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Wednesday 26 February 2014

Three Top Tips For Managing Your Writing Project...

by Antonio Litterio

  1. Keep all your notes. That’s easy advice for natural hoarders! You also need some way of finding exactly what you want, when you want it without being distracted by other interesting snippets along the way. WWILF (or What Was I Looking For?) is a constant danger when trawling through files, whether they're computer or paper. Mustrum Ridcully’s First Available Horizontal Surface method of filing only works until you actually want to find something. Organize your computer documents into files, give each one a memorable name and make a separate, detailed index somewhere else, to make sure you can still recall important data instantly. Sticking the word “cat” into your computer's search box will give you a list of every single document you've created where those three letters occur in that order. Make sure you have some way of narrowing down your search between Persians, catalogues, catastrophes and category romance.  For paper records, empty cardboard boxes are great for storage if you’re on a tight budget. Save old foolscap envelopes to subdivide your projects within each box.
  2. Now you’ve found your notes, get writing-and make sure you do! Set yourself a target that's magnificent, yet achievable.  Be specific, and set yourself a time limit. That way, you’ve got something to work toward. You can measure your target, celebrate your successes and fine-tune your efforts. Your aim might be  “I’m going to write a 60,000 word historical romance by 31st December”. Write it down in your diary, make a note on your phone and add a sticker to your lap-top, so your target’s always in your sights. That 300 day-long task starts with one session, so break your project down into easily manageable chunks. Work out how many words you’ll need to write each day to hit your target, and aim for that. Celebrate when you reach it, or work out what to do differently if you don’t. 
  3. Rise to the challenge. If you’re finding the work hard going, reduce the job into still smaller, more achievable segments. Use every trick you can think of to keep you moving forward: make a chart and colour in squares, don’t go out for that coffee until you’ve reached your goal, or set a kitchen timer for one hour, then write as much as you can before the alarm goes off. Take a tea break, then repeat. Use your competitive instinct to try and beat your previous word-count. If you’re on Twitter, join up with others for the regular  #1k1hr challenges. It always helps to know you’re not alone, and others will gain inspiration from you, too. If the words really won’t come, take a walk, have a bath, a nap or try doing some puzzles. Giving your brain a rest from the hard work of creative writing can re-boot your imagination. When the words start flowing again, finish your writing session while you’ve still got lots to give. Then you’ll be raring to go the next time you start!
I write both contemporary and historical fiction - when I’m not cooking, gardening or beekeeping. You can catch up with me on Twitter and Facebook, see a full list of my published books at http://www.christinahollis.com and get full details of my latest release, Jewel Under Siege, here.

Friday 21 February 2014

Jewel Under Siege - My New Release.

Find out more here
I love the quote from writer Norah Ephron’s mother that everything is copy. This was brought home to me when I was researching the life of Robert Curthose for a magazine article. He was the eldest son of William the Conqueror (remember? Battle of Hastings, 1066?). As well as being a chivalrous knight, Robert was the original party guy. He was a lot of fun, but too easily swayed by his advisors. He could never have been a good ruler, and in the end both his younger brother William (Rufus) and then his youngest brother Henry (I)  got the top job  instead.

Robert’s travels took in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), which was an amazing place. The luxurious descriptions of a city at the hub of all the great trade routes made me want to use it as the setting for a novel. People have always been resourceful in times of hardship, and I wondered how attraction would work between two people on opposing sides, caught up in a war.  My notes turned into an historical romance, Jewel Under Siege. Heroine Elena is a young widow who shelters Emil, an injured Crusader. This puts her in terrible danger, both from the authorities and from Emil’s rugged charm. The tension mounts as their attraction for each other struggles with Elena’s guilt at living a lie. Then disaster strikes - and only Emil can save the situation.

Jewel Under Siege was brought out in print by Harlequin Mills and Boon as part of their Masquerade Historical Romance Line, under my pen-name Polly Forrester. Now the on-line market has expanded, the book has been re-edited by Tessa Shapcott, given a great new cover by Samantha Groom at magicat45degrees and is now available as an ebook by clicking here.  

