Have you finished your book? Really? Here’s a checklist… #writing #novel #book #finishing

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One of the hardest questions to answer when you are just starting out as an author and you have been struggling with your book for months/years is: “But how do I know when my book is ready?”

The answer is complicated. Firstly, it depends what you mean by ready. If you want something that is absolutely perfect and as good as it could be, then it will probably never be ready. Because I don’t think there is any such thing as ‘perfect’ when it comes to art. There are just different levels of quality, and some of it is in the eye of the beholder, and some of it comes down to the basics… Is it free of grammatical errors? Is it properly laid out? Does the story make sense? Does it engage the audience it is aiming for? Etc, etc.

I thought this checklist by Chris Robley was worth reading. Some important points to remember. I have been using this for my books, at least trying to! http://blog.bookbaby.com/2015/01/how-to-know-when-youre-done-writing-your-novel/

One of the ways I know that my book is finished is when I finally stop thinking about it and trying to add bits to the story. Sometimes you just know…

The editing and beta reading is also crucial. You need more than one set of eyes to look at it to get some perspective.

Good luck with finishing your books!

Are bad habits undermining your chance to be a great writer? #writing #success #habits #achievement #behaviour #permission #writer

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I have been thinking (and writing the odd blog-post) about the importance of taking yourself seriously. If you want to get good at something you need to make good decisions about how you spend your time. If you want to achieve a goal, you have to focus on the path you will take to get there. Allowing yourself to succeed means allowing yourself to make good choices, to focus on the right incremental changes to get you where you want to be.

I read an article yesterday that really articulated something to me. It was about habits. If you want to end up with false teeth by the time you are 60, then by all means don’t spend time brushing your teeth every day. But if you want something better than that, then taking care of your teeth will need to become a regular habit. It won’t just happen if you remember it every now and then. It needs to become a personal rule.

“I will not go to bed until I have brushed my teeth”. That sort of rule.

I want to be a writer – the sort of writer who writes books that people want to read. As far as I can see, there are two main things I need to do to achieve that.

Firstly, I have to write good books – and that is a huge topic in itself. Too much to tackle right now. The thing I want to say here is, if I don’t give myself time to write (plenty of time), then it won’t happen. (And not only time to write, but time to edit, check, read, think, rewrite, etc…) To do that – I need to establish a writing habit. Not just to write when I feel like it, or when I feel ‘inspired’, but to turn up to write regularly. Every day if possible.

“I will not go to sleep until I have spent one hour writing” could become my mantra. Something like that. (Nothing wrong with sleep deprivation – surely?)

Secondly, I have to find the readers who will enjoy my books. To me this is even harder than writing, but I know it is something I need to do. There are SO MANY books out there – all I have to do is find my audience. Then to give those readers something they want so they keep wanting to read my stories and my books find their intended home. To achieve that, I need to develop a different set of habits. I need to learn about promotion and reviews, and communicating with potential readers of my books. Hard, but it won’t happen unless I turn up every day and start working on it. So every day (well, most days), I say to myself

“I will not go to bed until I have done something towards building my author profile.”

Preferably five things (my success diary (on facebook) is doing a great job of keeping me on track). It might be a facebook post, a blog post, sharing and commenting on other people’s blogs, tweeting or building my website. There are plenty of things that will help – I just have to keep showing up.

I have posted before about this and I will say it again – make time for your writing. Give yourself permission. Not everything will work, some things might even fail dismally. But if you are not in there having a go, then you will never make it.

I wish you success at creating some good habits to help you on your way. Check out this article for some more inspiration. http://www.psnews.com.au/sa/PDSApsn309story2.html

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How many words should my book be? (The brass tacks of word counts)

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There are so many different blogs and opinions about the ‘best’ word-counts for various genres, that I won’t even try to share a definitive answer here. Different publishing companies and agents and editors all have their own ideas on this topic.

But for self-publishing authors like myself, here are some rules of thumb that I usually to try to think about when I am creating my stories.

  • Novels (general) – anything over about 40-45,000 might be classed as a novel. Some publishing companies expect something longer (around 80-120k seems to be a popular rule of thumb). Then of course there are many highly successful novels that are 120k+ Check out the Harry Potter infographic below.
  • Romantic novels – For contemporary romance, I usually try to aim for something between 45k and 75k, with 45k being fine for a shorter racy romance, and 70-80k or thereabouts being a good length for a more in-depth ‘slow-burn’ or complex story. My first book Lover by moonlight is a slower story of emotional exploration and was about 70k. My second book Lie to me was faster and spicier – around 47k. My third contemporary romance in the Deception series (The Gemini Effect) was more of a slow burn – again nearly 70k. In the end, I find each book tends to dictate its own length.
  • Historical romance – I have generally been aiming for around 70k for my historical romances. It usually seems about right. Certainly that is what I have ended up with for the first two books in my French Connection series. (‘Isabel’s Choice’ and ‘Temptation’). The third book in the French Connection series is a bit racier (I am working on it now), and that one may end up being a bit shorter. It will all depend on just what the heroine gets up to in ‘The Secret Life of Eloise’!
  • Novellas – my first novella The Priest’s Seduction was around 20k. I think anything between about 17k and 35k can be classed as a novella. Again, some companies may have strict ideas, but if you are going out on your own, then it is your readers who can provide input on this.
  • Short stories – generally less than about 7k or 8k – again, short story publishers and competitions will have their own ideas about this.

That’s my own personal guide (approximate) to word counts. Yet having said that, one of the best bits about being an Independent author is that I don’t have to conform to restrictions set by publishing companies that work by formula. Which means I have the ultimate pleasure of letting the story dictate how long the book will be. I often have some idea at the beginning of where it is heading, but it is only as the story develops that it reveals where it wants to go, and that is when being flexible about word counts can be a real advantage. In the end, it makes for a better story, although it is always worth remembering that editing will still be just as important as ever.

It is only when readers start commenting that sections of text are unnecessary or don’t really help to further the story-line that a book might be considered “too long”. And similarly, when a reader is left feeling cheated, or as though the story was never properly aired, that it was “too short”. The rest is perhaps just semantics.

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