It’s publication day for Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. Yay! Happy publication day to me!
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was previously available under the title of Starry Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Just like my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series which got refreshed and re-released under new titles earlier this year, it’s one of my back catalogue books that my fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have acquired and breathed fresh life into.
If you’d like to know more about the changes, you can read my previous blog post about this here.
The prequel, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, was released last month and it didn’t make sense to have a blog tour for both when there was only three weeks separating their publication dates so, instead, we have an enormous 3-week 63-stops ‘Christmas on Castle Street’ tour. Some bloggers will review both – which is why some names appear twice – and some will review just one.
A huge thank you to Boldwood Books, Rachel Gilbey from RachelsRandomResources, the tour organiser, and everyone who is participating. Book bloggers don’t take any payment for reviewing books. They do it because they are passionate about reading and the support they provide in promoting the work of authors is invaluable.
The links and blurbs for both books are at the end of this post.
What am I doing today? I have finally learned that there’s no point trying to write on publication day as there’s so much activity on social media that it’s hard to concentrate so, for the first time ever, I have taken the day off. I still have lots to do. We had some new bedroom furniture delivered yesterday and it’s still in boxes around the house which will get unpacked later, in between me responding to all the lovely congratulations messages and excitedly checking chart positions!
Tonight I’m on a Facebook Live in conversation with my fabulous editor, Nia Beynon. It will be at 7-8pm over on the Book and Tonic Facebook page so hope you can join us.
Have a fabulous day and hope to see you later at the Facebook Live.
CHRISTMAS AT CARLY’S CUPCAKES
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.
For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…
As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?
Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?
A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.
This is a new and updated version of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which has been previously published.
Cosy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.
Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.
But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely.
With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.
But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was originally released as Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.
Anyone already signed up to my newsletter will also be included in the draw
A winner will randomly be drawn and announced on 31st August and that person will then be asked to name a hedgehog and will win the goodies
What if I win?
Boldwood Books will ask you for your chosen hedgehog name. It might be that you want to name him/her after yourself, a friend or family member. It might be that you choose the name of a family pet. Or you might get creative.
There are a few suggestions we won’t be able to accept:
Any swear words/racism/sexism or anything along those lines that is inappropriate
A hedgehog name that is already used in the first book – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – but there are only six names used: Spike, Spikette, Sonic, Mrs Tiggywinkle, Mr Snuffles and Quilly
A name that matches any of the characters in the first or second book as it would be confusing to have a person and a hedgehog with the same name!
I’m editing this book at the moment and have a part of the story saved where I will slot in the name of the chosen hedgehog so I can’t wait to hear what’s picked.
We have a name for the second (and third) book but they’re being kept under wraps for the moment. The cover for book 2 should be revealed next month but the editing process will be ongoing so the book won’t actually be ready for print for some time yet but a copy will be put aside with your name on it (and your hedgehog’s name in it!) as soon as it is.
I opened up Facebook this morning and was presented with a memory from one year ago which momentarily confused me. It was stunning bouquet of flowers but why? My birthday is in May, Mother’s Day is before that, and my wedding anniversary is in September. So what was significant about 18th June 2019 that warranted flowers? Hmm.
Then I scrolled down the memories a little further and all was revealed. One year ago today was the day Boldwood Books officially announced their first twenty authors. I’d been sitting on the news about my 9-book publishing deal for three months so it was so thrilling to see the full announcement go out and to be able to finally share the amazing news with the world. Woo hoo! You can read about the announcement here.
A year on, what a difference Boldwood have made to my writing career. After years spent languishing in the lower echelons of the Amazon charts, I have officially become an international bestseller with a Top 10 in the Kindle Canada charts, Top 20 in the Kindle UK and Australia charts, and Top 3 on AppleBooks UK. Eek! I never, ever imagined chart success like that.
My 9-book deal with Boldwood extended to a 12-book deal when I signed contract addendums this year for the rest of my back catalogue to be re-edited and re-released through them. When I first submitted to Boldwood in February last year, I was drawn to their promise to work with the author on developing their career and they have absolutely delivered on that. Earlier this year, for the first time ever, I felt like a real author.
