Writing is better than sex

Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her
Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her

Earlier this week, a fellow writer chap I met on twitter gave me a piece of advice that, quite frankly, gave me the heebie-jeebies. ‘To succeed as an author,’ he told me, ‘you need to prefer writing to sex’.

‘You’re joking?’ I replied. Surely no one in his or her right mind prefers writing to sex?

‘Nope,’ he told me, ‘I’m not joking. Writing is my life. I perk up when I develop a good plot, I get excited when my characters interact and I practically orgasm when I spin a great twist.’

My first reaction was to get straight onto twitter and unfollow the weirdo. Block, block, block!

But just as I was about to hit that blue button, I had a thought. What if he’s right? What if all successful authors shun the bedroom in favour of the study? Maybe they really do prefer alliteration to allure, epithets to erogenous zones, foreshadowing to foreplay, imagery to intercourse. sucking their pen to sucking… I’d better stop there.

Authors can be pretty solitary, selfish characters, right? They are slaves to their keyboards for days on end. I have read countless stories about writing widows and widowers. My twitter friend must be right. If you want to make it as an author, you have to love writing more than you love sex.

love typing

Coming around to my friend’s way of thinking was a thoroughly depressing experience. Instantly, I thought I might as well chuck my laptop out of the study window, dust off my CV and get myself a proper job. Being a red-blooded male, I haven’t got the love it takes to become a successful author.

Or have I?

As I was trying to find the key to undo my study window lock, another thought took hold. I really do love writing. I might even be able to convince myself that it is better than sex.

  • Writing lasts longer than sex. I have been known to write for eight hours in one stretch. Making sex last for eight minutes would be an achievement worth celebrating.
  • I can write more than twice a day without fear of letting myself down. You’ll forgive me if I don’t dwell on the comparison here.
  • People pay me for my writing.
  • I enjoy making people laugh. I occasionally manage it through my writing. If someone laughed at me during sex, I’d probably get a complex.
  • I’ll be able to show my grandchildren my books on Amazon…

Hold the bestsellers list, there’s hope for me yet!

And now for some real news…

Six Lies cover screen

My second novel, Six Lies, is being released by SliverWood Books on 23rd November.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind has asked if they can convert my debut romp, Six Months to Get a Life, into a talking book for those with sight impairments and unable to access normal print and online books. They normally only convert bestsellers. It’s a real honour to be asked and a thrill to be able to give something back to such a large community. I can’t wait to hear the narration.

My third book, the one set in a primary school, is the reason I haven’t updated this blog as often as I should have done. I’m utterly obsessed with it and can’t put it down. I’d almost go as far as to say writing it is better than…

Happy writing!

Ben

Crowdsourcing a title for my third novel

staffroom

The last three months – the time since I gave up my well-paid job to become an author – has been a hectic time for me. There’s been The Ashes, day-trips to the seaside with the kids and the dog, catching the rays in the garden, internet dating, champagne receptions and filming for a BBC documentary. Oh, and the occasional bit of writing too.

Those of you that have read my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, will know that I am big on characters and how they strive to negotiate their way through life’s many challenges, snatching the occasional bit of romance while negotiating the devastation, heartache and carnage that more commonly surrounds them. (Six Months… was recommended as a ‘great holiday read’ on BBC Radio 5’s Thursday night book club a couple of weeks ago – #honoured!)

My second book, Six Lies, continues the theme, following the lead character as his wife runs off with a librarian and his mother confesses from the grave that she wasn’t his mother after all. I finished Six Lies over the summer and it has now entered the sausage machine that is the publishing process. Hopefully it will be ready to consume in late November, to coincide with the airing of the BBC documentary.

I have even had an idea for a third book. In fact, my brain hasn’t switched off since I thought of the concept a week or so ago. I can’t wait until September when I return from my holiday and can really get cracking on the story.

My third book will definitely bring more of the same romantic comedy, farce and fun dialogue that I love so much. It is going to be set in a mythical primary school in Wimbledon. I know already that the senior staff will be under threat of losing their jobs if the school doesn’t improve during the course of the school year. Obviously, the key protagonists will also have their fair share of personal challenges, with alcoholism, unruly offspring, love triangles and the occasional politician making an appearance. An overbearing Head with her own issues and a new Governor will combine to keep everyone on their toes. Can you tell how much I’m looking forward to writing this book?

My list of fun anecdotes to include within the story is growing longer by the hour. A number of twitter friends have tweeted their ideas too (@benadamsauthor), for which I am very grateful.

But one thing I am struggling with is a working title. Some authors will tell you that the title comes to you after you start writing a novel. This may be true, but I always find that if you can get the title right to start with, it helps you shape the subject of the story. Hence me striving to come up with a good title upfront.

