Thursday, 24 July 2014

Second Novel Syndrome - Guest Post Samantha Tonge

Ooh La la! The lovely Samantha Tonge is back as a guest on my blog and today she will be talking about what it's been like writing a sequel to her first published novel. As a fellow womag writer, it is always a pleasure to welcome Sam and hear about her latest achievements. You see, as I said in my Writing Magazine article 'Be My Guest'- if you're well behaved on your first visit, you get invited back!

Over to you, Sam.

From Paris with Love, the standalone sequel to my debut novel Doubting Abbey, was published yesterday and I’ve been quite nervous about its reception. It’s very similar to Second Album Syndrome – you know, how a band spends years putting together their debut album, to attract the attention of a music producer, but when the much-wanted deal is finally signed, a deadline suddenly looms to produce a quality second album within six months!

Add to that, for digital-first authors like me, the fact that the turnaround is very fast, then you have a hotpot of pressure and expectations! Doubting Abbey was published last November. I started writing From Paris with Love in December and finished it in April.

Despite the worries, however, I have always been a fast writer and am lucky enough to work full-time as a novelist. Plus I was very excited about the concept of my new book and letting my bonkers main character, Gemma, lead me through each day is a joy! Writing a sequel does throw up certain challenges, though.

Firstly, you must decide whether it is a standalone, despite being part of a series. For me that was very important. Nothing puts me off a book more than knowing it’s a sequel and that the first book has to be read before you can enjoy it. So in From Paris with Love I have explained the minimum of information from book one, to make Gemma and Lord Edward’s relationship make sense and then, whoosh! It’s off on another adventure. This needs to be done carefully. Nothing jars more in a book than a paragraph of information-dumping. Be subtle. Thread it in slowly – don’t feel the need to get the new reader up-to-date within everything, in the first chapter.

Of course, another option is to choose minor characters from the first book, to take the lead in the second, and this can also work very well. If you don’t however, and stick with the same main leads, it is easy to make the mistake of not moving your characters forward. This was one challenge I faced which involved a rewrite. Even though your second story may, like mine, be a standalone, to be true to the characters you still need to have developed them. What has been the impact of the events of the first story on their personalities? Are they the same people or have they learned from their experiences/mistakes? And whilst I’d considered this during my first draft, I hadn’t deeply thought it through as I was having so much fun with the plot (think Paris, food, romance, mystery men, hot rockstars… You can see why I got distracted!)

And for Gemma and Lord Edward there has been a considerable amount of change – she has matured, become more responsible and (most of the time) less flighty. Whereas he has learnt to kick back a bit, throw off the constraints of his aristocratic upbringing and have fun.

Another challenge is not to repeat themes etc too much, from the first book. When I sent off my initial concept to my agent, she pointed out how the general gist of the plotline had similarities to the first book’s - something I hadn’t noticed at all.

On the whole, however, the sequel flew onto the page. One bonus is that you already know the main characters well and this cuts down tremendously on the amount of preparation needed. You’ve also become very fond of them, having spent months, day in, day out, enjoying their company and I like to think this makes a positive difference to how the book is written.

So now it’s the really challenging part – marketing the book and selling it! The good thing with sequels and series is that all the books bounce off one another. Lower the price of one, it will boost sales of the other. Attract good reviews for the second, it might push readers to take a punt on the first. Well, that’s the theory. All I can do now is keep my fingers crossed and hope readers enjoy following Gemma’s new antics as much as I loved writing them.

Here's a little taster of From Paris With Love to whet your appetite:

Every girl dreams of hearing those four magical words Will you marry me? But no-one tells you what’s supposed to happen next…

Fun-loving Gemma Goodwin knows she should be revelling in her happy-ever-after. Except when her boyfriend Lord Edward popped the question, after a whirlwind romance, although she didn’t say no….she didn’t exactly say yes either!