And, thanks to Boldwood, this month I achieved a long-held dream of becoming a full-time author. A year ago, I hoped it might be possible one day. Six months before that, it seemed like an unreachable goal.
If anyone reading this is an aspiring writer and struggling, hang on in there and keep believing as you never know when it might happen for you. I wrote about my journey to publication here and it certainly had many dips in the road before I found my home with Boldwood.
My gratitude to the team at Boldwood Books is enormous, for believing in my stories in the first place and for delivering everything they promised – and so much more. They have ‘reimagined publishing’ in so many ways: by bringing out all books for all authors in all formats (eBook on all platforms, audio, paperback and now large print), by treating all authors equally whether debut or with a huge back-catalogue, and by having an individual brand and marketing strategy for each author. Everyone is friendly, supportive, passionate about what they do, and I’m so lucky to be part of the team. #TeamBoldwood which has now grown to 38 announced authors (may well be others lined up for a future announcement) is a pretty special place to be. My editor, Nia Beynon, is an absolute delight to work with and I have learned so much from her expertise in editing my work.
Happy announcement-anniversary to Boldwood and thank you. It took a lot of years and some major disappointments but I am so glad I found my home with you. The first year has been amazing beyond my wildest expectations and I look forward to a long and happy relationship.
How are you holding up? Do you ever have to remind yourself that this really is happening and not just a strange dream from eating too much cheese?
In the UK, we’re entering month 2 of lockdown. For those who work, it’s business as usual for some, immense additional volume and/or pressure for others, and there are those who find themselves furloughed or redundant and perhaps at a loose end. And many of those are turning to books.
In life before pandemic (concentrate hard and you’ll remember it), different people read at different times: before bedtime, on a commute to work, during breaks, all day (if they’re able) or perhaps only when on holiday. Before pandemic, people read for different reasons: to learn, to be challenged, to switch off, to escape. In our reality now, the latter two have never been more important.
In a survey conducted by The Reading Agency, the people responsible for World Book Night, it was revealed that over 31% of people were reading more since lockdown began. They reported a 35% week-on-week boost for paperback fiction yet a drop of 13% in adult non-fiction sales. Bookstores with an online presence are reporting phenomenal increases in online sales (Waterstones, for example, reporting a 400% week-on-week increase) and the rise in new readers in digital format has been unprecedented.
This isn’t really surprising. In a world where we are staying home to stay safe, entertainment is needed, particularly for those who aren’t working, and books are an obvious place to turn, providing hours and hours of entertainment for a small financial outlay, or even for free. I’m not surprised that it’s fiction that has seen the surge either, based on that need to switch-off and escape.
I write uplifting stories of love and friendship and, via my chart positions in AppleBooks and Amazon, I have seen a surge in readers escaping to the world of Whitsborough Bay. My amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, have massively raised my profile as an author through some wonderful recent promotions on Apple, Amazon and Kobo. The coincidental timing of these with lockdown has seen readers binge-reading the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series and then turning to my other books to continue their fix. I’ve received messages on Facebook, Twitter and by email from readers thanking me for writing these books which have lifted them and given them a much-needed escape during difficult times. I feel so humbled to think that my words – written in a time when a worldwide pandemic was the domain of a Stephen King novel rather than reality – have given someone a much-needed hug.
I have been quite astonished by the reaction. By the kind words from strangers. By the virtual hugs I’ve received to thank me for the hug my book gave them. I wanted to share some of them here, received recently on Twitter and Facebook:
There are many gorgeous reviews on Amazon and Apple too for which I am so appreciative. The kindness of strangers has been touching, heartwarming and, as I say, humbling.
I come from the school of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”. However, as an HR Professional specialising in recruitment, coaching, learning & development, I know this is an ideal and not necessarily practical. In my current role as a tutor, I constantly need to give feedback about the assignments I’ve marked and I can’t say “that was amazing” when it clearly wasn’t and hasn’t met a single one of the criteria needed to pass. However, there’s a massive difference between writing something like “this is dire and clearly you will never secure an HR role” and writing “xxx was a good start but you may have misinterpreted the next point and what I’m looking for is xxxx” The difference is constructive feedback; feedback that doesn’t destroy the student and from which they can learn.
