Should an Author Disappoint their Readers?

Hello team!

After the success of my royalties series, I took a little break to get going on some of my work. I had a great time doing it, but I don’t want to completely ignore you guys, so I thought I would write a little bit about some of my reading experiences in the meantime. Please be aware that there are MASSIVE spoilers in this blog post!

Since I last wrote, I have read the Divergent series. I have also watched the first Divergent film. In fact, I watched the film first, and absolutely loved it. For those of you who have not read or watched it, the love story between the two main characters, Tris and Four, is really beautiful and quite unique. The way that Veronica Roth, the author, slowly introduces them to us the readers and to each other is really wonderful, and I really invested a huge amount of myself in their relationship.

Once I had finished the first book, I couldn’t help myself. I read the second book. And it was just as good. The love story became more complicated, as real life, lies, and divided loyalties threatened to tear them apart. I loved the way that this reflected the problems that many real life relationships go through, and I watched as Tris and Four lost their parents, and many of their friends. But their passion for life and their love for each other kept them safe, and kept them going. I was totally hooked.

Hooked, that is, until the last book. BEWARE: SPOILERS! As you’ll know if you have read the books, after gambling everything to ensure that their families, friends, and society can become truly free, Tris tragically dies, leaving Four alone. Forever.

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I cried.

And then I got angry. Angry in particular at Veronica Roth. How could she let one of the main characters, a beloved character, die so needlessly? Why did she drag Tris and Four apart, and leave him to grieve for the rest of his life? It just did not seem fair.

And so I hit the internet, looking for my answers. And I found this from an interview with Veronica Roth:

“At the end of the first book, she almost experiences death. She’s in that water tank. She gets saved at the last second by her mother. At the end of the book, she kind of plays with the idea of self-sacrifice by letting Tobias almost kill her. Like, ‘I’m going to sacrifice myself for him or whatever,’ and that’s not quite right, so she lives. In the second book, the same things happens. She goes to her execution in this act of bravado and self-sacrifice, and it’s not quite right, so she survives. In the third book, she learns what it actually means to sacrifice herself,” Roth continued. “It has to be necessary. It has to be about love. She says all those things. And to me, it felt like it was her finally understanding what her parents were trying to teach her in Abnegation and finally understanding what it means to be an adult and make a grown-up decision because you have to, not because you particularly want to. So, to me, I was proud of her. I was so proud. It was like she finally became a grown-up.”

In fact, even the actress that plays Tris in the film loved it:

“I was stoked. I thought that it was such a badass decision of Veronica Roth, and so incredibly powerful. I love that she didn’t sort of buy into the breakdown of what most young adult books, like, the outline of what’s happened in previous young adult books. Men die all the time in films – heroes do. But a lot of sweet heroines don’t. And so I thought it was a very powerful, profound decision on her part. And I really love that she had the courage and the bravery to do that.”

But me? I am still heartbroken. Which made me wonder: should an author disappoint their readers? After all, Veronica Roth is not the first author in the world to kill off a beloved character. J R R Tolkein kills people off; George R R Martin looks like he will end up killing everyone; even J K Rowling had to lose a couple of beloved characters on the way.

The way I see it, unless the reader really believes that the characters that they are falling in love with are in real danger, then they really can’t care about them. If they is no danger, then there is no hope. Without putting characters within the potential of death, you will not keep turning the pages, hoping that they will stay alive for another chapter.

So, should an author disappoint their readers? Maybe. I’m certainly killing off a character or two in my next new series, and I think it will make the other characters even dearer to my readers. Have I forgiven Veronica Roth for killing off Tris? Not on your life.

A Good Writing Day

Now, I hope that this blog post makes sense. I generally don’t plan these things – I just log in, and start writing whatever is on top of my mind at that moment. And right now, I’m thinking about the 6000 words that I wrote of my next novel the other day.

Six thousand words is certainly a lot. It amazed me, actually, when I realised just how much I had managed to write. In fact, it only took my around six hours to get those six thousand words out there on the page. Something inside me just clicked, and before I knew it, it was lunch time, and I had written several chapters. It was certainly a good writing day, and I had been looking forward for one for a long time.

