Progress Report! (Or how I learned to love my work again!)

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BABY STEPS!

 

I have been an editor/proof-reader for years and always considered myself reasonably good at my job. I never had any complaints, which is my benchmark for how good you really are. In fact, several Literary Agents complimented me on the quality of our submissions.

English was always my favourite subject and I read a lot of books, but never once considered being a writer. I was far too busy managing Anita’s books, back in the day when manuscripts had to be submitted to agents and publishers in a very particular fashion.

Over the years, we received stacks of very encouraging and favourable letters from both agents and publishers alike, almost leading to publication a couple of times but sadly, despite almost being good enough, Anita was never published.

This might have been why I didn’t think of being a writer, after all, I knew better than most, just how bloody hard it was. But eventually, my muse arrived. This was just after the Kindle phenomena took off. Suddenly, everyone could publish their books on Amazon, and it was supposed to be so easy, anyone could do it.

I have to say, in fairness to all the wonderful writers out there, I did find it very hard to write a full-length book. 70.000 words seemed an impossible target, and I doubted my capabilities every step of the way. That first book taught me so much about plot and dialogue, character arcs and subplots, even though it made my head spin. The day I finished Nine Lives, a sense of achievement crept over me as I realised I had become a writer!

That was in 2014, and I went on to write two more thrillers after that. Most of you will know the fun I have had finding the right covers for my books, but I didn’t worry about the content at all. After all, I checked them for spelling errors and I had my editor head on, so they had to be fine.

Or so I thought.

What happened to make me doubt myself?

I had written a memoir/novella about my fight with breast cancer and published it on Amazon. It received one review that commented on how short it was, and when I took a long hard look at it, I had to agree. Not only was it far too short, it could be a lot better. That was when I knew I would have to check my other books too.

I read Nine Lives again and was shocked at the state of it. Where was all the brilliant writing, the competent editor, the jaw-dropping prose? To say I was disappointed would be putting it mildly, I wanted to crawl away and die. For nearly a week, I battled with unpublishing my books and throwing them away, for the thought of rewriting them seemed an impossible task.

Gradually, common sense prevailed. They were my babies, I was an editor, I could fix this.

One thought kept me going. If I can now recognise the faults in my writing, does that mean I have improved over the years? I am pretty sure I have, for I am looking at my work with a totally different mindset. Most of what I see is amateur, almost childish. There were so many repeated and wimpy words and adjectives by the bucket load. It probably would have been easier to start afresh, but I am nothing if not stubborn, so I have tried to improve all three books, or die trying! They might be the only thing I leave this world to remember me by!

 

Baby Steps (part two)

Here is the final choice of cover for Nine Lives…

Huge thank you’s to everyone who gave their opinion yesterday!

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Book Description

Death has been visiting Kate all of her life, leading her to imagine she has nine lives, like a cat.

With nothing to live for, no family or friends, just a brother she hates, she waits for Death to finally take her away when her lives run out.

Death continues to speak to her, teasing her, yet will not come for her.

But when people around her begin to die at the hands of a serial killer, she hopes to be next.

Has Kate finally run out of lives, or will she find a reason to live before it is too late?

Excerpt

Something dark was smeared all over the plastic flap. It looked like blood, dripping down the door into a puddle on the floor.

‘What the..?’

She didn’t want to look, but knew she must and edged closer. The blood seemed to be all on the inside, she would have to open the back door.

She reached out her hand, but it refused to grasp the handle or the key that was in the lock. She stood, frozen, for what seemed like an age. Desperately wanting to run away and knowing she couldn’t, not yet.

It began to filter through to her brain that someone had been in her flat again. Her stomach dropped to her knees, what if whoever it was, was still there, hiding somewhere?

She couldn’t do this. Her knees had turned to jelly and there was a real risk of her falling to the floor right where she stood. The smell of the blood was making her feel sick and she knew if she didn’t open the door soon, there was a great possibility she never would.

‘Get a grip, girl, what’s the matter with you?’ she said angrily, reaching out for the handle once again. This time she managed to unlock the door and open it, stifling a scream with both hands as she saw what was on the other side of the door.