Which brings me to the other point of the title of this blog post: the cruelty of strangers. Oh my goodness, some people can be nasty. I’ve seen some reviews of books that can only be described as vicious and it makes me wonder whether the person writing them even pauses to think that there’s a human being at whom they’re directing their venom.
I have been really lucky with most of my reviews. I confess that I do like a spreadsheet and I will admit to being a geek in keeping a reviews one for Amazon, which tells me that, at the time of writing this post, I have 518 reviews across my nine titles combined and 500 of those (96.5%) are at 5- or 4-star (416/84 respectively). Thirteen (2.5%) are at 3-star, 3 at 2-star and only 2 at 1-star (1% combined). I’m thrilled with this and it does help me think, in my insecure moments, that I might not be too shabby at this making up stories lark. But some of my lower ratings are a little cruel.
I must start with my all-time favourite insult for The Secret to Happiness. “Absolute pish” apparently. If I remember correctly, this reviewer also reviewed a book from a very big name writer and a charger for their car, all of which got the 1-star treatment. Obviously a tough customer to please. On first reading this, I’ll admit that my heart slipped down my body, ran out the office screaming and hurled itself down the stairs. And then I thought of them sitting there, so livid about their car charger and my book that they had to have such a rant yet they haven’t reviewed anything else. Nothing from Amazon has brought them 3-, 4- or even 5-star rating joy. I began to feel sorry for them. And I reminded myself that 55 x 5-star reviewers disagreed, although I can’t comment on what those lovely people might have said about the car charger 😉
Then there was this very unfair one for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms. The blurb said it has previously been released as a different title and it’s been all over social media. All the person needed to do was return it for their money back for a purchase made in error:
Also in New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, a reader took a strong dislike to my protagonist, Sarah. Yes, Sarah makes some questionable decisions but she learns from them. It’s known in writing as a character arc 🙂 Sarah is actually predominantly modelled on me and the book is inspired by a true-life story about me. That’s me told, then!
I have a scathing review on Goodreads for Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe. It’s not scathing because the person didn’t enjoy the book but because I hadn’t released it in the format of their choosing. Ouch! Okay, I admit it, the rise of eBooks as the chosen (and sometimes only) format for indie and trad-publisher releases is all my fault. I’ll take one for the team on that!
Another reader didn’t like me having cancer in my books and went to pains to point out that there are other ways that people die and listed them. The book on which she placed this review had somebody who was in remission from cancer and, across all my books, I have many other forms of death where a death is required for the plot line. Another gave me a low review because she prefers erotica and my book was a bit tame. Had she looked at my covers and read my blurbs? I have no idea what about them would possibly suggest they could appeal to someone who only reads erotica!
But I have to save my ‘favourite’ review till the end. This is actually a 3-star review for the final part in the series, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage so, rating-wise, not so bad. It’s from someone who appears to have read the whole series… and hated it – and me. I’m ‘Redland’ – the one whose voice and characters are disliked:
Why read the whole series when you “never enjoy them”. And what’s that about Ireland? It was read by an Irish proofreader and copy editor who Irish-ised it for me.
Confused by the review? Yes, I was too! And so was this reader whose comment made my day. Nice to have someone in my corner there:
I don’t think negative reviews will ever not upset me but how long they upset me for has certainly diminished over time. Everyone has different tastes and my books aren’t going to appeal to everyone who picks them up, even if my genre is usually the one they enjoy. But it would be nice if people could be a little kinder if they haven’t enjoyed what they’ve read.
In fairness, all the negative reviews I’ve placed above with the exception of one were pre-lockdown and some are a few years old. We’re all facing challenges right now and a little bit of kindness – even if the message is 1- or 2-star rating – can go such a long way.
So I’ll leave this post with a big thank you to all those strangers who are kind, who have reached out, who have picked me up at a time when I am physically, mentally and emotionally drained because my day job has doubled in volume and I’m working 12-14 hours a day 7 days a week. Your kind words have meant the world to me and I look forward to creating more characters and stories to provide you all with further comfort and escapism.
Stay home, stay safe, stay kind.
