My day-to-day routine is I write 500 words per day per project. So right now I have three active projects: the sequel to CURSE OF STARS, a vampire apocalypse novel called BEFORE I’M DEAD, and a Divergent fanfic called INSIDIOUS.
The sequel to CURSE OF STARS is my “real” writing work, meaning I’m taking that one the most seriously (is that a correct string of words? Most seriously? Most serious?). The draft is already written and that’s the first step in any of my “serious” writing ventures. I shotgun the first draft to get the idea out of my head. Once it’s out I let it sit and stew, allowing me to forget portions of it so I can get to editing it with fresher eyes.
I finished that earlier in 2016 so I got a good six months from seeing it and now I’m doing the first round of edits. This means I give the book an initial read and make in-line comments about characters, plot, pacing, all that good stuff. Since I ended up drastically changing story course and character development at the end of CURSE OF STARS after book two was already written, I have a lot of inconsistencies going on. And I don’t edit as I write the first draft. So right now I have a big ol’ mess on my hands and my comments read something like “WTF is this? Why did you do this?” or “This isn’t accurate to the character anymore.” I make good comments, usually about plot elements that I want to keep and develop or little character quirks. But right now I have a mess to clean up. And because this isn’t actually writing I work on a minimum of five pages per day. Once this is done I’ll edit and rewrite until my hand bleeds and then it goes to beta readers. And then more editing and rewriting before it’s finally public-worthy.
BEFORE I’M DEAD and INSIDIOUS each get 500 words per day. They’re my two stories up on Wattpad right now. BID is a draft because I’m pretty much writing as I go along and I felt like the plot and character development was getting a little jerky and it needed some serious smoothing. I don’t normally show first drafts to anyone, but BID is my little social experience that’s not doing too bad. The highest it’s reached on Wattpad’s Hot List so far is
the Vampire category, which is pretty awesome that it’s even ranked at all. I
do plan on making this a “serious” novel so once I finish it, I’ll let it stew,
and then it’ll go through the same editing process that something like the COS
sequel is going through.
INSIDIOUS is just a fun little fanfiction romp. This is just brain spooge for me to get it out of my head and allow my writing brain a little down time. Fanfiction is fun and I enjoy playing in other peoples’ worlds, especially when it comes to characters that really aren’t developed and I get to play around with them too. So much fun. I basically equate this to reading for fun, especially in school. You have required reading and then fun reading you need to do in order to purge the drudgery from your mind. That’s what fanfiction is for me.
On top of all of that I normally write at night and I still have a desktop (a Mac Mini) so I am sitting at a desk (although it’s a joke of a desk right now, more like a folding table, but I’ll be fixing that very soon). Writing is the biggest constant that I have in my life. It’s always there, regardless of what I’m doing. It’s nice to not do it every once in a while, to just veg out in front of Netflix for a while or something. But it only takes a day or two before I feel completely out the loop and I need to reset my routine. Writing’s in my blood. I can’t ever stop.
Donna has been writing since she was in the single digits when she first realized she needed to do something about all the thoughts in her head. After a stint with bad poetry she finally found her way to novels, mainly of the young adult fantasy variety. When she’s not cranking out more stories she works a regular 9 to 5, reads anywhere from 2 to 3 books a week, drinks copious amounts of tea, eats way too much, and makes her own beauty products because her skin turns into a sentient hive if she uses anything else. This is mostly because she lives in the desert where the air siphons water clean out of her. She lives with a man named Steve and several quadrupeds: three cats named Renfield, Sam, and Dean; and a MinPin named Malfoy.
Title: Nina is NOT OK
Author: Shappi Khorsandi
About the book:
Nina does not have a drinking problem. She likes a drink, sure. But what 17-year-old doesn’t?
Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all.
And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before , then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend.
But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her…
A dark and sometimes shocking - coming of age novel from one of the UK’s leading comedians. NINA IS NOT O.K. will appeal to fans of Caitlin Moran and Louise O'Neill.