I am trying to conceive of something that captures the daily grind of working in a school while also drawing the rom-com reader in, something that hints at hilarity in school improvement while also appealing to the chick lit lovers out there. The four options on my notepad at the moment include:

Who Left Their Bra in the Staffroom?

The Staffroom

It all happens in the Staffroom

[insert school name] a la Waterloo Road

None of these ideas exactly hits the spot that I am aiming for. They don’t excite me as much as the thought of writing the book itself does.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

I’ve been a full-time writer for two months now and…

dog writing

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now will know that, at the end of April, I gave up ‘work’ to become a full-time author.

The last couple of months have been really busy for me. I have been meaning to reflect upon my experience but, ironically, I have struggled to find the time. Now that my second book, Six Lies, is with my editor, I have suddenly got a bit more space to reflect upon my decision. Hence this blog.

Has my decision been the right one for me? Well, to answer that question, let me revisit the hopes and fears that preoccupied my mind as, with some trepidation, I took my resignation letter up to our HR department a few months ago.

My main reason for resigning from my day job was the pull of writing. After penning my first book in the early mornings and late evenings of 2014, I wanted to give myself the space to write more often, and for longer. With work and my boys keeping me busy, I was struggling to fully immerse myself in my characters. My writing was lagging behind my ideas.

In the two months since I have been a full-time writer, I have thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of being master of my own destiny. My routine has been to start tapping away at my keyboard once the boys head off to school, and then to carry on until either my concentration begins to wain or my German Shepherd, Albus, deposits his rugby ball on my brand new laptop. If I am lucky, I can write until lunchtime. I then have a break and walk the dog, before going back to writing, or possibly editing, for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Albus

I have been quite productive in the last couple of months. Six Lies is now complete in draft form. My editor is hopefully reading it as I type. My aim is to work on her comments before we jet off to Turkey for a not particularly well-earned but nevertheless much looked forward-to holiday towards the end of August.

Had I still been fitting my writing around my work life, I would never have finished Six Lies so soon. It wouldn’t have been as good either. The best thing about being a writer is immersing yourself for hours on end in the minds of the characters you are creating. Writing full-time gives me the space to do that.

My main fear about giving up my day job, the fear that physically made my hand shake as I handed my note to Minal from HR, was that I would find the writer’s life too solitary. I am a sociable person and love debating the merits of Dan’s latest beard trim or Rebecca’s latest board report (quick double-check I got the names the right way round) at the tea point.

It is early days yet, but, at the moment I can safely say I am loving my new life. Before I gave up my job, I did muse about ruses like writing in coffee shops full of people to break up the monotony, or travelling with my laptop to friends’ houses and writing with them while they work from home. But, if truth be told, I haven’t needed to go down that route. Writing isn’t lonely. It’s completely fulfilling.

You can’t get lonely when you are in your characters’ heads. You can’t get lonely when you’ve got a TV crew filming you for a documentary about loneliness. You can’t get lonely when you are training for a 100+ KM walk. You can’t get lonely when the cricket’s on (you can’t get much work done either, mind). You can’t get lonely when you have tried internet dating for the first time and you have met… Actually, I’ll keep that one to myself for the time being.

Now that my second book is in someone else’s hands, I might begin to think differently about my routine. I need to keep up the momentum in my writing journey. I need to develop my author platform (yawn). I need to get out there and sell myself (gulp, I’m off to a champagne reception in Knightsbridge in a couple of weeks). I need to write more Huffpost blogs. This stuff doesn’t come as naturally to me as the novel writing, so it will take more effort. Will it keep me interested until my holiday, or will I begin to miss the human contact when I am slaving away? Only time will tell.

The other obvious fear I had when I was on the sixth floor of my Smith Square office clutching my life-changing letter was that I was throwing away a reliable and undeservingly high salary in pursuit of my dream. In common with Greece , my long-term economic prospects were uncertain.

To be frank, my finances are still uncertain. My first novel, Six Months to Get a Life, is receiving great reviews. Chick Lit Central loved it when they read it. But, no matter how hard you look, you won’t as yet find my name on the best-sellers list.

When I gave up my job, I vowed to give my dream every chance of succeeding and not to bottle it and get another job too soon. I am resolutely sticking to that plan. When I am back from my holiday, I intend to start work on a third book. My second book will be published in December. I will throw all I have (the kitchen sink, the dog and my limited imagination) at publicising my work. Hopefully, I will be able to coincide publication with the airing of the BBC documentary but we shall see.

