The Last Charm Paperback Publication Day!

Hello my lovelies, I hope you’re well and staying safe in these uncertain times! I’m having a bit of a ‘pinch myself’ moment, because today marks the paperback publication day for The Last Charm, which came out in ebook and audiobook on 21 August.

I’ve been incredibly lucky with The Last Charm because people have really taken it into their hearts, with lots of support from bloggers and authors, and there are now over 240 ratings on Amazon UK along with 130+ fab reviews. It’s also been in several Top 10 Charts on Amazon in Hot New Releases, and in October hit #117 in the whole of the Amazon US store, and was in the Top 10 for Holiday Romance and Friendship Fiction over there 🙂 At the moment, the dream is to acquire one of those little orange ‘Bestseller’ flags – we’ll see! I also had amazing news that a high street retailer has placed a big order of the paperback, however with the current lockdown, no-one can get to them. Hopefully in early December, lockdown will lift and I’ll be able to confirm where you can lay your hands on a copy… Other than by ordering one online via Waterstones, Hive, Amazon and Bookshop. (If you’d like to order a signed copy dedicated to whoever you choose, please email me directly and I can confirm a price including postage costs).

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s supported my book baby, from my family and friends, to authors, bloggers and readers, and to my publisher – it means a lot, especially as writing is such a solitary profession. As I’ve had to cancel my physical book launch at a local bookstore, I’m having an online launch party tonight at 7.00 p.m UK time – there’ll be fun, chat and a giveaway with prizes including two signed copies of the paperback – I’d love to see you there via Facebook https://fb.me/e/20fibqlJY

As a reminder, here’s the blurb for The Last Charm:

A moving & heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You, One Day in December & Normal People

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope.

This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

Here are the buy links if you’re interested:

Amazon – https://amzn.to/340NXLz

Waterstones – https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-last-charm/ella-allbright/9780008386573

Hive – https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Ella-Allbright/The-Last-Charm/24754176

Bookshop – https://uk.bookshop.org/books/the-last-charm/9780008386573

https://uk.bookshop.org/books/christmas-wishes-9780008392994

Very excitingly, I’m also sharing paperback publication day with my lovely and talented aunt Sue Moorcroft – who is a Sunday Times bestseller – for her latest Middledip novel Christmas Wishes. It’s a fab festive read set in Sweden and the UK, and I actually helped out with a little bit of research, so if you grab a copy you might see a little mention of me in the acknowledgments! It’s the first time since we’ve both been published that we’ve shared a publication day, so in honour of that we’re appearing together on the One More Chapter (part of our publisher, HarperCollins) Book Club on Facebook next Wednesday 18 November at 1.00 p.m. via https://www.facebook.com/0neMoreChapter

Here’s the blurb for Christmas Wishes (buy links above, and it’s also available in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrison’s – and WH Smith when the book shops aren’t shut)…

A sparkling Christmas read from the Sunday Times bestseller – perfect to snuggle up with this winter!

Hannah and Nico are meant to be together.

But fate is keeping them apart… 

As soon as Hannah bumps into her brother Rob’s best friend Nico in Stockholm, the two rekindle a fast friendship. But Hannah has a boyfriend – and Nico has two children to look after.

When Hannah loses her beloved shop in Stockholm, though, she is forced to move back to the little village of Middledip – only to find Nico has just moved in too. Under the same snowy sky, can the childhood friends make a romance work – or are there too many obstacles standing in their way?

A heartwarming story of love, friendship, and Christmas magic, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Jill Mansell.

Until next time, happy reading & writing.

Stay well & safe, Ella/Nikki xx

The Last Charm & OMC Readalong

Hello my lovelies, I hope you’re staying safe & well.

It’s been a busy few weeks as I’ve started a new HR day job and there’s also lots going on with the forthcoming publication of The Last Charm THIS Friday! 🙂 I just wanted to share the exciting news that my publisher One More Chapter (digital first division of HarperCollins) are hosting a week long readalong to coincide with my blog tour, from publication day onwards.

The readalong is an exciting opportunity for reviewers and bloggers to read The Last Charm together, chat about the book with me and each other, and join in with lots of fun activities and interactive events like a Facebook Live on publication day, plus via an Instagram Story takeover I’ll be doing. The full schedule will be released this week, and lovely people have already started talking about it on Twitter and Instagram 🙂

If you’re interested in taking part, you can direct message the OMC Twitter account here @0neMoreChapter_ or sign up to their Blogger Newsletter here bit.ly/OMCBloggerMail. You can also keep an eye on what’s going on via the Twitter and Instagram handle #OMCReadalong 🙂

It’s the first readalong they’ve done, and I’m really excited about it!

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki / Ella x

The Last Charm Blog Tour!

Hello my lovelies,

I hope you’re all well and staying safe during these uncertain times, and getting plenty of writing and/or reading done – or if not, whatever gets you through. Personally, I am partial to gin 😉

I’ve just started a new HR role working remotely from home, and am also busy editing the next book as well as doing promo for The Last Charm, so life certainly feels very busy at the moment!

I can’t quite believe it, but there are now less than two weeks to go until the ebook of The Last Charm is published on 21st August. I’m both nervous and excited, and am just hoping readers who buy it will love it as much as the majority of early reviewers on Netgalley have 🙂 I hope that Leila and Jake’s story touches people’s hearts in the same way that writing about these two complex characters touched mine.

Very excitingly, the wonderful Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources is hosting a week long blog tour from 21st – 28th August with the help of thirty-six amazing bloggers who are going to review / blog about the book. Doesn’t the graphic look fabulous? It would be lovely if you’d stop in at one of the blogs during publication week, have a read and say hello 🙂 We’re also going to be running a gorgeous TLC/Dorset themed giveaway, so if you fancy entering, the details will be on those blogs (I’ll also post the link on my blog on publication day).

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More exciting news about publication week plans are coming soon, as well as some great news about the TLC audiobook!

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki xx

Leaving Your (Writerly) Comfort Zone

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Hello my lovelies,

hope you’re well and staying safe. In the lead up to publication of The Last Charm under my Ella Allbright pen name, I’ve done some things that are within my comfort zone… and some that are definitely outside of it! I thought I’d share those experiences with you here. Readers may be interested in taking a peek ‘behind the curtain’ and aspiring authors may want to think about what could be expected of them if they get that sought after publishing deal…

It’s been a while since I had a book published (2018, and that was in Italy) and a lot has changed since then, but the main things I considered when musing over (worrying about) publication plans at the beginning of 2020 included: the rise and increased power of Netgalley, Goodreads and Amazon; reader expectations in terms of engagement with the author; and changed publishing models (increased popularity of digital-first publishing and audio books).

I worked hard on The Last Charm over a period of three years through job changes, house moves, bereavements and raising teenagers. It’s a book that’s very close to my heart and I want to do everything I can to make it a success, so I decided to really go for it with promotion and building my author brand as Ella, while hanging on to the one I’d already created as Nikki Moore.

I decided to work on the premise of two ideas: –

(1) Knock on as many promo doors as possible – ask people for help, even if it makes you squirm. (If you don’t ask, you don’t get. The worst that can happen is someone says no, or fails to reply).

(2) Say YES to anything you’re asked to do, however scary it is

I consider myself a confident person, but actually doing these two things in practice has been hard! Over the past 6 months they’ve led to exciting yet often nerve-wracking experiences, but with some amazing results 🙂

I have: –

  • Approached authors to read early copies of The Last Charm, many of them big names and/or best sellers, to provide author quotes – so far 10 have provided them, including Alex Brown, Sue Moorcroft, Carmel Harrington and Catherine Miller

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  • Appeared on a Facebook Live with the lovely Kiren of Tamworth Book Club (I HATE seeing myself on screen so this was particularly hard for me) – to date this has had c. 700 views (Watch via Tamworth Book Club with Ella Allbright)
  • Been on the BBC Radio Solent Dorset’s Breakfast Show for a 5 minute prime-time slot about writing during lockdown – this gave me great exposure and there was a spike in ebook sales that weekend (listen at 1hr 25 mins via BBC Radio Solent Dorset’s Breakfast Show)

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  • Gritted my teeth, read every review on Netgalley & where it’s a 4 or 5 star (thankfully, the majority of them) I’ve tweeted, shared on Insta, or posted them on Facebook – this has created a real buzz and people now message me to tell me when they’ve pre-ordered, have finished reading the book or have left a review 🙂

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  • Appeared in a local magazine, Dorset Living, talking about why I love Dorset and have decided to set The Last Charm here (with a giant photo of my face in it!) – this has been great for raising brand awareness and I’ve had a lovely response on Fb and Twitter (read digital version via Dorset Living – August Edition)

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  • Invested in Facebook ads before my publisher One More Chapter took over paid adverts – raised awareness, garnered some lovely comments plus some pre-order sales
  • Started vlogging on YouTube about writing and publishing (on a hiatus during most of lockdown because I’ve been editing a book, but returning soon) – which got some lovely feedback, with people suggesting topics for future vlogs (watch via Author By The Sea YouTube Videos)
  • Put myself forward to lead a workshop on writing at the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual conference. This is now postponed to July 2021, and people who know me know I love talking about books and writing in person, but speaking about those things in front of a roomful of my peers (some of whom I’ll be fan-girling over) is going to be challenging!
  • Pitched national magazines about featuring in reviews, author slots or writing in lockdown articles for them – I’ve had a few no’s, one maybe and am waiting to hear back from the others, so watch this space!

I’ve also enjoyed lots of engagement with (early) readers and reviewers on social media, been asked to read and provide author quotes for other people (a privilege), and have agreed to several other live social media events. All of the above, along with OMC really publicising the book, has led to a healthy amount of pre-orders with 3 weeks still to go before ebook publication as well as The Last Charm twice appearing in two Top 100 Fiction Charts on Amazon (Coming of Age, and College & New Adult).

Every experience has taught me – or will teach me – something new, and these are the most important learnings so far:-

  • Be authentic & be yourself
  • Be brave
  • Be honest 
  • Be passionate about your book
  • Be generous in your support of others
  • Be grateful for the support – say thank you 🙂 

Only 3 weeks to go until ebook publication – wish me luck! If you want to pre-order the ebook, audio or paperback you can do so via Amazon, Google Play or Kobo – at the moment, the ebook is a bargain at just 99p in the UK.  

Please do track me down on social media to say hello, ask me questions or ask for help with something 🙂

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki/Ella xx 

https://amzn.to/3a1kroG

Book Chat on Radio Tamworth!

Hello my lovelies,

I hope you’re well and staying safe.

Over the past few months I’ve been busy getting the word out about The Last Charm, thanking lots of lovely people for some amazing Netgalley and Goodreads reviews, and also writing my next book! I’ve finally finished a full draft and will then be getting out the red editing pen and doing some serious work on it before sending it to my agent Hattie.

In the meantime, I’m delighted to be joining the lovely Kiren at Radio Tamworth this week to talk about books, writing and The Last Charm 🙂 If you can tune in, watch along with us and ask some questions or even watch afterwards on Facebook, that would be fab – and truly appreciated. You might pick up some interesting writing tips, find out about the books I’ve been reading during lockdown, or hear about the inspiration for The Last Charm – an epic love story set in Dorset for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December.

Here are the details: –

When: Thursday 2 July 2020

Time: 10.00 a.m. 

