Monday, 9 January 2017

10 Ways to get your writing organised.


It's January. A new year has begun. Time to think about your resolutions for the year. Do you want to get that manuscript finished? Start pitching? Get published? Well whatever your resolutions - first you need to get organised.

1) Have a clear out of all those things you no longer need. Clear off your desk. Clear off your desk top. Streamline you computer files. Move those old projects you will probably never get around to, into a single folder. That way you won't get distracted when you open up your word processor to start work on your current project.

2) Invest in some storage. When I saw this set of storage draws I couldn't resist. I have placed it on my work desk but it can be put on the floor as it comes with wheels so can be moved around. They have clear plastic ones as well but I wanted my organisation to be colour coded. I associate different colours to my stories and so I can match a corresponding draw for each of my current writing projects. Plus I still have draws left for research; stationery; writing gloves. Whatever works for you.

3) If you've got notes for a project either in several note books or just simply out of order, get a folder and some plastic pockets and organise your notes into chronological or chapter order and use the pockets to store each page. (If you've been using A6 note books you could try cutting out the sections and gluing onto A4 paper so it slides into the pocket easier and stays the right way up). Put them in the draw for that project, then when you get to that particular part in your manuscript you can find your corresponding notes.

4) Set up a story board for your current project.

5) Do a time chart. If you only have 3 hours to spend on your writing - break your time down into sections - dedicated writing time (make sure you switch off your social media) - speed writing time - book plotting - social media time (keep this one till the end of your available time. This way you can post your progress - a great way of keeping you motivated). Remember - You know what you want to achieve, so work out what you need to do to achieve it. It's your time chart, make it work for you.

6) Get a wall calendar. Mark any up-coming events you're looking forward to. Set yourself targets and plot your progress. Use pretty stickers, or brightly coloured pens.

7) Attach a plastic pocket to your wall chart / calendar so you can store your pens and stickers, so they are easy to hand and not cluttering up your desk.

8) Make schedules, set deadlines and keep them.

9) Use labels. Make them clear and easy to read. The quicker you can find what you are looking for the more productive you can be.

10) Keep track of what you have done. Set up a spreadsheet to record where you have sent projects to: what date, the response. Track your progress on your current project: Word count, character lists, scene chart. Remember to enjoy your successes. 

Get organised and get going.

Any other great tips for getting organised? Let me know in the comments section.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes.

Rating   ¶¶¶¶ê

As a writer I love books on writing, especially books on plotting. One of my favourites is Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Yet as useful as I have found this book I always felt it came up short when applied to writing romance.

I understand the writing convention of romances; the getting to know you, the falling in love, etc. but these conventions don't fully match up to the Blake Snyder's beat sheet.

Then I read Romancing the Beats by Gwen Hayes. It's short and concise, which I like as it doesn't eat into too much of my writing time. The writing style is friendly and Gwen likes to emphasises her points with pop culture quotes and song titles.

She breaks the romantic beats down into the four sections of the three act structure (the second act being split in two) and each of these four sections have five beats which forms the structure of the romance between the hero and heroine.

Now I like to use Blake Snyder's beat sheet to help me outline and roughly plot out my books. Blake Snyder's beat sheet has 15 beats. Romancing the beat has 20. So you can see this fills in the gaps where the previous method came up short, especially in the romance stakes.

But equally this doesn't mean you end up with 35 beats as some of the romance beats fit into Blake Snyder's beats quite naturally. For example:- Blake Snyder's 'setup' beat would include Gwen Hayes 'introduce hero 1' beat, and Blake's 'inciting incident' beat could include Gwen's 'meet cute' romance beat.

As there are 20 romance beats against the 15 Save the Cat structural beats you will automatically have scenes dedicated to the blossoming romance which will now follow a logical progression. Both these books also have a beat called 'Dark Night of the Soul' but as Gwen says you may end up with two of these beats, one involving the external plot and the other being the character's reaction to it.

So for my last book I used the Blake Snyder beat sheet as my starting point and then incorporated Gwen's romance beats. This meant that wherever I was in the external plot I could see which romance beat I needed to ensure my characters experienced next to make the romance follow a logical progression.