Of course, 99% of the time my writing does not work like that. I can go for days without writing down a single thing of my own, just concentrating on trying to get all of my freelance stuff done. However, that morning I had decided that I needed to sort out my priorities a little better. Instead of working on my freelance stuff first, when I was most fresh, I would start on my own sequel. And goodness, did it work!

But it got me thinking. Six thousand words a day is impressive – how amazing would it be if I could write that every single day? Writing a novel would take about two weeks! If only it were that simple.

Since writing those six thousand words, I haven’t written a thing of my own. And that was five days ago. Why does inspiration suddenly appear, and then suddenly disappear? My muse is always welcome, but she rarely decides to stop over for more than a couple of hours.

Is your muse so fickle? Let me know what a good writing day is for you.

Should we Pay for Guest Posts?

Now, I’m aware that this is probably quite an interesting subject for many of you out there, and I really welcome your comments and thoughts! Paying for guest blogs is something that has been on my mind a lot recently, and so I thought I would share them with you.

I have had many different – although all talented – authors guest blogging here on my blog, and it has been a truly wonderful experience. They have brought their experience and their views on writing, which has often really challenged my own. Guest blogs are a perfect chance to get a snapshot of another writing style, and an indication of whether or not I would love their books (hint: yes). They have often hosted me on their blog in a similar way, and it has been a great way for both of us to connect with different authors.

But on websites such as Fiverr it is possible to pay someone to host your guest blog. Now, don’t get me wrong: I myself write on Fiverr, and find it a brilliant place to network and connect with great clients. But for some reason, guest blogging has caught my eye several times over the last week.

I have never charged anyone to appear on this blog. I don’t even think that the idea of asking for money even entered my mind when I began offering the chance to other writers.

However, it is certainly a brilliant marketing trick to get the word out, especially of a new book. After all, what better than to find a blog that is read by thousands of people? There are even niche blogs that are specifically about new releases. Surely putting a guest post on there, even if it cost you $5, would be totally worth it if you could reach an entirely different audience?

Well, I’ll certainly never be asking anyone for any pennies if they want to contribute to my blog. But I do not think that I would necessarily turn down the chance to have my guest blog on a different blog, a really popular one – even if I had to pay for it. After all, the initial investment could certainly gain me a huge following. It may be something that I do when I am promoting the sequel to my first book Conquests – that is, if I ever finish it!

What do you think? Have you ever paid for a guest blog to be featured on a blog – or would you never consider it worth paying for?

Writing Hated Characters: A Study in Snape

Thank you so much to everyone that gave me such positive feedback on my last blog post – it has certainly been too long! I thought that I would look this week at writing hated characters. How do you go about writing someone who you want your readers to hate, but make them just as engaging as your other characters?

Baddies are fun. They are fun to write, fun to read, and fun to watch. But what readers and viewers rarely ever see is the work that goes into creating such a character. An author will need to make a million choices about their antagonist, and the first is whether or not they are a true villain. Are they pure evil, only wanting death and defeat for the hero of your tale – or do you want them confused, misunderstood, and able to be redeemed? This will completely alter the way that you approach describing your character to your audience.

Your description of your hated character will in some cases be more physical than emotional. This is because you will need your anti-hero to stand out from the crowd, and because your reader should be able to tell the intimate character of your villain through his or her actions. For example, it is much more effective to have your baddie kill an innocent messenger without provocation, than simply to write: “He was not very fair.”

Other decisions that you will have to make with regards to your baddie include how they are to be introduced, and how much of a back story with your hero you want to give them. Some heroes just happen upon their antagonists, whereas others have a long past together that has brought them to the beginning of your tale. The length of that tale is up to you, and it is also up to you when you reveal it.

And lastly, you as the author needs to decide the fate of your hated character. Will they die, defeated by your hero? Will they be turned over to ‘the Good Side’? Or will their ending be slightly more mysterious – will you leave it open for a potential return?

