Writing a book: solo project or team effort?

As book two of my fantasy series, the Haven Chronicles, moves closer to its ‘fly – be free’ moment, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether writing and creating a book is a lone process or not. Can it be done by an author in isolation or does it require the input of others?

Solo project?

There’s no denying that an author writes a book on their own. Or maybe it might be more accurate to say that they write that first draft on their own. I certainly did, in a whirl-wind of brain dump, imagine, choreograph – scribble, scribble, delete, delete, scribble some more – as I penned/typed the next leg of Steve’s journey into magic.

Once that first draft was done and dusted and polished to what I thought was a shine, I handed it over to my publisher for their response.

Team effort?

The next few months went something like this:

  • publisher feedback
  • create draft 2
  • publisher feedback
  • create draft 3
  • publisher feedback…

You get the gist. There were several rounds of publisher feedback and draft revision before we landed on the final version. Somewhere in among that exchange, a number of beta readers were asked for their thoughts too.

The next stage was to hand over the concept to a book cover designer and while their design won’t change the words written down in my novel, they will add to the online and on-shelf presence of the story. Readers will come to recognise that book cover as much as they recognise my writing and Steve’s story.

Finally, dear reader, there’s you. Once published, a book’s text may be complete and set in ink, but your response will tell me how you’d like me to handle the story’s next stage in book three.

Answer to my question?

Book two in its original form was definitely a solo project. I knew where I wanted to take Steve, Hartley, and the darkling and the perils they would face. I think that’s probably the case for any writer. After that first draft was written, however, it turned into a team effort and book two is all the better for it. Eyes other than my own pointed out the weaknesses I had missed and directed me to solutions I would never have dreamt up on my own.

It’s like that phrase, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. It takes a community of book-lovers and book-experts to create a book in its final form.

So I’d like to thank a few of those people for their undeniable help and support. I couldn’t have got this far without you:

Thank you for being my village.

What you can expect from me in 2022

2022

Does anyone else feel like 2021 was a practice run for 2022? Not that it was terrible; plenty of good stuff came into my life last year. It just felt like wading through mud in fluffy slippers whilst balancing an overfilled suitcase on my shoulders. That’s why my phrase for this year is ‘back on course’. Back on course with getting out into the world, back on course with writing books, and back on course with getting those books out to you, dear reader.

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles

Unfortunately, my publisher’s schedule for 2021 meant that the second instalment in my fantasy series didn’t make it out of the stalls last year. The good news is that book 2 will definitely be published in the first half of 2022.

Over the next few months, I’ll be asking for beta readers to help me polish my novel and ARC readers to get the word out to the reading community. I’ll also be revealing the book’s title and cover design. If you want to get involved as either a beta or ARC reader, drop me an email or register with Burning Chair’s reader group.

I can’t wait to share Steve’s continuing journey into magic with you.

Social media for authors

My book of social media advice for authors is in the hands of Burning Chair. In the meantime, you can find plenty of advice for authors on my copywriting blog.

Social Media for Authors will be published in 2022 or 2023.

Writing Book 3

While I waited to hear back about book 2 last year, I began to write the next novel in the series, and that will continue in 2022. I greatly admire authors who can write a first draft in a couple of months, but unfortunately that isn’t me. The target is to have the first draft of book 3 finished by the autumn. Fingers crossed.

Subscriber treats

In my December newsletter, I let subscribers access a deleted scene from Haven Wakes. The plan is to get subscriber eyes on deleted scenes regularly throughout the year – perhaps on a quarterly basis.

If you haven’t signed up for my Author News yet, you can subscribe here.

Writers are readers too

Last year, I only managed to read ten fiction books. In 2022, I want to increase that to at least twelve. Christmas presents and shopping got me off to a good start with my to-be-read pile. I have nine physical books and one e-book (Ghosts: Being the Experiences of Flaxman Low by K and Hesketh Pritchard) so far.

That means lots of 2022 book reviews on my Instagram and plenty of book recommendations in my newsletter too.

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So that’s my writerly and readerly 2022 mapped out. Fingers crossed, it all goes to plan. I’ll keep you posted.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Looking back over 2021

looking back over 2021

The nights are drawing in and the trees are looking golden. Halloween and Bonfire Night are over and the shops are filled with festive cheer. It must be November and time to look back over the past year.

