Can writing be a sociable activity?

Elephant house coffee shop

Two weeks from now, I will be a full-time author.

Becoming an author has been a long-held dream of mine. To be more specific, it became my lifetime ambition once I had realised that I wasn’t any good at football and couldn’t see well enough to drive a train.

From May onwards, I will spend my days pecking mercilessly at my laptop keyboard, concocting the masterpiece that will be my second novel.

When I told my mother that I was giving up my well paid job to become a professional author, she nearly choked on her cornflakes. ‘But you’ve only sold 27 copies of your first book,’ she spluttered.

How very dare she.

She wasn’t pacified when I had corrected her on the numbers. Or even when I told her that Six Months to Get a Life, my debut novel, had received yet more heart-warming reviews and praise on twitter over the past few days.

‘It’s not just about the money,’ she came back with, ‘you’ll go mad sitting on your own, writing all day.’

My mum has a point there. I love being with people. Sharing experiences, sharing views, sharing stories and sharing pizza is, for me, what makes me tick. I am a sociable person.

I can’t wait to be a full-time author, but the solitude of a writing life does worry me a bit. And being a single dad doesn’t help with the potential loneliness either. Will I spend all day writing, and all evening cooking, washing and supervising homework, with no adult company other than my friends at the supermarket checkout to keep me sane?

Obviously, I am determined that the answer will be ‘No.’

Over the past few weeks, I have spent some time looking in to a whole variety of ways of keeping myself sane while I write. It’s not as though I want to chat all day, but having the odd conversation with an adult every so often would be nice, even if I don’t get to share their pizza.

Being sociable online during breaks in my writing is one way I will reduce the feeling of isolation. I do enjoy engaging with fellow authors on sites such as the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and with my small but growing reader-base on Facebook and Twitter. No doubt a bit of twitter banter during the day will spur me on.

But online sociability is no substitute for actual vocal chord-exercising conversation.

So how will I meet ‘real people’ during my writing day?

My dog, Albus, will demand that I take him for a walk at least once during the day. Last week, he brought a rugby ball in from the garden and deposited it on my keyboard just as I was getting to the climax of a tense scene. Walking the dog normally results in at least some interaction with real people. But saying things like ‘Sorry my German Shepherd ate your Labradoodle’ or ‘he’ll leave you alone in a minute,’ isn’t necessarily the sort of interaction that will make me feel good about my life. I’ll need more than a dog walk a day to improve my sense of wellbeing as an author.

A number of my friends work from home. There’s Pete the musician. I might need headphones for most of the day but I can cope with that. Or there’s Barry the civil servant. He watches the cricket – I mean works from home – regularly. There’s even Ed, my politician friend. He’d be good company but his talk of long-term economic plans, austerity and ‘hard-working British people’ might get a bit monotonous after a while. The one advantage of Ed is that he won’t grill me on where the money’s coming from to fund my lifestyle.

I am not sure whether Stephen King would approve, but so many authors have talked about establishing a routine in which they regularly write in a local coffee shop. J.K. Rowling apparently started writing Harry Potter in the coffee shop pictured above.

Whether or not such authors form a relationship with the proprietor or with fellow customers, this sounds like an idea worth exploring to me. The caffeine will certainly stimulate my creative juices, as might the comings and goings in the café. ‘Cheeky Monkeys’ on Grand Drive, you can expect a visit from me in May. You never know, I might meet the odd yummy mummy in there too, but let’s not digress.

I am also intending to join a writing group. Until recently, I hadn’t realised that writers gathered together just to write. But a bit of internet research tells me that they do.

Groups like the London-based ‘Write Together’ organise sessions for authors to gather together, work on their own writing projects for a few hours and then socialise, should they so wish. ‘Write Together’ advertise the get-togethers to their members via www.meetup.com. Meetings take place in a variety of venues, from cafes to coffee shops. Meeting likeminded authors would be a tonic for me, and I can see how being surrounded by fellow authors would spur you on to work harder. It may also piss me off if my fellow scribblers all seem to be typing more than me though.

If you have other ideas on how I might write in company, I would love to hear from you.

Ben

The book club

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My ears were burning last Tuesday evening. By all accounts, a bunch of women were sitting in someone’s front room, eating cheese carrot sticks, drinking wine and talking about me.