A month-long cookery course in Paris could be just the place to make sure her heart and her head are on the same page… And however disenchanted with romance Gemma is feeling, the City of Love has plenty to keep her busy; the champagne is decadently quaffable, the croissants almost too delicious, and shopping is a national past-time! In fact, everything in Paris makes her want to say Je t’aime… Except Edward!

But whilst Paris might offer plenty of distractions from wedding planning – including her new friends, mysterious Joe and hot French rockstar Blade - there’s no reason she couldn’t just try one or two couture dresses is there? Just for fun…

Thank you, Sam for another informative guest post and I'm we shall see you back here very soon!
Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family, and two cats who think they are dogs. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, came out in November 2013.

From Paris With Love can be bought here:

Find out more about Samantha:


Friday, 18 July 2014

Novel Versus Pocket Novel - Guest Post Natalie Kleinman


Today, I am very pleased to welcome as my guest RNA New Writers' Scheme graduate and novelist, Natalie Kleinman. Natalie has recently published her debut novel, Voyage of Desire and her Pocket Novel for The People's Friend, called After All These Years, is out in shops this week.
I asked Natalie if she could talk today about the differences between the two (apart from the obvious one of length).

Firstly, Natalie, could you tell my readers how long you’ve been writing?

I began writing about twelve years ago when I abandoned an Open University science degree course because it was taking up too much of my time. It didn’t take me all that long to appreciate the irony of that decision.

You have a People’s Friend pocket novel out this week called After All These Years. Could you explain to readers what a pocket novel is exactly for those who don't know?

I think a pocket novel is mainly defined by its size – up to 50,000 words. It is always centred round romance but apart from that the setting can be any place and historically any time. Whether sci-fi, crime, family or paranormal what is common to them all is that they are quick to read and leave you feeling satisfied when you reach the final page.

I’ve seen a lot of historical and medical romances as Pocket Novels - What genre does your story come under?

My first book, Voyage of Desire, is a contemporary romance, as is After All These Years and my work in progress, Heaven on Earth. I am firmly set in the present day though I enjoy historical and sci-fi, both of which are featured in my short stories.

Is this your first Pocket Novel and have you written for any for other magazines i.e. My Weekly?
This is indeed my first Pocket Novel, although Voyage of Desire isn’t much longer, at just over 52,000 words. So far I’ve only written a PN for People’s Friend.

What made you decide to write a Pocket Novel?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. As I believe is the case with many writers, I go where my story takes me. This one resolved itself to fit neatly into the pocket novel category.

Did you start out writing short stories?

I did indeed and it’s something I love doing. I am thrilled to have had two books published within such a short time and I love writing novels but I don’t think I will ever abandon the short story. It’s a joy to craft something and hone it as well as one is able in a relatively short space of time.

How long did it take you to write?
After All These Years was written over a seven month period but put to one side for a time while I was working on other things. I think the total writing time would be about four months including the first edit, and the second, and the third and…

Is there a reason why you wrote this story as a pocket novel rather than a serial?
I’ve never actually attempted a serial and while I hope many of my chapters end in a cliff-hanger I imagine it is a very different discipline. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out in the future.

You’ve recently had a novel published called Voyage of Desire. What is the main difference between writing a full novel and a Pocket Novel – other than the length!
This is a difficult one to answer as Voyage of Desire is not itself a long book. Though it is partly set on a cruise liner, all three of my books (including my work in progress) end up somewhere in The Cotswolds. It’s an area I love and enjoy writing about.

Which did you prefer writing?
This is a much easier question. I have no preference. Each book takes me over and gives me its own pleasure and satisfaction – when I’m not tearing my hair out trying to pull my characters back from where they want to go to where I want to take them. They always win!

Thank you for having me.

It's been my pleasure, Natalie. Thank you for popping over.

Natalie's debut novel, Voyage of Desire can be bought here: Amazon UK

You can visit Natalie on her Blog, Facebook or Twitter

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Seven Things You Might Not Know about Me

The lovely Jan Baynham has nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award. In order to receive this award, I have to tell you seven things about myself that you might not know.

