I know I have recently updated you on my self-published colouring book, but I thought I’d do a little post about where I’m currently at with my writing projects. I thought I’d done one of these before (a long time ago), but I can’t seem to find the post, so perhaps I just imagined it!
Up until about a year ago, I only had one main writing project on the go. I had also written a handful of short stories, some of which I submitted to competitions (with no success), but mainly, my whole focus was on writing my YA dystopian novel, which is called Zone Seven. Here are some photographs which hint at the plot, without giving too much away (all images downloaded from unsplash.com).
So, what’s new?
Well, for starters, Zone Seven is still not finished (lol, whoops), but it has come a long way since then. Over the past 5 (!) years that I’ve been writing it, I:
- Wrote a terrible first draft of 55,000 words. I’m using the term first draft rather loosely here, because to be honest, it was more of a zero draft.
- Re-wrote it (second draft), and cut about 20,000 of those first awful words, maybe even more – it’s been so long I can’t really remember.
- Muddled on for a bit, before I stopping to re-evaluate the whole thing using the notecard method. There’s a whole blog post devoted to that which you can read here. It is one of my more popular blog posts, so hopefully, you will find it helpful.
After I was somewhat happy with the new scene structure, I participated in and won (woohoo!) Camp Nanowrimo 2017, where I wrote 40,000 new words, bringing my total to roughly 71,000 words.
Since then, I have been sporadically re-writing my chapters. I’ve changed tense twice and am now back with my original tense (because of course I am!). At this point in time, I have edited the first 34,000 words, most of which I now need to go back through and re-write the tense again. WHY AM I LIKE THIS?
So basically, to finish this next draft, I need to re-write chapters 1-23 in present tense and then edit the remaining 40,000 words. I am still a long way off, but I will finish this novel, even if it kills me…
Why has Zone Seven taken me so long?
About a year ago (April 2018), I started writing another novel. This is now what I refer to as my ‘main’ novel, because honestly, I think it’s better than Zone Seven and has been so much easier to write. It’s a domestic thriller which was originally titled Can’t Say No, but I have since changed this, although I’ll be keeping the title a secret for now! The story seed for this novel, came to me in a dream (all my ideas seem to come to me this way, which is great!).
I was originally going to write a different thriller (too many ideas, send help) because I thought Can’t Say No would be too complicated as it has more than one narrator, but before I realised it, I was outlining it.
I wrote the first 11,000 words pretty quickly and entered it into a novel writing competition, and then was going to write it for my Camp Nano 2018 project. I started really well, before stalling at around 15,000 words. I pulled out of Nano and spent months re-structuring, before plunging back in with actual Nano in November 2018, where I succeeded in writing 50,000 words, bringing my total to about 70,000 words.
I thought that would be me done in terms of word count, but this novel is looking to be about 90-95 000 words, so I still had 20,000 left to go. Over the past six months, I have managed to reach 81, 000 words, but have stopped to edit what I have. I am very specific about my writing process and see no point plundering onwards without first ensuring that the foundations laid at the beginning of the novel are strong.
So from now on, I’ll be methodically editing my draft, until I feel ready to write the remaining 10-15,000 words, which I’m hoping will be easier once everything else is as it should be!
Those are my main projects.
Am I working on anything else?
So to make life even harder for myself, I have another few projects on the go, which probably explains why I haven’t finished anything yet. I am working on a novelty short-story anthology (I think I’ve decided to do an anthology instead of another colouring book for now, but knowing me, I’ll change my mind again. In fact, I just had an idea for another activity book…), and have also started two shorter romance novellas. These novellas are ‘on the back burner’ for now, but if I have time, I like to add a sentence or two to them on my phone, using the OneNote app, which is super helpful. I’ve written two chapters this way, and it seems like a stress-free way to write and is more productive than browsing Facebook in my otherwise ‘dead’ time. I am hoping to write a blog post on this, as it might be a process that others find useful.
So yeah, that’s it really! Now you’re all caught up. I’d love to know what you are all working on in the comments!
So you might be aware that I’ve spent the past five years working on several novels, all different genres (because why not make this writing lark harder than it already is, am I right?). I love writing, and creating images with words; if I didn’t, I would have given up ages ago.
But there’s something else I love and that’s graphic design. I don’t regret taking Graphic Design at University instead of creative writing. It’s such a great feeling, to be able to need something or want it, and have the ability to design it myself. Birthday cards, invitations, planner pages, outline templates. Everything I could possibly need, I can create.
Although I want to be traditionally published someday, I also love the idea of self-publishing some projects, and my graphic design degree gives me the bonus of being able to design my own book covers. In fact, I’ve already amassed several designs for each of my writing projects. I’ll let you in on a little secret: designing book covers for my WIPs is how I procrastinate when I should be writing.