Where: On Facebook Live via  m.facebook.com/TamworthReads/ OR listen to Radio Tamworth online or on the radio via 106.8 FM

Hope to see you there, and if you listen in, I hope you enjoy it.

Nikki / Ella x

 

The Charm Bracelet – Cover Reveal Day!

Hello my lovelies,

I know it’s been a while – because I’m heavily into writing the next book, and mostly vlog nowadays – but I am SO excited today to finally share the cover of my next book with you.

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What do you think? It’s my first novel writing under the new name of Ella Allbright, and is commercial women’s fiction set in Dorset.

Here’s the blurb: –

A moving and heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope.

This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

I love the cover so much that I even had my nails done in the same design ❤

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The novel will be published by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins UK, and while it isn’t out until the summer, it can be pre-ordered now at several retailers. If you do pre-order now, you’ll get it for the displayed price even if it increases between now and publication day. And the ebook is currently ONLY 99p!

 

Ebook: Out 21 August 2020

Amazon – https://amzn.to/3a1kroG

Kobo – https://bit.ly/2w0e32r

Google Play – http://bit.ly/3a4wjpQ

 

Paperback: Out 12 November 2020

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Charm-Bracelet-Ella-Allbright/dp/0008386579

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-charm-bracelet/ella-allbright/9780008386573

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the cover and blurb 🙂

In the meantime, happy reading & writing,

Nikki xx

Getting Published: #Vlogging

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Hello my lovelies,

I hope you’re well. I recently decided that I’d sidestep into vlogging to share my writing and publishing experiences. As I live in beautiful Dorset, not far from the beach, I thought that ‘Author by the Sea’ had a nice ring to it.

While I don’t like the thought of being on screen (especially when the thumbnails make you look drunk!) filming vlogs isn’t as hard as I’d imagined, given I’m talking about one of my favourite subject areas, and how passionately I believe that sharing our author/publishing experiences is important for aspiring authors and the wider writing community.

I’ve been delighted by the support so far and have received some lovely messages about the vlogs, and how helpful they’ve been for some people.

So without much further ado, here are the links to vlogs 1 and 2 – with more to follow…

Vlog 1 – Getting Published: No Magic Formula

Vlog 2 – Getting Published: Hook An Agent

If you enjoy them/find them useful – please like/share/subscribe/spread the word on Facebook, Twitter etc. Thank you!

Until next time, happy reading & writing (and watching!),

Take care, Nikki x

#Writing Tips: Overcoming Writer’s Block

Hello my lovelies,

When I first started writing to get published, a lack of confidence and finding time were the issues – but when I did sit down, the words just poured out of me. I never dreamt that once I was published it was the writing that would become harder, especially because one year I wrote over 100,000 words for the #LoveLondon novellas. But in 2016 I faltered following two bereavements and a bad experience in the day job, and the colour leeched out of me, along with any desire or energy to write, leading me to write this blog post – https://wp.me/p15DAP-uX – which attracted my highest ever blog readership and number of comments. And it helped knowing I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling. That there were other people who felt this way too.

woman looking at sunset

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I slowly got back to the writing, and in February 2017 my lovely editor Charlotte invited me to London to talk about a concept she’d thought of for a book she wanted me to write. I was absolutely thrilled and we’ve spent many a happy time together via email, phone and face to face discussing the structure, characters, ideas for covers and so on over the past two and a half years.

BUT while I’ve always had ideas and dialogue whirling round my head, and have loved writing this book, it has been painfully slow. I’ve had weeks, and sometimes months, of writer’s block since I started this manuscript. On the other hand, I’ve had days where I’ve written my heart and soul out, and produced the most amazing word counts. One of these times was last month, when I managed to write 25,000 words in just 4 days at a writing retreat, leading me to reach 95,000 words of the novel, with only 3 chapters left to write  (*goes off to celebrate nearing completion with gin…*). At the moment, the bottle is uncorked and I am writing fluently and often, so I wanted to share my tips in the hope it can help other writers.

person typing on typewriter

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

1) Try and work out why you’re not writing. If you can determine the cause, you can often come up with the solution. I know that being in a series of interim HR jobs over the past few years has taken up a lot of my energy, along with moving house and other personal factors. I’ve had to learn to pace myself, be kind to myself, and give myself permission to write, no matter what other commitments I have. What’s holding you back?

2) Is fear or lack of confidence having an impact? If so, identify this and then ask yourself what’s the worst that could happpen? And what would hurt more, having this MS rejected/the book not selling well, or never finishing this book? For me, even if I didn’t have an editor waiting for this MS, once I’d started this story, I needed to finish it. I owe it to my characters, and to myself.

3) Write as if no-one is going to read it. Free yourself to tell the story in your voice, let self-consciousness slide away, forget about your editor and agent etc. Write what you love, and don’t overthink it. Be in the moment. Get that first ‘dirty draft’ down. You can edit and rewrite and think of the market later, but if you don’t keep moving you might get paralysed.

4) Give yourself permission. You’re allowed to write, you can write, you must write. Ignore any naysayers, and don’t think of it as a hobby or something you need to make excuses for. Think of it as a necessity, and treat it like one. Dedicate time and energy to it, giving your writing what it deserves.

5) Find what works for you. Establish a routine, find a place to write that suits you, be it in the spare room, at the kitchen table, or at a cafe. For me, an hour here or there doesn’t work – I need to write in longer more intense bursts to keep it flowing. So once a year I go and stay in a lovely writing retreat in Devon (https://www.retreatsforyou.co.uk) and while there I eat, sleep and write to my heart’s content. And during the rest of the year, I write only at  weekends, when I know I can have interrupted blocks of time.

6) Don’t be afraid that it’s going to be over. This is definitely an issue I’ve had. I want this story to go on forever; my two main characters are my best friends and I’ll be sad when I write The End on their story. I’ve had to keep reminding myself that I want to share this story with other people, and that I have lots of other ideas in my head, and new friends to meet.

7) Force yourself to write even when you don’t want to. And set deadlines. Sometimes writing is absolutely the LAST thing I want to do, and I’ll do anything I can to avoid it a.k.a. procrastination. Then I feel guilty for not writing, which makes me feel bad, and even less like being creative. So I give myself a stern talking to and promise myself that if I write for just twenty minutes then I can reward myself with something nice. Without fail, I will then write for hours on end and not look up until half a chapter is written. And I don’t need the reward because the writing was enough 🙂 I also set myself deadlines (if I don’t have one from my publisher) i.e. I’ll have finished this chapter by X date. Having some pressure helps.

8) Find other ways to get you going. If you really can’t face writing, do something that’s linked to get you inspired again. For me, this means sitting down with Writing Magazine, scanning articles in The Bookseller about six figure deals and new releases, or re-reading creative writing books. As soon as I do those things, I remember how much I love writing, and think, ‘I can do this!’

I hope these tips have helped 🙂 How do YOU overcome writer’s block? Please share your stories below.

Until next time, happy reading & writing.

Love, Nikki x

 

What They Don’t Tell You About Being An Author

Hello my lovelies,

the annual horror of the HMRC Tax Self-Assessment is upon me and I feel like sticking pins in my eyes and fleeing the country (Mr. Taxman, I won’t). It got me thinking about what I didn’t know about being an author in the years when I was all starry-eyed, before I got my first publishing deal. I’ll try not to share (rant) too much about taxes…

Needless to say, this is not a grumble about writing, because I LOVE it, couldn’t imagine my life without writing in it and am so thankful for the readers, bloggers, reviews and sales. This is a light-hearted view of an author’s life 🙂

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What they don’t tell you about being an author:-

(1) You’ll love writing your first book because you (usually) have all the time in the world to do it. Second book pressure is immense if you’re under contract, and you’ll have moments when you wonder what you got yourself into (before you give yourself a kick up the arse and remind yourself this is what you’ve always dreamt of)

(2) Because of (1), you’ll feel guilty for having those thoughts and will buy chocolate or wine as comfort food. Or sometimes both.

(3) Because of (1) and (2) your bum (and often other bits of you) will spread/widen.

(4) Procrastination will become your best friend. When you’re under deadline, you’ll suddenly find a thousand and one other things you just HAVE to do, instead of write.

(5) Then you’ll get all stressy and anti-social with people because you’re running out of time and need to get on with writing. You’ll refuse invites and generally avoid leaving the house. You’ll write everywhere and anywhere you can – in the car, on the train, at your kids’ after school activities, waiting for appointments, in the staff room during lunch break. People might give you strange looks…

(6) When you meet your deadline because you’ve done (5), you’ll get either chocolate or wine to celebrate/as a reward, or both. Your bum (and other bits) will widen some more.

(7) You’ll be on social media either too much or not enough. You’ll feel guilty about both. You’ll either turn off wi-fi to restrict yourself, or start engaging with people and then lose hours of your life. It’s a cycle – live with it!

(8) You’ll have to register yourself as either a self-employed individual or a Limited Company, keep accounts and receipts, keep tabs on expenses, fill in a self-assessment and  try not to cry… If you’re lucky you’ll employ an Accountant, give them your box of receipts and back away rapidly…

(9) When your Editor tells you she loves your latest book and there are hardly any revisions, you’ll buy chocolate or wine to celebrate, or both… When she/he gives you tons of revisions, you’ll lock yourself in a dark room for a few hours/days. When you emerge, you’ll head to the shops to buy… yep, you’ve got it!

(10) You’ll stare into space and mumble under your breath in public places when you suddenly have a good idea or create a bit of dialogue in your head. People will move away from you and give you looks.

(11) If you don’t immediately write down or record that idea/dialogue on your iPhone you’ll forget them.

(12) Your PC/Laptop/iPad will delight in corrupting itself or being invaded by a virus, and lose your latest WIP. I cannot stress this enough – back everything up, email it to yourself – Do Something!

(13) Every othe author will have more sales than you. Yes, every one. Or at least, you’ll think so. And they’ll be younger, slimmer and more glamorous than you 😉

BUT…

  • Readers are the best. They’ll email you, Tweet you, Facebook you to tell you how much they loved your book, how they stayed up until 2.00 a.m. to read it, how they’ve told their mum/sister/friend/work colleague to read it. Your heart will soar every time.
  • Bloggers are amazing. They will tirelessly promote, review, blog you/your book. They work hard, love supporting authors and books. They help drive sales and get the word out there. You’ll thank them again and again.
  • Other authors are brilliant. They’re part of the most supportive community, will share their experiences and views, and will champion each other – because there’s room for everyone, and we all love what we do.
  • Editors, agents, publicists are stars. They’ll shape, sell, publicise your book, and work tirelessly on your behalf. So many people help a book get published, and they deserve all the credit they’re due.
  • Friends, family and partners will be your biggest supporters. They’ll understand when you want to be anti-social, get as excited about publication day as you do, and bring you wine/flowers/chocolates when something goes wrong. Or when something goes right.
  • You’ll LOVE writing and losing yourself in your own world, knowing that something you’ve created may one day sail off the page and touch someone’s heart.
  • And… You’ll never stop feeling grateful for all of the above.

 

Hope you enjoyed this – let me know in the comments below if I missed any 🙂

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love Nikki xx

Happy New Year 2019! What Will You Do?

Hello my lovelies and a Happy New Year to you,

I hope that your Christmas and New Year was amazing and that 2019 has been kind to you so far. What are you hoping for this year? Love, health and happiness, or that seemingly unobtainable publishing contract? Or maybe you simply want to complete the 100 book challenge, or just get started on the story that’s been prodding your brain for a while? Perhaps like me, you’d settle for finally typing ‘The End’ on the current manuscript that’s been your life for the last two years!

