A Lesson on Self-doubt

I learned an important lesson last month. I decided I wanted to enter some short story competitions again, something I haven’t done in a while. One of the ones I looked at was asking for short stories and poems on the theme ‘dusk.’ Now, I’m not always very good at coming with a story on a particular theme. I wracked my brains on this one, but what actually came into my head was a narrative poem. I don’t as a rule write poetry, and I’m not too good at it. However, I thought if I wrote this poem it might clear my head for another idea, or a story might come out of it. So I did. And I thought it was okay. Maybe I would enter it after all. I put it aside to think about, and then decided it was rubbish. So I did nothing with it.

Then, the other day, I was scrolling through my notes and came across it. And it was actually pretty good! The only problem was, the deadline had passed just the day before. If I’d entered it, I probably wouldn’t have won anything. But I definitely won’t now! I wouldn’t have lost anything by trying. So that reminded me once again not to give in to the self doubt that is part of a writer’s life. Just send your work out. You never know.

The above post is an excerpt from the December edition of my newsletter. While it’s more for fans of my work than for new writers, whom I try to cater for on this blog, I am taking it in the slightly new direction of being a lot more open and honest about the ups and downs of my writing life. So if you enjoyed this post and think such experiences could help you, then do sign up for my monthly newsletter on the pop up form or the contact page.

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What Makes a Real Writer?

‘I’d love to write a book if I had time’ is one of those comments that writers get regularly, and never fails to make them resolve to kill that person off in their next story. Once I even had someone tell me that, although now they did have the time to write, they just didn’t need the money anymore. I resisted telling them that that’s like someone who once appeared in their school nativity play saying they didn’t pursue their acting career because the fame would be inconvenient. So, can anyone who has the time write? What makes a real writer?

You all know what this first point is going to be. A real writer writes. They don’t have a choice. That’s whether they have the time or not. Because we can’t imagine not writing.

Of course, some writers come to it later in life, when they retire perhaps. And they do have time. But they still have to sit down and actually write something. They choose to do that with their spare time because that’s what they really want to do. Most people who say they would love to write a book if they had time will not do so, even when they do. Even if you sent them on a writer’s retreat for a month. That’s because writing is hard. It’s a lot harder than you know until you try. Which brings me to the next point. Yes, there is a next point. There any many quotes out there that say if you write then you’re a writer and that’s it. I disagree. I think there’s a little more to it…

Real writers finish. The hard part about writing is not starting a book. It’s finishing it. I remember when I began my first novel, I got to 13,000 words and thought I’d written half a book. I then looked up how many thousand words a novel normally is and realised I’d actually written less than a quarter. It can be a slow process and there is always a slump in the middle. The bit when you’re not sure if you can do this. Where you’re convinced the whole thing is the biggest load of drivel ever written. When you’re not sure where to go from here. Non writers drop their work at this point. Real writers work through it.

A real writer wants their work to be the best it can be. That means redrafting, rewriting and revising until your sick of it. It means editing until commas appear before your eyes when you shut them. It even means paying someone else to edit it if you’re struggling yourself. A real writer knows that the first version is only the beginning.

A real writer learns from other writers. That means reading. A lot. A writer never stops learning how to be better. Stephen King says that if you don’t have the time to read then neither do you have the time or the tools to write. And it’s true. So, if a writer is a reader, does that mean that a reader is also a writer? Often, yes. A love of words and books is usually manifest both ways. I was once told on a short story course that anyone who reads can write. But reading on its own isn’t enough. So if you read a lot and think you might like to write a book, make sure you are willing to do all the other things listed in this post too. Writing, real writing, is about perseverance.

Finally, a real writer shares their work. A friend recently expressed to me how brave she thought I had to be to send my work out. And it does take courage. But as I told my friend, no work of art is complete unless it has an audience. A beautiful picture that spends its life facing the wall is unfulfilled. There may be many examples of lyrical prose or heart wrenching stories in someone’s old exercise books, but they are never going to impact the world from there. And that’s what art should do. It should make the world a slightly different place to what it was without it. But it can only do that through its audience. And a writer can only get the true perspective of their work when it’s out in the world, standing on its own. That perspective is essential to improving as a writer. So if you have exercise books or a computer stuffed with stories that have never seen the light of day, take the final step to becoming a real writer and send them out into the world.

