NOTE: For some reason this post didn’t publish yesterday! I have no idea why and can only apologise. I should have checked, shouldn’t I? My bad, as those who are down with the kids say. (That’s not me, I’m not even going to pretend it is.) Anyway, sorry about that, but it means you’ve got two posts today, should you choose to accept your mission.
Morning, everyone! It occurred to me this morning that I only have seven more posts to write to complete the #AtoZChallenge, which I can’t deny cheered me up a bit. Also, how flipping fast has that gone by? Considering I’ve been confined to the house since I got back from Glastonbury on March 13th, only going outside into my own garden, it’s surprising how quickly the time has passed. And when I think about it, having this blog post to write every morning has really helped. It’s given my day some sort of structure. If nothing else, I know this needs to be done, so it was probably a good thing I signed up for it after all.
Anyway, today we’ve reached the letter T. I love T because it sounds like my first word which is, funnily enough:
I know plenty of writers who are fuelled by coffee, but I’m not one of them. It’s odd really, because when I was a teenager I went off tea and would only drink coffee. That continued right up until my mid-thirties when, inexplicably, I went off coffee. I’ve drunk tea ever since.
When I had the day job, the tea was so weak and wishy-washy that I’d always have coffee, but since that was only one cup a day it didn’t affect me much. Since leaving the day job I drink coffee maybe once a month, if that. The funny thing is, if I go out to a cafe or restaurant, I rarely have tea then. It’s because it never tastes quite right to me. I don’t know why. I usually have a soft drink or coffee or a hot chocolate. Weird!
I start the day with tea and my husband or son bring me mugs of the stuff throughout the day while I’m working. My books are all fuelled by Yorkshire Tea. No other brand comes close. No, I’m not getting paid by Taylor’s of Harrogate to promote their brand! I did realise, the other week, that my characters drink a lot of tea, too. I’ve tried to mix it up by making them coffee drinkers or hot chocolate drinkers, but they put the kettle on a lot, no matter what. It’s not a plot device. It’s real life! I can’t count how many times our kettle goes on at home. My husband drinks even more tea than I do, so it’s just normal life to me.
I sometimes see photographs on Instagram with these cool people, clutching takeaway coffees in their hand, the brand name scrawled across the cup. Not me. I’m a tea in a Poldark/Yorkshire Tea/Harry Potter/Bramblewick/cheery slogan mug sort of woman!
Oh, I know. Isn’t it awful? But it has to be done, I’m afraid. I have no objections to paying tax as it helps fund all the services we rely on in this country, but I hate filling in the paperwork. Tax returns are horrible, and make no sense whatsoever. Then there’s all the mess and palaver of sorting through endless receipts and bank statements and invoices … Ugh!
Of course, if I was a normal, sane sort of person, I’d keep things neat and tidy and sort it out as I went along, keeping monthly or weekly or even daily accounts. Being me, I just shove everything in a drawer and then have two days of frantic wading through reams of paper, rummaging around in various handbags to find receipts, printing off invoices from my email account and generally hating myself for being so disorganised.
For the last two years I’ve employed an accountant. I thought it would make things much easier, and she does, in as much as she fills in my tax return for me. However, that doesn’t alter the fact that I still have to collect all that information and gather it together, put it in order, input it onto spreadsheets etc. Every year, I promise myself that I’ll keep a weekly record of income and expenditure. Every year I fail dismally. So my advice to you is, don’t be like me! Simple.
Book titles are, allegedly, one of the fun parts of being an indie author. You can, after all, come up with a title that you love without being told, quite forcibly by a publisher, that it has to go. This sounds like a brilliant plan, and one of the major benefits of going it alone. But be careful …
It’s taken me ages to realise that there’s a lot more to choosing a book title than just selecting something you like the sound of. It’s all about marketing, and knowing your place in your chosen genre. If you look at romantic comedies/contemporary romances, for example, you’ll see a whole raft of similar titles in books. There are absolutely loads of books with “Little” in the title. Lots of “Cosy” too. Mentions of “Village” or “Cafe” or “Cake” or “By the Sea” or similar are everywhere.
Now, I’m the first to admit that I, along with several of my writer friends, used to find this amusing. We used to make up long and silly titles for our current WIP. At one point, for example, I nicknamed one of my books The Cosy Little Stately Home in Cupcake Village By the Sea! 🙂 But, in actual fact, there is method in the madness. As you learn more about marketing you realise that these publishers know what they’re doing. You may think your book title is a cliche, but readers will know exactly what they’re going to get and will make a beeline for it. And that’s what matters, you see? Because your title may be witty or clever or mean something to you personally, but if it doesn’t pull in the readers, who will care?
It’s like the cover issue I discussed, back when I was posting for the letter C. (Gosh, that feels like ages ago!) Your book should do what it says on the tin, and these titles are familiar and welcoming to readers of that genre. Take, for example, books with “Girl” in the title. There was a whole rash of psychological thrillers and crime books with this, and although many authors groaned about yet another one, readers knew what they would get and bought it. Similarly, there are many sagas that have “Daughter” in the title, so you get “The *insert male occupation here*’s Daughter” as the title. It’s telling readers of that genre what to expect.
