to give you another point of view. They may even see something that you didn’t.
If however you are revising a first line of a novel, the aim and purpose of your writing may be different. Your goal, as a writer, is to lose your readers in your novel. Allow your readers to become invested in your characters and don’t settle for anything less. Although you still need to grip the reader with your opening lines, you have a variety of techniques open to you. Here are a few that you may wish to try:
Surprise the reader
This type of hook causes the reader to raise questions or surprises them by catching them off guard. A great example of this is from Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit: ‘It was a pleasure to burn’. The concept that some would like the feeling of burning seems very unusual. The sentence itself could also suggest that someone likes the action of burning something. As your mind begins to question alternatives, it has sparked the interest of the reader to keep reading.
Begin with dialogue
This can also have a similar effect on the reader as it can catch the reader off guard. An example of this can be seen in the opening lines of Rose Macauley’s, The Towers of Trezibond: ‘”Take my camel dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass’. The animal itself may surprise the reader in this sentence, as well as Aunt Dot’s previous actions. Using dialogue in your first line brings your readers straight into the action and provides them with wanting to figure out what is happening and why.
Setting the Mood and Atmosphere
Although this technique may seem simple, it can be really effective when used correctly. Louise Erdrich does this beautifully in Tracks: ‘We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.’ In this first sentence Louise Erdrich has managed to set the sombre mood perfectly by using the setting to help set the tone and atmosphere. This technique can work really well with the show don’t tell principle, as the sentence has given its readers an insight to what is to come.
Another suggestion could also be to revise what you like to read yourself. If you love a particular author like Lee Child or John Grisham, look at how they start their first lines. How did they interest you? Why did you want to read on? This technique also works if you are wanting to write a blog post or newsletter. If you follow several blogs, which article did you really enjoy and how did it start?
Once you have tried a few of these techniques, reflect on your work and see if any of them work for you. Remember the best way to get your writing noticed is to make your writing the best it can possibly be.
Follow me on Instagram @cbarkerwriting for writing tips on a daily basis.
I used to think I knew how to develop my characters. Writing character profiles was the way to do it. Before I would begin writing, I knew what my characters looked like, their hobbies, where they lived – I even knew their favourite food. However after reflecting on these profiles, I cannot help but ask, how have these profiles helped me? In all honestly – they didn’t. Not only was I stuck with two-dimensional characters, I had also sucked all of the fun out of my writing.
E.L Doctorow describes writing as, ‘it’s like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ What struck me the most about this advice is how it appeals to character development. By completing character profiles in-depth, I knew the full route of my novel which in turn, made it seem boring. It has been suggested that to understand how your characters will react to certain events, they must be placed directly into them. How else would we know if our characters are truly brave? It is for this reason that I believe that only when we have finished writing a novel, that we gain a stronger understanding of our characters.
Sometimes when we really search deep for our characters, it can leave the writer vulnerable and open to criticism. It could therefore be argued that as a writer, we know how in-depth we need to be but scarcely do it out of fear of failure. Remember writers, ‘failure is the ingredient you have to have,’ argues Howard Jacobson and rightly so. How else would we know if our writing is good or bad? We need to be able to push past the failures in order to achieve success.
Judy Blume explains how significant a character is to a plot as they are inseparable. ‘Without a clear sense of who a character is […] the reader will be unable to appreciate the significance of your events, and your story will have no impact.’ With the understanding of how important characterisation is, it is no wonder that writers may struggle to leave themselves vulnerable on the page. It is however something that we all must do to develop our writing. So next time you find yourself feeling vulnerable within your writing, remind yourself that you’re growing as a writer.
One by One by Ruth Ware, Hardback (signed), 352 pages, Waterstones, £12.99
One by One is a cosy novel, perfect for those winter nights. The novel begins by following two characters and their journeys that bring them to the luxury cabin, in St. Antoine. After an avalanche cuts the guests off from the village below, it’s not soon after when guests keep disappearing one by one.
Interestingly Ruth Ware uses several perspectives in One by One. Readers follow the perspective of Erin, the chalet host and Liz, a shareholder in a tech company. Having two perspectives is a new structure for Ware’s novels. However, these perspectives are vital to the plot and the development of her characters. Both perspectives are needed to demonstrate a staff’s point of view, as well as a guest in the lodge. As the novel unfolds and clues are given to the reader, he dual perspectives are used at times to compliment the plot twists. This is certainly a new technique that Ware has explored well within her writing of One by One.