I hope this post has helped you realise that you are a real writer. And if it hasn’t, at least you know never to say to one that you would love to write a book if you had the time.

How Do You Know Which Writing Methods are Right For You?

There are many different ways to write. There are plotters and pantsers, writers who type straight off, writers who do it all by hand first. Writers who don’t look back until the first draft is finished, writers who perfect each section as they go. How do you know which methods are right for you?

Part of it has to be trial and error. So don’t be afraid to try different methods. I always used to type everything straight away. Then I had a great idea for a story as I was about to climb into the bath. I didn’t dare take my tablet in with me, so I took a notebook. And I found the whole thing flowed better and I was less caught up in things like punctuation. Now I usually write my words out on paper first. So just because you’ve been using one method for ages doesn’t mean another won’t work as well or better. So give it a go.

Another help to deciding what methods will work for you is self knowledge. I’m a pantser for two reasons. Firstly, because I know making detailed lists and character studies would bore me and keep me away from the actual writing. Secondly, I know that part of the fun of writing for me is to find these things out as I go along. I like to get to know my characters gradually, in the same way that the reader will. And the scenes that are unplanned, that arise out of my subconscious, are always my favourites.

Having said all that, some methods will depend on what you’re writing. My last manuscript jumped back and forth between past and present, and the timing was quite complicated as it had to align with some real historical events. So I made myself a timeline, something I would never ordinarily do. One of my future projects will need each chapter to be (roughly) outlined to make it dovetail together properly. But for my current project I just know basically what I want to happen, and there’s a few scenes in my head, otherwise I’m just going for it.

You also need to recognise that in this case there is no wrong or right way to do it. All writers are different. The oddest method I’ve ever heard was Lin Anderson’s. She starts with one scene, always a crime scene. When she starts she has no idea how it will end. And she just writes a chapter at a time, only starting the next one when the previous is polished and ready. I’ve never heard of any writer doing it that way before, but clearly it works for her as she has had multiple works published. So don’t be afraid to come up with your own, unique method.

Do you have any interesting writing methods? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to leave a comment.

Danube Defiance- Book Review

Book Description:

DANUBE DEFIANCE, by novelist JANE GOLDEN, is an enthralling mystery about an art heist involving ancient icon art. Travel with super sleuth, Jeni, as she ventures through the antique markets in New Orleans’ French Quarter and across the ocean to Eastern Europe’s bustling city of Bucharest and the Romanian countryside. Jeni stumbles upon one clue that leads to others. Something doesn’t add up, and she gathers a few friends… an antiquities expert, a journalist, and a dashing New Orleans shopkeeper. Together, they follow a river of clues and dead bodies. But will the thieves get them first?

Review:

I’d mainly label this book as a cosy mystery, but in reality it’s a mix of things. It does have the slower pace of the cosy mystery, on the other hand there is none of the traditional list of suspects or plot twists that you would expect from that genre. It’s more of a thriller, but written in the style of a cosy mystery. I must admit to finding the solution slightly unfulfilling. But then again I often do.

The characters were believable and endearing and the writer clearly knows what she’s talking about. I would guess that perhaps she once filled the same role that Jeni, the main character in the book, occupies. I’d recommend it to fans of the fictional detectives Agatha Raisin and Daisy Dalrymple, who share the characteristics of achieving results by a mixture of luck and tenacious curiosity. Jeni very much falls into this category.

Also, if you like reading about other countries but dislike dry travel guides, this is a great way to learn about another culture without even thinking about it. It reminded me of Mary Stewart in that respect. The descriptions of Romania did slow the story down, but I enjoyed them nevertheless. All in all, it was a light but highly enjoyable read.

Rating- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Find it on Amazon. About the Author: Jane Golden, author of SECRETS IN THE VINES and DANUBE DEFIANCE, was born with an inherent sense of adventure. The Biloxi, Mississippi native gives new meaning to tripping abroad. Experiencing international travel for the first time in her early teens, the brief jaunt stuck with her. She knew in her heart that the day-long excursion to a Mexican border town was the beginning of a lifetime of exotic journeys,which later included trips to Chile, Malawi, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Jordan, and Europe.

