The Story Of A Book

While I await and fully expect a complete set of rejections from the small publishers I have submitted The Tree Of Rebels to, I am not resting on my laurels, not for one moment. I am busy planning my launch for this YA dystopian novel, when I inevitably place it with Pronoun, along with my other books. (If you’re interested in my book launch plan, you can read about it here )

I am hoping for a July, possibly August release. At the moment I am having the cover looked at and having an illustration added to the back of the book. I am also reading the book on my kindle to check for any last lingering typos. It’s all systems go, and if I do self-publish again, I predict the next few months to be both hectic and a lot of fun.

But this all got me thinking about the journey this book has had. From the first seed of an idea to the almost finished and ready to be released product. It’s had more ups and downs than any of my other novels and has been a love/hate project in more ways than one. So for the fun of it, and for those who are interested in how an idea becomes a book, here is the story of a book from start to finish. This book, The Tree Of Rebels.

  • A seed is sown. Sometime in 2014 I became interested in the controversy surrounding companies like Monsanto and the altering and patenting of seeds. I’m not going to go into the details here and now, but after reading, researching and signing all the petitions that came my way, I found a seed had planted itself in my head and was starting to grow. I began to imagine a future world where many of my fears had come true. Where people were even more disconnected from nature, had no idea what or who destroyed the old world, and were all living in blind, grateful happiness for the ‘utopia’ the survivors exist in. Then I imagined a young girl finding something she shouldn’t…
  • A character is born…Having read and enjoyed books like The Hunger Games and The Giver, at this time I was devouring dystopian fiction and so were my daughters. I wanted to write a book that would interest them and I wanted to create a character who they could relate to. Lissie Turner is a rebel at heart, only she doesn’t know it to begin with. I went on a long journey with this kid, getting to know her, draft by draft, watching her develop, and encouraging her to resist and rebel.
  • A book was plotted…During 2015 I plotted The Tree Of Rebels in a notebook. I arranged a timeline, wrote character bios, decided on themes, and started to write scenes and pieces of dialogue. I also had a ton of research to do…

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  • It all began on Wattpad…The very first draft of this book was written straight onto Wattpad, with people reading and commenting as I went. I shared the chapters to social media and tried to stick to a schedule of writing a chapter a day. I even had one lovely reader design a fantastic cover for me, which provided the inspiration for the cover I later had put together.
  • It got hijacked by another book…Just as I was about to start writing The Tree Of Rebels I got an idea for another book. I really did not want this to happen. I was all geared up to write this dystopian adventure that would surely enthral my daughters when a new idea and a very persistent character started knocking. The idea for Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature was so strong, I had to start writing things down instantly. And so began to two-year battle between these two very different novels. With me working on one, only to hand it over to betas and work on the other, then swap around and so on. This was not easy!
  • Every time I thought I was finished, I wasn’t…If you are a loyal reader of this blog (and wow, thank you if you are!) then you will already know how many drafts this novel has had. So many I have lost count. Every time I got to the end, it still didn’t feel right. I ended up leaving it alone for months, while I finished Elliot Pie and started another YA novel set in the present day, and at that time I had no inclination whatsoever to rewrite The Tree of Rebels. I’d had enough of it.
  • When I picked it up again, I realised it was done…Funny, that. After finishing what I hoped was the last draft of Elliot Pie and sending to a final beta reader, and completing the messy first draft of the present day YA novel, I decided to look at The Tree of Rebels again. Was it useless? Did it need an entire rewrite? Would it ever see the light of day? And weirdly, when I read it through, I felt something I had not experienced before with this book. Relief and satisfaction and a sense of letting it go. I amended a handful of typos and left everything else alone.
  • I’m proud of the messages in this book…I am proud of this book. Finally. It’s been a long and difficult slog. I’ve struggled with so many aspects of it. I am currently reading it through and enjoying it. I like Lissie Turner and I think her journey into rebellion is an important one.
  • Nearly there now…All that is left to do is finish the read-through, amend any typos and send the document to the lovely girl who does my formatting for Pronoun. I will also send it to the other lovely girl who does my Createspace formatting. The cover is basically done but we’re just playing around with fonts at the moment, and there will be an extra illustrationo at the back of the book. My launch plan is written and in the next few weeks, I will decide a date for release!