I love the ebook’s cover image, which you can see above. It suggests Elena’s vulnerability, as well as the exotic setting. After all the dreadful weather we’ve been struggling with here lately, the sunlight on the sea is a welcome reminder that warm weather is on the way.

I’d love to know what you think about Jewel Under Siege. If you’d like your name to be entered in  a draw to win a review copy, email me at christinahollis(at)hotmail.co.uk, replacing the word in brackets with @. To find out more about Jewel Under Siege, you can sign up for my next newsletter here.

Friday 14 February 2014

Getting Published - The First Steps...

By Antonio Litterio

Getting published used to be a case of catching the eye of a respectable publisher, or delving into the murky depths of vanity publishing. The first often meant jumping through a lot of hoops, then signing away some or all of your rights. The latter involved paying a lot of money to see your hard work turned into books - you hoped. The explosion of online possibilities means  you don’t need to develop the skin of a rhinoceros before you get to see your name in print. The curse of rejection is no longer a threat. Anyone with a computer can create, upload an offer an ebook for international sale. 

The downside of all this easy access is that the market has been flooded.  Everyone who can switch on a computer has gone into print. Some might turn out to have the staying-power of Shakespeare, while others should never have been let loose on a keyboard. The more books on the market, the harder it is to make your own book stand out. 

Coming soon - sign up here for details
The most important thing is to write a book of which you can be proud. Pour your heart and soul into your work, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve written the best book you can.    Before you decide whether to publish it yourself, or send it out to a publisher or agent, get a second opinion. Your mum might say she loves it, but it’s better to get an unbiased view from a friend you can trust to tell you the truth–however hard it might be to hear. Professional editing will turn your text into a flawless read, but it can’t do anything for your story-telling skills. 

Invest in some great cover art to make your book stand out. Get names from The Society of Authors, the RWA (US) or RNA (UK), or by asking online in places such as writers’ groups on LinkedIn. Approach several artists, and ask to see examples of their work. Before you decide which one to choose, get some quotes and make sure both you and the artist know what to expect from the transaction. You’ll need to know what rights to the artwork you’ll have, and they need to know your demands will be reasonable and that you’ll be a good payer. Like writing, art is a time-consuming skill and nobody wants to waste precious hours and resources.

There are more tips on my website, and you can sign up for my newsletter here to receive news of my next release, Jewel Under Siege

Monday 3 February 2014

Review - Ship Of Magic by Robin Hobb (#1 in the Liveship Traders Trilogy)

I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads (out of 5 stars), but please don't let that rating stop you giving it a try. If you like fantasy, you'll probably love it: Ship of Magic is well written, the characters are detailed and three-dimensional, and it lays the groundwork for a very popular trilogy. However, the only reason I read it was because I wanted to try something outside my usual field, and DD recommended it to me. I'm a stranger to this genre, so my views reflect this.

As a slow reader with limited opportunities to pick up a book, at first I found this one a real trial. The characters are all very realistic, but not necessarily in a good way. Although I warmed slightly to Kennit and Wintrow right from the start, and was really cheering for them both at the end (despite the fact they're on opposing sides!) I found most of the characters (especially Kyle and Malta)  actively unlikeable. In fact, I  wanted to give some of them a good shake (Keffria for example, and the liveships at their most childish). I haven't felt so annoyed by any fictional characters since meeting Lydia Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) and Dora Spenlow (David Copperfield), but I hope Robin Hobb can take that as a compliment. Malta's deceit about the dress and her awful come-uppance were glorious, and I loved the scenes on board ship, especially the great chase at the end.

The only thing that stopped me giving this book three stars is because my difficulties with reading made me want to give up on it, at least to begin with. I need a book to grab me fast, and never let me go. Ship of Magic didn't really do that for me until page 822, but I have to say that once I got to that point I read the remaining pages in one fell swoop, and asked DD if I could read the next in the trilogy.