Let’s take all of the information that I’ve just written, and apply it to one of the hated – and strangely most loved – literary characters of modern times: Severes Snape. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter books by now (and where have you been?) then go and read them before you finish this post! Serious spoilers coming up…

So firstly, is Snape a true villain? Up until the very last, the fans of Harry Potter would argue that he is. He has absolutely no cause to hate Harry, and he kills Dumbledore, obeying his master Lord Voldemort. But Rowling allows her readers to follow this path of thinking before revealing at (almost) the very end: Snape falls into the confused, misunderstood, able to be redeemed category of villain. If anything, he has already redeemed himself through the actions that looked so sinister throughout the books. We make the same mistake that Harry does in the second book.

Secondly, the description of Snape. Again, Rowling follows formula here, and gives primarily a physical description of Snape for her readers – stooping, tall, long black greasy hair, everyone can picture him. But we know almost nothing about him until the sixth book, because Rowling let’s his actions speak for themselves.

The back story between Harry and Snape is never fully explored, until it is revealed (again, spoilers!) at the end of the series that the true back story was between Snape and Harry’s mother. It was the loss of her affection that pushed him towards the Death Eaters, and Rowling is genius in the way that she reveals it.

And lastly, the fate of Snape. Seen by many as incredibly sad, Snape dies, almost completely alone, at the hand of the most evil wizard of all time, unsure whether his sacrifice for the son of the woman he loved has worked. But in a way, his fate is completely different from his actual death scene. His memory is kept alive by Harry, through his knowledge of Snape’s true colours, and through the naming of his youngest son.

What do you think? Do you enjoy writing hated characters, or do you find them difficult? Who is your favourite hated character?

Getting Stuck Halfway

When I was a teenager, I went shopping on my own one day because I wanted to buy a new dress. I had been invited to a 16th birthday party, and my crush was going to be there. I had to get a new dress. (The chances of him having ANY idea who I was, or what clothes I already own was minimal, but then fifteen year olds don’t usually know that.)

Off I went, and I found one that I really liked. I tried it on, and flaunted it in the mirror. Yes: definitely the right dress. And then I discovered what thousands of women – and presuambly men – discover every day in shopping changing rooms. It is often far easier getting into a piece of clothing than getting out of it.

The dress got stuck around my shoulders, and my face was covered by the skirt section. I was completely wedged, and to my utter shame, I had to get a sales assistant in to help me out of it. I don’t know who was more embarrassed. I didn’t buy the dress, and I still go red just thinking about it today, almost a decade later.

But getting stuck halfway isn’t just a phenomenon that we encounter when trying on clothes: I believe that it is a very real writing problem that many people face.

I am having difficulties. I officially reached the half way point of the novel a week ago…and I haven’t written a word since.

Why is this? Why does the drive to write disappear, why am I caring less about my characters now? If I don’t care about them, why on earth should anyone else? And can I just leave my characters to their own devices because I can easily get distracted by the television?

I’m learning to accept that sometimes, the muse isn’t around. The writing just doesn’t flow, and there’s almost no point in writing anything, because I’ll just want to delete it all the next time I look at it. But there is a world of difference between not having the muse, and not having the motivation. Being a writer is a full-time job, not something that I can pick up and put down again at a whim. Even my procrastination is writing based – writing for some of my freelance clients, or popping over to this blog.

Perhaps I need to reward myself with chocolate. Maybe I need to change the narrative, make it more gripping. Or maybe I just need to accept that these things come in waves. If I can write a screenplay in three days, I can wait until that passion visits again. I just hope my characters doesn’t get too anxious waiting for me.

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Procrastination, ie, the Muse’s Enemy

I have been attempting to write my next novella – the final in my series of four Regency Romances – for over a week now. My total word count? Less than 500 words. And yet this was the novella which most excited me, the synopsis that I loved more than any other when I first wrote it. What’s gone wrong?

Well, if you ask me, the Muse has left me. I know it sounds a little strange for a modern twenty first century author to be talking about a mythological character from ancient times, but I truly believe that there are some times when I can write really well . . . and other times when everything I try to describe comes out stilted, each piece of dialogue sounds false, and I just can’t seem to put any feeling into my writing.

That is when I say that the Muse has left me.