Early January is always a time for reflection, for looking back over the past year and looking forward to what the next one will bring. When I started thinking about what 2018 held for me, I initially thought it had been a year of highs and lows. But in reality, when I went through all my social media time-feeds and saw all the photos of the things I’d done or been a part of (thank god for Facebook, otherwise I’d forget half of it) I realised it was a brilliant year, full of far more highs than I’d imagined. Sure, I’m kicking myself that I sadly neglected this blog over the past few months, and that the latest book is still not finished, and we sadly had a bereavement in the family a month ago, but overall it was SO positive. And I’ve realised I have a lot to be thankful for.

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During 2018: –

  • We saw six lovely couples get married (Nick Frost was at one of the weddings, yes, Nick Frost the actor. Btw, he was a gentleman.)
  • Welcomed several friends’ new babies 🙂
  • I went on an incredibly fun hen weekend to London (got to be a Spice Girl and do a bus tour, singing at the tops of our voices)
  • The lovely boyfriend and I had more of the great trips that we’re famous for amongst our friends – Isle of Wight; Brownsea Island; Newquay (it snowed in March!); Port Isaac; Southern Italy and France…
  • Had an incredible family holiday in Florida
  • I moved jobs (and am VERY happy)
  • We moved house on 22nd December (yes, I know!) and had Christmas in our new home
  • The #LOVELONDON series was published as ebooks in Italy during May & June
  • I went on a writing retreat and wrote 25,00 words in 5 days, bringing my total word count written in 12 months to 40,000
  • Went to Birmingham German Christmas Market (annual tradition)
  • I was in the December issue of Dorset Living talking about my new book
  • Celebrated my daughter’s 18th birthday and my son’s 13th birthday (yes, it made me feel old)
  • Took my boyfriend to Miami to celebrate his 30th birthday
  • Went on a Jaguar driving day
  • Read tons of cracking books, including (my aunt) Sue Moorcroft’s A Christmas Gift and One Summer in Italy 
  • Went to the Romantic Novelists’ Association Winter Party in London
  • Helped my last employer win a national award

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Having realised what an exciting year 2018 was has made me even more excited about 2019. Generally, I don’t make new years’ resolutions because invariably there are too many and after two or so weeks I let them lapse and then feel guilty. So instead I’ve simply decided that I will achieve the following this year:

  • Be an even better friend, daughter, mother, girlfriend to those around me
  • Strive to take notice of my happiness more often and be thankful for what I have, and what I get to experience
  • Blog more often
  • Finish my book

Simples, right? So, what about you? What will you do in 2019? I hope you get everything you wish for.

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

 

 

Publication Day – Picnics in Hyde Park (Italian release) #LoveLondon

Hello my lovelies,

It only seems like last week that I was blogging about the #LoveLondon novellas coming out in ebook in Italy (as volume 1)! But hard as it is to believe, that was 4 weeks ago… And today, the novel that ends the #LoveLondon collection, Picnics in Hyde Park, is published in Italy as an ebook (volume 2) across all major platforms including Amazon.It.

I. Am. Excited!! And even more so about sharing the cover with you. Isn’t it gorgeous? 🙂

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In honour of this release, I had my nails done with a Picnics in Hyde Park theme, combining the colours and designs of the UK and Italian ebook covers. Aren’t they amazing? My very talented friend Sam, who’ve I’ve known since primary school and has endured an almost 35 year friendship with me, was only too happy to come up with something special. If you’re in the Dorset area and like to have your nails done, you can find her on Instagram at @sparkle_nails_and_beauty or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sparklebysam.co.uk/

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And to celebrate publication, as well as having my nails done, I’m running a giveaway. The lucky winner will get a signed paperback (UK cover) of Picnics in Hyde Park, a half bottle of prosecco and some tasty Italian chocolates 🙂 It’s open to UK entrants only, with the results announced on Monday. All you have to do is either retweet the giveaway tweet that’s pinned to my Twitter profile and tell me your favourite place in London, or go to my Nikki Moore author page on Facebook, ‘Like’ the giveaway post and tell me your favourite place in London (https://www.facebook.com/NikkiMooreAuthor/)

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I’ll be drinking some prosecco tonight, that’s for sure 🙂

Until next week (when I’ll be reverting back to my usual writing tips posts), happy reading and writing.

Love, Nikki x

P.s. if you know anyone who reads in Italian and want to give them a nudge, I’d appreciate the sale. The amazon link is https://www.amazon.it/Picnic-Hyde-Park-London-Collection-ebook/dp/B07DTD5RZP – thank you.

 

 

Writing Tip #15 – Preparing for Submission

Hello my lovelies,

It’s another glorious sunny weekend and happily I get to spend the day writing 🙂 In the last blog post, we talked about whether to go the agent or publisher route when deciding who to send your beautiful baby aka manuscript (MS) off to. As predicted, this caused a lot of debate (particularly on the closed RNA group on Facebook) and it’s been fascinating to hear about the different journeys that authors have been on to get published, whether it’s agent first or publisher first, or in some cases no agent or publisher at all, and simply going it alone (aka self-publishing) and happy to stay that way…

So now that you’ve decided who to send your manuscript to, and it’s fully polished and perfectly presented, here are my top tips for submitting: –

  • Do your research

You need to make sure that when you send your MS off (a) it’s to someone who is open to submissions (b) that they’re looking for something in your genre/publish your genre and (c) that you send them exactly what they’re asking for (see point below).

You can Google this if you want, and track people/companies down, however this could take a long time. To minimise hours spent online, The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook is a great help as it contains listings of publishers and agents, along with useful essays and articles on writing https://www.amazon.co.uk/Writers-Artists-Yearbook-2018-ebook/dp/B071ZJBNT8

Writing Magazine normally also has listings of publishers currently open to submissions in their ‘Writer’s News’ section. Looking in the acknowledgments section of the books written by your favourite authors/the best-sellers in your chosen genre can be a great shout, as authors will often thank their agents or commissioning editors. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you can follow agents and publishers to get a flavour for what they’re looking for, or if they’re looking at all. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and recommendations for publishers or agents on social media. On the whole, authors are open to questions and happy to help others who are at the beginning of their writing journey. There is room enough for everyone, and readers will devour thousands of books in their lifetime!

Finally, when you have found the right people and have shortlisted 5 – 6 people to submit to (unless you’ve decided to send off to only one at a time; but in this case be warned you could be waiting a long time to get published!) then find their website and have a read. If there are any tips or hints they’ve posted about submitting to them, read these carefully so that you can…

  • Give them what they want

Traditionally, the submission package you need to send out, whether by email or hard copy in the post (though email is much more common nowadays) is made up of three elements (a) covering letter/email (b) synopsis (outline of the whole book) and (c) first three chapters (or occasionally, the first xx pages).

It’s so important when submitting that you stick to whatever guidelines the agent or publisher has supplied. On the path to publication, you will have enough hurdles to jump over as it is without getting in your own way by sending them the wrong information/overly long submissions etc and annoying them. Ignoring their guidelines may look like either a lack of discipline or a lack of care, and that’s not what you want them to think of you!

  • Be brave

Getting ready to submit is also about mindset. Putting the practicalities aside, it’s a scary thought – and exciting too – that someone you’ve never met before, who knows their business, is going to read your book. So you’ve got to be brave to do this – I also call this ‘putting my big girl pants on’ 🙂  I’m not afraid to admit that I always used to find submissions daunting, and even now if I’m discussing a new book idea with my lovely Editor, I still get nervous. I think that’s normal and healthy. We are so heavily invested in our books because we put so much time, energy and emotions into them, that of course we want everyone to love them. They are deeply personal and we want to world to coo over our beautiful book baby. Knowing this might not be the case, and that an agent or editor may come back with a ‘No’ (if you hear anything back at all) can be a bitter pill to swallow… BUT if you want to be published, that’s part of the package. And if you don’t try, you’ll never know. So you have to push yourself, and send those submissions out. If you don’t want to tell family, friends or colleagues what you’re up to, then don’t. Do what feels comfortable for you. Hopefully you can then stun and amaze them all with some great news!

  • Be prepared for rejection

Along with the need to be brave, you also need to accept that you may get rejected. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to make you doubt yourself. It’s going to frustrate you, and let’s be honest, when you read about someone’s new six figure publishing deal, it’s going to make you seethe silently and grind your teeth. But you can’t let it cripple your confidence. Rejection is a natural part of being a writer. How many stories are there of best-selling authors who received rejection after rejection before making it big? Stephen King used to paper his walls with rejection letters.  J.K. Rowling is no stranger to this; Harry Potter was rejected by c. 36 publishing houses before Bloomsbury picked it up. And look at it now – movies, spin-offs, theme parks, merchandise…

So, however long it takes to recover from a rejection, whether it’s a day, week or month, you MUST keep going. You can’t give up. You have to keep sending that submission out; one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt along the way is that persistence pays.

So, are you ready to take the next step? Do you think I’ve missed anything? Comment below!

Look out for some future blog posts on writing a brilliant covering letter, and writing a synopsis (in my experience, you’ll either love or hate the latter!)

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

Publication Day – #LoveLondon Novellas come to Italy!

Hello my lovelies,

I’m very excited this morning because I get to blog about a publication day! It’s been a while since the last story in the #LoveLondon collection was published in the UK and made available across all the English speaking platforms, so I’d almost forgotten the thrill you get when your book is released. I must confess that during the years leading up to securing a publication deal, I never dared to dream that I’d ever sell foreign rights, so I’m still pinching myself 🙂

So, what’s going on? Well, the five novellas from the #LoveLondon collection are in a volume 1 ebook released today under the HarperCollins Italia eLit brand (including on Amazon Italy and Google Play) under the title Innamorarsi a Londra – doesn’t that sound wonderfully romantic? Loosely translated, it means ‘fall in love in London.’ And the fact that these stories are in a new language in a country I have my origins in, makes this extra special. My maternal grandmother was Italian and moved to France when she was young, so it’s nice that my first foreign rights deal is for Italy. France next, please! 😉

The five novellas, in order, although they can be read as ‘stand alones’ are Skating at Somerset House, New Year at The Ritz, Valentine’s on Primrose Hill, Cocktails in Chelsea and Strawberries at Wimbledon. They each have a slightly different twist on love stories i.e. the one that got away (aka Strawberries at Wimbledon), love that grows from friendship (aka Valentine’s on Primrose Hill) and are set in my favourite places in our gorgeous capital. Hopefully these stories are going to find a brand new batch of readers and they’ll fall in love with London as much as I have.

I’m delighted to reveal the cover here – it’s very similar in tone to the newer UK covers for the novellas and I absolutely love it. Thoughts please?

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The novel that finishes the collection, Picnics in Hyde Park, will be released as volume 2 as an ebook in Italy later in June under the title Picnic a Hyde Park (I’ll refrain from translating that for you!) and I’ll be revealing the cover closer to the time 🙂

Until next time (when I’ll be back with a blog post about the wonderful sights and sounds of Orlando and Miami, before reverting back to my usual writing tips posts), happy reading and writing.

