Blog Tour: Guest Post by Angela Corner Author of The Hidden Island.

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I’m delighted to have Angela Corner, author of The Hidden Island on If only I could read faster today giving us some writing advice. As I’m still trying to finish my NaNoWriMo project I’m still really interested in getting all the advice that I can and I have to say that I found a lot of what Angela had to say interesting. I hope that you do too!

Writing Advice

Do you write every day or wait for inspiration to strike?

One of the things I learned for writing for soaps is that if you get up in a morning and wait for inspiration to strike then you’ll never finish anything.  There are days when writing feels easy. The ideas flow, your sentences seem to appear on the page as if by magic, you are ‘in the zone’ and it feels great.  But then there are the days when your mind is blank. The keys on your keyboard might as well be in Chinese. The temptation to eat cake and chocolate or even do some house work is almost impossible to resist.  It is those days when you have to battle and sweat and just write something. Anything. It will feel like total rubbish, and may well be total rubbish, but you have to force yourself to keep writing. It’s a habit, a discipline. And even on those bleak, painful days you may produce something worth keeping. Or the germ of something worth keeping.  

Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere. From the news, from family and friends, from eavesdropping on conversations on trains, in pubs and in shops.  There’s a thing called the creative bubble or the creative cloud.  It’s populated by everything going on in the world, locally and nationally.  Everyone can access it and draw inspiration and ideas from it. Sometimes people will reach into the bubble, pull out the same things and come up with very similar ideas at similar times.  It then looks like people are copying each other when in fact they’ve simply got the same ingredients from the bubble and put them together in the same way.

Using friends and family’s experiences – including the most shocking and upsetting ones – as a basis for stories can be difficult to reconcile.  Every time someone confides in you the writer part of you will be thinking of ways it could be made it into a story whereas the ‘human’ part of you will be sympathising and trying to help or console.  It’s a conflict that all writers have and it is essential to keep enough distance between real life experiences and what you use in your stories, either by time or by altering aspects of the story. Otherwise you may end up with no friends and lots of family conflict.

It’s a good idea to have an ideas notepad. You might be working on something else but have a new idea. Write it in your ideas notepad for future reference. It’s very easy – and tempting – to have a great new idea and abandon whatever you’re currently working on to start the new idea. It’s the grass is always greener phenomenon.  New ideas always seem better than the one you’ve been sweating over for weeks and months.  A bit like the excitement of a new relationship. But if you constantly move onto the newest idea you’ll never finish anything. All writers are guilty of it.

Do you plan or make it up as you go along?

All writers are different. Some plan to the nth degree. Others start at chapter one with no idea where they will end up. Most writers are somewhere in between. If you are a writer who has started many books but not managed to finish any then I think planning the structure and major events/turning points is a sensible idea.  It gives you a framework and keeps you focused with certain points to aim for.  With The Hidden Island I started with a fairly detailed plan of each chapter.  This did change to varying degrees as I went along with some aspects removed and others added in.  The original plan included lots of flashbacks to Beckett’s previous investigation on the Island but during the writing process I found this slowed the action too much.   The other big change to the original plan was the ending. This changed when I was writing the synopsis to send off to publishers and agents. In writing the two page synopsis (easily the most difficult part of novel writing!) I realised the original ending wasn’t working as well as I’d liked and a different ending popped into my head.  I put the new ending in the synopsis and then rewrote the final chapter.

My writing day

It’s important, or at least to me, to get into a writing routine. Most writers seem to have a routine that suits them and their lifestyle and mine has had to adapt to changes in my own life.  My preferred time of day to write is actually in the evening and on into the early hours.  However this routine is not conducive to a healthy relationship!  I also struggle to write if anyone else is in the house.  Complete immersion in my made up worlds requires no real world distractions.  So my writing routine now means writing during the day whilst the house is empty. I have a minimum word count of 1000 words a day.  If the writing is going well then I will continue on past 1000 words and keep going until I get beaten by the clock or simply feel too tired to carry on.  If it’s one of those struggling days I will write my 1000 words and then stop but I will make myself do a 1000 words however long it takes and however horrible those 1000 words feel.

Edit as you go or just keep going?