More specifically, they were talking about my book, Six Months to Get a Life. My baby was the book of the month at the Chelsea Court book club.

Unfortunately, the book group meeting clashed with my eldest son’s birthday. After studying my conscience, tossing a coin and even trying to convince my son that he was actually born in August, I eventually gave in to my paternal instincts and reluctantly sent my apologies to the book group organiser.

Instead of a trip to the south coast to talk about the book, my extended family and I toddled off to a lovely steakhouse in Wimbledon.

I spent the first part of the evening trying not to think about the book group meeting. The literary ramblings refused to be shut out altogether though. At one point, I literally closed my eyes and envisaged the conversation taking place somewhere on the south coast.

‘The standard of writing’s appalling,’ Hilda might have muttered as she bit into her fifteenth cheese straw.

‘Yes, and the language is so vulgar,’ Olive agreed as she topped her glass up.

‘It’s worse than Jeffrey Archer,’ chimed in Lucinda from the kitchen doorway. ‘Pass me an olive, Olive.’

An impromptu chorus of happy birthday brought me back to my immediate surroundings with a jolt. Judging by his face whilst he was being serenaded, it rapidly became the birthday boy’s turn to imagine he was somewhere else. Anywhere else rather than being embarrassed by his overly affectionate family.

eldest embarrassed

As our family celebration continued, I managed to banish thoughts of the book group from my mind. My extended family and, more importantly, my son, had a lovely evening.

It was only when I woke up the next morning that I once again remembered the book group.

The organiser had promised to let me know what her band of friends made of my book. I checked my emails and was pleased to discoverer that she had emailed me late the previous evening once the group had gone their separate ways.

As I read the email, I gradually began to relax. By the time I had got to her goodbyes, I was positively beaming. The feedback was really positive. Hilda, Olive, Lucinda and their friends had thoroughly enjoyed the book.

In particular, they had enjoyed reading about divorce from a man’s point of view. They found the relationship between Graham and his sons to be real and evolving. They enjoyed the banter between father and sons too. The group could all apparently imagine seeing the book adapted for television as a mini-series . Two of them apparently took it away on holiday with them (to Eastbourne, or am I prematurely ageing the Chelsea Court book group?) and said it was perfect holiday reading.

The book group did comment that it would have been useful if I’d have published a set of book club questions to accompany the book. I will certainly look into this, as another group will be discussing Six Months to Get a Life in the coming few weeks.

One of the girls in the group apparently thought it was a shame that I hadn’t gone into more detail about the sex (obviously more of a Benidorm girl). I am currently writing my second book, Six Lies. I might try being a bit more explicit in that one, but I’m not sure it’s me.

I love receiving feedback on my work. I have received some good coverage on other people’s blogs during the past week or two. There are more reviews scheduled to be released next week.

What next for the book? Six Months to get a Life isn’t exactly setting the bestseller lists alight yet. I am still looking for that spark of magic that will propel me onto the radar of readers across the land. It will be featured on a couple more blogs over the next few weeks. There are some other significant conversations taking place too that might help. More of that in the next few weeks.

Have a great week.

I quit my job today!

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This week is a momentous week. I have officially handed in my notice. I have quit my job.

I leave on 30th April.

I will be saying goodbye to lots of fantastic work colleagues, all of whom care passionately about their work and the good that it brings to others.

I will also be saying cheerio to a regular salary, good banter at the water cooler, regular supplies of cake and paid annual leave too. Gulp.

And all because I want to be a full-time author.

I want to spend my days inventing and crafting stories. Having written my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, I now know that being an author is my passion of choice. It’s what I want to do. It’s what I want to be known for.

I have learnt something about myself over the past few years. When I respect myself, all is well in my world. I feel confident to face life’s challenges. I feel ten feet tall. I am proud that I have taken the decision to give writing a real chance.

But quitting my job is a huge financial gamble. I am a predominantly single dad and have a mortgage to pay. This will be the first time in my adult life that I haven’t brought home a regular salary. Some people may call me selfish for putting my family’s financial future at risk for the sake of a dream. They may be right.