Watch the video for my review:
Purchasing link: http://amzn.to/2lVs5eT
For many of us, writing is not our day job. That means, aside from holding down a job or two elsewhere, we might have other obligations as well – families, volunteer work, traveling, etc. It’s hard to find time to fit in writing anything, whether it be a novel or a simple 140-character tweet. So how do you fit in your love for writing among the many other chores of life? Just like an architect drawing up a blueprint for a new build, it all begins with planning.
For me, writing my first novel, Finding Paradise, took about six months from start to finish. I have a full-time job, a family, and other obligations outside of writing. If I had to estimate, I have about an hour or two per day to dedicate to writing. However, that’s if life doesn’t get in the way, which it always does inevitably. During a perfect week, I’d have anywhere from 10 to 12 hours per week to dedicate to writing. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It’s really not once you sit down and start writing a novel. Time flies and before you know it, you’re up until 2:00 a.m. on a single chapter when you have to go to work in five hours. Whoops!
The best way to build a writing routine is to first look at a typical week in your life and decide how many hours per day you can dedicate to writing. Don’t worry about if you can actually fit that time in or not. You’ll get there eventually. First, map out how many hours or even minutes you can utilize for writing. For example, my husband works late during certain days of the week, so I know I won’t get much writing time in on those days because I’ll be taking care of the house alone. But since my daughter has all her dance and swimming activities on Saturdays, I know I can get at least three to four hours of writing time while I wait for her. Sundays during football season are always a guaranteed four to five hours while I can possibly swing a few lunch hours during the week if I remember to bring my personal laptop to work.
Now, take those hours and make an appointment with yourself. Put in on your calendar, make yourself reminders on your phone, or do whatever you need to do to remember. But make sure you set that time aside specifically for writing. If you know that Thursday night is reserved for writing, you might be less likely to accept an invitation for happy hour rather than trying to fit in some writing time whenever you can. Make yourself and your writing a priority.
But if you do need to cancel that time with your writing, don’t be too hard on yourself. Life happens. If everything went to plan, I’d have pumped our four books by now, but the luck of the draw is that life doesn’t adhere to a schedule or any plan. If you are forced to cancel your writing time, dust yourself off and try again the next time. If you can make up those hours during your next set writing time, that’s fantastic! If not, don’t feel pressured to squeeze those hours in another time. If you do, you could turn your passion for writing into a chore and you wouldn’t want that.
Last, but not least, set goals for each writing session that you have planned. Perhaps 500 words per hour? Maybe a new scene each night? Or possibly a chapter each day? Tailor your writing goals to whatever you want the end result of your writing sessions to be. If you are writing a novel, perhaps focus on chapter or scene counts. If you are writing blogs or articles, focus on word counts. Whatever it is, strive to meet those goals during each writing session. Again, if you don’t meet those goals, don’t stress too hard. As long as you were working towards those 500 words or to complete that scene, it’s okay if it isn’t completely finished by the time you have to return to the real world. You got more done that you might have otherwise and that is a huge accomplishment in itself!
I have many more tips and anecdotes about writing and self-publishing my first novel on my website, www.vportiz.com/confessions. Confessions of a New Author is a blog series of my adventures in writing that I hope can calm some fears and maybe even inspire some aspiring writers to take the next step and publish their novels. I will be posting more content soon once I set new writing goals, which will include finalizing my next novel, Damaged Property, to be released this spring.
As authors we obviously want as many people as possible to read our books. One way of reaching a larger number of readers in the one go is via book clubs. Members also tend to be good at posting reviews of the books they've read ;) It makes sense, therefore, that you make it easy for book clubs to feature your book.
You will want to reach out to book clubs and maybe send them a free copy of your book for consideration. It's also a good idea to give them some prompts for discussing the book. This is why you should create a list of book club discussion questions for your book.
Here's an example of the book club discussion questions for my book The Pendant to give you an idea of the sort of things you might want to include.
Example book club discussion questions
Reading The Pendant with your book club? I've got you covered ;) Here's a few questions you might want to think about:
1) What does the following excerpt tell us about the relationship between Matt and his mum?