I also had to give seven facts when I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blog award back in 2012 see here so I shall try to make sure these are new ones.

Okay, so here we go!

1. Although I appear to be very sociable, I do not enjoy any social gatherings that last more than two hours. That really, really, really is my limit.

2. I have a rubbish facial memory.

3. I have 'immature ears' (I borrowed that term from a Facebook friend). The ear passages are the size of a child's and have led to periods of deafness and excruciating pain and even perforated eardrums on flights.

4. Because of this I shall be having permanent grommets inserted in two weeks time... gulp!

5. I can dance twelve different dances.

6. I won a fancy dress costume dressed as a mermaid (no, not recently!)

7. I absolutely love Greek food.

I am supposed to nominate fifteen other people for this award but most of the people I would have chosen have already been nominated, so if anyone reading this would like to take up the challenge, then please do so.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Inspiration Behind the Story - My Bournemouth Belle

I'm fascinated with the idea of trainspotting. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to stand on a platform for hours with notebook in hand but I love the idea that someone gets as much satisfaction out of writing down the names of trains as I do in writing down the names of my stories.

I also recently visited Amberley museum and Heritage Centre with my nine year old grandson. It's somewhere I used to take my children when they were small and the highlight of the day would be a ride on the steam train. How lovely to be able to experience it all again... and get to see James Bolam who was visiting with his wife.

"There's Grandpa in My Pocket," my grandson whispered in the cafeteria. He looked more like a Likely Lad to me.

What luck then, when a chance remark by a good friend gave me the opportunity to put these two things together into a short story.

"I've a model steam engine in a box,?" she said. It was a collectible that her father had bought for her one year old grandson for when he was older. "It's lovely but I'm not sure what he'll do with it."

In my story, My Bournemouth Belle, published last week in The People's Friend, Darren wonders why his late father, Lenny, who he's always believed favoured his successful brother, Robin, has left him a Hornby Train Set. We go back to the sixties to find out how train spotter Lenny's love of steam trains brought him and his wife together helping Darren to realise that he and his father are not so different after all.

If you would like to read more about my writing for The People's Friend, I am over at Susan Jones' blog today. Do pop over there for a visit - you'll be very welcome.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Guide to Help with Your Writing

Did you know that there is no such thing as a bicep? It's actually a biceps... fancy?

I wonder how many other mistakes we unknowingly make in our writing. If, like me, you make your heroine wait with baited breath instead of bated breath, you might like to take a look at this really useful website that I read about in Keir Thomas' Technophobia article in Writers' Forum - called The Guardian and Observer Style guide. This has been produced for their production staff but there are some useful tips in it for all writers. It covers grammar, commonly misspelt words, punctuation and a lot of other writerly things.

The guide is alphabetically ordered and, rather than looking through all of its very extensive list, I decided to take a look at the letter 'b' and see what gems I could find.

Two of them, I have already mentioned. Here are some others:

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - is a pleasure park not a beach.

blond - is an adjective and male noun; blonde is a female noun e.g. the woman is a blonde, because she has blond hair.
bands - these take the plural verb e.g. Iron Maiden are a great band.
barracks - the army has barracks, the RAF has airfields.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home - there are no apostrophes.
berserk - I went berserk not beserk when I found I had sold two stories this week (yes really!)
bourgeois - can anyone spell it without looking?
brackets - If the sentence is logically and grammatically complete without the information contained within the parentheses (round brackets), the punctuation stays outside the brackets. (A complete sentence that stands alone in parentheses starts with a capital letter and ends with a stop.)
Of course, I'm sure a lot of you will know all these already but I bet there are plenty of other things in their lists that that you don't know.

So there you have it... a little snippet of what you might discover if you follow this link. If you take a look, it would be great if you could leave a comment if you find that you didn't already know.