I’m always conflicted when this happens, because there are two main schools of thought when it comes to the Muse: firstly, that you should immediately abandon writing and wait around for the Muse to descend once more; secondly, that you should doggedly keep at it like a twelfth century monk forced to complete his manuscript.

Neither camp works for me. It’s all very well to put aside your writing at times when you need a new perspective, or some extra research to be done, but that only works in a world without deadlines, promises to publishers, and the simple fact that sometimes if I put a work in progress down, I am unlikely to pick it up again.

On the other hand, to force oneself to write when the writing simply isn’t very good seems rather pointless. I’m just going to have to edit it and delete it down anyway, and I may find that I only have a couple of hundreds words of value from the thousands that were written.

And so I end up here: procrastinating with jobs that I tell myself are just as important as my writing – if not more so – and therefore there is no point in trying to finish my creative piece.

And so days go by, and not another word gets added to the manuscript.

What is the solution? Well, I’m hoping that once I’ve got through my procrastination list, I’ll suddenly have a brainwave about my novella. Poor Leo Tyndale and Hestia Royce. I hope someone rescues them if I can’t.

Writing Too Fast

I’ve been working on a novella for the last couple of weeks. And when I mean working, I mean thinking really, really hard.

In fact, for the first three weeks – apart from a thousand word synopsis – I didn’t write anything at all. I’m not sure whether I was putting it off, or just had too many other things going on. Family, work, my upcoming wedding and moving to the other side of the world…things like that can really take it out of you.

Or was I just not writing? I’ve already chatted with you guys about the difficulty of writing a second book. Was I struggling with the same sort of things?

I had had enough. I woke up at eight in the morning, and without even getting up, I started my laptop running.

Lunchtime saw me downstairs stuffing my face with bread and cheese…but I was still working.

By the middle of the afternoon, I stopped. The creative juices had stopped flowing, but I was now the proud owner of over 11,000 words.

The next day, I wrote another five and a half thousand, and finished the novella (in a first draft, obviously) at just under 17,000 words. I planned to flesh it out in my second and third drafts to between 22,000-25,000 words before I sent it to my editor.

I was so unbelievably proud of myself (and I’ve got the twitter status to //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” target=”_blank”>prove it). After such a long dry patch, it was a relief to finally have something written down/typed up on the page.

I took a few days off and then last weekend went to visit my fiance. He had to work from home, but I assured him that I also could work as well, and then we could relax in the evenings.

So there we were: him, typing away on his computer at one end of the dining table, me, staring blankly at my computer at the other end of the table.

Minutes stretched into an hour. I went to the shop. I came back. I looked blankly at my computer. I spent twenty minutes window shopping for flats, hoping that he wouldn’t notice. I closed all tabs, and looked once again at my novella.

I’m not usually one to talk about writer’s block, but I felt it that day. Why was everything that I read back to myself so…mediocre? Why couldn’t I bring myself to write any more, to improve it, shape it, take out the rubbish and replace it with gold.

My fiance is not a fool.

He suggested that perhaps I wrote it too quickly.

Too quickly? I replied. Nonsense. The muse was with me! I said dramatically. You can’t stop when the words are flowing through my fingers. I just kept going. The muse was with me, I reiterated, just as dramatically.

My fiance was not impressed by the muse, present or otherwise. Perhaps, he suggested kindly, you’d work better, and produce better work…if you took your time.

I don’t know about how you write, but I’ve always worked one way: fast. I wrote my first novel, all 72,000 words of it, in three months. While revising for my finals as an undergraduate. Fast worked for me.

But now?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Usually I would say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…but I’m not sure now whether writing incredibly quickly is working for me.

I’ve printed off my novella and I’ve started going over it in nice bright red pen, adding words, paragraphs, crossing out horrendous phrases that sounded good at the time, but now make me want to vomit. Don’t get me wrong – nothing I’ve written is that terrible, or unsalvageable. It’s more that a critical eye takes time, and when I was busy typing away, my critical eye just couldn’t keep up.

Perhaps next time, I’ll write slower. Perhaps not. But it has made me think a lot more about how I write – because it’s not necessarily the best way.