Before writing my resignation letter, I took a long, hard look at my two boys. What would the impact of my decision be on them? They may have less fancy holidays in the future, but they will have a newly energised dad. And one who will be there to see them off to school and to welcome them home in the evenings. On balance, I am confident that I am making the right decision.

If it doesn’t work out, I can always get another job. Even in that case, when I look at myself in the mirror as I am shaving on the morning that I start my new job, I will nod to myself and be satisfied that at least I gave my dream every chance of succeeding.

Talking of resignation letters, I thought it would be fun to reproduce the resignation letter that Graham Hope, the protagonist in Six Months to Get a Life, writes to his employers. My own letter may differ slightly from the below, but one thing’s for certain, it won’t be dull!

“Hello soon-to-be-ex-colleagues,

After ten years of paper-shuffling, I am putting the world of logistics behind me and moving on to bigger and better things.  I can honestly say that I can’t wait to go, and if any of you lot had any balls, you would jump too before you are pushed. 

I will not miss being required to spend half my life thinking about blue skies or what is outside a box.  I am sick of cheap tea bags and can’t face another stale egg mayo sandwich.  Away-days are tedious beyond belief and appraisals aren’t worth the paper they are written on.  I won’t miss pretending not to notice Daniel’s tongue hanging out whenever Sarah walks in to the office.  I didn’t miss Sarah snogging Dean the post-room apprentice at last year’s Christmas party.

I will, however, miss Sheena from accounts.  I will miss being paid whilst spending the whole of the first half of 2012 searching online for Olympic tickets – I got loads in the end.  I will miss inserting rude words into lengthy performance reports just to see if anyone actually reads them.  After ten years of doing this, I can categorically say that they don’t.  Basically, I will miss the money. I am not sure I have earned it but it has come in useful.

Don’t bother writing a card or having a collection. I never put a penny into your birthday, wedding or new baby cards so I wouldn’t want you to have to feel you should contribute to a leaving card for me.  Actually, Danny boy, I hope you don’t mind but when your birthday collection came round a couple of months ago I was a bit skint at the time so I took a couple of quid out and paid for my lunch with it. 

Love and kisses.

Graham”

(Extract from ‘Six Months to Get a Life

The Last Rose: Wendy Clarke

My blog is all about writers and their journeys to becoming published authors. Normally I talk about my personal journey, but this week I am excited to introduce you to a different story. The story of a friend and fellow author I met via the internet’s thriving author community.

Wendy Clarke writes a great romance tale. Her first book, Room in Your Heart, is a collection of captivating stories that cannot fail to make you smile. In the interview below, Wendy tells me not only about her author journey but also about her latest projects.

If you have got a question you would like to put to Wendy, feel free to post it. I know that Wendy will be checking in here from time to time to respond.

Wendy Clarke      My interview with Wendy Clarke

Ben) So that we can get to know you a bit before we start, I’m going to fire a few quick-fire questions at you. Starting with your favourite author?

Wendy) Ann Weisgarber

Ben) Your favourite film?

Wendy) Life is Beautiful

Ben) Your favourite food

Wendy) Chilli con carne

Ben) Your favourite tipple?

Wendy) Red wine

Ben) You are a romance writer. What’s the most romantic place you have ever visited?

Wendy) Venice… oh, and the little Greek taverna on the island of Samos where my husband proposed to me.

Ben) And what’s your ambition as an author?

Wendy) To see my novel published and on bookshelves.

Your writing

Ben) Seeing your novel on bookshelves is my ambition too. Is your novel your latest project?

Wendy) I have got a few projects on the go. I have just finished putting together my second collection of short stories called ‘The Last Rose’. The theme is family and friendship and all the stories in it have previously been published in national magazines.

The Last Rose cover

Alongside this, I have been finishing my latest serial for The People’s Friend and have recently started writing my first novel.

Ben) You write lovely, atmospheric short stories. What are your top three tips for people who want to write short stories?

Wendy) 1. If you want to write for a magazine, make sure you read the guidelines carefully. 2. Try to think outside the box a little – editors are inundated with submissions so make yours stand out by being a little different. 3. Check your story has a strong ending. I’d also like to add another one: write from the heart – if you don’t love your story, nobody else will!

Ben) That’s a theme in my advice too. If you aren’t happy with what you are producing, then no one else will be happy when they read it. What, for you, are the essential elements of a great romantic tale?