There was more blood and a lot of blood-soaked silver fur scattered over the doorstep. She knew what it was, but there was nothing she could identify. Just bits and pieces as if he had been hacked to pieces.

She stood there staring, not knowing what to do, so she shut the door, hoping her brain would come up with some plan of action all on its own. She should start by checking the flat; although if she found anyone, she knew she could quite easily kill whoever it was. The shock was wearing off, being replaced by an incredible sadness and anger. Who could do such a thing to a defenceless animal, and more to the point, why? What reason could they possibly have?

The voice sarcastically remarked that the cat had run out of lives too.

What was all this nonsense about lives?

 

Still looking for some beta readers, if anyone would love to help  me out?

Do we need Beta readers?

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When I first began to blog, back in 2012, it was to promote my sister, Anita’s books and I had no idea how anything worked. All I had to go by was the fact that everybody seemed to be doing it, so how hard could it be.
So I set to it with a great deal of determination (and patience) to learn whatever was necessary to do the job. Didn’t think it would be too difficult, after all I had just mastered the art of formatting and uploading a load of Word files to Amazon. And Smashwords and Goodreads.
It was beginning to look quite easy, but that was about to change.

Although I love to read, and do a lot of it, I must admit that in the beginning I read more ‘how-to’ books than any other kind. Most of these were very good, and I would not be as clever as I am now if not for their advice. My only complaint is that they only ever go so far, not basic enough for technophobic idiots like me.
Although I have learned a lot, I know there are vast chunks of information missing. But being a stubborn soul, I will continue to persevere. Maybe I will get lucky, and God knows, it couldn’t hurt.

Somewhere along the way, the idea for a book of my own seeded itself in my head, and promptly took root. I had always wanted to write, but would I be any good?
I ended up writing The Ninth Life, and it turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be, but was reasonably pleased with the result. I edited until I was blue in the face and promptly uploaded it to Amazon. But something was nagging at me, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I even started work on the sequel, for my characters had decided there was more where that came from. It was only when I started to create the new outline, that certain issues made themselves known. Was it possible I had rushed the ending in my haste to finish?

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That was when I knew I needed a second opinion.
So I appealed to all my new friends on Facebook for a beta reader, and Louise Wyatt contacted me and offered to read my book.
As the time ticked away, my nerves drove me insane. I hovered between eternal optimism and the darkest despair. Supposing she thought it was rubbish. That there were hundreds of things wrong with it. What then?
When I noticed the name Louise Wyatt in my emails two weeks later, my stomach hit the floor. It was time to learn the truth.

I printed off the email and the report that came with it, but it was a while before I could read it. Anita read it before I did, and she just grinned at me. What did that mean?
When I finally plucked up the courage to read it, I was pleasantly surprised. Apart from a few typos and one slight character weakness, there was only one major problem. I had rushed the ending, thus ruining all the tension I had so painstakingly created.
But, and this was the best bit, Louise really liked my story and promised to leave a review on Amazon.
Here it is, my first review!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An addictive and rollercoaster of a read 4 Mar. 2015
By Louise Wyatt

If you like the thriller genre that keeps up the momentum then The Ninth Life would be a good read for you. The pace never falters, building up the plot and characters with timely intervention. The author cleverly keeps the story centred around the main character, with the other players coming into the story and yet there are no plot holes or false timings.
Not once did I get bored reading it or find the story faltering at all – definitely one of those where ‘you need to know what happens next’ but I think the author’s gift when writing this is to keep the protagonist centre whilst keeping the reader constantly hooked. The antagonist is typically a nasty character, one whom the reader takes an instant dislike to and the edge he adds to the story is almost palpable.
Other characters are kept to a minimum but play pivotal roles in the story; the good thing here is you never know quite how they will turn out. Will your fears be unfounded? Or did you correctly guess the next step? The ending is not what you would expect (another good talent to have when writing) but you’ll have to read the book!

So, for all new writers out there, or anyone who thinks they don’t need professional advice, you are missing out on some valuable help. It will do wonders for your morale too!

I’m so glad I did, even though it means altering and rewriting sections before uploading my story to Amazon again. At least now I know it is a good story and worth reading.
Which also helps me with the sequel!

You can contact Louise here

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