My favourite part is her recommendation of using the romance beats as a checklist, either before, during or after you have written the book.

Plus I found that by using the conjoined method of Blake's structural beats and Gwen's romance beats I ended up with a two-page structural outline which I can then use to form the basis of my synopsis. Making this book immensely useful at all stages of the writing process.

I've given it four stars as whilst it is short and to the point I found some of the explanations for the beats to be too vague. But it definitely gets five stars for versatility.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Is a Social Media Course worth doing?


My new dawn saw me packing up my laptop and catching the train to London to attend a one day Social Media Course for Writers organised by the lovely Anita Chapman from www.neetsmarketing.com

Even before the day of the course she was gracious enough to answer my questions regarding facebook and to send me a link to www.canva.com so I could design pictures with captions (see opposite). However I still managed to tweet my picture without the caption, but I'm learning and thanks to Anita I'm getting better.

After introductions, welcome beverages and melt-in-mouth pastries, we began with twitter and tweetdeck. The latter organises your twitter feed into different columns, i.e. if you are a Poldark fan you could set up a column for #Poldark. This would feed all the tweets with that hashtag to that column so you don't have to do a specific search, after all us writers are busy people and we need our distractions in plain sight.

You can also set up your Twitter Lists as a column and have the twitter accounts who tweet about history in one column, and those about writing in another.

Tweetdeck also allows you to schedule tweets to be sent when you are not online, so as to reach your overseas followers or at intervals throughout the day.

Next we looked at facebook and the different privacy and notification settings and how they work. How to create Facebook paid ads which can incorporate a 'Buy Now Button', useful for after publication.

We broke for lunch to a great choice of cooked food and salad. Plus cakes, lots of cakes.



Our afternoon started with blogging. How to add a Twitter Button or better yet a Twitter Feed and Facebook widget.

Next was best practice for inviting Guests to post:- Give clear instructions on type of post, date, when to send by, what to include - profile, photo, bio, book cover blurb, where to buy and social media links. Give them a structure to follow so it is easier to transfer to your blog without needing extensive editing. Promote the post.

Finally we discussed author brand. For me, Regency, Romance, History, England,Writing. And how important it is to keep to the themes of your brand. So your visitors know what to expect from you and your posts.

But the most important thing we learned is to take lots of photos. I only took one but it's of cakes, lots of cakes. (See above - I had the cream slice.)

So is a Social Media Course worth doing? Simple answer, yes. I learned things I didn't even know I needed to learn. I have a better focus on what to post, gained the skills to organise my different social media platforms and I got to meet lots of other lovely writers.

Oh and did I mention the cakes?


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

RNA Conference 2016.

This was my first RNA conference and I'd only booked it a week before, so everything was last minute planning and packing. We were told beforehand not to bring books as we would have plenty to bring home. And my goodness they were not kidding. 


On arrival we received a RNA tote bag brimming with goodies. Books (3 in mine), sweets, chocolates, notebooks, book marks, pens. Everything we could possibly need for the weekend ahead and beyond. Plus there were books on sale too. So needless to say I added another couple to my collection. We were also given name badges, and as I was a first timer I had a little jewel flower above my name.

The weekend itself was a mixture of meeting fellow writers, those published and not, seminars and for those lucky ones who booked early there were agent appointments too.

The panel sessions were very informative, the panels consisting of agents and published authors giving their views and valuable insights into the publishing world.

Then there were the smaller seminars. Where authors and agents gave tailored workshops on subjects ranging from writing a commercial novel (don't set it in a bank during a financial crisis), set-up and pay-off, and characterisation to historical realism in romance - great visual aids in this one, ie Mr Darcy after his swim and Poldark working up a sweat. So you might need to keep focused. On the discussion that is.

The breaks and evenings were a time to socialise and chat to friends and make new ones and to babble incoherently when you realise the person you've been chatting to is one of your favourite authors. 

I had so much fun and learned so much - Next time I sending my booking form in early.