Matt was torn between wanting to let her hug him and wanting to run away. There was something about a mum hug that always felt so right. The safety, and warmth of her arms was so inviting. He wished he could stay there forever. Then he remembered all the reasons why he was upset and pushed her away. "What do you care anyway?" he said.
"That's not fair Matt" said his mum."Life's not fair" said Matt, slamming the dishwasher door. He leaned against the white, flat-level cabinets. Pushing his hands into his pockets, he narrowed his eyes at her.
2) Is Alex right? What small changes do you think Matt could make to make his life better?
"Well what do you want to change?""Everything" said Matt."Start smaller" said Alex smiling at him. "You need to change the little things first and then the big changes just kind of happen by themselves".
3) Should Matt have gone with Alex to help Andrew? Do you think he was a coward for not going? What would you have done in the same situation?
"Alex, don't" he said trying to grab his friend by his shirt sleeve but he was too late. Alex was already heading over to where Eric was pointing down at Andrew and laughing. This is not going to end well, thought Matt. He didn't know what to do. Sure he wanted to follow his friend and offer back up as they valiantly defended poor Andrew. He knew it would just mean more trouble in the long run though. Eric already had it in for him. The last thing he needed was to annoy the guy more. He felt like a coward, and knew that Alex would hate on him for not having his back, but fear made him stay where he was. Alex could hold his own when he wanted too. Oh God, please don't get beaten up, begged Matt as he watched the scene unfold.
Is your book club reading The Pendant? What questions did you discuss? Leave a comment below or drop me an email.
Ready to make your own Book Club Discussion Questions?
As you can see, it's basically a conversation starter.
Ideas for what to include:
- Think about your books theme(s)
- Think about the relationships between the characters.
- Are there key scenes that reveal a turning point in the story?
- Ask yourself what other options did the character have?
By providing a discuss sheet for your book you're making it easier for book clubs, and anyone else reading your book to talk about it.
It also makes a nice addition to your media kit, and can be used when doing book readings, or other author events.
What genre do you write and why?
Suspense is my main genre. I think suspense/dark mysteries/crime novels reflect the basic human condition: the struggle to survive. We all relate to this struggle because, at some point, each of us face life-threatening threats in some form.
Tell us about your latest book.
CHILD’S PLAY is the story of a second grade teacher, Elle Harrison, who is about to start a new school year. One of her former students, Ty Evans, has just been released from juvenile detention where he’s served eight years for the murder of his father. Soon, people with whom Ty has grudges are brutally murdered. Ty reappears in Elle’s life, and soon she herself is attacked. She fears for her life and eventually has to confront the killer in the ultimate struggle. That’s the main plot line.
CHILD’S PLAY is a gripping read, but it’s about a lot more than the mystery. For example, it looks at Elle’s attempt to recover from loss. Elle is trying to sell the house she shared with her husband who died two years before. Even as a killer closes in, Elle is coping with saying goodbye to her home and trying to control an annoyingly aggressive real estate agent.
Another theme involves Elle’s strong group of supportive women friends. This group sharply contrasts with a group of young girls composed of Elle’s former students. The importance, influence, and both positive and negative effects of female friendships play a big part in the book.
By placing murders in a school and the surrounding neighborhood, CHILD’S PLAY looks not just at murders, but also at how the murderer developed within a community and family. CHILD’S PLAY is a story of peer pressure, child abuse, juvenile justice, and the often difficult roles teachers play in the lives of their students.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
Oh man. SO many methods because, for me, marketing is a bigger challenge than writing the book. So I’m doing interviews like this one. And writing a bunch of guest blogs. I’ve scheduled podcast interviews and bookstore signings. I’m sending out my newsletter with a contest to win free books. There’s a Goodreads giveaway. I sent a post card promotion to hundreds of indie book stores. A Thunderclap announcement of CHILD’S PLAY’s release will reach about 400,000 people. Also, I’m speaking to groups—anywhere I can, including book clubs, conferences and bars. I’m participating in ITW’s author’s promotion opportunities, promoting on my website and Facebook and Twitter. Etcetera. It’s a never-ending effort.