Big (safely distanced) hugs
PS All the messages and reviews are in the public domain but, in the interests of kindness, I have removed the name from the Amazon reviews. I therefore thought it only fair to remove the names from the kind comments too as this is a post about observing the differences between two approaches and not about popping anyone on the spot and making them feel uncomfortable
There’s a phrase I often use: “What a difference a day makes“. I’m not sure of the original origin (it didn’t come up on the first page of Google and I was far too lazy to look further), but it’s the title of a few songs, including the lovely Dinah Washington classic so I’ve linked it through to You Tube if you fancy a listen. The song talks about Dinah’s world changing from blue to joyous when the man of her dreams becomes hers. This isn’t usually the context in which I use the phrase myself. I tend to use it more to describe those occasional days that change an aspect of your life. For me, a very life-changing day happened exactly a year ago today (17th September). It was the day that I received my publishing deal from So Vain Books because that email and subsequent phone call made me into the published author I am today.
As it happens, I was already on the path to publication because a little over two weeks before, on 1st September, I’d received an offer of a three-book publishing deal with another company. I’d verbally accepted it and was going through the paperwork, but I had one or two concerns. Although they’d said they loved Searching for Steven, I got the sense that they wanted to change it quite significantly and I was concerned that it wasn’t going to end up the story that I set out to write. When the offer from SVB came through, my gut instinct told me that they were going to be the better home for Steven and I’ve never for one moment regretted that decision.
So that was a day that made a difference, but it’s really been a year that’s made a difference that I wanted to talk about in this blog post. It’s certainly been an eventful year. In the non-writing part of my life, there’ve been some significant events:
Both of my parents have turned 70 (well, Dad turns 70 in two week’s time but it’s nearly within the year!)
Our gorgeous cat Pixie lost her battle with diabetes and left us at the young age of nine
We took our daughter (seven at the time) on her very first holiday abroad
I was made redundant completely unexpectedly, but thankfully walked straight into another job
Hubby and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary (again, I’m extending the year slightly because it’s actually a week today but that’s close enough between friends, isn’t it?)
I re-joined bootcamp and have been rising again at 5.20am three mornings a week for the past year
Hubby decided to take his interest in photography to the next level and has grown into an incredibly talented photographer who has taken pictures at his first wedding as well as undertaking his first corporate commission. Very proud!
In the writing part of my life, I can’t believe what’s happened to me! I’ve:
Peaked at number 399 in the overall Amazon chart with Steven
Received x50 reviews for Steven and x33 for Rhys
Only got 5-star and 4-star reviews (so far; always preparing myself for that first 1-star review and promising myself I won’t sob for hours when it appears!)
Been a contributor to an anthology of short stories (Winter Tales), raising money for Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust
Appeared in the local press: The Scarborough News, The Yorkshire Coast, The Scarborough Review, and The Scarborough Comet
Talked and signed books at two libraries, and secured talks at two others
Had Steven stocked across North Yorkshire Libraries
Got Waterstones to stock Steven in the Scarborough branch
Had a launch party attended by lots of incredibly supportive and lovely friends and family
Had a blue plaque named for me (OK, so it was a DIY-special courtesy of my dad but it’s still pretty special!)
Finished my second novel, Getting Over Gary (well, it will be finished within two weeks as that’s deadline time)
Planned my second novella. (Confession: when I say ‘planned’, I mean there’s an idea in my head and I’ll just run with that and see where it takes me, but I took the same approach with Rhys and it worked so let’s hope second time will work too!)