After practicing law for many years, she was unexpectedly thrust into the role of a diplomat wife in Eastern Europe. Much of the background material in SECRETS IN THE VINES and DANUBE DEFIANCE is borrowed from personal travel experiences, including humorous insights and unique perspectives gained upon arrival in Bucharest. Jane’s profound insights into the Romanian culture are eye-opening in both books, igniting the curiosity of the reader while providing non-stop entertainment. 

What I Learned from my Book Launch

Last week I launched my first independently published book, a collection of 12 short stories with diary extracts, taking you on my journey from unpublished writer to debut novelist. As you will have gathered from this masterly description, although it was my first self published book, it was not my first published book. My teen novel, Victoria’s Victorian Victory, was released last year by Rainy Day Reads Publishing. The thing with this, though, is that they launched the book. I let everyone know on social media, but that was the end of my role really. With my new book, is was all down to me. Perhaps because of that, I staged a rather elaborate launch across all of my platforms. Some things I got very right, some things I got a little wrong. As you know, I always like to share my experiences so other writers can use them. So here’s what I learned:


You will have to give away quite a few paperbacks.

I staged paperback as well as eBook giveaways across all of my social media sites. I also sent one out to each of my market research team. Doing so created a buzz on the day, with lots of people entering the competitions. Over 4000 people saw my post on twitter alone. Having said that, many of these will be giveaway accounts. It’s a good idea to exclude these if you want someone to win the book who really wants it. If you’re not bothered about that and just want the publicity then it’s a great tool.

Sending out paperbacks also keeps the momentum going. As everyone starts to receive their free paperbacks they will likely post about it on their social media for you. They may also give you a great review.


Make sure you get the book absolutely right.

If you’re going to make a big fuss on your launch day, you need to make sure the book is worth fussing over. People will be quick to spot all hype with no substance. Make sure the eBook and paperback are both the best you can make them. It’s a good idea to get a proof of the paperback sent to you beforehand to check if you can. This really pays off though. I’ve had a lot of great comments on the quality of my paperback in particular.


Have some advance reviews to share. This tells people, not only that your book is now available to buy, but why they should buy it. I only had a couple, and I shared them the day after the launch, but they made a big difference.


Use videos to get more views. People on social media like videos. They are more personal, they get to see and hear you, and they still have a certain novelty about them. The two videos I posted to Instagram, one telling everyone what was happening, the other doing a short reading from the new book, got more interaction than any of the other things I posted that day. I also did a Facebook live session. I’ll be honest, not many people tuned in for that and it was slightly off-putting. I think I did it too early in the day. However, I needn’t have worried- lots of people have watched it on playback. However, next time I do a live video I may try it on Instagram. Instagram sends out a notification to all your followers that you are live. So we will see if that works better.


Don’t expect huge sales straight away. Unless you’re spending a lot of money on advertising, these things take time. They build like a snowball. For now, lots of people on social media are hearing how great my new book is. Some bought it straight away. More will follow. Interestingly, I’ve also seen an increase of sales for my novel. I guess if people like one book then they are more likely to buy the other.


As always, I hope you find that helpful, and please feel free to add your experiences in the comments.

Book Launch Day!

As you probably know, on Sunday I will be releasing my first short story collection. It’s also my first self-published book. I’m really proud of what I’ve come up with and I’ve got lots of great activities and giveaways planned. So I’m just going to run you through the schedule so you don’t miss anything you would enjoy.


The fun starts on Instagram on Saturday afternoon with a celebration of the short story. I’m challenging you to write a twelve word story. Twelve because that’s the number of stories in my book. If you also write the story on the theme of twelve you get extra points! There will be an overall winner, who will get a free eBook and their story reposted to my Instagram page. There will also be a shortlist, all of whom will also get free ebooks. So there’s basically an unlimited number of prizes and I’ll be choosing my favourites! If that sounds like fun and you’re not already following me on Instagram then you can do so here.