Love, Nikki x

P.s. if you know anyone who reads in Italian and want to give them a nudge, I’d appreciate the sale! The amazon link is https://www.amazon.it/Innamorarsi-Londra-eLit-London-Collection-ebook/dp/B07D4MCH56 – thank you!

 

 

Writing Tip #13 – The Wonders of Constructive Criticism

Hello my lovelies,

It’s another sunny Bank Holiday weekend in the UK,  aren’t we lucky? We’re safely back from Florida and went straight to a wedding the next day, so have had a lovely end to our holiday 🙂 Without much ado, it’s time for the next writing tips post. Now that you’ve written your book, redrafted it and have carried out first revisions, it’s time to think about sharing it with someone before you get it ready for submission to an agent or editor.

I’ve always felt that getting an outside view of your book is essential, because you’re often too close to it to spot plot holes or glaring errors, or a saggy middle or badly written ending. We love our books so much and invest so much of ourselves that it can be difficult to see them clearly. Therefore, some critique and helpful feedback as to how to tackle the areas mentioned in the critique are a great way to rewrite or refine your book to make it even better. We shouldn’t be precious about this – because while it can be tough (*see below) –  at the end of the day don’t we want our book to be the best it possibly can be for our readers?

What’s important is finding the right person, people or service to provide the critique/reader report/feedback so that you can get valuable advice that’s commercially astute and technically sound. There’s a wealth of experienced and skilled people out there offering this, so don’t be tempted to ask (only) your mum/best friend/next door neighbour to read your book and give you detailed feedback, unless they work in the publishing world or have great technical writing skills OR are avid readers who have read widely and know your genre well. I’m all for having beta readers because they’re  a great way to test the market and get fully rounded feedback, but if you only ask someone who loves you for critical feedback, the likelihood is that they’ll simply tell you they love the book, characters and plot, and that you should change nothing.  This doesn’t add much value, although it will make you feel good!

There are many best-selling authors and some agents who offer critiques on the side, and services (although I haven’t used them personally, so can’t offer a personal recommendation) such as Cornerstones Literacy Consultancy. However, you might instead find a tutor or writing mentor, or choose to join a writers’ group or circle to share your book with. I’ll leave it to you to do the research!

My critical feedback nowadays mainly comes from my lovely editor Charlotte at HarperCollins, but I was incredibly lucky during the early years of my writing journey, because I had (a) a supportive relation who happens to be an amazing writer to mentor me aka my aunt, best-selling author Sue Moorcroft  (no, I never get tired of saying that!) and (b) the Romantic Novelists’ Association, which Sue introduced me to. The RNA have a probationary members scheme (New Writers’ Scheme = NWS) and as part of that, for a very reasonable sum of money which also gets you access to RNA parties and industry events, you get to submit one book or partial manuscript a year for a critique. This is usually completed by either a published author, editor or agent, and you receive an anonymous ‘reader’s report’* back. It’s for you to decide what to do with it; there is no pressure to rewrite or resubmit, but if you pass up those golden nuggets of feedback, I think you’re missing a trick. During the four years I was on the NWS scheme, the reader’s report never failed to initially make me cry/wince/cringe but ultimately I would nod my head, get on with a rewrite and use about 80% of the feedback. My debut novel went through the scheme twice and despite the feedback being bracing both times, it helped me enormously and I don’t think Crazy, Undercover, Love would have seen the light of day and been picked up by HarperImpulse otherwise. The year following publication, that book was a finalist in the RNA’s Joan Hessayon New Writer Scheme Award, and that was one of the highlights of my writing journey so far. Here are some pictures of the fab summer party that the award winner was announced at 🙂

My moment of glory!

If you’re interested in the NWS, you can find out more here https://romanticnovelistsassociation.org/membership/#link_tab-1517250016637-2-10

So don’t delay, be brave, find the right person/people to offer constructive criticism on your book, and get it sent off. And when the critique comes back, take a breath, and decide what you want to do with it. Good luck!

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

 

Writing Tip #12 – The Power of Revisions

Hello my lovelies,

looks like the UK is getting the best of the sun, while over here in Florida it’s a bit touch and go (as I write, it’s pouring down with rain and the thunder is rumbling!) but still, it’s been a great holiday so far and it’s not over yet. Along with visits to the Disney Parks, Cocoa Beach, and Planet Hollywood, I’ve had the opportunity to sit by the pool and read a proof copy of Three Little Lies by Laura Marshall and it’s brilliant 🙂 and I’m currently knee-deep in One Summer in Italy by Sue Moorcroft, which is transporting me to the Umbrian sunshine 🙂

But on to writing… In my last post, I talked about the rewrite I do after finishing the ‘dirty draft.’ Following a question I’ve had about timescales, I’m happy to share that the first tetchy draft of my book can take anywhere from 2 to 20 months, depending on what else I have going on in my life – I have a full-time day job in HR, kids, boyfriend, housework, social media for previous books etc. – and whether I’m producing a 14,000 word novella or a 100,000 word novel. The first rewrite, which as I explained in writing tip #11 is completed in roughly four stages, can take around 1 to 3 months depending on how many hours I can put in (some weeks I can manage 8-10 hours around everything else, but other weeks only 1-2 hours) and how radical a rewrite I need to do. But once that rewrite is done, I put the book aside again for another few weeks, and come back to it with fresh eyes…

Because before I send it off to my lovely editor, I do my ‘first revisions.’ I think these are really powerful, because they add extra texture and colour to your story. It’s not about padding it out or adding lots of extra words – I might only add an extra 2000 words overall (and as I go along, I might also be cutting out anything I think is unnecessary) – these first revisions are about making your characters three-dimensional and the world they live in as real as possible.

Basically, this stage is pretty quick, and involves me reading the book a chapter at a time and adding in descriptions, enhancing dialogue tags or using actions to drive dialogue, and inserting narrative using the five senses. I do this wherever I feel that the writing is flat or there is too much dialogue without explanation, because I want every reader to feel that they’re either seeing through the eyes of the main character, or are at least in the same room as them. So I look out for these sections and add in:-

  • Description – scenery, buildings, weather, what people are wearing etc.
  • Dialogue tags – ‘He barked’ ‘She scowled,’ etc. But don’t go overboard with these!
  • Actions driving/supporting dialogue – ‘I can’t live with your mum anymore, she hates me!’ He slammed the cupboard door shut and kicked the bin across the kitchen with a trainered foot, where it hit the wall with a thud and spewed its contents all over the floor. 
  • Use of the five senses – what can the main character touch, taste, hear, see and smell? I.e. the satin of the dress slithered through her fingers as she smoothed her hands over her hips; the sweetness of the ripe strawberries rolled over her tongue; a clap of thunder boomed in the distance, making her jump; the sunset was a beautiful blend of colours – red, orange, yellow – reminding her of a favourite cocktail, tequila sunrise; the scent of lavender carried towards her on the breeze, floral and sweet.

I have to admit I really enjoy these revisions, as I feel like I’m making my baby beautiful 🙂 However, I still can’t get too wedded to anything, because there’s always a danger my editor will send me a kind but firm email pointing out all the different ways I can make my book even better. So at this point, I stop revising and send the draft manuscript off to Charlotte at HarperCollins towers, and sit with crossed fingers to wait and see what she says. In the meantime, while I wait for feedback and any requested edits, I either (a) read a lot to take my mind off the waiting, or (b) start an outline for a new book. If you don’t have an editor yet, or an agent, this might be the time when you send the draft off to a critiquing service, or a set of readers, or a mentor. Which leads on to the subject of my next post – getting a second opinion 🙂

In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have any thoughts or questions, please comment below.

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

Writing Tip #11 – Rewriting & Refining

Hello my lovelies,

I hope you’ve been enjoying the sunshine at home. Here in Florida it’s equal parts sunny and thundery, making for an interesting combination! In the last post, we talked about getting that first ‘dirty draft’ of your story down on paper/in Word document etc. So it may be a while before this post is relevant, but if you want to think ahead, then read on…

There is nothing I love more than writing that first draft; it’s a time when you can give your creativity free rein, letting your characters talk to you and then guiding them on their journey. Your grammar may be horrific, your spelling shoddy and your sentence structure non-existent, but once you’ve got it down you have something to work with. Some authors hate revisions and rewrites but I love them as much as I love that initial draft. For me it’s an opportunity to untangle the knotty mess that I’ve made and make sense of it all (I love a good puzzle!) followed by rebuilding, refining and polishing it until I’m happy enough to send it to my editor for a first view (usually my third or fourth draft by this stage, and we’ve agreed that what I send is a draft and not a final version, as we often take the story apart and put it back together again).

But we’re talking about first rewrites here aka untangling that knotty mess, so that I end up with something coherent to do some proper revisions on. It may be different for you, and if so that’s okay, because everyone’s writing technique is different. But what does this mean for me?

adult book boring face

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Well, first I take a break from the book – and I can’t recommend this highly enough. I put the manuscript aside for a few weeks so that I can get a bit of distance from it, because I often find that by the time I’ve finished the first draft, I’m too immersed in the story, too close to it, to rewrite in the way that I may need to (which can often be brutal i.e. cutting great swathes of words out). So, during those weeks, I read, I spend time with family, I catch up with friends etc.

When I’m ready, I pull the first draft out and work through it in the following stages:-

  • Structure

Are the chapters in the right order? Does the story make sense? I often re-order if I don’t think it works. This can involve a lot of cutting and pasting, which is why I don’t do formatting first. I also look at pacing at this point – does the story have a ‘saggy middle’? Do I need to liven it up somehow? Sometimes reordering chapters or events will help with this, depending on the overarching structure of the book. Other times it may be changing the lengths of some chapters to vary them, or ending a chapter at a different point than it did originally, to create more a cliffhanger.

  • Narrative 

Is there more story to tell? Do I need to add in scenes or events? Or is there too much padding? Do I need cut scenes out or reduce word count? Does every single scene move the story forward? If not, it needs to go. (Stripping out narrative can also count as editing). For me this is often the most painful part of a first rewrite. I have a tendency to overwrite during my first draft so that I can get into the character’s heads, and subsequently I have to cut lots of words out. My lovely editor Charlotte calls this ‘writing yourself into the story.’ I do this less than I used to but it’s still my guilty pleasure.

  • Line Editing

During this round, I comb through and correct grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, and get my sentences and paragraphs into some kind of order so that it all makes sense, along with inserting speech marks where people are talking, where I’ve forgotten to. In my first draft I often have notes like ‘insert x here’ or ‘y needs to say something about z here’ so I will fill in the gaps at this stage.

  • Formatting

Finally, I double line space and format each chapter so that it looks like a ‘proper’ book and I have a clean version to work on in Word when I come to the next step – revisions.

So, what do you think? Is this what a first rewrite looks like for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

 

Writing tip #9 – Choose Your Setting

Hello my lovelies,

Hope you enjoyed the long sunny bank holiday weekend. How gorgeous was the weather? I’m looking forward to more sunshine, as I may just be jetting off to Florida in the next few days… 🙂 But never fear, there will still be regular blog posts coming your way 😉

In the last writing tips blog post I talked about how to structure your book, and what the most important elements are, having previously talked about plot, character and conflict. Now it’s time to talk about setting a.k.a. where your story is set – is it in the Bahamas or the Costa Brava? Is your main character living in a studio apartment in Birmingham, or travelling the world trying to find him/herself?

