…one minute it’s there, the next minute it’s gone. Only five minutes ago I had a tiny baby girl, and then a little boy. She is now a card-carrying professional, and he is a head taller than me and still growing! I have no idea where those years went. It’s scary, but here are three ways to make the most of your blink-of-an-eye existence…
1.Make Real Friends
Put down your phone and make an effort to talk to people. Our fractured families and constantly busy lives mean there’s a growing epidemic of loneliness. You can stop the rot and make a difference—and making an effort will make a difference to you, too. If you grew up surrounded by a loving family, it’s easy to take the good times for granted. Make sure everyone in your family circle knows exactly how much you love them. If you can’t say it out loud, a meal, a kiss, a smile or a silly little gift will say it for you.
2.Plant A Tree
You don’t need to make it a forest giant like an oak. An apple tree will fit into the average garden, and is the perfect choice. They live a long time—the original Bramley apple tree is over 200 years old—have a beautiful structure in winter, gorgeous flowers in spring and fruit in autumn. If you don’t have a garden, don’t worry. The Woodland Trust is making Britain a better place by caring for existing woodlands and planting new ones. Like all charities, they rely on donations and volunteers. Giving your money or time is another way you can make your mark in a good way, and other people will benefit from your generosity, too.
3.Write A Book
Keeping a journal is a great way to hand your thoughts on to the next generation. If you can turn your life story into fiction, as the great Catherine Cookson did, you will really make your mark. History can be captured by every one of us. By preserving our own memories and the ones of those around us, we can make sure the fascinating little details of life—what we ate before takeaways, and how we found things out pre-internet—can be remembered forever. It was discovering the stories of ordinary people that inspired me to write Struggle and Suffrage In Bristol. I’m really proud to have created this book, and I hope everyone—not just the people of Bristol —enjoy reading it. You can get your own copy here.
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?
From the moment I started school, Friday became my favourite day of the week. It was the same for twenty years, until I gave up office life. I’m now self-employed and working from home at something I love, so pretty much every day is a holiday.
I never set an alarm. That doesn’t matter as I wake at around 5am anyway (it’s all those years of keeping poultry and pigs). As long as Alex gets his regular walks, the day is my own—although 9,999 times out of a thousand I choose to work. That’s because I enjoy writing so much I can’t stop, although I’ll let you into a secret. Sometimes it’s really hard to get down to work!
This year, I’ve put my publishing career on hold. New projects are keeping me so busy, I’ve rediscovered the joy of looking forward to Friday! My next book, a non-fiction title called Struggle and Suffrage—Women’s Lives in Bristol is going to be released by Pen and Sword Books on 28th February 2019 (you can either order your copy in advance with 20% off by clicking here, or on the link above), so I’ll be busy with that, but most of my time is taken up with working for my Masters degree at the University of Gloucestershire. You can find out more about that here.
I knew going back to a life of lectures and assignments after so long away from learning would be hard. Studying part-time means I only have to attend university two or three times a week, but it’s amazing how preparation, commuting and background reading eat into my time. Goodness only knows how full-time students manage, especially as most of them do part-time paid jobs to help with their bills.
Today is not only a Friday, it’s the last day of term. One of our lecturers is treating us to mince pies, so that’s another reason to celebrate. While I’ll be very glad to get home tonight, I’m a glutton for commuting punishment. I’ll be driving back to the university tomorrow to pick up Son Number One, who’s at the University of Gloucestershire too but studying on a different campus and living in halls. He’s coming home for Christmas, so it’s a happy time all round.
Whatever you’re doing this weekend, keep warm. It’s freezing here already, and there are rumours of sleet on high ground tomorrow. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
I’ve been so busy with my university course (you can find out more about that here) I’ve barely had a chance to read anything apart from text books since the summer. I’ve borrowed so many books on Thomas Hardy, H.E.Bates and more from Gloucestershire University’s library I’ll have to transport them back in shifts!
With two assessments due in this week, I’ve sadly neglected this blog, but from today things are going to change. Term ends on Friday this week, so I’m hoping to have lots of time for tinkering with this site. If you can think of any improvements, please let me know.
This week began with some great news. At long last I have a publication date for my non-fiction book, Struggle and Suffrage—Women’s Lives in Bristol. It’ll be released on 28th February 2019. That feels like a lifetime away, but it’s only just over eleven weeks.
Here’s the blurb…
It’s freezing, pitch black, and silent- apart from the sound of rats under the bed your wheezing children share. Snow has blown in under the door overnight. Fetching all the water you need from the communal well will be a slippery job today. If your husband gives you some money, your family can eat. If not, hard luck. You’ll all have to go hungry. Welcome to the life of a Victorian woman living in one of Bristol’s riverside tenements.
I’ve had a go at creating an Amazon link, so you can buy with one click. Here it is—please let me know if it works for you!
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…