The rain has been lashing down outside for a couple of days, and it’s cold and miserable. Whatever happened to “Flaming June”? On days like today I’m glad I’ve got a nice indoor occupation, with no heavy lifting. It’s a world away from toiling outdoors in all weathers.
The biggest problem with writing as work is the constant urge to move on to the next project. I keep a notebook to write down all the new ideas that pop into my mind while I’m busy with a project. That way I’m never short of inspiration. When one book is finished, I flick through my notes. That gives me plenty to think about. When one particular image or scene germinates well, that’s when I start writing again.
That’s the future mapped out. What about the past? I’ve got a sizeable backlist of historical and romantic fiction. As my university course means I’m having to concentrate on writing non-fiction at the moment, my backlist is a valuable resource.
The weather was too bad to work on my vegetable plot yesterday, so I was cooped up indoors. It was a day exactly like that when I started writing His Majesty’s Secret Passion. I needed to escape the miserable British winter. A luxurious spa in Greece felt like the perfect getaway. His Majesty’s Secret Passion was a lot of fun to write, and readers enjoy its take on the Cinderella-type story of an overworked woman passed over for promotion desperate to make a fresh start. I liked the idea of inventing a Prince Charming who wanted a real job as a doctor, rather than living an idle life of luxury as a king.
His Majesty’s Secret Passion went on to become the first book in my Princes of Kharova trilogy. All three books are full of secret desires, men who want change and women who know their own minds. I used yesterday’s down-time to create a book trailer on Animoto. I’ve only used it once before, to make a trailer for Struggle and Suffrage In Bristol (you can watch that here).
Talk about going from one extreme to the other! What do you think? Have you got any advice about using Animoto?
Each year students on the MA course at the University of Gloucestershire create an anthology of the university’s best new writing. The search for new stars has just been launched! The only restriction on authors is that they should be either present or past students of the University of Gloucestershire. Here’s the call for submissions—please pass the word on to any qualifying writers you may know…
Heritage. What does it mean to you? Family, identity, history… or something more?
The 2019 UOG Creative Writing Anthology – Heritage: New Writing VIII – is inviting submissions from Monday 4th February to Friday 8th March 2019. Prose, poetry and creative non-fiction pieces on the theme of ‘Heritage’ will be considered from all students and alumni of the University of Gloucestershire.
I’ve put my romance writing on hold while I’m at university (you can find out more about that here). Instead, I’m spending all my writing time on two separate projects which form part of my MA course. One is a full-length piece of women’s commercial fiction. The other is a non-fiction book about the Gloucestershire countryside.
Writing Struggle and Suffragereignited my interest in writing non-fiction. There’s one big difference between writing novels and factual books. You can approaching agents and publishers before you’ve finished writing the book.
Fiction editors like you to finish your novel before you contact them. When you write non-fiction, a book can be sold as not much more than an idea—as long as an agent or editor finds it irresistible. To tempt them, you’ll need to put forward a detailed proposal. Here’s how to do it…
A successful book proposal has 8 elements: A cover page, a synopsis, a full set of chapter outlines, details of your target market, format of your book, a list of chapter headings, your credentials for writing this book, and a sample of your work.
This should be laid out with the working title of your book, your name (and pen-name, if you’re using one), the book’s estimated word count, and all your contact details including address and phone numbers.
This should be a single page laying out the six main pillars of your book: what it’s about, where it’s set, why it needs to be written, your qualifications for the job, the stage you’ve reached in writing it, and how long it will take you to finish the whole book.
You only need one or two sentences for each chapter. As with fiction, make every word count. Every line must either advance the story you’re telling, or deepen the reader’s understanding of one or more of its characters. You’re fishing for professionals— offer them juicy bait then make sure there’s a good hook at the end of each chapter outline to reel them on to the next one.
Publishing a book calls for a major investment in time and money. The more accurately you can identify who will buy your book, the better it will sell. What age group are you looking at? Is your material gender-specific? Are you aiming for a small local market, or universal appeal? Specialist readers, or impulse buyers?
Your first buyer is your prospective agent or publisher. Make that sale, and more will follow. Study their websites and social media activity to discover their likes and dislikes. Find out what your target market (and therefore your professional contact) needs, and wants to read. Can you catch the wave of a trend? Give them what they want, and it will make selling your finished book a lot easier.
Assume you won’t be the only person who identifies a popular trend. Include a line or two about what your book does better, or differently from other books on sale. Show you’ve done your research by including titles of your potential rivals’ books.
What will the final word count of your book be? How many chapters will it have, and how long will each one be? Will your book incorporate any unusual design features? Will it be illustrated? If so, will the illustrations be in colour or black and white?