Yes, what a difference a year makes! I still find it hard to believe that I’m a published author. It still doesn’t feel real. I wonder if it ever will. Thank you so very much to everyone who has supported me over the last year and before that too. Thank you So Vain Books for taking a chance on me, thank you to everyone who has bought/read/reviewed Steven and all those who’ve promoted and recommended it to their friends and family. You’re amazing, every last one of you. I’ve been touched and overwhelmed by how supportive some people have been. I’ll admit I’ve also been very disappointed at the lack of support from some people who I thought would have been pleased for me and passed word on. If you’re a prolific Facebook user, how difficult is it to like and share a post and say something like “My friend wrote this. I’m not a reader myself but if any of my FB friends are, it’s got great reviews so why not give it a go?” I’d certainly have done that if roles had been reversed. I won’t dwell on this, though, as this is a happy post and the non-supporters are absolutely in the minority. Plus it’s their choice. I just thought …. *slaps wrist and tells self to stop dwelling on it* Thank you to North Yorkshire Libraries for their support, particularly Sharon Houghton from Eastfield Library, and to Waterstones for ordering copies of Steven. Huge thanks to my mum, Joyce Williams, who has left postcards on noticeboards whilst on holiday, and talked so many of her village residents into buying a signed copy of the paperback. Thanks to The Write Romantics for their eternal support. And finally thanks to hubby and the munchkin for letting me disappear into my world of imaginary friends on a regular basis without moaning that I’m neglecting them xxx
A frequent discussion amongst writers is at what point you call yourself a writer or an author and it would seem there are mixed views on this. Some would say you can only call yourself a writer when you start earning money from it, some would say you’re a writer if you write non-fiction and an author if you write fiction, some would say you’re only an author when you become published, and others would say you can call yourself a writer whenever the hell you like. If you write, you’re a writer regardless of having a publishing deal or making any money from it. I’m inclined to agree with the latter; you’re a writer if you write. However, I also think of ‘author’ as being the title you almost graduate to when you become published, whether this is by the traditional route or the indie route. This is just my opinion, though, and I’m sure others feel differently.
I found it quite uncomfortable to refer to myself as a ‘writer’ for a long time. Like so many writing friends, I’d almost whisper it in apologetic terms and dismiss it as a bit of a hobby that wouldn’t go anywhere. Yet I never saw it as a hobby. It was – and is – my passion. When I started writing much more regularly (about five or six years ago), I began to properly think of myself as a writer. Yet I would always still answer the ‘What do you do?’ question with: ‘I’m a recruitment manager’ or ‘I work in Learning & Development’ depending on what the day job at the time was. I would never, EVER, say ‘I’m a writer, and I also work in HR’! Strange.
When I got my publishing deal with So Vain Books last September, I felt like I was a real writer (‘Look, Gepetto, I’m a REAL boy!’) and I had an exciting moment basking in the proud congratulations of friends and family on Facebook. But I was away in a hotel with the day job when it happened, fighting with a crap wifi connection, and it all seemed very unreal. And also very far away!
The months have whizzed by, though, and we’re less than a month away from the launch of my debut novel ‘Searching for Steven’. Two weeks ago today, I had my first real author moment. So Vain Books did my cover reveal. I knew it was coming. I’d seen ideas for the design last year and had been party to changes and tweaks since, but this was the first time my friends and family would see it. I woke up to a lovely email from my Publishing Director, Steph, to remind me that it was cover reveal day … and to ask me if I’d like to have the book placed up for pre-order too. Eek! I felt so excited at that moment that I could have burst.
I then had to go to work so it was down to earth with a bump. Intermittently, I checked Facebook, but there was no sign of the reveal. I wondered if there’d been a technical hitch on Amazon to launch the Kindle pre-order (the book will be available for pre-order later). Then, at the very end of the working day, I thought to look on Twitter and it turns out it had been revealed there eight hours earlier! Can’t believe I never thought to look. I couldn’t wait to get to my Mac and do my own reveal with links to the pre-order. My hands were actually shaking as I started to receive congratulations messages, promises to buy it, promises to buy the paperback … and then those little notifications from Amazon announcing ‘I bought Searching for Steven by Jessica Redland’. Oh my goodness! People were actually buying my book! (And you can pre-order if here if you like!) It was such an incredible feeling. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face all evening.
My younger brother shared the link on his Facebook page and two of his friends ‘liked’ my writer page and another five pre-ordered the book. How amazing is that? These people don’t know me, but they made the purchase!
I’ve checked out my chart position on Amazon and it was really exciting to see it reach 5,244 on the overall paid Kindle chart on day 3 of the release. That may not sound much but there are hundreds of thousands of books in that chart so I’m beside myself with excitement on that. I can’t see my sales in terms of actual numbers, but my publisher can and they advised me on Monday morning (after just a weekend on sale) that I’d already sold 17. There certainly weren’t 17 friends and family members who’d downloaded it by that point (as I know many want signed paperbacks) so some of those people must have been strangers. That’s quite an overwhelming thought. I’m determined not to get hung up on sales figures and chart positions. I know it takes a heck of a lot for a debut writer to get high sales and chart positions. They’re important and, of course I’d love to get the top 100, but I just want to enjoy the experience. This is my dream and it’s come true! If I become obsessed with clicking on Amazon constantly, I’ll suck the joy out of this amazing thing that’s happening to me.