After the pandemic-ridden 2020, I had high hopes for 2021. By spring, we were out of lockdown and returning to normal, or at least a new version of normal. There was hope on the horizon in the form of a vaccine. College was opening back up for my teens. I could even walk into McDonalds again, albeit masked up to my eyes.

So what has 2021 thrown at me as an author?

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles

I had high hopes for seeing book 2 spring to life in 2021. Unfortunately, the editing process and my publisher’s rapidly expanding stable of authors (that’s the number of authors expanding, not the authors themselves) means that book 2 won’t reach the hands of readers until 2022.

Still, this year has seen it revamped and polished to within an inch of its literary life. Steve, Hartley, Blessing, and the darkling are back but there’s a new villain to contend with. There are also new friends, new puzzles, and plenty of new places to visit.

Social Media for Authors

An idea began in 2020 of a way to marry both my copywriting and authoring skills to help other authors handle their social media presence. I even asked Burning Chair if they were interested (they were).

In 2021, I emailed off the first draft off to them and shortly afterwards they offered me a publishing contract. Over the summer, I polished off the edits they asked for and now it’s back in their hands for the next stage. I’ll let you know more, when I know more myself.

Guest blogging

As usual, the writing community have continued to be a joy and as supportive as always in 2021. I’ve appeared on six bookish blogs this year:

Thank you to Lily, Clare, Jon, Claire, Karen, and Chelle for your kindness.   

Caught up (almost) with my TBR list

I had so many wonderful books on my to-be-read shelf that I decided to make a definite effort to read them all in 2021.

So far, I’ve read and reviewed:

  • Roxie and Alfred by Nancy R Hinchliff
  • I am Dust by Louise Beech
  • My Father’s Daughter by Lily Lawson
  • Words of Alchemy by Camilla Downs
  • The Curse of Becton Manor by Patricia Ayling
  • The Crow Folk by Mark Stay
  • Point of Contact by Richard Ayre
  • The Binding by Bridget Collins
  • Near Death by Richard Wall

And that’s just the fictional works. You can find all of my book reviews on my Instagram account.

A regular blogging habit

I’ve written a blog post at least once every month in 2021. There are a lot of planning and progress posts, but I’ve also written:

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It’s been an odd but productive eleven months. The new normal is still taking a little getting used to, and constantly evolving too. I have two books in the works with Burning Chair and my fingers are firmly crossed for both book releases in 2022.

We’re on the glittery, slippery slope to Christmas and we’re only weeks away from the new year too. In December, there’ll be plenty for you to read here in the run up to the big day with a slew of author interviews.

See you then.

Meeting the challenges of writing Book 2

meeting the challenges of writing book 2

I saw my mother-in-law at the weekend. She’s not happy with me. Why? She wants to read the follow-up novel to Haven Wakes right now. Why isn’t it ready? How long does it take to write a book, for goodness’s sake?

Don’t get me wrong. My mother-in-law is lovely and very supportive of me. She’s just keen to see what Steve Haven does next. Me too.

The (fingers crossed) almost-final version of book two is with my publisher, Burning Chair. I’m waiting for the next round of edits from the lovely Si, eager to get on with the polishing process.

I have to admit that writing book two in a series has been a challenge. I even wrote about the main stumbling blocks in creating it last year, including:

•          Pushing Steve’s buttons (again)

•          Keeping the balance between science and fantasy

•          Steve’s world is getting bigger

•          New research

•          Publisher and reader expectations

So how did I do? Did I meet those challenges?

Pushing Steve’s buttons (again)

This challenge was all about giving Steve enough reason to leave the safety of school and return to the world of magic. In Haven Wakes, Steve was pushed into that world. This time round, I wanted him to willingly jump.

In book two, Steve desperately wants to be somewhere other than the mundane world he’s always known. His time in Darkacre has changed his view on life and he’s got new, magical friends in his life that he cares about. It’s a no-brainer for him to return.

Challenge met? Yes

Keeping the balance between science and fantasy

Magic and robots. You’ll find me use that phrase a lot as way to explain the world of Haven Wakes. I wanted to keep that mix in book two, but I knew that Steve would be delving further into the magical world so keeping a balance could prove difficult.

I think I’ve managed that challenge well, with a deep dive into the magical world (not just Darkacre) and a bigger picture of the workaday (scientific) world too. There are also more examples of the interplay between the two cultures.