Have you had a similar experience to me? Has the way that you write changed over time? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Four Reasons No One is Buying Your Book

The great and terrible thing about books when you are an author is that there are so many of them. Like, literally thousands. Sometimes it can be really disheartening to see all of the millions (that’s what it feels like) of books that everyone else is buying and enjoying…whilst your book stays resolutely at 455,987 on Amazon. So what is it that everyone else has – what are the four reasons that no one is buying your book?

1. Your book isn’t where its readers are looking for it.
Half of the problem when selling books is making sure that people find it. If your book is categoriesd incorrectly, then anyone looking for it will only stumble upon it in accidentally. Say your book is about gardening. Would you be so daft as to stick it with manga? Didn’t think so…but that goes for everything else about your book too. If your book is erotica, and you don’t have an ebook version of it, you are missing out of thousands of readers who are of a shyer nature, and would prefer to buy their books without someone peeping over their shoulder in the queue at Waterstones. If your book is a picturebook and you don’t have copies in children’s libraries or primary schools, it’s going to take a lot longer for their parents to discover you. Play to your strengths, and place your book in your reader’s way.

2. Your book doesn’t say what it does on the tin.
We’ve all seen them: books that are billed as the next best thing to air, and instead start slowly with insipid characters, and a plot that you don’t even think the writer believes. If you are setting yourself up as a best-seller…then you should probably be a best-seller. If your book claims to increase your memory by ten years, you should probably have some sort of evidence that it actually does that. Because when your book doesn’t say what it does on the tin, readers are going to a) never buy another book you write again, and b) tell everyone that they aren’t going to buy another book you write again. Bad reviews can sink books.

3. Your book is overpriced.
Yes, I know, you’ve worked long and hard on your masterpiece. Of course you want to see a good return on the investment that you’ve put in: hours of slog and misery and tears to get that perfect tone and structure. But funnily enough, our readers don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds or dollars on our books. In fact, they don’t really want to spend anything at all – that’s why free kindle books are are so incredibly popular. It’s a difficult and painful balance, but unless you price your book competitively, no one is going to bother with it, especially if they haven’t heard of you. Readers do buy books by lesser known authors, but they aren’t going to spend much on them.

4. Your book isn’t as good as its competitors.
This may come across as incredibly harsh, but I believe it to be true – and I’m happy to include myself in this sometimes. In my genre of historical romance, especially medieval, I come across authors that are just incredible. I love reading them! And so I can’t really begrudge other people from buying their books. Quality will out in the long run, and so if your editor isn’t keeping a close eye on you (or you are getting sloppy in your own editing), then it will bite in the behind eventually. Readers want to be immersed in what they buy, and if you are just writing carbon copy of a current best-seller, no one is going to want to know.

Think I’m a little too harsh, or right on the money? Comment below and let me know!

Considering Self-Publishing?

If you are reading this, the chances are that you are considering self-publishing your writing. This means foregoing the trappings of a literary agent and a publishing house, and instead being your own publishing house.

Self-publishing is not a modern idea, although it certainly has become easier through the introduction of print on demand and epublishing. Sadly, it has somehow garnered a reputation of being the last resort of a writer that no one actually wants to read, and therefore they create the books themselves. But this is complete nonsense.

Authors such as Jane Austen, James Joyce, Beatrix Potter and Mark Twain all self-published some of the works. It was, and is, a way for new writers to get the beginnings of a readership, and they can use this to demonstrate to more typical publishing houses that actually, there are people out there that will be willing to pay money to read what I write.

If you are tired of never hearing back from publishing houses, or hearing from literary agents that, “readers just don’t want what you’re writing at the moment”, then the time may be right for you to look elsewhere. You can read about my personal experience trying to get published for the first time here. And remember, just because you start out self-publishing doesn’t mean that a big publishing house won’t notice you and approach you.

But don’t be taken in! There are certain elements that you should look out for and be wary of, because in self-publishing as in any industry, there are pitfalls. When you self-publish, you have to be your own editor, cover designer, formatter, and marketing department. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. Take a look at my spotter’s guide:

What is Print on Demand?
This process is rather clever, and it is how I personally publish the paperback version of my book Conquests. Print on demand means that a publishing company keeps your manuscript on file. Every time someone orders and buys your book, they print one copy. This means that you don’t have to invest your own money into buying up five hundred copies of your book that you may never manage to sell. It also means that all of the hassle of printing and posting is up to the print on demand company.