It’s tempting to start each new day by going back over what you’ve written the day before and rewriting it.  But this can really stall all forward motion.  I will edit as I go during the day but once that day’s writing is done, in general, I won’t go back over it the following day. There are exceptions to this – if something really isn’t working, or if I get a lightbulb moment that evening about a new way of doing things or an extra story strand to add.  It’s important to keep going and bury any self-doubt until you’ve got to the final full stop, of the final sentence, of the final chapter.  Then put the manuscript aside for a few weeks, or months. Work on something else. Start a new book, or at least the research and planning of a new book, before picking up your first draft and beginning the editing process.

The Hidden Island by Angela Corner is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blurb:

The Hidden Island: an edge of your seat crime thriller

Sex. Drugs. Murder.

Hidden behind the crystal seas and beautiful beaches of a Greek Island dark and dangerous secrets lurk. Beckett has had his fill of adrenaline fuelled criminal investigation and with a broken body and damaged career goes to the Greek Island of Farou to head up the Criminal Investigation Bureau. Serious crime is rare, the weather is great and the beer is cold but his ‘retirement’ is cut short when a pagan cult resurrects and bodies start showing up.

With doubts about his mental and physical ability to do the job, a British police detective is sent to help with the investigation. DI Lee Harper is everything Beckett is not – young, ambitious and by the book.

As well as tackling the new case Beckett must overcome the demons from his past.

Family loyalty, power and money are at the source of the investigation where appearance is everything and nothing is what is seems.

Can Beckett and Harper work together to find justice for the victims?

Will the idyllic island ever be the same again?

Sometimes paradise can be hell.

“This gritty thriller is a brilliantly plotted and refreshing read. Angela Corner is one to watch for those who like their books with a bit more bite” Betsy Reavley, best-selling author of The Quiet Ones, The Optician’s Wife and Frailty.

Angela Corner is a debut author who mastered her craft as a screenwriter on top serial dramas including Eastenders and Hollyoaks. The Hidden Island is the perfect read for fans of authors like Lisa Hall, Katerina Diamond, Kathryn Croft and Caroline Mitchell

NaNoWriMo: I did it!!!!

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Look what happened!!! I am in shock, I cannot believe it but I also cannot stop smiling. And I’m so relieved that it is over!

Once I hit 40,000 words I actually started to believe that I might actually do this, I had a few difficult writing days, I think that I was in what seems to be known as the ‘soggy middle’ of the book. But once I got to 40K I felt energised and determined, so I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, my daily stats went up, as you can see from the graph above I started to pull more and more in front of the target.

Then yesterday I wrote and I wrote and I did 5,157 words, taking my total to 47,694. It was by far my highest word count for a day and my brain felt fried. I went to collect my children from school but I couldn’t shake the niggle of just how close I was and was I really going to wait until tomorrow to finish it? After a trip to the dentist and the barber on the way home we had dinner and then in the half hour before bedtime for my children they watch television, so I took to my laptop and started to write.

I guess that I was lucky that I happened to be in quite an exciting bit of the book, which made it easier to write. Normally once my children are in bed I struggle to write, I’m tired and want to do something else but there was no way that I was going to leave it there. As I was writing I did wonder how much of what I was writing would be edited as my brain felt too fried so I couldn’t believe that what I was writing made all that much sense.

Once I got to 50,048 words I stopped typing. It just happened to work that I was at the end of a chapter so it was a good ending point anyway. I sat and stared at the word count for a bit and then started the process of getting my words verified on the NaNo website. That took some time and strangely NaNo think that I wrote 50,034 words, so a small discrepancy to what Scrivener was telling me but it still meant that I was a winner.

I had the hugest grin on my face, I had done it, I was a NaNoWriMo 2016 winner AND I’d done it with plenty of time to spare. This is my first ever NaNo and my first ever attempt to write a book.

So what next? Well, my story is definitely not over yet. I am hoping to get it to about 80,000 words that makes a full-length novel, but before I even attempt that I am going to have some time off. On Friday my twins turn six, so I will be able to enjoy that and their weekend of celebrating and then maybe on Monday I will start writing again, I don’t want to lose the flow too much but definitely need a break from it, yesterday felt like a marathon for my brain and it is tired. I also need to concentrate on reading a bit and catching up with my review books as I am so so behind now.