Then in the new year, I will take stock. If my sales haven’t increased to a financially sustainable level, I will either sell a child or look for a new job. I may even do both. If I have to take up paid employment again, I won’t consider the whole experience to have been a waste of time. I will feel proud of myself for pursuing my dreams. As they say, you regret what you don’t do more than what you do do (they put it much more eloquently than that, but that’s the best I can do before breakfast).

Other things that have changed since I quit my day-job:

  • My lunches. I eat far less over-priced sandwiches and far more salad-based stuff. I do drink more coffee though. The post-lunch graveyard shift would quickly turn into an afternoon nap if it wasn’t for my fancy coffee machine.
  • I eat breakfast, or at least a mid-morning snack. I could never manage breakfast before the morning commute.
  • I am spending a fortune on dog treats to keep Albus from distracting me.
  • I have knocked my eldest son off the top spot in my dog’s affections.
  • I am getting a suntan. There is nothing quite like having lunch in the garden.
  • My kids hate not being able to come home from school and raid the fridge ‘without me knowing’.
  • I haven’t polished my shoes for two months.
  • I am forgetting the art of looking busy when really I’m just not. Or maybe that’s what this blog’s all about…

Happy days!

Ben

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

bus ad

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!

champagne bottle

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.

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.

Fireworks from a new author

I let someone else read ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ at the weekend. Stand back and light the blue touch paper…

Oh, the trauma. What would she think? Would she laugh me out of town or marvel at my whit and stimulating repartee? Would she write me off as a boring fart and chuck the book on the bonfire or beg me to write the sequel by tomorrow night?

Luckily for me, the book didn’t bomb. She genuinely seemed to love the fire in the characters’ bellies, their flare and the finale. She did even ask if she could read the next book, the first chapter of which is included at the end of ‘Six Months…’ Boom!

Once I had got over the relief that she enjoyed it (she read it in one sitting), we got into lots of debates about whether the characters in ‘Six Months…’ would have acted in the way that they did. And whether I should have subjected them to the fireworks that they went through.

It felt a bit like my school English literature lessons when we analysed Hardy’s or Shakespeare’s hidden meanings, only this time I was the author. I still didn’t have much more of a clue though.

The essay questions that she wanted to discuss included how would you characterise Adams’ writing style? What was Adams trying to show when he put in the scene about the marriage guidance counsellor? Would Amy have really told Graham that she was having her period whilst sitting in a pub having a roman candle-lit dinner? Would Graham’s ex really have had such a short fuse?

Even though I wrote the book, I am not sure that my answers to the above (‘God knows’, ‘that he had a sense of humour’, ‘maybe; maybe not’ and ‘yes’) satisfied my new fan. They certainly wouldn’t have satisfied Mrs, er, Katherine Wheel, my old English teacher.

My reviewer – let’s call her Claire because that’s what her mum and dad called her – is only the third person to have read the book so far (well, fourth if you count me). Hopefully I will get final type-set and EPUB versions back in the next week or two and be able to start sharing them with potential reviewers – you know, the ones who don’t know me personally and are likely to be more objective… Gulp!

Other developments on my author journey in the past week include me seeing a first cut of my fancy new author website.

I have had email chats with the man designing my site. I haven’t met him but he is probably only fourteen and already a millionaire. He asked me what apps I would like on my site. I didn’t have a clue. My boys said I should have ‘clash of clans’ put on it. I think they missed the point.

After further discussion, my web designer informed me that I wanted an app that counts down to my publication date, one that gets people to like my facebook page and one that takes people to my twitterings (@benadamsauthor). A website with all bells and whistles – well, I’m glad that’s sorted. There are some great images too. Once it is finished, it should be fully integrated with this blog.

I also published my book blurb on my facebook site. I stuck it there because I was told that I needed to generate unique content to get people to go to facebook. I am just following protocol. Normally I’m not very good at following protocol but as someone who is still new to all this stuff, I will go with the flow for now.

So, I will have facebook, twitter, fancy website, Goodreads and my porn site (oopse, I meant not to mention that one). But will they sell any books?

And what about the actual book? Let’s not forget that the book is, after all, the point of all this online nonsense.

Well, I now know that you can’t sign off the cover until you know how thick the spine has to be. As my man in the know puts it, ‘War and Peace had a big spine. Your book is practically spineless.’ I’ll give him a rocket for that.

Apparently we are still on track for a January release date. Graham Hope wants to introduce himself to the world. Then let the fireworks start…

I think that’s quite enough firework references to justify the topical title, don’t you?

I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to those of you that have taken the time and trouble to comment on my blog. I have committed the cardinal sin and failed dismally to reply to everyone individually. I hope you will forgive me. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything.

I have also been having lots of off-line discussions with fellow fledgling authors about the whole process of getting published. I really value these conversations. One thing that those authors are teaching me is that they aren’t like me at all – they are far more organised and prepared.