What formats is the book available in?
Trade paper and ebook.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Keep writing. That’s it, really. Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged if you get stuck or face rejections. Keep going. If you’re a writer, you have no choice. Stories are inside you, nagging you to let them out. Your characters want to come to life on paper. Your plots want to unfold. So do it. Write it. A little at a time, consistently, every day if you can. Hone your craft. Develop your voice. Keep at it.
What's the best thing about being a writer?
There are so many—Losing myself in the writing process so I don’t know what time it is. Or reading back something I’ve written and being surprised that I like it. Holding a copy of my published book and feeling it in my hand.
But if I have to pick just one, I’d say that the best thing is connecting with readers. For me a book isn’t completely finished until it is read. I can do my part by putting the words on paper and finding a publisher. But only when somebody reads the book and reacts to it do I feel a sense of completion. Even complaints satisfy me. Because if someone complains about, say, a character or a plot twist, I know that someone has been affected enough to bother to complain. Of course I prefer praise to complaints. But I write for readers. So the best thing is learning that my work has reached them. Then I’m finally finished, and I feel a sense of accomplishment.
How long did it take you to write your book?
About nine months. I’ve written some in six months to meet deadlines, and that was brutal. Nine months is intense. A year would be comfortable.
How do you research your books?
Each book is different and requires different methods. Over the years, I’ve had to learn about sleep disorders, pre-Colombian religion, brain injuries, archeological digs, PTSD, human trafficking, dog fighting, drug trials for medical research—and a host of other topics. To learn about settings, I’ve traveled to upstate New York, a state forest in Pennsylvania, Israel and Mexico.
I begin each book by reading up on the subject matter. For CHILD’S PLAY, I read about child development, second grade curricula, seven-year-olds, child abuse, juvenile detention, real estate, peer pressure. When I’d made a bunch of notes from reading articles and other reliable sources, I interviewed a former prison guard, a child development expert, a psychologist and a teacher. I visited locations on the Main Line (near Philadelphia) where the book is set.
In general, my research begins broad with articles on the general subject matter. Then I zero in with more specific questions, talking to experts and traveling to locations.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I’m trying to write a novel in a different genre. Not suspense, but contemporary women’s fiction. After a dozen or more suspense novels, I thought I’d do something different by writing a crimeless book that focused on relationships.
I made it to page 89. That’s where the first murder happens. And it’s clear that there will be more before the end. I intended to write a novel where the stakes were lower and the mood less dark. But no. My characters didn’t cooperate. One got mad and killed another. Maybe I’ll manage to go crimeless next time.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I always made up stories, even as a young child. My family encouraged this. Also, my early teachers—in second and third grade. My fifth grade teacher entered a story I wrote into a national contest and I received a letter of commendation. That spurred me on. So it’s not a single “who,” but a consistent environment of encouraging people. I don’t know where the initial drive to write came from, though. It was always just there from my earliest memories.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Whenever the weather permits, you’ll find me on the Schuylkill River, sculling. I love to row in my single shell or with my husband or one of my daughters in a double. Rowing is great exercise, and being on the water with the turtles, egrets, cormorants, ducks and geese is extremely peaceful. The sport requires focus, as each stroke consists of a sequence of precise movements to be performed in ever-changing conditions of water and wind. Sculling helps my concentration as well as my physical health. It revitalizes me, improves my mood, gives me a break from the demands of daily life and the worries of the world. Also, it’s fun.
Other than that, I try to spend time with my family. One daughter is getting married this spring. I never imagined how much time preparations would take.
And I spend a significant amount of time with the Philadephia area writing community. I co-host free writers’ coffeehouses with the Philadelphia branch of the Liars Club. And I co-host a Liars Club podcast. I participate Noir at the Bar readings whenever I can. Etcetera. We have a lot of talent in the area, and I love connecting with other writers.