On Sunday morning I’ll launch other giveaways across my social media sites. There will be one on this blog, on Twitter, Facebook and another on Instagram for the non-writers.


Sunday afternoon there will be readings and excerpts, again across all my social media, though primarily Instagram. I’ll also share and pictures of readers with their preorders and hopefully there’ll be some great advance reviews to share!


Sunday evening I’ll be doing a Facebook live question and answer session at 6:00pm GMT. I’ll also announce all the giveaway winners.


Hope to see you on Sunday!

5 Mistakes to Avoid When You Come to Publish Your Book


So, you have a completed manuscript, edited and revised to within an inch of its life, a great, eye-catching cover and a mailing list waiting with bated breath. Excellent! Now a whole new can of worms opens. You have to get it onto paper/ereaders. Happily, online platforms like Kindle and Kobo have made it fairly easy to get your book into the hands of readers. But they all have quirks and inconsistencies that you won’t know about until you’re in the middle of it. Unless, of course, some nice writer who’s just done it writes a blog post on the subject! So here’s my 5 things I wish I’d know before I started. So you do.


1. Having the Wrong File Types

It’s very annoying, and time consuming, when you come to upload your book and realise it’s in the wrong type of file. And they’re all different. Kindle recommends a Word file, but your Amazon paperback needs a PDF. Kobo, on the other hand, only accepts ePubs. And you cannot just convert the same file. A Word file converted to an ePub doesn’t look good. And there are things you can do for the paperback PDF version that would not convert well on the Word file. I found the best thing to do was create a separately formatted file for each version. So now I have a very basic layout that works on Kindle, but the paperback can have fancy fonts and pictures. Still working on the ePub!


2. Relying on Preview Mode

Once you upload your Word file to Kindle you can go into preview mode to see what your book will look like on people’s ereaders. Except that you can’t. They don’t look the same at all. I had my file looking absolutely perfect in preview mode, but when I downloaded the Kindle file there were blank pages, not to mention wrong indentations and spacing. So don’t think that because it looks good in the preview you don’t have to download a mobi file to check. You do.


3. Not Getting a Proof

I didn’t know at first, but you can order a proof version of your paperback once you have approved it. Please do this. Your book can look quite different than you imagine. For me, the print was much smaller than I expected. This is because the PDF version is usually sized on your computer as A4. But when you upload it to your book, Amazon will trim the size so that one page of your PDF equals one page of your paperback. But your paperback, depending on the size you’ve chosen, is likely much smaller than A4, therefore the print has automatically been shrunken.


4. Not Leaving Room for the Barcode

This is for when you design your paperback cover. If you don’t have a barcode, Amazon will assign you one. It then gets put on the bottom right-hand-side of your back cover. So make sure you leave plenty of room for that in your cover design. You don’t really want to have to stop and redesign the cover at this stage.


5. Not Checking The Listing Thoroughly

Because so many things are easily corrected on Amazon, we may not always check for mistakes too carefully in the actual listing. After all, we can always fix them, right? Wrong. Once you hit the publish button on your book there are some things that cannot be changed. You can’t change the title or subtitle or author. So make sure you check carefully, and check again, that you have typed it all correctly! The title and subtitle will be a big part of the Amazon listing. So even a small mistake, such as accidentally typing ‘form’ instead of ‘from’ (who would do something like that?), becomes very noticeable. You can contact Amazon about it and ask them to change it, but this is an extra worry that’s easily avoided if you check it carefully, with the knowledge that it can’t be changed easily.


So there’s the five things I wish I’d known before the publishing process. I worked it out though, and so will you. But I hope you find my experiences helpful when it comes to publishing your own book. Let me know if there’s anything you would add!


‘My Year of Stories- a journey from unpublished writer to debut novelist’ releases on the 15th of October 2017 and is now available to preorder here.

New Book Cover Reveal!

If you follow this blog or my social media, you’re probably aware that I’ll be releasing my very own short story collection in October. So obviously I’ve been working very hard getting it right for you, and the cover is finally ready for the big reveal! (Though newsletter subscribers have already seen it…) Anyway, here it is:

And the back:

There’s all sorts of great giveaways, readings and events planned for release day, so make sure you’re following me on Instagram and/or Twitter (username for both is @abiwriting), or signed up to my newsletter, so as not to miss out!