I’m the first to admit I’ve made big mistakes with some of my titles. This Other Eden and Being Emerald, for example, would probably have sold better if I’d called them something that reflected the fact that, first and foremost, they’re romantic comedies, and secondly, they’re set in the gorgeous Yorkshire Dales and there’s a country show, and a wedding, complete with vintage tea sets and cream teas and bunting, and baking and … well, you get the drift. As I remarked in my Covers post – you live and learn!
What I’m saying is, think very carefully about your book’s title. You may love it, but will your potential readers? Trawl the bestseller lists in your book’s genre and pay close attention to the sort of titles those books have. There are lots of “New Beginnings” and “Secret” books out at the moment. Books that promise your characters are starting over seem popular. According to Alexa (yes, honestly! My husband tried it and she knew me!) my most popular books are New Doctor at Chestnut House (new beginning), Christmas at the Country Practice (cosy village setting) and Fresh Starts at Folly Farm (new beginning). So I think there’s a lot to be said for studying your market!
Sometimes, I don’t write at all. I don’t pick up a pen and a notebook, or turn on my computer for hours or days – sometimes even weeks! Sometimes, I sit and stare into space, taking no notice of anyone or anything around me. In such times, non-writers could be forgiven for thinking I’m not working. They’re wrong. (Well, mostly they’re wrong. I confess on occasion I might be daydreaming about Jamie Fraser or Poldark, or fantasising about winning the lottery, or planning my divorce *joke, dear, joke* …) but mainly they are wrong. Because, for writers, a great deal of the writing is done in the mind, and there’s nothing more crucial than thinking time.
When I finish a book I often have a break of a week or two, or even a month, between the moment I press publish and the moment I open a new document and type Chapter One. That’s because I’m working through ideas and stories in my mind. I’m slowly creating characters. They’re having conversations in my mind, and I’m noting how they speak to each other, what they’re saying, what their issues are. I’m taking virtual walks around my fictional setting. I’m studying the streets and visiting the houses, the shops, the pubs, the cafes. I’m watching how neighbours react to each other, what kind of community it is. I’m learning about my hero and my heroine. I’m seeing what they look like, I’m finding out about their families and friends, I’m hearing their voices, I’m working out how they fit in with other people around them and with each other.
It’s only when I’ve got those things straight in my mind that I begin writing. That doesn’t mean I’ve figured out the entire plot of the book. I usually have a rough idea of how the story will start and where it will end, and a few key scenes along the way, but my characters are constantly surprising me and taking the story in directions I never expected, so I’ve realised it’s pointless making a detailed plan.
Never let anyone tell you thinking time isn’t important. It’s when all the major stuff gets done, and it’s also fun! It’s when you start putting down the actual words that it all turns into a bit of a chore … 😉
I’ll confess here and now that I’m not very good at Twitter. It’s too fast-moving and frantic for me, and I lose track of people far too easily. However, it’s very popular with many writers. Some swear it’s a great tool for selling books. Others have weird and wonderful conversations on there. I just find it stressful, to be honest.
The thing with Twitter is that you have to be on it while following a conversation, because otherwise you can lose it really easily. With Facebook, a post sits there forever and you can usually find it again and comment on it days or even weeks later. With Twitter I find that, even as I’m reading something, it will suddenly jump as more tweets are added to the top of the page, and then I have to start scrolling again.
I’m also reluctant to post book-related tweets because there’s nothing more boring than a Twitter stream full of “buy my book” messages. I find that, these days, I tend to use Twitter mainly to comment on television programmes I’ve watched, or to read posts from a few celebrities that I follow who I find quite interesting for their views. I retweet other people’s book news, and I have a pinned post at the top of my profile page, but other than that, I don’t do an awful lot with Twitter, if I’m honest. Put it this way, if it closed down tomorrow it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest.
However, don’t let that put you off if you haven’t tried it for yourself. It might well be the social media site of your dreams. Everyone’s different, after all. Some hate Facebook, others loathe Instagram. You have to figure out what’s best for you. I think spreading yourself too thinly is the worst of all worlds. It’s best to find out which site you like best and focus on that one. I definitely like Facebook best out of all my social media sites, so I spend more time on there than anywhere. I dip in and out of Twitter and do a little bit on Instagram, but Facebook’s my main one. It might be that Twitter’s yours, so don’t be afraid to try it if you haven’t already. Here’s a great post that explains all you need to know about using Twitter.
The main thing to remember is, you must be succinct with your tweets, because you only get a limited number of characters. Also, you have to figure out hashtags, because they’re used a lot on Twitter. Not as much as Instagram but even so, it’s a learning curve.
You can find my Twitter page here, probably as an example how not to do it!
So, that’s your lot for today. I hope you all have a lovely day and I’ll see you tomorrow for the letter U. That should be fun … if I can think of any U words!