And that’s it. That’s the story of this book. That’s the journey it has had; from an idea that grew while scrolling through my Facebook feed… to something that is almost ready to be released into the world.

Social Media, Distraction and Guilt

Me and social media have had a bumpy ride to date. There was the initial stand off, followed by sluggish efforts, which were then followed by a relationship that can only be described as love/hate. In this day and age, social media is essential for indie authors who want to connect with more readers and build a following. I accepted this early on, but I didn’t have to like it. It felt really odd in the beginning. I needed to be active on as many sites as possible, but didn’t really want to be on any. The whole networking thing was a complete mystery to me and I didn’t know where to start. And then when I did make the brave move of starting this blog, joining Twitter and setting up a Facebook author page, I found I had two main problems. I didn’t know what to post and when I did post, I was just talking to myself!

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These days things are very different. I’m happy to report I now have a far more positive and realistic relationship with social media. I have my little following, for which I am extremely grateful. I have learned what to post and when to post, and hopefully, I maintain likes, follows and engagement, by posting interesting things!

The problem I have these days is a little different, and it might be one you are familiar with. Social media, now that I have fully embraced it, is one major distraction, for which I feel endless amounts of guilt. Know the feeling?

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As a new author, I started with this blog, Facebook and Twitter, but I obviously wanted to spread the word far and wide, so I collected a few more here and there. Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Wattpad. And just last week, I added a shiny new one to the social media collection, Instagram.

I thought it would kick me up the bum a bit to try a new one. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that. And as I already mentioned, the problem I have these days is rather different to the one I had in the beginning, where I viewed promoting via social media as a kind of cold sell out that somehow devalued what I was trying to do. These days, the problem is it is too tempting to be on as many as possible and for as long as possible!

It’s great that I genuinely enjoy social media these days, but it can be incredibly addictive and it can be hard to strike the right balance.

A while back I deleted Facebook from my phone as I was scrolling through my feed and posting things all through the day, and this was making me feel constantly depressed and angry about the state of the world, as well as terribly guilty for being on my phone whilst I have a beautiful little boy to care for.

I felt much better after it was gone. I limited myself to social media in the evenings only, a bit before writing and a bit after.

But now I’ve got Instagram on the phone. And…um, Facebook is back too.

I have to be strong though, and keep reminding myself that I am on both of them for business, ie book promoting reasons, only. I don’t have the time to go scrolling through feeds all day and missing time with my child. If I only have a few minutes here and there in the evening, then that’s all I’m going to get. Of course, I would love to spend hours and hours on social media, finding interesting articles on Twitter and Medium to share to my pages. I would love to be pinning all day and adding to my boards, and I won’t even go into how joining Instagram has had me viewing everything in hashtags since last week. It’s just weird!

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So, how to you avoid getting totally distracted by social media and then feeling guilty as a result? My advice is to set yourself rules and stick to them!

You don’t need to post on all of them, all of the time. I posted on Instagram for the first time a few days ago. I decided to start off I would post a series of photos in the style of a ‘day in the life’ type thing, I took pictures of things that happen in my life every day, ie walking dogs, baking, gardening, parenting, and at the and of the busy day, writing followed by reading. This was really fun to do. But now I intend to leave it alone until I next think of something worth posting, for example, scenes that inspire or are in my books, front covers, extracts of work, events and so on. I don’t want to get addicted to it as a site.

The same applies to Pinterest. It is very addictive and a lot of fun to play around with, but I only dip in and out when I need to. This is the sort of site you can totally ignore until you need to make use of it. I update the boards when I have a reason to, and will be paying much more attention to the site when I have a new book to launch and promote.

There are going to be times when it is much more important to use certain social media sites, such as when a new book is coming together or about to be launched. But my advice would be the rest of the time, to stick to the three that you deal with daily or weekly, and take a break from the rest.

It’s not a good idea to dip in and out of all of them for example, so if Facebook and Twitter are your thing, then stick with them, and post consistently and engagingly in order to build a loyal following. Just don’t feel like you have to be doing this all day every day with ALL of the sites you are on.