Wendy) Your reader has to like and sympathise with your main character. Their emotions also need to be believable. Look deep inside yourself for memories of your own of love and loss and use these to make your characters’ emotions come alive. A great romance doesn’t necessarily have to end happily but there should always be hope or a sense of moving on.

Ben) What’s the nicest compliment you have been paid on work you have published?

Wendy) People have said some wonderful things in their reviews for Room in Your Heart but I think the greatest compliment was when my friend told me that my stories made her cry.

Your writing journey

Ben) What made you start writing?

Wendy) I started writing three years ago when the private school I was teaching in closed down and I was made redundant. I felt anchorless and had no idea what I wanted to do.

I was very lucky in that I had recently got married and my husband was very supportive, telling me that I should take my time to think about the future. It was my brother who suggested that I enrol in the online creative writing course he’d just completed – after all, I had been an English teacher. So I did.

Little did I know how much I would enjoy it – so much so, that I did a second course and when it had ended, I felt bereft! My tutor suggested I try writing for magazines and, with nothing to lose, I thought I’d have a go. I was very lucky to have stories accepted quite quickly and now I have sold over a hundred!

Liking a challenge, I then decided to try my hand at writing a serial. This was more difficult as I had to show the editors at The People’s Friend a synopsis first which meant I had to plan the whole thing out – something I’m not very good at! Luckily they liked the idea and I found the longer length fun to write. I have now written a second one for them.

Since then, I have joined the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writers’ Scheme as I am in the early stages of writing my first romantic novel… so the journey is still continuing.

Ben) Other than the decision to write full-time, what was the most important decision you took in your writing journey?

Wendy) It may well be the decision to write the novel… but whether that decision will turn out good or bad is yet to be seen.

Ben) I’m sure it will be good! Can we get a sneak preview?

Wendy) I don’t want to jinx it by giving it away. Let’s just say, it involves two sisters, a beautiful Greek island and a mystery… oh and of course there’ll be romance in there too!

Connecting with Wendy

I hope you have enjoyed hearing from Wendy. I certainly did. If you would like to connect with Wendy directly, she has a great  blog, or you can find her on twitter @WendyClarke99 or on Facebook.

The Last Rose is available to buy on Amazon. The stories in this collection explore the intricate family relationships of thirteen ordinary people. In them, we discover the sorrow, love and joy that is shared… but not always spoken.

A tribute to Monday Blogs

I am at the stage in my writing journey now where I don’t mind making a confession. Because I had never bought a book as a result of reading someone’s blog, at the start of my author journey I didn’t see the point of writing a blog.

Yes, I was that selfish and short-sighted.

But gradually, as I read others’ blogs, I realised that I must have been missing something. Everyone else seemed to be doing it, so I thought I had better join the club. I started this blog last spring.

I am now officially enlightened.

Thinking up interesting and informative topics to blog about can be a challenge, but I no longer question the value that blogging adds, particularly for fledgling authors.

I have sold some books based on my utterings here. I’m glad not everyone is like me! But that isn’t why I am a convert to blogging.

I have learnt so much by joining the author blogging community. I have met lots of really insightful and helpful people through this blog. But just posting blogs yourself is such a small part of the story.

I have learnt even more from engaging with fellow authors via their own blogs.

I am in awe of the community spirit demonstrated every week by authors re-tweeting other authors’ blog posts – a process made so much easier by using the #Mondayblogs hashtag set up by author Rachel Thompson.

I would almost go as far as to say I love Mondays. Not quite, but almost.

As importantly as gathering more exposure for your own blog, you cannot fail to learn something through a quick scan of #MondayBlogs.

I have learnt so many valuable lessons – about writing, networking, book marketing and the author life. I have ‘met’ so many interesting people.

Within the last few weeks, I have read ‘5 steps to writing a best-selling novel’, ‘Ten top tips to get your book onto the bestsellers list’, ‘Fourteen ways to boost your book’s sales’ and ‘53 ways to make your fortune out of writing’.

I am now off to make my fortune. I will be writing to you from Barbados next Monday.

Is being a full-time author all it’s cracked up to be?

I love writing.