If you’ve bought already, can I say a massive big fat THANK YOU to you for your support. I really hope you enjoy the read xxxx
Last Monday, I posted my new pen name of Jessica Redland. A big decision but it felt right. It’s been a whirlwind of activity since then. I moved the blog over to my new name which is quite a challenge for someone who isn’t always the best with technology. Trying to change my Gravatar was probably the trickiest bit because I thought I’d changed it all yet it still kept appearing on the page as my old one. Grr. Someone solved that. Twitter was surprisingly easy and Facebook was about setting up a brand new profile off my new email address so that was easy too.
Remembering to log on and off between names is difficult, especially for someone with a memory like a sieve. But I’m getting there.
My husband keeps calling me Jessica Rabbit which amuses me greatly. (If you don’t know who she is, click here). There are several comparisons I can make to Jessica Rabbit – the name, the red hair and the curves. Unfortunately the red hair isn’t real but out of a bottle in a desperate attempt to hide the grey and the curves are about four dress-sizes too big! I started a very, very, VERY strict diet yesterday so hopefully it won’t be long before it’s three dress-sizes too big, then two …
This name-changing thing has caught on as another fellow-Write Romantic has decided to change her writing name too. You can read about it here. Loving the new name of Harriet James. Very writer-ly! Out of the nine of us, four have pen-names and one writes in her maiden name so we’re on very common ground here.
Names aren’t the only thing that have changed for The Write Romantics. We launched a new-look blog which has received some great comments.
I’ve been home alone for nearly an hour this evening. My husband left for archery 50 minutes ago and my daughter hasn’t been dropped off from her Nana’s yet. The cats haven’t yet reached point in the evening where they stare at me and squeak annoyingly until I relent and feed them so all is calm and quiet. Which would be the perfect time to sit down and write. Yet how have I spent this time? I need some tea so I managed to spend about 5 minutes putting a pie and chips (hmm, healthy!) into the oven but they’re not going to be ready for 20 mins so I haven’t spent any time eating yet. I’ve changed out of my work clothes which took all of a minute. And I’ve responded to a text so that’s probably about 7 mins accounted for. As for the rest? I’ve flicked around on Yahoo! news, checked my empty email inbox several times, done a Bitstrips on Facebook and stared at my news feed for a very long time waiting for someone to say something interesting. Which, incidentally, they haven’t. As in nothing has appeared as opposed to someone has said something that I rudely deem uninteresting.
So why am I wasting this really valuable writing time?
Several years ago, I met a writing friend. As a single mum with a young daughter, she was taking some time out of work and I used to envy her the days she could spend in writing heaven, particularly when her daughter was at nursery and then school. I, on the other hand, was commuting several hours a day and working long hours in a demanding job so time was exceedingly precious. Yet we used to often discuss how funny it was that sometimes I could get more writing done in a week than she could and we concluded that, the more time you have, the more time you waste. Well, maybe not waste but you do find other things to do. When your writing time is snatched, as mine was, you tend to just knuckle down and make the most of it.
I decided to pack in my crazy commute and long hours a couple of years back and after a couple of job changes, I’ve now settled into a role that’s very local. So local that I finish work at 5pm and am home by about 5.20pm. Luxury. Especially for someone who spent 4.25 hours of her day commuting this time two years ago! So now that I have the luxury of time, I should be getting a lot more writing done. But I’m not. Yet I am spending most evenings in the office in front of my computer so why am I not upping my word count?
Some of my time can be accounted for. I run a Brownie pack so that rules out a Monday evening and I need to spend some time planning. But I’ve been doing that for 4.5 years. It’s part of my routine. I also have responsibilities for The Write Romantics blog and regularly communicate with the group on our closed Facebook page (our support network). But we’ve just celebrated our one-year anniversary. So that’s part of my routine too. I’ve started this blog but, realistically, I post less than once a week and blogging is also part of my routine. In February last year, I started a bootcamp and blogged about it after every session until I stopped going in January this year. That’s four times a week! Now we’re maybe talking three times a month. So that’s also part of my normal routine and is a lesser commitment than it used to be.
