Blog, Creative Writing, Writing process

Find Your Support System

Everyone needs a support system – friends or family who have your back, and a safe space. Writers really benefit from people who “get” what they are about, and creatives in general crave supportive surroundings.

Find Your (Writing) Support System

This week, I and other members of the Herefordshire branch of The Society of Authors met for lunch in a local pub. The surroundings were great, the company was even better. Writing can be a lonely business. It’s good to know you’re not the only one struggling with the killer combination of work/life balance, characters, and plot. Meetings like this offer a safe space for the free exchange of views, as long as everyone understands

close up of human hand writing. Illustrating Find Your Support System
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Rules? What Rules?

This lunch did three important things. It got us all out from behind our keyboards, we talked about our work and brainstormed our problems, and we all exchanged news and views (and not only about writing). Our meeting worked well as a safe space, because everyone understood that social gatherings like this should run on a combination of the rules of Chatham House, and Vegas. Chatham House rules mean that anything said at a meeting can be broadcast outside the group as long as no names are used, and all comments are anonymised. And we all know that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!


I’m very shy and suffer from terrible social anxiety. Hard though it was at the beginning, I’ve gained so much from belonging to writing groups that I’m glad I made the effort. Each meeting teaches me something new, and I can pass on what I’ve learned, too. If I can manage to take part in a group or association, so can you! Do your research before you join, as some groups are definitely more supportive than others. Every genre has it specialist group, so there’s something for everyone.

I’m a member of both The Society of Authors and The Romantic Novelists’ Association. Both associations over social occasions and learning opportunities. The RNA runs the New Writers’ Scheme, which provides feedback on the manuscripts of unpublished writers. That’s a support system particularly close to my heart, as I am one of its Readers.


Don’t keep your work to yourself. Let it breathe and expand by sharing it with your support system. When you are in the early stages of your writing life it can be difficult to show your work to friends and family. This is where entering competitions can help build your confidence, or getting feedback from a trusted source such as the New Writers’ Scheme (see above). As you advance in your writing career, Beta readers and editors can help and guide you.

Take Part

I’m taking part in @NaNoWriMo at the moment, which has pushed me into writing more than twenty-nine thousand words so far this month! That’s a good percentage of my next novel, although those twenty-nine thousand words are in the form of a very rough first draft. I’ll have to have tidied up the opening paragraphs by 22nd November, as that’s when the next edition of my reader newsletter goes out. I’ve promised subscribers that I’ll include an extract for them to read. My project doesn’t have a name yet, so I’m offering my subscribers the chance to win a gift token for suggesting a title for the finished novel.

To read the coming extract from my NaNoWriMo project and enter my competition, sign up for my newsletter here.

Buy my latest book, Royal Passion, here. You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

person in white long sleeve shirt using macbook pro
Blog, Writing process

Internet Chaos

Hello again! Apart from a few snatched minutes here and there, I’ve been offline for what feels like weeks. Every time it rains—and we’ve had showers all the time this summer—we lose out internet link.

purple leaf
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We’ve had engineers out loads of times, they’ve been up every telegraph pole for miles around, and wonder of wonders we’ve even had refunds from our provider. Despite that, they’ve never managed to track down the fault. We had heavy rain last night and so…no internet. Everyone has agreed that water is getting into the system somewhere. The question is, where?

We’re more than a mile from the nearest junction box, so that means there’s any number of places where the rain could get in and disrupt the signal. The line of telegraph poles marches through the wood for most of that distance. Branches rubbing against the wires can’t help.

The good news is I’ve got a Plan B to make absolutely sure I can get online on Friday, 9th July because I’m giving a talk to the Society of Authors Monmouth Group on that day about Research for Writers.

My first published book

I began my writing career by writing about my hobbies of growing plants and keeping animals. For a long time I wrote freelance articles for magazines such as The Lady, The Garden, and Nursery World. Then I moved onto writing historical romance, which wasn’t easy in the days before the internet. Readers are knowledgeable about their favourite eras, so there’s no such thing as a throwaway detail.

Researching the contemporary romances I wrote for Harlequin and The Wild Rose Press was all kinds of fun. It was the chance to relive all my best holiday experiences of staying in Italian castles or English historic houses.

When I was asked to write Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol, I discovered the wonders of the Bristol Archive. There were so many fascinating stories to be found by trawling through the boxes of private and public papers. If it hadn’t been for my publishing deadline, I’d still be enjoying myself combing through parish records, and back copies of The Western Daily Press

I’ll be covering all these areas of research in more detail in my talk on Friday. You can find out more about it here. Tickets are free, although the Society of Authors is always pleased to receive donations!

Creative Writing, Top Tips, Writing process

Why Not Try Writing Your Book Backwards?

Pic by A. Litterio

…not literally, of course! Instead of beginning with  blank sheet and typing Chapter One, give your imagination a workout.  Imagine a scene months, or possibly years, in the future. A reader reaches the last page of your book, and closes it with a sigh of satisfaction. Your story was exactly what they wanted.

That’s the reaction you’re aiming for, whether you write for pleasure or profit.

Buying a book, when there are thousands on offer both in the High Street and online, is a big decision. Reading is an affordable pleasure, but there are piles of treats everywhere. You need some way to ensure it’s your book the reader chooses. Cover art and teasing cover copy work their magic, but by homing in on your target audience you can increase your chances of that reader searching out your book in the first place.  Identify your reader, and how and where you can find them is the first step to selling them your story.

What Do You Like To Read?
There are plenty of writers who scour the bestseller lists then churn out formula work that ticks all the boxes but may not result in selling books. Stand out from the crowd by writing from your heart, and you’ll appeal to the hearts of your readers. I love the work of writers such a H.E.Bates, T.H. White and Henry Williamson, who all wrote about the natural world. My work is usually set in the countryside, because it’s where I live and work. I can (and have) written stories based in cities as I was an office worker for several years, but the work always flows faster when I’m on ‘home ground’.

Who Else Reads Your Kind Of Book?
Identifying your market, and developing unique selling point (USP) is vital. Write what you love, but have a picture of your readers in your mind while you work. I’ve written short stories for The People’s Friend magazine, which knows its readership very well. They have specific guidelines, which you can find here. Basically, their readers like satisfying yet unthreatening stories, with happy endings. Contrast that with my current project (working title Love Lies Bleeding) a thriller which opens with the discovery of a murdered Member of Parliament, in which nobody is who they seem, and while the hero and heroine get together in the end, wedding bells aren’t going to be ringing for them any time soon.

Who Will Review It?
Reviews, along with word of mouth recommendations, are the perfect way to get your name and book noticed. When there are hundreds of books published every day, that’s the name of the game.  Obviously, five star reviews are best, but any grade is good. It means somebody has not only read your book, but they’ve taken the time to comment on it. From the minute you start writing your book, cast around for reviewers who write about books like yours. Making a list at this early stage means you’ll be well ahead of the game when you get a publication date.