Moving Experiences

“It’s exhausting moving house,” I remarked to hubby this evening. And indeed, I really think it is the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done. Even more so than getting married. It’s not just the packing, lugging about and unpacking of innumerable boxes. In fact, the moving day itself was the easiest of the lot. Several family members came to help, and by 7:00 we were all sat outside in the sunshine eating the most enormous Indian takeaway you have ever seen.

No, the next day, wherein we had to go back to the old house and get it cleaned up for the new occupier, was by far worse. Is there anything more dismal than a house with all your furniture and belongings moved out of it? And is it just me who suddenly realises that they really ought to have vacuumed under the bed and behind the fridge semi-occasionally? I was never more embarrassed when my mother and father in law removed these particular items and revealed what was underneath. I fleetingly resolved to spend less time reading and writing and more time on housework. I say fleetingly because I’m now starting to think it would be easier just to never move house ever again.

Anyway, once the old house was ready to hand over, it was time to concentrate on the new one. A few new items of furniture being needed, we set forth to IKEA, and five hours and four trolleys later we congratulated ourselves in having remembered everything. We subsequently discovered that our new dining room table came in two boxes, of which we only had the second one. So we had to go again, which somehow ended up being another five hours and a further two trolleys. I think we have almost everything now…

IKEA is a delightful place, but it does pall when all the muscles in your feet ache. And then when you get home you still have to assemble the furniture. Hubby is complaining of ‘Allen key arm.’ But I was very good and didn’t get upset when he made a mistake with the console table and left four little holes evenly spaced all along the front.

We have also done seven trips to the recycling centre with all the resulting cardboard from said furniture and the boxes. However, we love our little tiny house and are finally starting to get organised. I’ve arranged my new bookshelves by colour. And I’ve finally even found time to write a blog post.

What To Do Before You Publish Your Book

There’s nothing that feels flatter than sending your hard work out into the world, only to realise that your audience is either indifferent, or worse, nonexistent. The problem is, many authors make the mistake of thinking that it’s enough to develop a small social media following and then do one or two posts about their book release immediately before or during publication. But in fact, only a very small percentage of your social media followers will rush out and buy your book. There are just so many authors out there, only a millionaire could buy every book advertised on their social media the moment it’s released. So you need to build excitement for your book and show people why they need to read it. Here’s a few suggestions on how to do this:

1) Grow an email list. Please, if you’re releasing books that are barely making a ripple in the sea of social media, put your pen down and create a smaller pond. Yes, it takes time away from writing. You may have to release your book a few months later. But it’s worth it. People on your email list are far more likely to buy your book than people on your social media.

2) Get your audience involved. Ask your email list and/or social media to help you name a character, choose a title, or critique a blurb. Readers will enjoy a book they feel they’ve had a part in making so much more.

3) Release regular updates. As parts of your book become finalised, such as the cover, keep your audience informed of its progress. This not only keeps everyone updated and creates anticipation, it gives people multiple opportunities to see that you have a book coming out.

4) Get advance reviews. I really regret not doing this for Victoria’s Victorian Victory. I meant to, just a weird combination of circumstances meant I couldn’t. But what that means is you have to wait for reviews until after your release day. Which means you can’t tell everyone what great things others are saying about the book to build excitement on the release day itself. And those who do buy your book that day will likely take a week or two to read and review it. By that time, most people have forgotten about your book release. Harsh, but true.

5) Do a blog tour. This is something I did do. Ask a few bloggers you know to host you on their sites. I had five or six guest blog posts lined up, and the lovely ladies who published them for me kindly staggered them to go out every two days leading up to my book release. It got me a lot of great exposure.

6) Send out a press release. It doesn’t cost anything to email a press release to your local paper, but it may result in some great free advertising if they take up the story. And if they don’t, what have you lost?

I hope those are some helpful suggestions. Remember, releasing a book is a big, exciting thing. Treat every book you publish as special. Make a fuss. Because if you don’t, no one else will.