Give a Table of Contents by listing your chapters and giving each one a concise, appealing title.
Put forward the case for you being the perfect person to write this book. Give an account of all your experience in the field, whether technical, academic or both. Inspire your reader with your enthusiasm for your subject as well as your expertise. Give details of your online presence, and list any experts you know off-line, too. The writing business relies on networking. The more impressive connections you have outside the business, the keener people will be to draw you into their own particular fold.
Send the first two or three chapters of your book to give a taste of your writing style, pace and content.
As with all submissions, make sure you use a legible, industry-standard font such as Time New Roman 12-point throughout your proposal, and number every page. Although most submissions are made by email, a lot of editors like to print out proposals for reading. If the manuscript gets dropped, numbering pages makes it easy to get them back in the right order.
When you’ve got your material organised, edited and proof-read, read it aloud to yourself from beginning to end. It’s amazing what you’ll catch!
Next time, I’ll be exploring ways of finding the perfect destination for your proposal.
Have you tried contacting publishers direct with your work? Have you had any luck?
Yesterday it felt like “St Luke’s Little Summer’ —the name given to mild days around St Luke’s Day (18th October)—had come a week early. Here in Gloucestershire, it was sunny enough to be almost hot. Walkers were out in the woods dressed in shorts and t shirts, collecting sweet chestnuts. It was still warm when I reached university at six-thirty last night.
Today, we’re back in the ice age. It’s time to dig out the light-therapy lamp, and think about putting on the central heating. We’re having this brilliant, easy soup (using the last tomatoes from the greenhouse), and home-made bread for tea tonight. There are buds in the Christmas cacti, and the lemons are ripening. Despite the chill, there are lots of good things about autumn!
It was cold, wet weather like this when I wrote my short romantic comedy, My Dream Guy. What could be worse than sitting in my chilly office, looking out on pouring rain? Going camping, I thought—so that’s where I sent my heroine Emma. Her romance with Jack has lost its sparkle. He arranges a holiday in Wales during the wettest summer on record, and Emma can’t see how life in a tent is going to put the fizz back into her love-life… unless the bronzed farmer who bewitched her as a teenager is still running the campsite. He is, and Emma gets a picnic full of surprises!
Whatever the weather, find some summer sunshine with My Dream Guy…
…was the perfect way to spend my first week at the University of Gloucestershire.
It’s been brilliant. I’ve been lucky with the weather, too. Walking from the car park to my workshops rather than taking the campus bus means I can bracket my lectures with exercise. Life doesn’t get much better than this!
On my first day I picked up some ripe horse chestnuts and hazelnuts that had fallen from street trees on my route. I’ve planted them at Tottering Towers, as a souvenir.
Later, when I got to the campus, I was able to show a passing Design fresher the way to her tutorial room. She was impressed. I didn’t tell her I’d originally found her room while I was hunting for my own.
When I signed up for this course, I was pleased to hear there were lots of other mature students. I didn’t realise at the time that Further Education is a universe where anyone who has taken a gap year straight after graduating is termed “mature”. There are one or two students here who might be older than me, but in general I stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. To paraphrase James Goldman’s Lion in Winter, I’ve got a decade [or two] on the tutors!*
It’s the work that matters. All the staff are great, and my fellow students are a lot of fun. We each have to produce a workshop piece within the next 36 hours, to be picked apart at the next session. I’ve got a feeling posts on here might become even more sporadic than usual…
Good luck to everyone who is starting at a new place of learning this month. Here’s a suitable soundtrack.*** In exchange for being awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Breslau, Johannes Brahms was asked to compose something suitably grand. He responded by weaving together several student drinking songs to create his Academic Overture.*** The bit that everybody knows starts at 8:50. It’s the theme used by Marvin Hatley in his music for the Laurel and Hardy film “A Chump at Oxford”****, which was one of my late father’s favourites. I know exactly how he’d paraphrase that title today!
*Goldman, James The Lion in Winter, AVCO Embassy Pictures, Oct 1968. They’re teaching me how to cite and reference, but as always it’s the technology of application that defeats me. Anybody know how to add footnotes in blogs? 😉
** Brahms, Johannes, Academic Overture, Prom 1: First Night of the Proms 15.07.2011, 7.30pm, Royal Albert Hall, posted on YouTube by 2013brb87 on Feb 15th, 2015. [Retrieved 22nd September 2018]
*** John Suchet, 9am-1pm Weekdays, Classic FM, Recently. What do you mean? Of course it’s a reference!
****Hal Roach Studios, A Chump at Oxford, 1939. My referencing definitely needs more work… 🙁