Challenge met? Yes

Steve’s world is getting bigger

For this challenge, I wanted to take Steve far beyond the city limits of Caercester. The initial destination I intended to use ended up being a non-starter. It was too restrictive for the adventure I wanted to take Steve on, and the same purpose could be served closer to home.

One of Steve’s main bugbears with his parents is that they never take him with them on their travels. In book two, Steve experiences his own travel adventures.

Challenge met? Yes

New research

Research for book two was extensive, to say the least, both on scientific, magical, and other topics. Want to see the list (or at least part of it)?

  • solar power
  • oil platforms
  • (more) robots
  • legal systems
  • architecture
  • origami
  • henges
  • Greek and Roman mythology
  • ancient Greek puddings
  • tram and train systems
  • space stations
  • artificial gravity
  • spies
  • EMPs

I didn’t use all my findings in book two. Some may turn up later in the series, or in other series after I’ve finished writing the Haven Chronicles.

Challenge met? Yes

Publisher and research expectation

This was probably the scariest challenge of the lot; creating a book that equalled Haven Wakes in quality, maintained the momentum, and pleased both my publisher and my readers. Phew!

Well, I seem to have succeeded with creating a novel that my publishers like (with a few tweaks). The verdict on whether my readers will like it is still to be reached. Personally, I love where I’ve taken Steve – even if I’ve made him suffer on that journey – and I hope you’ll love it too.

Challenge met? Yet to see.

The Result

Overall, I’ve succeeded in meeting the challenges of writing the follow-up novel to Haven Wakes and I’m keen to see what you all think of it. There’s still work to be done and sometime soon I’ll be asking for beta readers to have a look at book two. In the meantime, all I can ask is that you – and my mother-in-law – hang on for a little bit longer.

The Summer Life of Fi

summer life of fi

Summer time, and the living is ea-zee… ♫♪

Or at least it is if you don’t have to write a blog post when you’ve nothing much to say. You see, while I wait for my publisher to get back to me on Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles, life is just normal and un-writerly. Well, kind of. Let me explain.

Writing something else

Okay, the summer life of Fi isn’t totally un-writerly because I am working on another book, a non fiction offering that brings together my author and copywriter hats. Having said that, it’s almost finished and will be flying off into the inbox of my publisher by the end of July.

Copywriting, as usual

Ok, so my normal working life is reasonably writerly. I create articles and blog posts for clients under my copywriter hat. Articles like this – How To Find Profitable Work From Home Jobs and my own blog posts too. This one is for authors – How Authors Can Find Out Where Their Readers Are Online.

Cutting down my TBR list

I’m desperately behind with my TBR list so I’m tackling that over the summer. Expect lots of book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and on my social media too. My current read is the chilling, ghostly, and very theatrical I Am Dust by Louise Beech.

Thinking about the next book to write

While my publisher has the second book in the Haven Chronicles series, I’m planning out where I will take Steve next, who will accompany him, and how much more danger I can throw at the poor lad. It’s looking good so far.

Walking the hound and making memories

My morning walks with Bailey are a brilliant way to gently wake up my brain before the day’s work begins. Early evening dog-walks mark clocking-off time.

The summer weather and my teens being off over the holidays gives me the perfect excuse to drag us all out for a trek or two. Yesterday I took them to the zoo. We saw alpacas, and snakes, and an owl called Bovril.

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So there you go, the summer life of Fi. What about you? What are you doing over the holidays?

What do Authors do in between Books?

what do authors do in between books?

Let’s be honest. As readers, we pay most attention to authors when they’ve recently released a new book.

Ooh, shiny new reading material with a pretty cover. How exciting!

And that’s perfectly understandable because even if we scour their monthly newsletters, look them up on social media, and gush over photographs of their dog/cat/boa constrictor, what we’re really interested in is getting our hands on their latest literary offspring.

But what do authors do in between books?

Wait

Last weekend, I submitted the latest draft of book two of the Haven Chronicles to my publisher, Burning Chair. The wait is now on for their response and the next round of edits.

Authors do a lot of waiting. We wait for:

  • inspiration to write the next book
  • news from our editors/publishers/literary agents, usually involving a round of edits to our work in progress
  • feedback from beta and ARC readers
  • book reviews to roll in
  • royalty payments

Plan

So much planning. We plan:

  • our next writing project
  • our social media and blog posts
  • the next book launch
  • which bloggers and book reviewers we’ll contact and what we’ll say
  • our marketing strategy
  • how we’re going to spend those royalty payments

Talk

We keep talking to our readers and audience. I mean, it would be rude to just call everybody up when we have a book to release. So we keep the conversation going just to let everyone know that we’re still here, toiling away to keep our readers happy.