When I’m writing a new book, which is pretty much all of the time, I get obsessed with my characters. I take them to bed with me. I wake up with them too. It’s like having a wife but without the sex. On second thoughts, it’s like having a wife.

I’m so in love with writing but I hate the fact that I have to fit it in around other inconveniences like my day job, life admin and my children. OK, maybe the children aren’t that much of an inconvenience. Give them a bottle of cider and the Xbox and they’re happy.

My day job is such an inconvenience. Would you believe it, I have to be there all day. Whose idea was that?

Work pays the bills, but it doesn’t satisfy my writing addiction. It isn’t where I want to be.

I am seriously considering becoming a full-time author. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be a rational decision. My first book is doing well but it has only been on sale for a month. Never mind paying the mortgage, my income from my writing is barely enough to pay the milkman yet.

But my heart keeps beating faster than my head can shake. Why should I let practicalities like shelter and food stop me from pursuing my dream? They say you’ve got to be single-minded to be an author, right?

I would love to be able to write when I want to write, rather than when the kids are in bed or when the boss isn’t looking. (If my boss is reading this, then obviously the last aside was an example of my ‘creative writing’ skills).

But could I write all day? What would being a full-time author feel like? Would steam surge from my laptop keyboard as I knock out novel after novel? Or would I get bored with my own company, want to murder the daytime radio presenters for endlessly repeating themselves and be off down the pub by lunchtime?

There was only one way to find out.

Last week, I booked the week off work, cleared my diary and packed my boys off on a ski trip to Italy with their school mates. The dog and I had the house to ourselves. My aim was to significantly progress my second book, ‘Six Lies’.

This is how I got on.

Friday

Saw the boys off on their ski-ing trip, went to the pub after work to celebrate my week off and came home via the chip shop. Incapable of writing. Number of words written: 0.

Saturday

I can’t be creative with a hangover. Watched the rugby, checked latest sales figures for Six Months to Get a Life on Amazon and shunned Valentine’s Day in favour of Match of the Day. The FA Cup provided me with all the romance I needed. Number of words written: 0.

Sunday

Went for breakfast in Raynes Park with a friend. We arrived too late for breakfast so had lunch instead. Took the dog for a walk. Cooked a chilli. Checked book sales. Number of words written: 0.

Monday

Wrote during the morning, with short stops for putting the washing on, taking the dog out, eating everything I could find in the fridge and checking for new reviews of my book on Amazon. Got a couple of good lines in, including ‘your forehand is better than your foreplay’. Met another author via twitter. Ended up buying and reading her book. Thoroughly entertaining and highly distracting. A good day, finished off with a few pints in the Earl Beatty with the best man at my wedding. At least I’m still talking to him. Number of words written: 700.

Tuesday

Took the dog to have his balls cut off. His creative juices will never flow again. If it’s any consolation Albus, mine didn’t flow today either. Instead, I read the rest of ‘Being Sarah Chilton’. Very funny. Number of words written: 400, approximately 50 of which were spelt wrongly on account of my errant laptop’s habit of not registering random key impressions. Ggggrrrrrr.

Wednesday

Had to stop the dog licking his wounds all day. Eventually, gave him to my ex and went to meet friends in North London. Number of words written: 27.

Thursday

It is impossible to write with a hangover. Recovered, and went to meet another friend to give him a signed copy of Six Months to Get a Life for him to give away as a raffle prize in his work raffle. Number of words written: 0.

Friday

Started training for this summer’s British Heart Foundation charity London to Brighton walk. Trudged 15 miles through the Surrey countryside, followed by a few pints in the pub. Staggered home (dodgy hamstring / dodgy pint). Number of words written: 400, but they were all drunken emails that I should probably not have sent.

Saturday

The boys came home.

What have I learnt from my experiment? Being a full-time author is going to be good fun, but don’t expect my productivity to go up very much.

Update on Six Months to Get a Life

My debut contemporary fiction / romance novel is keeping me smiling. The reviews have continued to flood in. And as an added bonus, most of them are positive too.

Ten words that keep me writing

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I love dinnertime with my boys. It’s about the only time of day the three of us communicate with each other. Last night’s dialogue was fairly typical as these conversations go.

‘How was school,’ I asked as we sat down to eat.