Setting can either be integral to the plot or simply a relevant backdrop, depending on your story. Therefore, it’s important to know which it is and accordingly how much of the setting details to weave in as you write. However, if your setting is integral, don’t let this get in the way of your story. Drip feed in details, don’t write endless pages of description – your reader will get bored!

If you are a plotter (rather than a pantster) you may have decided right from the outset where your story is going to be set, so you’ll have lots of ideas and will even have a ton of research to hand to include as you write your first draft . Pantsters may know where the book is set, but will ‘write into the wind’ to finish a first draft and then will go back and add in the details of the setting afterwards. As I’ve said in previous posts, this really is a matter of personal style!

In some books and films, setting can be as much a part of the story as the characters are, helping to drive the story forward, whether it be due to world-class views or extreme weather. Would Poldark be the same if it was set in Manchester rather than the wilds of Cornwall? Titanic would not work if it was not set at sea! Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence wouldn’t be half as good as he didn’t describe the curiosities of rural life so well.

When I was writing the #LoveLondon series, it was really important to me that readers fall in love with London as much as I had, as the whole series was based around our vibrant, sprawling capital. So I went on several research trips; taking photos, visiting locations like Primrose Hill and Chelsea, making notes, dictating observations into my iPhone voice recorder and bringing home leaflets/keepsakes to pin on the wall. As I wrote, I used the research to add in descriptions and small details to bring each story to life. I’d like to think it worked as I’ve had some lovely feedback from readers, including how much they liked the setting.  *Warning: Small Sales Plug!* If this sounds up your street, you can buy the ebook collection here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-LoveLondon-Collection-Love-London-ebook/dp/B015W1D3TQ/

 

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So, what types of things should you consider when bringing your setting to life? For me, these include:-

  • Time – modern day, historical or future? 2018, 1890 or 2400?
  • Place – well known city? Fictional town? Half way across the world?
  • Buildings/Town/City – any landmarks or specific architecture? Heavily populated or quiet and urban? Massed together or spread over miles? Streets – wide or narrow pavements? Cobbled roads or concrete? Trees? Flowers? Signs? Shops. Are the streets dirty or clean?
  • Locations/landscape – description of coastal locations/country and farms/jungles and waterfall etc.
  • People – what are they like in terms of behaviour, appearance, accents, etc. What are the social classes, hierarchy and culture?
  • Weather – miserable and rainy, stormy, bright and sunny, scorching hot?
  • Food & drink – what’s on offer? What are the local delicacies? What do people get drunk on?! Where do the locals eat?
  • Use of the five senses (more on this in a later blog post) – what are the sights, sounds, smells and tastes, and what can the characters touch?

Is there anything I’ve missed? How has a great sense of setting added to a book you’ve read? Are you facing any challenges with setting, in a book you’re trying to write? I’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment below 🙂

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

Writing Tip #8 – The Importance of Structure

Hello my lovelies,

hope you’re well and enjoying the slowly warming weather 🙂

It’s already time for the next post; time is just flying by! So, if you read writing tip # 5 on Plotters vs Pantsters and you are a complete plotter, then you may have structured your book already. If you haven’t, but read and put writing tips #6 and #7 into action and now know your story/plot, characters and conflicts – it’s time to think about this.

Structure is so crucial to your book, and getting the right one can be the difference between a mediocre novel and an amazing one. The structure is how you tell your story. The reason I tackle it here rather than in earlier posts is because until I know my plot, characters and conflicts, I can’t decide which structure is right for any particular book.  In other words, if I were to decide at the outset that I wanted a book to be made up almost entirely of formal diary entries, but then my main character turns out to be illiterate, introverted and with very little to say for herself for the purposes of the plot, it’s not really going to work.

That’s just one example, and as I’ve emphasised in these posts, writing really is a matter of personal style, and just because this is the way I do it that doesn’t mean it’s the way you have to. But if you do decide on structure from the outset, do make sure that this works with the context of your plot, characters and conflict, so that it makes sense and the action is as immediate as possible to keep readers hooked.

I have seen some amazing examples of book structure that have completely suited the story and enhanced it in some way, or been absolutely key to the plot. For example, Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson (also a major film featuring Nicole Kidman) is a psychological thriller about a woman whose memories are lost every time she goes to sleep. She wakes up every morning not knowing who or where she is, and in effect has to start again. The weaving of a current thread from Christine’s perspective (her life each day as she tries to find out the truth about her situation) interspersed with diary entries, works brilliantly and really ramps up the tension. Another great example is The Last Letter from Your Lover by JoJo Moyes, a novel involving two women’s intertwined stories of love, loss and betrayal spanning forty years. One thread follows Jennifer’s story in the 1960’s, and another one features Ellie’s messy life in the present day, partly linked together with old letters from Jennifer’s lover which Ellie is reading. Some chapters also start with real life ‘last letters’ between lovers, which JoJo Moyes collected for the book. It all works beautifully, and if you haven’t read itI would recommend you do as it’s heartfelt and emotional 🙂

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So, with regards to structure, think about: –

  • The type of prose

Is it going to be straight narrative? Or will it include letters, emails, a diary, or even tweets?

  • Multiple or single view points?

Is the whole book from your protagonist’s point of view, or are you going to tell the story through the eyes of two or even three characters? If you do this, don’t forget you’ll need to differentiate between them! Each character will need their own ‘voice’ so that your book is interesting and credible.

  • Points of View & Tense

Are you writing in the first person or third person? Present or past tense? This can be so important, and will depend on the plot and characters. In the new book I am working on (which if you don’t know already, I am VERY excited about), I swap view points between two main characters; the heroine’s POV is in first person present tense and the hero’s in third person past tense. This may change if my editor and I don’t think it works!

  • Number and length of chapters

Are you going to have twenty big blocky chapters over your 80,000 to 100,000 word novel, or fifty short ones (from multiple view points)? Are they all going to be the same length, or will they vary? Hint: Varying chapter lengths can be used to either slow down or speed up pace and build tension…

  • Era

Is the whole of your book set in the present day, in the past or perhaps even in the future? Or is it a mixture of both/many, entwining two (or more) different but linked character’s stories?

  • Timeline

Will the chapters be in logical order in terms of date, or if it’s set in different eras, will they be arranged so that the reader is pulled back and forth between the present and the past etc.?

Is there anything you can think of that’s important for structuring, or any particular books that you’ve enjoyed that have been brilliantly structured? Share your comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love Nikki x

Writing Tip #7 – Character & Conflict

Hello my lovelies,

hope you’re all okay and have been enjoying these writing tips – I’ve certainly had lots of fun writing them and the comments/likes have been lovely 🙂 In the last post, I talked about constructing your story. Now we get to the heart of it – characters.

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For me, it’s hard to define what comes first – characters or conflict. The two are intertwined. Your character’s goal will normally help form the basis of your plot. But then do you: –

– Create your characters first, followed by deciding what conflicts will occur for them, both internal and external, with the conflict arising directly from their personality? i.e. their likes, dislikes, upbringing, values, life experiences

OR

– Do you decide what the conflicts will be first and then build your characters around them, deciding what personality traits and life experience will support that kind of conflict?

Let me give you an example…

Starting with conflict

The idea for my debut novel, Crazy, Undercover, Love which is a romance set over a long weekend in Barcelona, literally came to me in a dream. Yes, I know how it sounds! But I had this visual of a couple stranded in a room together, unable to get away from each other, alternatively arguing and then falling in love. For some reason, the hero was really angry with the heroine.

I woke up and jotted some ideas down, and knew that the external conflict was going to come from them working together closely over a few days (therefore unable to get away from each other) and from the actions of a secondary character. I also decided that for the internal conflict, the heroine was going to be trying to achieve something that might seem deceitful and dishonest i.e. make the hero hate her, and that she was really uncomfortable with. He was going to have an internal conflict around women in the workplace (no, he’s not a sexist pig, he just doesn’t like romance at work!) It was also going to be a bit of a comedy of errors.

After some time and thought I built a plot, fleshing out the conflicts fully based on the main character’s goal and what led her to need to achieve that goal. Once I had that, I started working on my characters. What kinds personality traits would cause them to clash, but also help each other learn different ways of looking at the world? What kind of man would my heroine Charley be looking for (if she was looking, which she absolutely wasn’t at the start of the book, being fiercely independent), and what kind of man would really rub her up the wrong way? And what about Alex? What kind of person would he warm to, or dislike on sight? What background would he need to give him such a strong sense of pride and responsibility? What might have happened to him to give him such a skewed view of the world? What kind of traits would Charley need to have to give the book the slight ‘comedy of errors’ feel?

Starting with Character

For my #LoveLondon novella, Strawberries at Wimbledon, I had the title and of course the setting, but nothing else in terms of plot, goals etc. What I did have a strong sense of was a headstrong character called Rayne who was a bit off the wall and slightly rebellious. I could fully picture her at uni in a short skirt and tight top, reluctantly making friends, falling for a boy called Adam who was very different from her. I knew that she was who I wanted to write a story about next.

So I got to know her better, and from her background, upbringing, the things she’d been through and therefore what she craved most (stability) I decided what Adam was going to be like and teach her, and how the two of them might meet again when they were older. That lead me to why they might have broken up in the first place, and what might have changed in the meantime, and from all of that grew the conflicts. So in that way, the conflict came from the characters themselves.

Personally, I’m not sure which way round is better, and I switch between either one depending on the book I’m writing 🙂 How about you?

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One thing is for sure; without characters, we’d be lost. Even if you have an amazing idea for a book and a well paced, interesting plot, you need your characters to act as the linchpins of your story. Everything they do, say and think must drive the story forward. So it’s really important to know them when you sit down to write. Again, depending on personal preference, you may build full character bio’s (if you’re a plotter) or you may just ‘know’ your characters in your head and let them act out their own scenes, and determine their own fate as you write (if you’re more of a pantster). It’s entirely up to you. Personally, I outline character bio’s on index cards or as a part of a visual storyboard. I’m not suggesting I need to know each character’s inside leg measurement before I get started, but I do need some idea of at least half of the following: –

  • Age (plus date of birth – month and year)
  • Name (this is SO important; although I have changed character names halfway through books before if I think they’re not working!)
  • Location i.e. where were they born? Where do they live now?
  • Upbringing i.e. class, heritage, culture etc
  • Living situation – do they live alone, or with family or friends?
  • Friendship circle
  • Have they got children? Do they want children?
  • Romantic relationships i.e. dating history
  • Occupation & employment status
  • Hobbies
  • Likes and dislikes i.e. cat vs dog, films, books, music, TV, driving, food, drink
  • Appearance – just a few details i.e. eye colour, hair colour, body build (unless they are especially clear in my head)
  • How do they like to dress?
  • Values and beliefs – are they honest or liars, do they treat people respectfully or not give a damn, are they risk takers or do they sail close to the wind, do they work hard or play hooky? Are they law-abiding citizens?
  • Personality – confident, shy, brash, humble, arrogant, optimistic, pessimistic, detail-oriented or visionary, selfish or selfless?
  • Significant life experiences i.e travel abroad or no travel at all, bereavements, illnesses, weddings, divorce etc

What about you? Is there anything you’d add to the character bio? And what do you think comes first – conflict or character? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time, happy reading and writing,

Love, Nikki x

Writing Tip #6 – What’s Your Story?