This can be one of the hardest things to do for an author because short of selling the books we’ve already got out or announcing the release of the next book, it can be tricky to think up topics that our readers would be interested in. So along with the talking, we listen to what you’d like to hear from us.

We keep up the conversation by:

  • building our mailing lists and sending out newsletters
  • staying active on social media, including interacting with our readers
  • writing blog posts around the topic or world of our books
  • attending literary conferences (like this one I attended in Chester)
  • writing guest blog posts

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So yeah, I’m doing a whole lot of all of the above, plus working on a non-fiction book and living life in general. I think it’s going to be a busy summer.

Progress? What I’ve been up to in March

March progress

I’ve been so head down in editing Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles that I completely forgot about writing a blog post until today, which unfortunately (or fortunately, in my case) coincided with me taking two hours out of my working day to get my hair done for the first time since Autumn 2020.

Now, I’m back at my desk freshly coiff-ed and raring to go. Except…

I haven’t thought up an inspirational, amusing, or informative blog post to write, so instead I’ll share with you two guest blog posts of mine that were out in March.

3 Ways To Step Out of Isolation

The lovely Lily Lawson was kind enough to let me appear on her writing blog at the beginning of March.

With the end of lockdown here in Wales on the horizon, and seeing reactions from friends, neighbours, and loved ones that ranged from outright fear to the need to get out there and celebrate, this blog post was my personal slant on how we should embrace our new normal.

You can find it here.

Fantasy With a Touch of Science

A little later in March, I featured on Clare Rhoden’s blog, talking about my love of fantasy and science, and how those two things shaped my debut novel, Haven Wakes.

I talk robots – from Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet to the Astrobees on the International Space Station – and you’ll also find an extract from Haven Wakes which shows some of the ways my love of futuristic tech and scientific development played a role in the novel’s world-building.

You can find that blog post here.

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As for the editing of Book 2, well, it’s coming along nicely. There’s more robots, more fantastical places to visit, and many more faces – both good and bad – and as usual, Steve is in for a bumpy ride.

What you can expect from me in 2021

what you can expect from me in 2021

I meant to write this blog post at the beginning of January but time got away with me. In fact, I think that’s a sign of what the rest of my year is going to be like – busy, busy, busy.

While much of the world was on hold in 2020, it feels like 2021 is the year when we pick ourselves up and ask, ‘what’s the best way to cope now that we know what a pandemic looks like?’. That’s how I’m tackling it.

So where will the Life of Fi go in 2021?

Book Two of the Haven Chronicles

The still unnamed (I know, I know) second book in my fantasy series is with my publisher for edits. I’m doing my best to stay calm and button-lipped while I wait, but I’m honestly excited to see what they think and how they feel my baby (sorry, manuscript) could be improved.

The plan is to release Book Two later in 2021. So, as they (someone?) say, watch this space.

I wrote about my editing process back in 2019, in Once upon an edit.

Book Three of the Haven Chronicles

One of the challenges of writing a series of books is ‘shiny object syndrome’. I’m happily working on book two and my mind wanders off to all the things I could do in book three, four and five.

So while my current focus is on getting Book Two out into the big, wide world, I have a brimming notepad filled with ideas on how the series will unfold. In fact, I may soon be moving onto a second notepad.

Once Book Two is polished to its final version, I’ll be getting on with writing Book Three. I already know exactly how it starts. Steve and the darkling are still in hot water and it’s only going to get worse.

2020 Together and 2021 Still Together

Along with all the other contributors, I’m still doing my best to promote two anthologies of shorts created to raise money for the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 appeal. To date, we’ve raised over a thousand pounds for the NHS appeal.

By the way, none of the contributors make any money from 2020 Together and 2021 Still Together. All profits go to the NHS.

Find both anthologies here.

My Other Book

I’m also working on something else, a book that will bring together both my experience as an author and as a copywriter too. It’s a non fiction book for a group of people that I love to support.

Writing it is a completely different experience to penning a novel, but I’m enjoying the process immensely.

More about that later this year.

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So there you have it – my focus for 2021. Oh, and just in case you’ve assigned yourself a word for the year, here’s mine,

progress

What have you got planned for 2021 and what’s your word for the year?