‘Fine,’ William replied. Joe nodded as he chewed his slow-cooked beef.

‘What was the most exciting thing that happened today?’

‘Nothing,’ Joe offered. William shook his head as he chewed his slow-cooked beef.

‘What are you up to after dinner?’  With both boys now intent on chewing, I decided to continue the one-way conversation by telling them my plans. ‘I’m going to write a blog post sharing the ten words that kept me on the straight and narrow during my writing journey.’

‘God, dad, now that you’ve written a book, you suddenly think you’re Philip Shakespeare,’ Joe exclaimed.

‘William,’ I corrected.

‘What,’ said William.

Silence is indeed sometimes golden.

Since I’ve been writing, I have been surprised at the amount of people who have asked me for tips.  I’m hoping they aren’t after my advice on who’s going to win the 3.40 at Cheltenham. My knowledge of horse-racing is pretty much on a par with my eldest son’s knowledge of The Bard.

I hope they aren’t after tips on how to construct the perfect sentence either. I wouldn’t know a split infinitive from a misplaced modifier, or a conjunction from a conjunctivitis. My English teacher once wrote ‘at least you are good at maths,’ on my end of year school report.

I readily admit that I’m no expert on writing, but I am the world’s leading expert on my writing process. So I am going to share the ten key words that I pinned on my office wall at a very early stage in my writing journey. They won’t tell you how to write, but they do tell you how I stayed on track whilst writing my first novel. I would hazard a guess that most writers will have a similar list somewhere, even if it’s kept in their head rather than on their wall.

  • Focus

What’s your goal? Mine was to write a great novel, one that people would want to read. It wasn’t to chat to people endlessly on Facebook or Twitter. It was to write. Those dreaded personality tests tell me that I am a completer-finisher so maybe the focus bit comes naturally to me. Or maybe I’m just selfish in pursuit of my goals.

  • Belief

I have always dreamt of being an author. Dreams aren’t enough though. You need to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself then your readers will notice. Writing is a lonely pursuit. You don’t get instant feedback on your work. You have the occasional bad day. You are likely to give up if you don’t have a deep-seated belief in your own ability. My belief in my ability might prove to be misplaced, but the important thing to me when I’m writing the book is that I have such a belief.

  • Passion

If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, then a) you won’t make time for it; and b) your readers won’t be convinced when they read it. Being passionate about the process of writing isn’t enough. You must be passionate about what you have to say when you write. There were days when I knew I still had my passion for writing but wasn’t passionate about the chapter I was writing. More often than not, that told me that I needed to re-work something within my novel. It didn’t put me off though. I just saw it as part of the process.

  • Pride

I told myself that if I’m not proud of what I produce then it isn’t good enough to share with an audience. Some writers constantly share draft chapters with their peers. I didn’t. This was partly because I didn’t know any other authors when I was writing Six months…, but it was also because I am my own harshest critic.

  • Flex.

As a project manager by profession, I always have a plan. When I wrote Six Months to Get a Life, I started with an outline structure. Very quickly that structure began to constrain me, so I wrote ‘flex’ on the wall and ditched the structure. From then on, I planned a little, wrote some, re-planned, wrote, received a thorough edit, re-planned, re-wrote, added, took away, finished, re-read, rejigged, reread, dotted I’s, had it proofed, crossed T’s, re-read, added commas and ultimately pressed ‘send’.

  • Smile

For me, this was one of the most important words I kept coming back to when writing Six Months… Writing about divorce and single-parenthood had the potential to be a dour process. If the writing process wasn’t making me smile then it wouldn’t make a reader smile. Unless it’s a physics textbook, a book is meant to be enjoyed. If I wasn’t smiling at least occasionally when I was writing, then my little finger on my right hand started getting fidgety with the delete key.

  • Breathe

Sometimes, when the writing wasn’t flowing or when it was flowing but it was just uninspiring, I would force myself to switch my laptop off and go for a run, walk the dog or even try and initiate a conversation with the boys. I would do anything other than write. Usually a break was what I needed. Forgetting about my work for a while would recharge my creative juices, such as they were…

  • Perspective

My writing might feel like the be-all and end-all for me, but it isn’t. Really it isn’t. OK, if truth be told, I struggled with this one. I am ever so slightly addicted to writing. When things aren’t going right, I am grumpy. I often found myself looking at the word ‘perspective’ and thinking ‘it’s easy for you to say…’

  • Learn.