I also want to say how lucky I have been, I have had absolutely amazing support from many places. Firstly I have bored friends with daily word counts on Facebook, my posts have received many likes and comments, giving me support and cheering me on on the more difficult days. I’ve also joined a few Facebook groups or writers, or for those specifically doing NaNo and they have been invaluable too. I am very lucky and I genuinely don’t think that I would have finished NaNo, or at least not finished it this early, without that support.

NaNoWriMo: Day sixteen.

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So, today is day sixteen on NaNoWriMo, six days since my last update. My wordcount now sits at a staggering 32,562 words.

As you can see from the graph above I am ahead of schedule which is hard to believe, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been ahead of schedule on something before. Seriously, I’m one of those people who normally never gets to the end and if I do it’s a last minute rush to make it. But I’m approximately 5,000 words ahead of target.

It feels good to have that buffer, although I do have a few days coming up where writing will be difficult, if not impossible. But I’m not going to focus on that right now.

There have been no major dramas since my last update, I feel like I’ve settled into a routine with it and although sometimes I feel like I have absolutely no idea where to go next, somehow words come and the story moves on.

Talking of the story I happen to think that it is a load of rubbish, complete drivel in fact. I think that I have far too many frowns in the book, ‘he looked at her and frowned’ ‘she frowned and said….’. I definitely need to look up words that I can use as an alternative to frown!

Another thing that I’ve been struggling with is animal related. It seems that vets are hard to find, and even more so vets that are willing to talk to you about the not so pleasant side of what some people do to their pets. If you’re reading this and are a vet and are willing to help then please get in touch! I promise that it is for my book and not something that I will be putting into practice.

Something elset that I think that I should tell you is that my daughter has been sick. In fact when she vomited my second thought was ‘oh no, how am I going to get my writing done now?’ which was a pretty selfish reaction when my five year old had just thrown up. She was sick twice and then absolutely fine, a little quiet the next day which meant that I actually got a lot of words done but then totally normal today. She’s spent the day telling me that she wished that she was at school and that she missed her twin brother, in fact she seems to have barely stopped talking all day.

In the end I took her to Costco, I wasn’t getting any writing done so figured that we may as well do something productive with our day. After we sat and had a drink and she sat quietly, I told her that she finally had my undivided attention so what did she want to talk to me about. Her response? A small shrug and she sat drinking her drink and for the first time all day, she was quiet. Typical. However, since getting home from school she has happily played with her brother and I have managed to finally get some writing done.

Under 20,000 words to go. I can’t tell you how much I want to get there. Although in general I’m enjoying doing NaNo it is exhausting. Today I promised myself that I wouldn’t do NaNo again, but I have a feeling that NaNo is a bit like childbirth and soon enough I’ll forget the bad bits and want to do it all over again.

Right, back to the writing I go…..

NaNoWriMo: Day ten update.

So the NaNo roller coaster continues! Today is day ten and I am still going. I just read my post that I wrote about day four and I was proudly telling you that I’d written 7515 words. That was not all that long ago and at the end of day ten I have written (drum roll here) 20036 words! Yep, I have done over twenty thousand words!

I actually cannot believe it. I was talking to a friend today who has been really supportive of me doing NaNo and has patiently listened to me vent and given her regular updates of my word count. She told me today that I need to stop saying that I can’t believe it and start believing in myself. I know that she is right, but it isn’t that simple.

I can tell you, though, that I do feel incredibly proud of myself. When I think of myself as a young child at school, battling with dyslexia, struggling to even learn to read let alone write, it is hard to believe that this is where I am now.

But it hasn’t been easy. Days 5-7 were ok, but on day 8 I felt tired, really really tired. Now it’s hard to know the cause of this, I do have dodgy blood and get very anaemic, so maybe it is that and I need an iron infusion (I had bloods taken this week so should know the answer to that soon), or is it because of the writing?

Writing is actually really tiring, well I think so anyway. Not only am I thinking and writing and concentrating, but I’m also using my imagination in ways that I am not used to. I felt like my brain hurt.