Image by iXimus from Pixabay

Looking Back Over 2020

looking back over 2020

I normally take a moment in December to look back over the year that is almost at an end, but 2020 has hardly been a ‘normal’ year. So I’m taking that moment in November instead.

The Elephant in the World’s Front Room

Whether you’re writing a novel based in the here and now, reporting the news, or penning a blog post, there is no getting away from the fact that Covid-19 is here and taking a large slice of our ongoing consciousness.

I’ve heard 2020 referred to as ‘the year we all stayed in’ and ‘the year that didn’t happen’. To me, 2020 was the year that most of us realised what and who were important to us.

Friendships and family contact went online for many of us. I haven’t met up with my in-laws since before the lockdown began. Instead, we have Sunday video-calls, complete with our dogs barking to each other excitedly. I’ve met up with one local friend, twice, this year. The restrictions of the pandemic have forced the rest of my friendship conversations online and over the phone. Chats with our neighbours are done at a distance, often from the other side of the road, but we’re still there for each other.

Both of my children turned ‘adult’ this year. My son is now 16 (the first step to being a grown-up) and my daughter is 18. Neither birthday was marked with a party or expensive celebration. Instead, they were quiet family occasions, just the four of us, with a takeaway in the back garden over the summer for my son’s birthday, and then a quick, masked-up trip to Pizza Hut for my daughter’s eighteenth in the autumn.

Of course, we’re now on the verge of not just one but possibly three Covid-19 vaccines. Fingers crossed that they are healthy and effective and mean that 2021 isn’t a repeat of this year.

Guest Blogging

The writerly blogging community rallied around each other during the pandemic, reaching out to make sure that none of us went unheard or were left feeling isolated. As a result, I featured on several of their lovely websites in 2020:

A big, warm, thank you to all you for allowing me to introduce myself to your readers.

Writing

One benefit of having extra time on my hands was that I made good progress on the second book in the Haven Chronicles series. By the end of the summer, Burning Chair offered me a publishing deal for it – phew!

The lovely Si from Burning Chair will be getting his editing mitts on my manuscript in December, and Book 2 (with whatever title we decide on) will be published early 2021.

I also contributed a few pieces to 2020 Together: An Anthology of Shorts. All profits go to NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Appeal. So far, 2020 Together has raised over £600 for the charity.

A follow-up collection of shorts, 2021: Still Together will continue the good work when it is released at the end of this month. I’ve got a couple of pieces in that too.

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So there you have it. That was my 2020 so far – weird, mostly in-doors, and spent with the people I love. It’s not the year I envisioned on the first day of January and it has certainly been a challenge. Still, there have been plenty of gems amongst the pebbles.

How about you? How has your 2020 turned out?

Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles is on the way

book 2 of the haven chronicles is on the way

I can officially announce that Burning Chair Publishing have offered me a publishing contract for the second book in my YA fantasy series.

On 14th September, I happily emailed my signed publishing contract back to Burning Chair and began the process of editing my manuscript after receiving feedback from Pete and Si.

So what’s the process and the plan for Book 2 from here?

  • What I’m doing at the moment is editing my novel in response to Pete and Si’s feedback. Once finished, I’ll email that off to Burning Chair (version 2).
  • As you can see, my novel is still known as Book 2. I need to come up with a book title.
  • Burning Chair will create a developmental edit document and email it back to me.
  • I’ll then edit my manuscript and email it back to them (version 3).
  • Burning Chair will carry out a copy edit to check for inconsistencies.
  • More editing on my part, then back to Burning Chair (version 4).
  • In discussion with Burning Chair, the book cover design process will begin.
  • Once the content of the manuscript is agreed on and we have a book cover, Book 2 will be sent out to beta readers.
  • With the feedback from the beta readers, I’ll make final changes to my novel (version 5).

The plan is to publish Book 2 at the start of 2021, unless we can get through the whole process above in time for publication in mid November (who knows?).

What can you expect from Book 2?

Steve and his friends will be forced to face the consequences of their actions in Haven Wakes. The world of the Haven Chronicles series – both magical and work-a-day – will be expanded beyond the city of Caercester. A new threat will raise its head, dragging Steve and the others back into danger.

If you want to know the inspiration behind the first book in the series, have a look at this article from last year.

Follow my writing journey of Book 2 on my Twitter account.