So, I work shorter hours, I don’t commute, my other responsibilities haven’t changed (become fewer if anything) and I do spend every evening in front of the computer. Yet I’m getting less writing done. Deep down, I know the reason why. There are actually two reasons and, if we really need to give them a label, we’d probably say “crisis of confidence”.
Let me explain …
It took me over a decade to write my first novel. During that time, it got submitted to the NWS twice (to great reviews), went to some beta readers (also to great reviews), was pitched to two editors at the RNA Conference last summer (both of whom wanted the full MS) and is now out there seeking a publishing deal. I’m happy with the book and on up-beat optimistic days, I convince myself that it’s going to find a home because other writing friends who have submitted to certain publishers after me have had regrets already which would indicate I’m in a process and successfully progressing through various stages. (I hope! It sounds more pleasing than the idea that it’s still on the slushpile completely untouched!)
BUT … and it’s a big BUT which is why I’ve put it in capitals … I had that “difficult second book” to write. And I’d set myself up for an even bigger challenge by making it a sequel. A double viewpoint one too. All change! I’d learned so much about the writing process during the book 1 decade that I actually wrote book 2 in seven months! I had my beta readers lined up and I have to say that I was more nervous about them reading book 2 than I had been about book 1. What if they didn’t think it was as good? What if they didn’t like the dual viewpoint? (Which would be a big EEK for book 3 which would be told in triple viewpoint). What if they didn’t think there was sufficient storyline to make a sequel? My relief was incredible when they all loved it. Phew. The ultimate test, though, would be the submission to NWS. As I submitted early in the process (you have until end August), I naively thought it would be back with me in a few weeks. I was completely forgetting that the reviewers are writers themselves with their own deadlines and it was very possible I may be delayed by one of those. It turns out I have been although it will be posted back to me this week. I’ve therefore been in this limbo knowing that my readers liked it (yippee) but wondering if the critique may come back full of development areas. Until I know this “professional” verdict, I’m almost afraid to progress with book 3 (which I’m a third of the way through).
Book 3 is the final book in the series and, as I’ve already said, is told from three points of view but, in its early draft form, I’m looking at it and feeling it’s too episodic i.e. we run from something happening in person 1’s life, then to person 2’s, then back to 1, then 3, then 2, then 3 again and so on. It felt like something was missing. Then I realised what that something was. My main character’s character arc. She doesn’t change by the end of the book. She doesn’t learn something. Well, she does change and she does learn something but not in the way she should for a character arc to really satisfy. I know what the arc will be but that means shifting round some key events and, typically, they’re the events that have already happened which means some major re-work. Do I do this now or do I just finish writing then shift it around?
That’s it, then. That’s the problem. I’m scared of what my critique of book 2 will reveal and I’m being overly critical of what I think would be revealed if book 3 was about to be critiqued and both those things together have put me in ostrich mode where I’m simply avoiding writing because that’s easier than facing up to the fact that I may be a one-book-pony! Ok, ok, stop shouting at me. I know I’m not really. I know my beta readers loved book 2 and, actually, so did I when I read through it (so much more refreshing than having read book 1 about a million times) and I know book 3 has great potential but is just going to be a little longer and more challenging to construct than book 2. Mind you, as long as it’s not longer than book 1, that’s fine by me!
I’m actually feeling better for having put fingers to keyboard. It’s probably the most writing I’ve done this month and it feels good to let it flow. I’ve now had my tea, I’m about to wash my daughter’s hair and sort out bedtime routine but, at 8pm, she’ll be going to sleep and all will be quiet (once I’ve fed those pesky cats) so that’s a great opportunity to get cracking and do some writing. Face my demons. Conquer this thing. Although fellow Write Romantic Helen Phifer’s second novel ‘The Secrets of the Shadows’ was released yesterday and, according to my Kindle, I’m 32% of the way through it. Just like her debut, ‘The Ghost House’, it’s really gripping. Maybe I’ll just finish that first …..