I posted about it on a brilliant writer’s Facebook page, there’s a few of us doing NaNo on there supporting each other, and I have to say that I expected a chorus of ‘me too’ when I asked if others felt tired. Instead, I got support and advice, I was told that maybe I needed to step back and take a bit of a break from it. Someone mentioned writer’s burnout, having had burnout from a job I did 15 years ago I certainly don’t want to be heading in that direction again. They told me that I was perhaps pushing myself too hard and to have a day off, then someone suggested that I just write 500 words the next day.

500 words? I have to admit that scared me, being a bit ahead takes pressure off me and to do 500 words in a day would mean that my buffer would be a lot smaller, but I saw their point and I couldn’t ignore their unanimous concern that I needed a break.

So, yesterday I had an easy day. I have to admit that the shock election results in America helped, it made it much easier to stop thinking about my book and characters and what was going to happen next. I felt for the first time since NaNo started that my brain had stopped whirring. I did no writing in the morning, and then after lunch I did an hour and wrote just over 1000 words.

It wasn’t much but it felt enough, doing that much didn’t stress me out but I knew that more would. So I stopped. It was my lowest word count so far, but I was ok with that.

So this morning, day ten, I have to say that I felt better and ready to get back to it. But the words didn’t flow so well and I was worried that my break the day before had broken something and that I was going to find it hard to get back into it. But as time went on I wrote more and more before I thought that I was done for the day. But I was just over a thousand words away from twenty thousand, maybe I could keep going?

And I did, and the words began to flow and soon enough I saw that I had written 3151 words today, that is my best day yet! And I cracked the 20k with a total of 20036.

So right now I’m feeling motivated and good. I desperately want to get to twenty-five thousand as then I will be half way through, and that isn’t too far away. I still have no idea whether I will actually finish NaNo, but I do know that whether I do or not I have given it my best shot. My main worry at the moment is that I don’t have enough story left to tell to give me another thirty thousand words, let alone the additional 30-50 thousand that I’d need to add to it to be left with a book-length book. But I remember on day two thinking that there was no way that I had enough words to get to ten thousand so I’m trying not to stress about that one too much.

So if you’re still here, thanks for reading my update! Words of advice and encouragement are much appreciated!!

NaNoWriMo: Day four.

So today is the 4th November, meaning day four of NaNo. I’ve posted my word count on twitter and on my personal Facebook page each day, it helps to keep me motivated to reach my word count I find.

So, how has NaNo been so far? Well, day one started well, although I felt the reality of having done pretty much no prep and how aimlessly I was writing. I wondered whether the very vague book idea in my head would actually be enough to fill a book.

Day two was not so good. I had had very little sleep the night before, damn insomnia. This made writing difficult, and I didn’t meet the writing target of 1667 words a day. I have to admit that I felt deflated and somewhat defeated. I also felt incredibly stressed, there is a lot going on in my life and I couldn’t help but question whether I was expecting too much of myself by adding NaNo to the mix. But I talked about it to some friends and came to the conclusion that I had to put myself first and if it was too much then I would stop NaNo.

So, did I quit? Well no, of course not. I mean who quits NaNo on day two? So day three I started to write, and write and write. I enjoyed what I wrote, and I enjoyed pretty much everything about it, especially when I realised that I had just over two thousand words. It felt good, so good, and maybe just maybe, I was going to do this.

Today is day four and once again I have done just over two thousand words. Two thousand seems to be my limit though, it is like something switches off when I get to it that number and I can write no more. I would like to do more, of course, I want to be able to have days without writing and I cannot do that if I get stuck at two thousand words.

But I have written 7615 words of a book. A book that didn’t exist five days ago. I should add here for those that read my previous NaNo post that the 1000 words that I had done got deleted on day one!.

Today I got sent a survey to fill in, the survey was for readers and authors, and for the first time ever I ticked author (their criteria was that if you have written or are writing a book then you are considered an author), it felt strange. I never imagined that I would actually do this, but here I am, doing it. Will I make the NaNo target and finish it? Who knows. I certainly hope so but it is very early days yet. All I know is that I’m giving it my best shot.

NaNoWriMo: What I’m going to be doing in November.

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I don’t normally do rambling posts on here, meaning posts that aren’t about something specific, like a book review or blog tour. But today I am.

I wanted to share with you all what I will be doing in November, and why, all going well, this blog might be a bit quieter than normal.