Can’t I print print lots anyway?
Well of course you can! But it would probably be a lot easier for you if you went with Print on Demand, and then ordered x number of books yourself. That way, your book may go up the Amazon chart (if you are selling on Amazon), you still only have to buy five or twenty of the books, and you again don’t have the hassle of posting them. I personally always have a couple of my paperbacks lying around the house in case someone wants one, or so I can do exciting giveaways.

What about epublishing?
Well that’s rather easy actually. Many Print on Demand services now offer you the opportunity to also sell your book as an ebook on sites such as Amazon and Smashwords. This allows you to reach another totally different audience, and you are able to more quickly get your book out there.

How long does it take?
How long is a piece of string I’m afraid. For me, it took six weeks from starting the process to getting my paperback on Amazon. That took about three weeks longer than it should because there was a slight hiccough with my cover design. Be aware of this: every single aspect of self-publishing is down to you. No one else is going to do it for you.

What about down payments?
Personally, I would say steer clear. It is perfectly possible to print on demand AND publish as an ebook without having to pay a penny. If you can do that, then why on earth would you pay someone else a stack of cash to do it?

Who would you recommend?
I promise I’m not being paid to say this: I’m only going to recommend the company that I use, because I’ve found them to be marvellous. Createspace is a company that does both print on demand and can publish you as an ebook, and doesn’t charge you a penny. Be aware that there are optional extras that do cost money, but I did the entire thing without paying anything, and I think my paperback book looks rather good, though I say so myself. I did have the benefit of my book already being published as an ebook by my publishers, and they graciously allowed me to use the cover design that they made for me. This may be the one thing that you do decide to spend money on: book covers can make or break how your readers see you.

I hope that helps you as you decide whether or not to self-publish. It’s definitely helped me publicise my ebook by having a paperback, and they make great Christmas presents!

Do you have a bad experience with self-publishers? Let me know below!

Writing about Real People you Know and Love

We’ve all done it. We’ve been writing away, and suddenly that hilarious turn of phrase that your grandmother uses every Christmas Day pops into your head. It’s funny, it’s endearing, and it would be perfect coming out of the mouth of one of your characters. But is it allowed, using our nearest and dearest as the basis of our characters?

It’s something that my darling fiance (bless him) thought about when we first started dating. He only told me this quite recently. Apparently, as soon as he found out that I wrote, he seriously had to consider whether he would be alright with certain elements of our personal life appearing in my work. Thankfully, he decided that he could live with it – although certain aspects are obviously off-limits. But have I based some of the loving cares and concerns that my characters do on his actions? You bet. Has he noticed? I’m not sure yet…

There’s also the opposite path – writing about people that you dislike! What revenge could be sweeter than immortalising that horrible person you know by using them as a basis for the enemy of your hero…you know, the one that gets pounded into the ground at the end.

Of course, there must be people that I love – whether I’m related to them, or they are some of my closest friends – that probably haven’t even thought about it. I’m sure the majority of them would be astounded if they knew I had smiled at some of their jokes…and then used them within my book. Or noticed a way that a female friend pushed her hair behind her ears, a habit which I have definitely included in a character.

And it wasn’t until a new friend asked me how I envisioned my protagonists that I admitted to her (without naming names) that whenever I wrote my first book, I tried to imagine it, with a very close friend playing my female protagonist. Does this close friend know that I tried out dialogue through her lips? No. Would I ever tell her? Definitely not.

Why is this? I’m not ashamed to use my friends and family in this way…am I? After all, the majority of what I write comes from my medieval historical research, and my imagination. Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid of being accused of ‘cheating’ by other authors – does it count as my own work if I’ve kind of borrowed it from my brother?

Films and books now include a phrase similar to the title of this post. But can we as authors ever truly write a book without any influence from our nearest and dearest? I challenge any author to say that they’ve never been inspired by someone they met once, or saw across the train, or had breakfast with.