Hello my lovelies,

well, the sun may have disappeared but not our love of writing, so it’s time for the next post in this series 🙂

In the last post (thank you for all your likes, comments, shares and reblogs) we talked about how when it comes to writing books, people can be plotters or pantsters – or perhaps something in between. The conversations I then had with both published and aspiring authors on social media were fascinating – how writers do their thing really is unique to them… But however you do it, there is one thing we all have in common; we need to know our story.

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So, what makes up a story? Here are the important elements, so far as I see them:-

  • It’s a good idea to have an overarching theme, or set of themes i.e. love, hope, loss, survival. This basically lays the foundation for what your story is about, and if you can keep this at the forefront of your mind when you’re writing your book, it’ll keep pulling you back in the right direction.

For instance, in The Shawshank Redemption (one of my favourite films) which was actually based on a Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, the key theme is hope – you must never give up even when things seem at their worst.

  • You need at least one protagonist (main character aka hero or heroine) which the story revolves around.

In a romance you’ll normally have two protagonists aka the people who’ll fall in love with each other. Some crime novels or historical fiction can have three or four protagonists as the book will be written from multiple viewpoints. E.g. a crime novel may tell the story from the points of view of the serial killer, the detective or team of detectives trying to catch him/her, and the killer’s next victim.

You need to make sure protagonists are interesting, well-rounded and engaging. You need your readers to want to root for them. We’ll cover characterisation another time, but do bear in mind when creating your story that you need to know your characters – how they think, feel and behave etc. – in order to understand how your story might unfold.

  • Your protagonist(s) will have a goal, or perhaps several – what is it that they want? What are they trying to achieve?

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In my novella, Valentine’s on Primrose Hill (part of the #LoveLondon series) my protagonist Georgiana is trying to find normality and create a new life for herself following a catastrophic car crash that has left her injured and scarred. In C.L. Taylor’s excellent and claustrophobic The Fear, Lou Wandsworth is trying (as an adult) to stop the man who abducted her as a teenager from abusing another girl and ruining her life.

  • There will be one or several conflicts. These will stop, or get in the way of, your protagonist achieving their goal(s). These can be internal or external.

Internal conflicts are a psychological struggle in the protagonist’s mind, driven by a previous bad experience or a set of values or beliefs that creates a tension for them i.e. in the film Titanic, Rose (Kate Winslet’s character) is torn between what she should do based on her class and upbringing (marry the man her mother wants her to in order to save them financially) and what she wants to do (live life on her own terms and be free to fall in love with whoever she wants).

External conflicts are events or people outside of the protagonists’ control i.e. in Titanic, Cal Hockley (played by Billy Zane) who cruelly pursues Rose and tries to force her to marry him, or the iceberg which sinks the ship, forcing Rose to choose between Jack (Leonardo DeCaprio) and staying alive.

  • You may have an antagonist (aka the anti-hero) – a character who is getting in the protagonist’s way or creating events that drive the story on and make the protagonist work that much harder to achieve their goal.

In the Die Hard films featuring Bruce Willis, there is always a ‘baddie’ who is trying to blow something up or kidnap someone. If there was no baddie, then Bruce Willis would not be trying to save the day, and there would be no story.

  • Think about the plot – this is the series of interrelated events that form the whole story. They will get the protagonist from A to Z, via B to Y, to achieve their goal.

In other words, and to simplify; first this happens to the protagonist, and then that happens, followed by this, and this, and this, until this happens and the protagonist does that, and it’s the end of the book.

Even if you are a total pantster and don’t like planning, you should at least have an idea in your mind of the main things that are going to happen to the protagonist. For example, *Spoiler Alert* the plot for Eat,Pray, Love might be: Elizabeth Gilbert breaks up her marriage and has a bitter divorce, then has a passionate love affair with an actor, then decides to go travelling to find herself, so then she goes to Rome and has a passionate love affair with food and the culture, then she moves on to India to find enlightenment, and then moves onto Bali where she finds love and faces a tough decision in order to find happiness… I won’t spoil the end.

  • You may have sub-plots too. These are secondary strands of the main plot, which either support or add tension to the story.

They can link into the main plot later on in the book or just be there to add depth to the story (but if it’s the latter, make sure it has a purpose i.e. to help the protagonist develop or grow in some way). Sub-plots can involve secondary characters or the antagonist in some way. They should take a back seat to the main plot, so only give them as much air time you need in order to achieve the purpose of the sub-plot.

In some books, the sub-plots of some characters go on to become the main plot for a subsequent book featuring that secondary character as a protagonist. For example, many of Paige Toon’s books are interlinked in this way i.e. Bridget has a sub-plot as a secondary character in The Longest Holiday in order to help the protagonist Laura achieve her goal, but later has her own story – one of my favourite books of 2017 – in The Last Piece of My Heart.

Hopefully the above should get you started with determining your core story.  There are other things you’ll need to consider when writing your book, such as setting, tension, structure, pacing, language, using the five senses, characterisation etc. but those are other posts for other days 🙂

Let me know how you get on – and if you have anything to add, please leave a comment 🙂

Until next time, happy reading and writing,

Love, Nikki x

 

 

Writing Tip #5 – Plotters vs. Pantsters

Hello my lovelies,

where has the sunshine gone? In any case, we’re not worried, because you have better things to do than worry about the weather don’t you? Yes, it’s time to think about plotting and planning your book! In earlier posts we identified what genre you’re going to write in, along with what you know and love, and can therefore write about, so we made a good start. A quick disclaimer: This post isn’t about the technical aspects of writing a book = how to create a story arc, how many acts to use etc. it’s about your approach to plotting and planning… with my own experiences thrown in for good measure.

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Because guess what? As with many things when it comes to writing, plotting/planning is slightly different for everyone. There are as many ways of doing this as there are authors. Some people love to fly by the seat of their pants and simply ‘write into the wind’ with no clue where the story will take them. These are the ‘Pantsters’ of the blog title. Some like to have a general timeline with a beginning, middle and end (the traditional three act structure).  At the other end of the spectrum there are those who will have project management style Gantt charts and post-it notes and colour-coded index cards with every little detail on them, aka the ‘Plotters.’ The important point is, as in my last blog post about learning your craft, the path you pick needs to suit you; it’s a question of personal style.

  • You may be a ‘Pantster’ and opt for no planning whatsoever if you’re a really laid back person, enjoy the thrill of creativity and need the element of surprise in order to keep you excited about a WiP (Work-in-Progress) and have written before, so have a good understanding of how to create a good story arc and keep it tight. On the other hand, with this approach you may find that your key themes get lost in the mix, characters do their own thing, you go off-piste halfway through, the pacing is off (the dreaded ‘saggy middle’) and that the story ends half way through the desired word count i.e. you end up with half a novel.

I had some experience of this when I first started writing, back in my early twenties, and at least fourteen years before I was published. I was writing short romances aimed at Mills & Boon, and when I was writing my first two or three books (which shall never see the light of day!) I used to sit down most evenings and write into the wind. In my head knew who my two main characters were; what they each wanted (internal conflict); what might prevent them from getting what they wanted and the setting/circumstances (external conflict); and how I thought they might get there, but it was as loose as that. And boy did I suffer! I lost count of the number of times I wrote myself into a corner, either because my story arc came to end 30,000 words in (the M&B titles were circa 50,000-55,000 words full length) or because my plots had massive holes in them. As I got older, wrote more, was offered my first publishing contract and was then under deadline, I radically changed my approach…

  • You may opt for some light planning if you need some structure and a framework to write within but are quietly confident that you know how to get to the end of the book without too much trouble, or that you can handle any curve balls your characters may throw at you (once you start writing, you’ll know what I’m talking about 🙂  For example you might write an extended synopsis of the book, which is a 3 – 5 (A4) page summary of the whole storyline from start to finish. Alongside this you may have a character bio for each of the main characters, and also some notes on the structure of the book i.e. straight prose, diary entries, emails, multiple or single view points, which chapter is from whose point of view, number of chapters, estimated length of chapters, time (past versus present, with dates) etc. On this basis, you are less likely to have problems finishing the whole book, and are unlikely to write yourself into a corner. But if you follow this approach, don’t be afraid to flex as you need to, and if you come up with a better idea then amend the outline and change the story.  If your characters speak to you and they want to do something different, stop and think about where that might lead, and if you should adapt your story accordingly.

When I was writing my #LoveLondon series, I was working on the above basis. The series is made up of five novellas and one novel, all romances set in London. I had the titles from the outset so already had my event/date and the exact setting before I started writing them. Each story can be read as a stand alone, or works together as a linked series because one of the main characters in each of the novellas is related or knows Matt or Zoe, the main characters from the novel, Picnics in Hyde Park. So I wrote a rough outline for each of these stories, a bio for the two main characters, and then because of the complexity with regards to the linking of characters and events, I created a timeline with dates and characters on it so that I could check for continuity. This was also to make sure I wasn’t missing months out of the year, or introducing someone the reader had never met before! This approach worked well for me. It was a great balance of having enough information without stifling my creativity.

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  • If you’re detail-oriented, or under deadline, or have a complicated structure that calls for careful planning, you may want to go for the belt and braces approach and be a ‘Plotter.’ This might mean a colour coded spreadsheet where every scene of every chapter is laid out, and the minute detail of the themes, balance of dialogue versus setting versus action, use of five senses etc. is noted along with a full bio of every character in the book. Different people will use different tools, and there is writing software out there that you can use for this, or writing planners you can buy. You may use coloured post-it notes and lay these out so you can ‘see’ the balance and structure visually i.e. pink for setting, blue for male character, red for female character, yellow for key theme 1, green for key theme 2, etc and where this doesn’t look right you can adjust accordingly.  Plotting works really well for some authors, but others hate it because they know everything that’s going to happen in the book, and so they’re no longer excited about writing the story and they lose interest. This is Not Good Idea. So if you think this isn’t for you, ditch it – don’t be too prescriptive.

I’m being a Plotter for my new book. That’s because it has two viewpoints, uses a couple of different devices to tell the story, includes past and present scenes and chapters over a twenty year period, and most of these are not featured in chronological order. I also want to be able to share detailed ideas with my editor Charlotte and get her input, as well as make sure that the whole story curves beautifully over 90,000 – 100,000 words.

For me, what this looks like is (a) story board with ideas and pictures, timelines etc so I have a visual of the book which keeps my inspiration alive (b) character bios of five main characters so I can add colour to the book with rich detail and (c) a detailed chapter by chapter outline from start to finish, outlining key events in each chapter, who they involve, where and when they’re set and what happens in each of the scenes within each chapter. I’ve never worked in such a detailed way before, and wondered if this might stifle my creativity and make my writing feel flat, but actually it’s going really well (other than taking forever due to the demands of daily life including the day job!) When I sit down to write I have an aim to work towards, but I also give my characters enough space to express themselves and go off on slightly different tangents, and adapt the storyline if I need to. I’m still writing organically in the way I prefer, and feel excited about this book 🙂

I didn’t think I’d be saying this, after doing light plotting for years and thinking that was my thing, but now I am firmly in the Plotter camp and happy to stay there.

So, what works for you already, or what approach are you going to take? Any thoughts or experiences you want to share? And are you a Pantster or Plotter or something in between? Let me know!

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

 

Writing Tip #4 – Learn your craft?