Apparently, approximately 80% of people want to write a book. That’s an awful lot. Now generally I like the fact that I tend to be a bit different to the norm, I have rarely in my life conformed to be considered normal or common but in this instance I am. Yes, I want to write a book.

Now I have very little faith that this is something that I will actually manage to do, there are many reasons for this including a lack of time and my inability to see things through. I tend to get bored and lack motivation for anything that I don’t have to do. But I’m going to give it a go.

Normally this isn’t something that I would tell anyone about, then no one has to know about my failure. But I am doing something called NaNoWriMo in November, and author Elizabeth Haynes (who wrote the amazingly brilliant Into the Darkest Corner, among others) who is a pro at NaNo told me that I should tell everyone. Her reasoning being that when you ask me how my book is going that the shame of telling you that I haven’t written anything will spur me into keeping going and finishing NaNo. So no pressure folks, but I’m relying on you to shame me here!

So what is NaNo I hear you say? It is National Novel Writing Month, it happens every November and thousands around the world take part in it. The aim is to write 50,000 words in the month of November to be crowned a NaNo winner.

Now if that sounds easy to you then I’m afraid that you are wrong. Google ‘How hard is NaNoWriMo’ and you will get a lot of hits telling you just how hard it is, I quite like this article (apologies for linking to The Torygraph).

So far I have written an amazing (yes, that is sarcasm) 1000 words. Doing so has taken me approximately four hours. So if I need to write 1667 words every single day during November you can see that this might be a bit of a problem. My problem is that I keep going back and tweaking what I have written. I need to stop doing that. One of my favourite authors, Angela Marsons, told me that if I keep stopping and going back to tweak then the story can’t move forward cos I’m busy going backward (she explained it a lot better than I did!). That makes a lot of sense but I suspect will be a hard one for me to crack.

Another potential problem is that according to NaNo I am what is known as a ‘pantser’. A pantser is someone who doesn’t plan, have an outline, or much preparation at all before starting NaNo. I decided in September that I was going to do NaNo, and I started off planning. I then changed my mind on what book I was going to write, so all that go scrapped. And since then I have done pretty much nothing. I have a vague idea of how my book will end, I have a basic outline of the main character but I just cannot settle on her name, and that’s it. Not a jot else. I have a strong feeling that I’m going to regret that in a couple of weeks time!!

So that’s what I hope to be doing in November. As I said I have very little faith that I will finish NaNo, but even if I don’t and end up with say 10,000 words, that’s 9,000 more than I have now! So if you ask me how NaNo is going and I mumble a response about it going slowly then please gently encourage. If I proudly tell you that it’s going well then please celebrate with me and if I tell you that I’ve quit then please don’t judge me.

Guest Post: Confessions of a self-published author by Oli Jacobs.

I love this guest post by Oli Jacobs about self-publishing. Many authors self-publish and I always wondered how it worked, and now I know! Thanks so much Oli for coming to visit us on If Only I Could Read Faster!

Confessions of a self-published author

By Oli Jacobs

 Hello. My name is Oli Jacobs, and I’m an alcoholic.

            No, wait, that’s not right. I’m actually a self-published author. Well, alright, it’s kind of the same thing, but not really.

Let me explain… I’ve been self-publishing my work since 2012, when I looked at the vast amount of unfilmed scripts and short stories I had hanging around my hard drive. Rather than let them waste away in a digital landfill, I decided to throw them all together, do a quick edit, and send them out into the big, wide world.

Hence, Filmic Cuts v1: Sunshine & Lollipops was born.

It was a proud moment, I may have shed a tear.

What it also was, was the beginning of an adventure filled with dizzying highs, crushing lows, and creamy middles. I’ve published a number of books since across a range of genres and seen good reviews, bad reviews, and general waves of apathy. And now, I pass onto you, the good readers of If Only I Could Read Faster, my Oli Jacobs approved steps to becoming a self-published author.

May God help you…

STEP 1: Write a book

This is the easiest part, I kid you not.

Obviously you wouldn’t want to get into self-publishing unless you wanted to write a book, unless you’re a curious sort who likes looking at things. Therefore, to self-publish you’ve got to actually, you know, write a book. Be it Fiction, Non-Fiction, a Graphic Novel or anything in-between, write it, type it, and get it done.