All authors will want to learn. Some go on expensive courses and week-long retreats. Those activities may work. I wouldn’t know; I didn’t try them. I learn most from my mistakes. The simple truth for me is the more I write, the more I improve. I was so determined to be focussed that I didn’t spend hours reading others’ thoughts on how to write. Some might say I should have…I did learn a massive amount from my editor so I am not completely relying on my own experiences.

  • Celebrate

Just seeing the word on the wall would spur me on towards my goal. ‘Think of the launch party,’ I would tell myself on the odd occasion that the motivation to write wasn’t there. And what a launch party it was too.

What words would you pin on your wall to keep you on track?

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Six Months to Get a Life: update

After a sedate start, sales of my debut rom-com / contemporary fiction / ‘lad-lit’ / ‘chick-lit’ novel have picked up. It was actually No.1 in some obscure category on Amazon on Monday.

Reviews have been coming in thick and fast, and they have been overwhelmingly generous too.

I have some promotions planned for late February and March, and a couple of radio interviews will air then too, so fingers crossed. Belief.

What have JK Rowling and I got in common?

We are both published authors.

As of today, I am as much an author as JK Rowling. ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is now just as much of a book as War and Peace, Jane Eyre and No-one Ever has Sex on a Tuesday (yes, that is a real book – I haven’t read it yet but I want to).

How do I feel? In a word, proud. The months of plotting and re-plotting, of furious typing, of shunning social events and my children in favour of spending time with my leading characters and their shenanigans were all worth it, just to experience this feeling of pride. ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is immortal. The e version will exist forever. That is quite a humbling thought.

I also feel hugely excited. Not at the prospect of the money pouring in as people queue up around the block to buy the book (!) but because they will be investing their precious time in my book. It might sound a bit conceited, but I know most of them will enjoy it. I am excited that I will be making people I have never met before smile and maybe even laugh out loud on their way to work, while they are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room or wherever they happen to be.

To ‘proud’ and ‘excited’. I must also add ‘grateful’. Without wishing to appear like I am rehearsing for my Man Booker prize-accepting speech, I do want to say a huge thank you to the many truly inspirational people I have met during the course of my ‘author journey’ (have I ever told you how much I hate that phrase. I just can’t think of a better one). Wendy Clarke and T.O.Weller have both offered me advice along the way, as well as providing me with some much needed exposure via their excellent blogs. Wendy, I am still smiling now after dropping in to your Facebook chat the other morning!

Yvonne, Nicki, Gareth and Dana are all people I have never met before but would now willingly buy lunch for if I ever did meet them. I am sure there have been others too who I will have just offended because I haven’t mentioned them by name.

My boys don’t read this blog (it doesn’t mention Fifa 15 enough for their liking) so I won’t bother droning on about them except to say that they have inspired me in the way they have coped with our real-life changing circumstances. They were a major influence behind the feel-good factor in ‘Six Months…’ Perhaps somewhat fittingly, my eldest is off school, ill, today. We all cope with these situations somehow, don’t we? Essentially, without getting too deep and meaningful, that’s what ‘Six Months…’ is about. Well, that and a bit of a love interest…

Proud, excited, grateful… And apprehensive. I am now the ‘star’ of a US podcast on dating. The word star is in inverted commas for a reason. Billed as a ‘podcast for men’, the ‘chick whisperer’ (oh my God, I can’t believe I am mentioning it by name) is, without doubt, the most ridiculous interview I have done to date. I am so British and reserved. Talking about dating to a raw steak-eating US podcast host isn’t something I do every day. That’ll teach me for writing a HuffPost blog. I just hope they are right when they say that no publicity is bad publicity. If you listen to it, please feel my pain…

Other book promotion I have undertaken has been much more satisfying. I think I will get a mention in the Sunday Express Magazine this coming Sunday. That one will be good for me, although it takes a more serious angle to the angles I normally use to promote my book.