Because the way I see it, everything I do and everyone I meet ends up, one way or another, in my work. And I hope my friends and family wouldn’t have it any other way…

Does this sound familiar? Or do you write in a completely different way? Let me know below in the comments.

A Real Advance In My Career!

So, for those of you who have already read my series on author royalties, I have exciting news for you! If you haven’t yet read my four part blog series that opens up and unwraps the secrets behind how authors get paid for their novels, then check it out first, and then come back.

I received confirmation of my first advance today.

It is difficult to take in! My wonderful publishers asked me a week ago to consider writing a special one off Christmas novella for them – which I obviously said yes to. Christmas is such a marvellous time of year, for family, friends, and great new reads. I would love to have people curl up under a rug this Christmas 2015 and read a story which really makes them smile, and I am already really exciting about writing it.

However, as I have already written two novels and a novella for my publishers, I thought that now was the time that I should ask for an advance. For those that are not aware, an advance is a sum of money that a publisher pays an author for a future work. This money can be paid either as soon as they agree that a particular work will be written, or on delivery of the manuscript. Then when copies of the book start to sell, the royalties are deducted from the advance.

My advance for this novella is £50, which means that if my novella sells for £1.99 (which I think it will), I will have to sell 126 before I ‘earn out’, or bring in enough to cover the £50 advance. After that, I start to get paid royalties again.

Admittedly, £50 is not a huge amount of money – but to me, it is an absolute gold mine. Not only will that £50 be very handy, but it shows that my publishers have faith in me that I will sell at least 126 copies of my book, if not more. That may not seem like very much, but two years ago I was completely unpublished.

Some authors who are well-known with a huge fan base can expect to receive advances closer to £3000, and while I definitely want to get there someday, today is one step towards that, and a very definite step at that.

I look forward to sharing my experiences writing this Christmas novella, and I hope that you will all want to read it when it comes out Christmas 2015! But if you can’t wait that long, and you just have to have some Emily Murdoch novels in your life, fear not. You can buy Conquests: Hearts Rule Kingdoms: 1, Love Letters: 2 (Conquests), and Captives: Hearts Rule Kingdoms: 3 (Conquests) – or get all three for a cheaper price if you buy Conquered Hearts: The Collection.

Struggling to Write Second Book

I know this post may sound a little strange, and I know it is definitely a first world problem, but it’s something that I’ve been struggling with for a while, so I thought I’d share it: I am really struggling to write a second book.

I know that sounds mental: it’s supposed to be the first book that’s difficult! And for many people it is, but I found that my first book Conquests almost flowed out of me. It was a story that I knew inside out, and I really wanted to tell it. And so I did – it only took me about three months, although getting it published was another matter. But once it was done, there, put on paper, it didn’t feel difficult.

But the sequel?

My word, it’s like drawing blood from a stone. Just like my first book, Conquests: Hearts Rule Kingdoms, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, exactly where my characters are going…and yet they aren’t getting there.

I think partly it’s because I’m terrified that I won’t be able to match the success that I’ve had with my first book. From here, the only way should really be up…but what if my readers don’t like it as much? What if they hate it? What if my family hate it, and they start to disown me because it’s just too terrible to be associated with?

I’m also in such a different place than I was when I wrote my first book, almost two years ago. Then, I was just about to graduate with a BA in History and English, and had days and days of nothingness in which I could write. Now I’m working two internships whilst planning my wedding and a move to the other side of the world (New Zealand). Empty days are a distant memory.

But if I’m serious about being a writer (which I am), and if I want to end up writing about three books a year (which I do), then surely I’m going to have to get used to this? After all, life isn’t going to slow down just because I have another chapter deadline. Life doesn’t stop after the wedding and the move – I’ll have a husband to look after, a house to keep, and a social life to create. “Time to write” isn’t going to drop into my lap.

So here’s the challenge to myself – and you, if you’re struggling to find time to finish that first, second, or fifteenth novel. Divide it into chunks, and allot rewards. For every chapter, a chocolate bar. For every character development, another episode of The Big Bang Theory. For every completed novel, a weekend break away.

Whatever it takes to keep you writing, chipping away at the word count and killing off that antagonist, find it and use it.