Although Ware writes crime novels, I cannot help but acknowledge that my favourite characters hers are humorous. My favourite character in this novel was Danny. His passion and personality are clearly shown through his actions and dialogue. Danny adds a humorous touch to even the darkest of scenes. At times he can be relatable and sometimes acts like he is projecting the readers thoughts onto the page. Perhaps this is why his character is so amusing…
Location and Setting
A significant detail that continues to be shown in all of Ware’s novels, is her use of setting. Whether it’s Northumbrian forests, a stately home or the French Alps, Ware always uses her setting carefully and strategically. The Earth’s elements always seem to provide good ground for a crime novel and what better setting for One by One than the French Alps? Furthermore with the use of skiing jargon and a little bit of French sprinkled in, emphasises the research that has been taken to deliver such mesmerising landscapes and scenes.
As winter still settles amongst us and many of us are working from home, what could feel better than reading a novel with people stranded in one cabin that are beginning to get a little cabin fever.
Whether you find this read as escapism or as relatable is entirely up to you…
Last week I was so pleased to see a smart stripy parcel slip through my letter box. The packaging itself looks as good as the designs for your stationery. As I began to open the parcel I could feel the enjoyment and anticipation of seeing my personalised design. The little note from Papier is also a nice touch and gives your parcel a more personal appeal.
Although there was no paperback option for my diary, I absolutely love my hardback diary. The matt finish allows the design to speak for itself. The perfect bound makes for a crisp book and allows for a ribbon bookmark to be placed in the diary.
As a writer who primarily uses lined paper, I was anxious at first to write on plain paper. However after really looking at the space given and the type of notes I wish to include within my diary, I don’t think that the blank pages will be a problem.
Each month begins with your goals for the month, a to-do list, important dates and a wish list. This is really handy if you need to see quickly whether it is going to be a hard or busy month. This check up page is also great to spur on your motivation for finishing projects or training for a sport event.
At the beginning of the diary, there is a month to view, for the full year. This makes it incredibly easy to see birthdays, big events and deadlines, without flicking through each page.
At the very end of the diary there are also some lined pages for you to use as you wish.
Although Papier’s diaries have a lot to offer, it has to be personalisation and their designs that I love the most about Papier. I know so many people who have either a name that is spelt slightly different or that have a different cultural name (either from Europe or further afield) that find it difficult to find personalised items. Papier however removes this worry and allows personalisation to anyone who wishes to acquire it.
I also love the design of my diary and I mean love! I am so pleased that Papier give credit to the artists as it allows you to look further into the artist who created your design. My design is by Rachael Cocker and is called Blooms of Joy. After surviving two national lockdowns in the midst of a pandemic, a Bloom of Joy is exactly what I need.
Since the beginning of lockdown I have began writing letters to friends and close relatives to help combat loneliness during this challenging time. Lets hope that they like Papier as much as I do! To have a look at all of their designs visit: www.papier.com and find your own personalised diary for the new year!
Welcome to second instalment of Coffee Break. In this instalment the main focus will be looking at how dialogue works within prose and what we can do to make our dialogue clearer and flow with ease.
Many of us sometimes question whether when a new person speaks, we should start a new line. Admittedly this should really be happening but sometimes, when we get lost in our character’s minds it can be tricky to decipher who is really speaking. I have recently read a novel by Ruth Ware who uses the confusion of her dialogue to give the reader a hint that the narrator might not be who they say they are (Review can be found here). This further highlights how the structure of dialogue can be confusing, but can be used to complement your plot.
This quote was given to me by my lecturer at Teesside University who always used this as a rule of thumb. He explained how sometimes the reader needs to see a little bit of description whilst dialogue is still taking place. Consider this: Would you watch a play if the characters didn’t move and just read their lines? Would you even consider this a play at all? I know I wouldn’t. The reader can find out a lot about your characters in these descriptions. It could be that your character is saying one thing but their actions are saying something completely different.
When you are structuring your own dialogue, try to create a new line every time another character talks. By doing this your dialogue will be clear for the reader. Once you have your dialogue in your work clear on the page, go through the dialogue and add a little description every 6 lines. Again this will give your readers something else to consider and might sprinkle more depth to your existing characters.
Accents and Dialects
Sometimes including these within your work can add depths to your characters and give your readers a sense of purpose of where they are from and their upbringing. The important element to this however is making sure that your readers can still understand every detail. For example, where I live people love to eat Parmos. However if not everyone knows what a Parmo is then the concept of using this within language is lost.
Round of applause for anyone who does know what a Parmo is – they’re great.
Write a brief piece of dialogue about two people that get talking in a queue in the airport. These people can be from opposite places (ie. someone from Newcastle and someone from Cornwall) or you could have two people who are different ages (one could be in their teens and another could be an elderly man/woman). When you are writing this dialogue, try to think of their accent and how their perceptions of the world will come into play in their discussion.
Please let me know how you get on with these writing prompts, as I am interested to see what you have come up with! The next instalment of Coffee Break will involve a different writing focus but until then, sit back, enjoy a coffee and get writing!