You may also find me on a few more blogs over the next week or two. Get me, I’m banging on about myself again…

I am also having a party on Friday night. I am feeding and watering my friends, and then not letting them out of the house until they have bought at least fifteen copies of my book each, for their mother, their neighbours, their friend whose birthday is coming up in March, that woman over the road who is feeding their cats while they are on holiday etc. etc. I might even make them write reviews while they are there! Ah, reviews… Hopefully they will come flooding in over the next few days.

What’s next for me? Who knows? The book is on sale now. It hasn’t by any means jumped to Number 1 on Amazon. It did reach number 7 in some obscure sub-category for a while. There are a number of ways things could go from here. I am not going to do pessimism today. Being optimistic, people who read the book will love it, share it with their friends who, in turn, will love and share. Sales will go up gradually over a period of weeks and months and by the summer Six Months… will be selling nicely although not spectacularly.

Being even more optimistic, my publicist will find me some more significant exposure and, so long as I don’t mess it up, things might start happening at an accelerated rate. But please, no more American dating shows…

‘No sex please, we’re British’

Why didn’t I write a book years ago? My foray into the literary world is bringing me new experience after new experience. I am learning so much, and from so many people.

As we get closer to the publication of Six Months to Get a Life, this week has been super-busy. I have been writing blog interviews (more on that next week), working with my publicist to pitch articles to national and international publications and websites, and having conversations with international dating experts on a radio feature to be aired in a couple of weeks. What do I know about dating? I sat at my laptop writing ‘Six Months…’ because having a book to write gave me a good excuse not to have to venture out on dates.

But this week’s blog post is about something entirely different.

I have had the absolute pleasure to have been exchanging emails with a reader. Yes, an actual reader! My new friend, who I met via this blog, is DanaBee. Dana lives across the pond from me, somewhere near Denver, Colorado.

Dana and I exchanged a few messages via this blog, via Dana’s own fascinating blog and via twitter. To cut to the chase, Dana offered to read and review ‘Six Months…’

I have been fortunate this week to have received a few really good reviews, some of which have been posted on Goodreads. Most of those reviews are from people like Dana – people who I have met via my writing journey. One of them was from a personal friend. That is probably bordering on unethical, but don’t worry because she only gave me 4 stars. Sue, you can buy your own wine next time you visit…

Dana genuinely enjoyed the book and wrote a rave review. But that isn’t the reason for mentioning her.

While she was reading, Dana jotted down a list of ‘Britishisms’ that she hadn’t heard before.  Dana’s list made me chuckle.

When I wrote the book, I had no idea that anyone would actually read it, let alone people from another country. Had I been more savvy, I would have either got a US editor to proof the book, or maybe even brought out a slightly adapted US version. As I didn’t do either of those things, my stateside friends will have to struggle through the handful of Britishisms.

For Dana’s benefit, but mainly just because it makes me smile, here I interpret the Britishisms that Dana picked out.

‘I am definitely punching above my weight’ – doing better than I have a right to expect to do. Or to put it another way, a not very attractive man dating a supermodel…

‘I really need to pull my finger out’ – the US equivalent adds ‘of my ass’ at the end. We Brits, with our stiff upper lip and our polite manners, wouldn’t dream of saying such a word. It’d make us choke on our cucumber sandwiches.

‘I am not sure they give a monkeys about our relationship’ – Again in the US the word ‘ass’ is sometimes added. In the UK we might say ‘give a monkey’s uncle’. Don’t ask me why.

‘They will take the piss forever’ – As Dana pointed out to me, ‘piss’ is an interesting word. We say things like ‘take the piss’ (meaning take the Michael (or is that another Britishism?), and ‘piss off’ (go away). In the States, the word is used more to denote anger – ‘I am pissed at you’ (Brits might say ‘browned off’). And then, of course, there is urine. Best to move on I think.

‘I sent him away with a flea in his ear’ – I gave him a good telling off.

In Dana’s excellent review, she also commented on my conservative treatment of any rumpy pumpy (that’s sex by the way Dana) in the book. My friend, while I watch Crazy, Stupid Love, you should watch ‘No Sex Please, We’re British’.

What surprised me most about Dana’s list was that she didn’t mention cricket…

Have a great week. I am off to make a pot of tea and watch the rugger. None of those big girls blouses playing football, or should I say soccer, for me.

I am pretty chuffed with that blog post. What do you think?