My last piece of advice? Give yourself one day or night totally OFF. I’m the sort of person that would be writing all day every day if I could. I hate not writing and when I am not writing, I always wish I was writing and I am constantly thinking about writing. This includes time spent increasing my social media content. But once a week I turn it all off and step away from the wi-fi. It’s a no go area, and it really does me the world of good. I curl up with my kids, leave my phone off, watch TV and chill out.

It genuinely feels like a day off ‘work’ and of course, we all need those.

Please feel free to comment or share! How many social media sites are you on? Do you feel guilty about the amount of time you spend on them? How do you strike a balance between work, social media and home life?

 

Untold Stories

I’ve blogged recently about the amount of stories and characters I have in my head. I have also blogged about my struggles with the final draft of my YA novel The Tree Of Rebels, and how I have been constantly distracted by voices from untold stories. In order to keep some of these voices at bay, so that I can finish each project I am on, I have been writing the odd short story for these characters. Has this worked? Well, yes and no! On the one hand, it does feel good to get something out, to relieve a little of the pressure. But on the other hand, it seems that if I allow these people an inch, they will take a mile, and start shouting even louder.

Anyway, I am making great progress with the final draft of The Tree Of Rebels. I am probably only days away from finishing it. I might have mentioned before that I decided to try changing the tense, to see if that worked, and although I can’t be sure until I read through it all, I think it has! So, the plan is, I finish the draft then re-read the whole thing, checking a final time for errors, typos and so on. Then it will be done! What comes next? Well, I do feel I ought to finish my rough plot for the sequel, as it might be a good idea to not let there be too big a gap between the two books, but this won’t take me long. I will then jump into the second draft of my novel Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature. As you might recall, Elliot Pie was a queue jumper! Jumping neatly ahead of the planned sequels to The Tree Of Rebels and The Mess Of Me! He was too insistent to ignore, so he finally got his story told. Once I have done the second draft I will send it to my wonderful beta readers, as I will need feedback on the structure of the novel, as it is a little bit different. What will I do whilst they are reading this?

Ooh, I’m glad you asked! Well, I recently wrote two short stories for a character that was getting impatient. Bill Robinson is one of the characters in a gritty teen drama I first wrote when I was sixteen years old. I never finished the book, and it had always been one I knew I would go back to at some point! Much in the same way I finally finished The Boy With The Thorn In His Side in 2013, after first writing it when I was twelve! Nightprowler and Bird People are both available to read on Wattpad if you are interested. Nightprowler is really a prequel to the novel, an event that happens before it all begins, and Bird People is really a snapshot into the mind and character of Bill.

Anyway, the point of this blog post is untold stories, and how exciting it is once you finally get the chance to tell them. Maya Angelou was quoted as saying that ‘there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,’ and I think most writers would agree that this is very true. It does become an agony. The desire to write and share, and the noise created by the characters and their lives, can reach unbearable levels if something is not at last released.

With this in mind I went hunting yesterday, and dragged the old suitcase out from under my bed. This suitcase is very important to me because it contains all my old stories, school work, essays and ideas. Luckily for me, I have never thrown anything away. And thank goodness too, because I found what I was looking for, and what a joyous moment that was. This great big hulking binder full of Bill’s story. It didn’t have a title back then, but the working title will now be A Song For Bill Robinson. Everything was right there. A plot (and how exciting to see that I used to plot at age sixteen, the same way I do no! ie a scruffy notepad filled with ideas with ticks on top of them!) character bios, and a whole load of notes and extra bits paper clipped together. More excitingly there is also a map! I used to draw maps of the fictional worlds I created to help me when moving the characters about. There is even a play list of songs, as one of the main plot lines involves Bill entering talent contests in his local community centre as a singer. He hooks up with some other people who play instruments, and the play list was a rough idea of some of the music they might play together.

How exciting! What a find…I knew I still had the unfinished handwritten manuscript, but I had completely forgotten about all the extra bits! I wanted to go back in time and pat my sixteen year old self on the back! Job well done! I can use all this! This is going to be brilliant! I was also impressed to find scraps of paper where I had written things like ‘by chapter 7 we know that Charlie is hiding something, and we know about some of it. We have suspicions of Laura’s private life, some from what she tells us and some from Bill’s own suspicions.’ Ha ha! Nice to know I had a good handle on the whole show not tell thing back then!