Hello my lovelies,

hope you’re well and enjoying all the glorious sunshine! In my previous writing tip posts, we’ve talked about reading a lot, being prepared to work hard and writing what you know and love. So with that in mind, you may think it’s time to sit down and scope out your plot now, or just start typing away in a blank Word doc or writing in a pretty notebook (I have a TON of them), but I’m going to tell you not to do that yet…

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I know you probably can’t wait to get started, and if you want to ignore me and skip to the next post later this week then that’s fine – I don’t want to get in the way of inspiration and creativity – but if you want to take a few minutes to read and consider this, then that’s great. My next tip is learn your craft.

This will mean different things to different people, and it’s a personal choice how you do this depending on a whole range of factors including time restraints, finances and personal style.  So what do I mean by learn your craft, related to writing and being published? (Other than reading a lot, which I feel is an inherent part of the process). Well, for me it’s: –

1) Learning how to use the English language to write effectively in order to create a compelling, colourful and memorable story. How technical you make this in terms of learning about grammar and so on, is up to you. (Personally, I’m not convinced I need to be able to define what a past participle or a subordinate clause is in order to write well, but each to their own and there are some people who love all that stuff!)

2) Learning about the different elements that make a great story i.e. plotting, pacing, description, characterisation, dialogue, creating a satisfying story arc… and then learning  how to pull all that off when you’re actually writing the book. It’s far from easy!

3)  Learning about the publishing industry – how it works, where to go for what type of service, agent vs publisher, the submissions process, requests for rewrites, publishing contracts, deadlines, royalties, PR, social media etc. It’s complex and often confusing, so be prepared!

To get started with some of this, it might be that you consider:-

  • Signing up for a Creative Writing or English degree;
  • Enrolling in a creative writing class through the local college, often run at the weekends or over a few evenings a week;
  • Paying to be in a writing academy run by a publisher like Faber & Faber in London (which is quite well known for generating best selling authors, but these can be expensive);
  • Joining a writing group where you can talk freely about your book idea, receive constructive criticism on early drafts and get advice from other people on the same journey as you (but who might be further along it and able to offer support);
  • Finding a published author who will mentor you and provide constructive criticism (some do this to supplement their writing income).

I dabbled with a writing class for about six weeks when I was in my late teens, and joined a writing group in my early twenties for a few months, but neither were a good fit, and they never really felt like they were adding value, so I did something different.

I read numerous non-fiction books on writing and publishing, before putting all the knowledge into practice, writing a draft manuscript and getting some constructive criticism so I could make improvements to it. There’s a separate post about constructive criticism later in this series, so for now I’ll focus on some of the books that I found invaluable when I was learning my craft. These are just a few of the best, there are hundreds out there: –

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I hope you find the above list useful, and that if you read and enjoy any of them, you’ll let me know. Otherwise, if you read any others that are great, just post in the comments below or catch up with me on Twitter. We’re all still learning our craft 🙂

Finally, in my honest experience, every published author has had a different journey and I don’t think that any particular one is the right one, so it’s up to you to decide which route to take, whether it’s any of the above or not. The important thing is that once you’ve found the right one, you do yourself justice and commit to it 100%. Good luck!

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki x

Writing Tip #3 – Write What You Know (& Love)

Hello my lovelies,

April is zipping by and it won’t be long until May. The sun has been shining, everyone seems happier and I’ve been spending my lunch breaks reading books down by the river. I’m very lucky to have such gorgeous views just two minutes from where I do my day job 🙂

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So, it’s time for my next writing tip, and I hope this is one that’ll resonate with people because it’s so bloody hard to get right. When you’re deciding what kind of book you want to write, my advice is this – write what you know and love.

 

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If you write about what you know, it lends an air of authenticity to your book, which in turn makes it believable and allows your readers to connect with the world and the characters you’ve created. Writing what you know can be using anything relevant, such as: –

  • Setting your book in places you’ve visited
  • Giving a main character an occupation you have now or had previously
  • Plotting your book around a major life event you’ve experienced such as moving house, opening a business or getting a divorce (I am NOT advocating writing about what actually happened to you, just use the situation for context!)
  • Hobbies you’ve taken up or that a close friend or family member has, as a backdrop to the story i.e. how many books are there out there about village choirs, or reading groups or art classes?
  • A subject matter you’re considered an expert in
  • Or, less critically, your characters can have an appreciation for the music you adore or films and books that you’ve read etc.

I’ve set books and short stories in places I’ve visited (Barcelona, London, Maldives) and the new book I’m working on is set in my home county of Dorset. My debut novel touched on Human Resources and tribunals (which relates to my day job), and some of the characters in the #LoveLondon series have jobs I’ve done in the past or that my friends/family have done i.e. bar work, nannying, journalist, retail assistant etc.

But you also need to write what you love. If writing about what you know is deathly boring and you can’t summon an ounce of enthusiasm for the subject/setting/occupation etc. your book will be flat and lifeless. So, think about what excites you as well. What genres do you like reading? What are you passionate about? What are the best books that you’ve read, and why? What is the story you can’t wait to tell? What are the values and life lessons you believe in, that you want to communicate to others?

I grew up reading romance, have always loved a good rom-com, and am at my happiest when I finish a book or film feeling that I’ve learnt something important, so it’s no surprise that my books and stories to date have been romances that aim to fill my readers with hope and resonate with them emotionally 🙂 But the more I read psychological thrillers and domestic noir, and enjoy them, the more I start yearning to write a psychological thriller of my own…

In summary, where does what you know and what you love, converge? The sweet spot in publishing is often where that convergence hits the commercial market i.e. the latest trend, along with brilliant storytelling and memorable characters (often with a lot of luck, and word of mouth from readers and bloggers) with a captivating cover = best seller stardom and high sales. So think about this carefully. Don’t be a slave to the latest trend, but do consider the above and make a decision that not only allows you to enjoy what you write, but hopefully gets you some decent sales too 🙂

What do you think? Any thoughts? More writing tips soon!

Unti next time, happy reading & writing.

Love, Nikki x

 

Writing Tip #1 – Read a lot!

Hello my lovelies,

I don’t know about you, but I was so glad to see the sunshine yesterday; I always feel much happier when it’s sunny, and find it easier to write too 🙂

Following the lovely response to my last blog post about when to say no to a publishing deal, I thought I’d do a series of blog posts for aspiring authors. I’m by no means a bestselling author, and I haven’t hit the dizzy heights of a mass paperback deal, but I have done my time as a budding author trying to get that elusive publishing deal, so I thought I’d share the benefit of those experiences with others to help them along the way. The support of other writers has always been really important to me, and I have no doubt that all those titbits of advice I absorbed over social media, through conversations in closed forums (such as the Romantic Novelists Association forum ROMNA), and by chatting at writing industry parties, helped me massively on my journey to publication. So, here goes…

Tip #1 – READ. A LOT.

I know this might seem counterintuitive – after all, if you’re reading all the time, when are you going to have time to write? – but don’t underestimate the importance of reading widely and well. This will expand your thinking as well as improving your vocabulary and grammar (as long as you’re reading quality books!). I’ve always been a massive bookworm, and love to read. If I can transport my readers into another world in the same way that my favourite authors can for me, then I’m happy. My bookcase is heaving with a mixture of genres, from non-fiction writing craft books to romance to psychological thrillers to literary fiction. I honestly think that my love of reading has made a big difference to my writing, injecting my books with passion and colour.

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More importantly, you should read in the genre you are going to write in. This will help you understand what a successful book in that genre looks and feels like. I’m not talking about reading books in your chosen genre in order to copy them, or steal ideas or emulate them; no-one wants a carbon copy of a book they have read before, and if you don’t then inject your unique voice and passion into it, it’ll fall flat. What I’m talking about is reading books in order to grasp what the important elements are, such as: –

  • Plotting – What is the story about? What are the core elements?
  • Structure – How is the story structured? I.e. long or short paragraphs and chapters; use of devices such as diary entries, emails, tweets; flitting between current day and the past, or between multiple viewpoints etc.
  • Pacing – How does the story unfold? What tools does the author use to slow down or speed up the story?
  • Description – How does the author create a vibrant atmosphere so that you feel you can step into the pages? I.e. visuals, use of the five senses etc.
  • Characterisation (including point of view) – How does the author make the characters three-dimensional? How do they create a main character that you can live inside the head of, and are rooting for?
  • Dialogue – How does the author create natural sounding dialogue that carries the story forward, instead of bogging it down? How do they use dialogue tags to create action i.e. rather than just adding ‘he said,’ and ‘she said’ after every bit of dialogue? How do they use dialogue to add depth to the characterisation?
  • Showing not telling – On the whole, how does the author communicate the story to you? I.e. ‘Jack slammed his fists on the worktop’ (rather than, ‘Jack was angry.’) etc.

The above isn’t an exhaustive list, but should give you a starter for ten 🙂

Personally, I read books on two levels – one with my writer/editor hat on, ‘That’s an interesting way to do it, that works, I can see what s/he has done there, I didn’t like that bit of description – why not?’ and one with my reader hat on, ‘Wow, I’m hooked, what a great story, I should be going to bed but I’m going to keep reading instead.’ (BTW, I know that a book is particularly good if my writer/editor hat disappears altogether and I stop noticing the writing techniques). Try it and see how you get on; I’ve been amazed by the useful things I’ve come up with that I’ve then applied to my own writing. In fact, after reading a brilliant book by Lisa Jewell, Then She Was Gone, I have just changed one of my character’s viewpoints from first to third person in a multiple viewpoint book, to help create a different ‘voice’ and it now works much better.

Let me know how you get on 🙂 I’d love to hear from you if you found this post useful, and I’m around on Twitter if you fancy a chat via @NikkiMoore_Auth

The next top tip is coming soon! Until then, happy reading and writing.

Love, Nikki x

Belated #SummerImpulse; Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe (Review)

Hello my lovelies,

I hope everyone is well, has had a great week and is enjoying the summer 🙂

SummerImpulse

I’m always nothing if not honest in my blog posts so I’ll start by openly saying this review is late. Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe by the marvellous Debbie Johnson was supposed to be the second HarperImpulse book I read and reviewed for the #Summerimpulse Readathon, which ended last Sunday… But between two jam packed weekends and starting a brand new shiny HR job, I had little time to read.

However, just because #Summerimpulse is over, that doesn’t mean reading and reviewing another HI book isn’t valid, so I went ahead and finished it. Here’s what I thought.

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This is a bloody brilliant book. End of. I could stop there but of course you might want a little more detail, so I won’t! In short, this is not just a romance, and it’s not just a ‘location’ book following a successful market trend (cafe / west country setting) and it’s not just a glorious summer read. It is all of those, but also much more.

Yes, it has a heartening romance at the centre of it (between Laura, our frazzled, slightly nuts but adorable heroine, and the gorgeous local vet Matt) and yes, it had an amazing backdrop in terms of beautiful Dorset, where I count myself very lucky to live and yes, it helped me enjoy the summer 🙂   But it also had a full cast of delightfully rounded characters, my favourites being Laura herself, Nate and Lizzie (Laura’s children, who are similar ages to my own kids and who were frighteningly true to life) and Jimbo (the ageing Labrador) all of who leapt off the page and drew me in. I also liked the premise of the book, with Laura transplanting her family from Manchester to Dorset for the summer for a change of scenery, a holiday and to get back into the working world again after losing her husband a few years previously. Laura initially thinks of her plan as crazy, as do her family, but slowly and surely the Dorset coast and the welcoming people start to work their magic…

Debbie also writes with a really engaging  voice, capturing both the lighter and darker moments of life perfectly. I always know that when I read Debbie’s books I’m going to laugh out loud but at the same time be emotionally wrung out and taken on the journey with the main character. In that way, her writing reminds me of the fantastic JoJo Moyes.