STEP 2: Edit your book

You’re not going to strike gold first time.

Trust me, even the best don’t bowl a perfect game. Once you’ve written your book, pass it to someone to proof-read for you, and make notes on what could be improved and how many times you’ve used “their” instead of “there”. Now, there are plenty of good proof-readers out there willing to look over your work. You can find them on various sites such as Fiverr (where a certain Mr J resides…), People Per Hour, or various other freelance websites.

However, if like me you are a poor, struggling writer, then search out a trusted friend. This gives you the bonus of having what could be considered an average reader look over your work, and also being able to pay them in resources like beer, or hugs.

After that, it’s a simple case of checking the notes, making the edits, and then polishing your work so it’s the best darn writing you’ve ever seen.

And seriously, don’t proof your own work. I made this mistake with Underneath and got the reviews to pay for it. Don’t be a jerk, get someone to proof-read your work.

(That sounded better in my head…)

STEP 3: Publish your book

It is time.

You’ve written your tome, had it looked over by someone else, edited it to within an inch of its life, and now you’re ready to push it into the big wide world.

But how do you do that?

Self-publishing has moved on tremendously since the vanity press of old. Not only do you have sites like Lulu.com and Smashwords, but big companies like Amazon are more than happy to create your literary baby. In fact, they are who I first went with, taking advantage of their Kindle Direct Publishing platform, where you can upload your book to sell via their Kindle service. In addition, if you want a juicy paperback, you can use Createspace as well and have everything wrapped up in a neat Amazon bundle.

Now obviously, publishing a book is more than just heavily edited words. For a paperback, you’ll need an ISBN, and while in the past you’d need to fork out some cash for some price numerical action, nowadays publishers like Lulu and Amazon provide an ISBN for you, meaning you can still save yourself some of that sweet, sweet whisky money.

Also, you’ll want your work to look dazzling, with a cover that speaks volumes. While the aforementioned websites offer cover design services, look out for independent artists who may be able to whip something up that is unique and visually sells your story. Personally, I use British graphic designer CM Carter and Canadian graphic novelist Elaine Will, who I shamelessly plug with a hearty thumbs up.

STEP 4: Market your book

Now here comes the tricky part.

Yes, everything up until now was easy. The writing, the editing, the publishing… all small fry compared to the big elephant in the self-publishing room: Marketing.

As good as your book is, it won’t get anywhere without people seeing it, so you’ll need to showcase it like a wonderful stallion. Social media is good for this, such as Facebook and Twitter, but also look into forums at Goodreads and, of course, Amazon. Here, you can meet likeminded individuals who will hopefully give you pointers and help you gain some of that dreaded exposure.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to give away freebies. Book Groups on Facebook are a great place to start, asking for reviews in exchange for a free copy of your work. Goodreads is equally as dandy for this, but can suffer from over-saturation at times.

Finally, if you have some cash to spare, look into sites such as eBookSoda and PeopleReads. Paid services like these can be hit and miss, while the more successful ones such as BookBub have a strict acceptance policy. Shop around and see what works for you and your budget.
And finally…

STEP 5: Believe in your book

You will not become JK Rowling or EL James overnight.

As I said before, self-publishing is filled with a mixture of highs and lows, and invariably there are more of the latter than the former. You may not get the reviews you want (if at all), and you may see a sudden surge of sales dwindle into nothing, but the low points are only chips on a road. The highs are wonderful, such as receiving a box of your first paperback, or hearing someone has enjoyed something you created.

Once you join the self-publishing world, you’ll see a lot of articles and features about people getting rich off of self-publishing. This may not happen to you. If it does, grand, and now I’m insanely jealous, but most of these people you read about either have great connections, experience in marketing, or have sold their soul to some sort of Eldritch Abomination.

Don’t do that. There are costly.

Most of all, just enjoy the fact that your work is out there. Once you’ve published your work, you’re no longer an aspiring writer, you are a writer, and well done you!

Now get out there, and write some more. And more. AND MORE!

*ahem*

Oli Jacobs is a self-published author from Buckinghamshire, England. You can find his work on Amazon, and “like” him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/OJBooks, or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/olijacobsauthor