I can’t tell you how happy this discovery made me yesterday. This story still has to wait for me to get around to it, but in the meantime it is going to continue to grow and swell and evolve inside my head. I already know lots more about the characters than I did back then. There have been lots of nice, little details striking me lately.

So exciting!!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Promo Plan (Getting my arse into gear)

It’s about time I made a proper plan.

Now, I’m not really a plan kind of person. I will freely admit that I do not have the remotest touch of OCD or perfectionism of any kind. I am by nature a messy, laidback, go with the flow kind of girl. I don’t need all my picture frames to be straight on the wall. I don’t need my books organised in height level on the bookshelves. I don’t mind a bit of dust here, a cobweb or two there, or sticky fingers on the windows and walls.

But when it comes to promoting my books, something needs to change. I need to sort it out. I need to work it out. I need a proper plan and I need to stick to it. Now, like I’ve mentioned before, I do all the right things, or at least I think I do. I pick up tips and advice all the time. I just don’t always find the time to follow through with them. I make great lists. I am a list sort of person. Lists are great, because without lists and remind-me notes, I would be living an even more haphazard life than I already am!

Just recently I signed up to a free on-line course by a successful author. Daily emails came through with tips on everything you can think of. Some of these emails contained links to join up to more courses, so I did, and one of these was a Book Launch course. No, I haven’t done it yet. I don’t have the time! I am sure I will get to it eventually, and I am sure I will make some lists of things I should be doing to promote my books. Maybe this blog post, this ‘plan’ will be the first step in me getting it together with all this. Well, I’ll aim for it.

So far, my approach to promoting my books has been sketchy, disjointed, back to front and upside down. I’m not joking. I have never done a book launch thing. Not sure how to. (Haven’t read those emails yet, remember?) I have never done the promo before the book release. Well, not really. Not unless posting on my Facebook author page counts for much, which I doubt. I don’t have a marketing strategy, and I don’t even know what one is. When I started all this two years ago, all I thought about was writing. To me, writing was, and still is, the most important thing. I learnt the hard way, like a lot of indies. Getting a book out there and patting yourself on the back for making a dream come true does not automatically guarantee you sales. Not even from friends and family. It is much, much harder than that. And I have learnt. And I have come a long way. Things have changed, and things are always getting better.

But! I still feel I am missing a trick. I see and hear other authors talking about their sales and I start to think; what the hell am I doing wrong here? How can I reach more people? I still feel like such a novice. It’s never too late for me to start better promoting the books I already have out there, but what better way to get my head around this marketing plan thing, than to start with a brand new book? In other words, try to get it right this time? So this plan will go into action as of now with my brand new book The Tree Of Rebels. This book won’t be released for some time as it is only in the third draft. But I can start the ground work now, right? Isn’t that what they say? And if it makes a difference I can then apply this plan to all future books!

So here is the plan. Tell me what you think. Tell me yours! Please feel free to comment. Let me know what else I need!

1) Write first draft (done)

2) Write second draft (done)

3) Send out to at least three beta readers (in progress)

4) Receive feedback/critique and start third draft – make better!(now in progress)

5) Fourth/Fifth/sixth – you know the score – until it is done

6) Arrange front cover (done)

7) Enter in competition to drum up promo (done already!)(noooo, this competition is now cancelled, so need another idea here!)

8) Write short stories inspired by the book to draw people in and get them interested in the whole book and post these on Wattpad and blog (in progress)

9) Post segments of actual novel on blog and share

10) Create Pinterest storyboard, make memes with quotes and images and share

11) Approach people for advanced reviews

12) Get the street team involved in promoting/sharing/reviewing in advance

13) Start a countdown to cover reveal on FB page

14) Sort out ebook and print book at SAME time so that both are available at the SAME time and people don’t have to wait ages for me to faff about getting prints done!

15) Announce a release date for both

16) Contact as many promo sites as can (free ones and pay for ones)

17) Do same with review sites

18) Create a release day event on FB and get other authors to guest and join in with q and a sessions and their own giveaways etc

19) Email everyone I know about release date and release event

20) Have release day event on day of release!!!

BOOM!!!

So ,what do you think??

Well, it’s an improvement on what I’ve done so far anyway. This feels more professional and organised, and when I forget what I am meant to be doing I can refer back to this post and remind myself. Thanks for reading, don’t forget to add your comments and suggestions re book promotions.