However, for me the book worked best because it spoke to me in a touchingly honest and sensitive way. The core themes were about dealing with grief (candid but not depressing), appreciating the simple things in life such as friends and family, and learning to truly live again after a loss. They’re all themes that resonated with me after two recent bereavements, and while the book is a cracking good read, more importantly I felt Debbie had helped me see things in a different light… Which is why I was so glad that when I got to the very satisfying end of the book with all the threads knit together so well, I was left with a smile on my face, tears in my eyes and a genuine desire to read another Debbie Johnson book.

Have you read Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe? What did you think?

To find out more about Debbie you can look here https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00HPYTB2M or find her on Fb here www.facebook.com/debbiejohnsonauthor

The book is available to buy across a number of formats and platforms including Amazon – for only 99p as an eBook here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summer-Comfort-Food-Cafe-bestselling-ebook/dp/B015EXDQIA

I’m off abroad soon but am hoping to post about my holiday TBR pile, which I’m really excited about, before I go.

So until next then, Happy Reading and Writing.

Love, Nikki x

UK Publication day for paperback and audio #ChristmasWishes

It’s paperback and audiobook publication day for my lovely aunt Sue Moorcroft for Christmas Wishes – here’s her blog post about it. Congratulations Sue ☺️ Xx

Sue Moorcroft blog

Christmas wishes paperback
Christmas Wishes paperback

Hooray! Today Christmas Wishes is available in paperback and audio!

Hannah’s lost her shop in Stockholm and her fink of an ex-boyfriend is trying to swindle her. She returns to Middledip village to look after Nan Heather while she decides what happens next in her life and becomes embroiled with the family of her teen-years buddy Nico. He’s trying to work out what happens next in his life, too. Wishes are easy to make but it’s harder to make them come true…

The paperback should be available in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrison’s, W H Smith, Waterstones and many independent bookshops. It’s a special treat for me to see one of my books on the shelves.

You might know that there’s now an online presence for independent bookshops called Bookshop.org and you can buy Christmas Wishes there, too, thereby supporting bricks and mortar stores.

Julia Winwood
Julia…

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Ten to Talk Through: Ella Allbright

In honour of publication day, the lovely Aoife at Pretty Purple Polka Dots has featured me on her blog, talking about writing and my books 🙂

Pretty Purple Polka Dots

Today’s post is another instalment in my new Ten to Talk Through series, and this is a super timely one.

Today I’ve sat down for a chat with the lovely Ella Allbright.Ella’s book The Last Charmis published today. So, what better time to sit back and grab a cuppa while we chat dream book destinations, how Ella likes to relax, and her thoughts on NaNoWriMo.

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#ChristmasWishes ebook publication day!

A belated Happy eBook Publication Day to the talented Sue Moorcroft! I really enjoyed Christmas Wishes and was lucky enough to get a signed paperback copy ahead of it’s release on 12th November…

Sue Moorcroft blog

Cover image Christmas Wishes
Christmas Wishes

Such an exciting day when a book first goes on sale! Thanks to all the lovely NetGalley users who have already given Christmas Wishes so many great reviews.

Christmas Wishes is available for download in the UK now.

Join Hannah in her journeys between beautiful snowy Sweden and cosy Middledip as her life in Stockholm fragments and the village calls her back. Nico’s downshifted to Middledip too as he has two children to care for and an eating disorder to cope with. Will any of their wishes come true?

Image: When it came to Hannah's turn she found herself making one of those wishes that are half-formed in the back of your mind, a yearning you've hardly admitted to yourself.

If you’d prefer to await the paperback or audio versions then they’ll be coming along on November 12th 2020.

Download Christmas Wishes on Amazon UK

Download Christmas Wishes on Apple UK

Download Christmas Wishes on Kobo UK

To double the excitement, today’s also publication day in Italy for La vacanza che cambiò la mia vita – which was

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Ella Allbright – The Last Charm

Another lovely review for The Last Charm – which has just received an amazing 100 reviews only two and a half weeks after publication 🙂 With thanks to Sharon for the review.

‘The Last Charm’ by Ella Allbright is a thought-provoking, emotional and beautiful story that begins with an email from Leila to a girl called Caitlin, to prove she is the owner of a lost charm bracelet. In order to do this, we go back in time to when Leila was an eleven-year-old and her mum left her the bracelet when she left the family to run away. Leila struggles emotionally and Jake, a boy who lives on the same road helps her through.

Ella Allbright

Each charm and the story behind it is told by the chapter, so we see and feel everything Leila and Jake go through in life. We see that Jake is there, through thick and thin for Leila, it makes for a very emotional and poignant tale. Leila is a girl who tends to flee from her problems and never realises that Jake is her mainstay…

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The Last Charm – Ella Allbright

Another gorgeous review for The Last Charm – thank you to Kelly.

Kelly T's Space

A moving and heartwarming love story perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day in December….

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope.

This is the story of her…and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

The Last Charm Cover

Today is my stop on The Last Charm blog tour thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources, Ella Allbright and One More Chapter.

This is a story that will make you feel…

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Book Review: The Last Charm – Ella Allbright

So delighted to share a gorgeous 5 star review with you all for The Last Charm 💓 With thanks to Lu 😊

Lu Etchells

TitleThe Last Charm
AuthorElla Allbright
PublisherOne More Chapter
Publication date21st August 2020
GenreFiction/Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit
No. of pages400 (Kindle)
 
Book # for 202052

The Blurb

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope. This is the story of her … and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

Why I read it

Although my genre is traditionally Psych Thrillers, I…

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The Last Charm Publication Day & A Giveaway!!

Hello lovely people,

I hope you’re well and staying safe in these uncertain times. I’m so excited to say that The Last Charm, my first book under the pen name of Ella Allbright, is published as an ebook and an audiobook today! If you haven’t heard me going on about it already, it’s commercial women’s fiction – an epic love story set in my beautiful home county of Dorset. If you loved Normal People, Me Before You and One Day in December, I think you’ll like this 🙂  It feels like a long time coming because it took me almost three years to write from start to finish, and we’ve been spreading the word about it since February this year, just before lockdown started.

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Blurb

Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope.

This is the story of her… and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

Quotes/Reviews

Here are a few lovely author quotes and some equally lovely reviews from people kind enough to read it as an advanced review copy on Netgalley…

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‘Beautifully written, cunningly constructed and emotionally deep. Ella Allbright is an exciting voice in fiction!’ Sue Moorcroft, Sunday Times Bestselling author of Let It Snow

‘A charming, tender love story & one-sitting reading that was just gorgeous.’ Carmel Harrington, Bestselling author of My Pear-Shaped Life

‘This was such a moving story. Completely devoured me and crushed my heart into pieces!’ Georgi B, Netgalley

‘Magical, heartwarming, charming, heartbreaking, enthralling… really, this book is simply beautiful.’ Sarah L, Netgalley

Buy Links

And without much further ado, if you fancy it, here’s where you can buy it ❤

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Audiobook at Amazon/Audible or Kobo

Ebook from Amazon or  Kobo or Google Play

Giveaway

As well as the excitement of publication day, we’re also running a TLC/Dorset inspired giveaway 🙂 This will be open for the next week or so, alongside the blog tour being superbly run by Rachel’s Random Resources and with the help of thirty-six lovely bloggers. First prize is the gorgeous The Last Charm/Reading mug, postcards, Lulworth chocolate, mermaid bookmark and keepsake book bracelet. Second and third place are the postcards, chocolate bars and chocolate lollipops plus bookmarks. There’s also a mystery prize for each of the three prize winners! To enter, just click on the below rafflecopter link and follow the instructions 🙂 Please note this is for over 18’s and UK residents only – sorry! Good luck to everyone who enters…

Rafflecopter Link

That’s it for now! I’ll let you know how the book does and hopefully be back with more exciting news in due course.

Until next time, happy reading & writing (and stay safe),

Love, Ella / Nikki xx

 

Writing tip: agent or no agent?

Another great writing tip blog post from Sue Moorcroft, this time about being unagented vs agented…

Sue Moorcroft blog

Writing tip
Writing tip

Authors are divided about whether to work with an agent. Here are the bullet points of my own history with agents:

  • Offered representation by an editor who had decided to switch to being a sole agent. Before she got as far as us signing the Agreement, she thought better of being an agent and vanished from my life.
  • Got a fab London agent from a big agency. She sold me into a couple of modestly sized publishers and also large print and audio. We had a couple of near-misses with big publishers but a miss is as good as a mile. After a bereavement, I decided I would no longer be able to write novels and left her flock. We parted friends and are still.
  • Unagented, I sold seven novels to publisher Choc Lit. Some were those my former agent had had near misses with so she checked…

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Reminiscing About Writing Retreats

Hello my lovelies,

I hope you’re all well and staying safe. I was talking to Debbie Flint who runs Retreats For You in north Devon the other day and it got me thinking about how much of The Last Charm I actually wrote there over the course of two summers, and how much longer it might’ve taken to finish the book had it not been for the lovely tranquil cottage and even lovelier team to look after me. I went digging around and found a post from 2018 I wrote about my first experience there – you can read it here The Wonders of Writing Retreats.

 

The four days I spend at Retreats For You each summer enabled me to get huge chunks of the story down, and during those visits I wrote circa 45,000 words – or half a book… The benefits of writing retreats for me are:-

  • No day job to distract me – I save up holiday entitlement to use
  • No Fiancé/son/puppy to look after/talk to/walk – very time intensive!
  • No housework – I’m cooked for and taken care of at RfU
  • No life admin – the bills can wait until I’m home
  • Headspace – the ability to focus on the story and nothing else
  • Freedom – setting my own schedule, around meal times
  • Triple the number of physical hours I usually get to write in, around the day job and other commitments*

*I got into a routine of 7.00 a.m. wake up, write for an hour, shower and dress, quick breakfast, write until lunchtime, quick lunch, write until 5.30 p.m., take the retreat dog for a walk, dinner and wine with everyone, write until 10.00 p.m, read for an hour/watch TV, sleep… repeat! This meant I got at least 10 hours of writing time a day, if not more.

If you get the opportunity to visit a writing retreat – which often includes tutors on site to deliver workshops – I’d heartily recommend it. Giving yourself permission to write is an important step on the journey to finishing a book and getting it published, or meeting your deadlines if you’re a published author. If you can’t go on a retreat due to financial pressures/family responsibilities then there’s always the option of going to stay with a friend (so long as you explain you’re not there to socialise other than at meal times!) or having an ‘at home’ retreat. I’ve done this before, and it really just means clearing the decks for a whole weekend in terms of visitors, commitments, housework etc and telling your nearest and dearest to pretend you’re not in the house and that disturbing you while you’re hiding in the spare room/shed/corner of the kitchen will mean certain death!

I was intending to visit Retreats For You again this year, but due to lockdown it sadly hasn’t been possible, and they had to pivot and offer the cottage out as an Air B’n’B… Seeing all the pictures made me feel almost home sick! But roll on 2021, because I’ll be back and am looking forward to it 🙂

Have you ever been to a retreat? What did you get done, or achieve? It would be lovely to hear about your experiences 🙂

Until next time, happy reading & writing,

Love, Nikki / Ella xx