But anyway, I digress. After five years of writing with no publication, I needed a break. A project that I could write, create and publish in a few months. I thought for ages about what my new project could be. I explored ‘blank book’ publishing, but decided against it, due to wanting to provide people with something with a little more substance and quality. What about non-fiction, then? A nice idea, but what could I write about? I wasn’t sure.
Then I stumbled across an idea for a colouring book almost by accident. My book started as a passion project, as it was originally going to be something I created and made for my boyfriend’s birthday. An ‘in’ joke, if you will. But it soon became apparent that it might appeal to more than just my other half. The idea snowballed, and soon enough, after many fun-filled hours of writing and illustrating, my colouring book was finished. Just so you know, it’s a novelty colouring book about an Avocado called Adam and his friend Toast, and it’s aimed mainly at millennials, but will appeal to anyone who likes avocados or cute things with faces.
I had an absolute blast making it, and I’m so proud to finally have a finished project. Although I’ve only shown it to family and friends for now, they have been overwhelmingly positive about it, which is great.
I created the drawings in Adobe Illustrator, as I’m not very good at freehand sketching. The drawings are very simple line drawings, and each drawing is single-sided to avoid show-through. Each illustration has a simple sentence above it which tells the reader more about the fictional protagonists! Here is an example of two of the inside spreads.
As you can see, I was aiming for ‘witty and relatable’ captions, and I hope I succeeded! Some of the drawings are more complex than the above. Some are less complex.
Once the illustrations were all done, I exported them into Adobe inDesign which is where I laid out my book and added the text. It took a while to get everything right (line thickness, choosing a font, sizing the illustrations correctly etc.), but finally, it was finished.
I created a cover and uploaded it to KDP. I then ordered a proof copy, so I could test out the thickness of the paper and see what cover finish I wanted. I started off with matte, but then decided that the laminated cover suited the colouring book genre better, so I changed it. I also noticed some mistakes. Nothing major, just little things that would have annoyed me had I left them in. So I made some alterations. Ordered another proof copy. And now it’s available on Amazon for the world to see. It is exhilarating, yet also terrifying.
It’s been published for about a week, and thus far, I’ve only sold two copies, both to family. I’d love to sell a few more copies, but the idea of promoting it scares the life out of me. I’m not really sure why; I guess it’s a mixture of being a perfectionist and worrying it’s not good enough (even though I am so proud of it) and being an introvert. The whole ‘self-promotion’ thing and putting myself out there is so far out of my comfort zone, but I know I’ll have to if I’m going to get the audience for it that I hope for.
Now it’s finished, I’m already starting to think of my next mini-project. Another colouring book, perhaps. Or maybe a puzzle book. I’m not sure, and it’s a dangerous game, really, as I’m worried I’ll put my longer writing projects on the back burner for too long. That’s always the risk when you’re juggling several projects at once!
Hi guys! It’s been a while…
First off, let me just apologise for yet another long absence. There was no real reason for it other than just needing to take a bit of a break to focus on actually writing my books, instead of spending time on blog posts and Instagram! That said, I am still forging ahead with writing my novels (yes, it’s plural now, what have I done…!), and I’m hoping to finish one sometime in the near future (a girl can dream). That being said, I have done a fair bit of reading since I last posted, so I will be doing a few ‘mini book review’ style posts over the next few weeks.
As it’s been so long since I’ve updated you, I’m also hoping to write a post detailing where I’m currently at regarding my writing projects: what I’ve been up to, how I’m approaching them, and my plans for finishing them. I also want to chat to you about my self-published colouring book, which I’m super excited about and had such a great time creating.
I’m so happy to be back!
Something to Live For by Richard Roper
Love love loved this book! It kind of reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman), but with a male protagonist instead, which was fab: I think I found a new favourite genre. Andrew was a likeable, quirky character who I found myself rooting for almost instantly, and members of the ‘supporting cast’ were equally as interesting and fleshed out. For some reason, one of the most engaging parts of the novel for me was Andrew’s job: going into homes of deceased people and trying to find who their next of kin were/if there were any. I don’t know why, but I found it absolutely fascinating, and it definitely added another layer to the already well-woven and intricate plot, as did the addition of Andrew’s model train hobby. Highly recommended for those looking for a heart-warming read which deals sensitively with some serious subjects.
The Source: Open Your Mind, Change Your Life by Dr Tara Swart
I adored this book. As someone who’s always been into the idea of ‘The Law of Attraction’, but who also struggles to see past the ‘logical blocks’ that stop me from embracing it wholly, this book is a perfect fit for me, as it combines both the whimsical ideas put forward by the law, but also backs it up with more solid, neuroscientific explanations. After I had finished reading it, I was left feeling more optimistic, knowledgeable, and in control of my decisions and my future. Definitely one to read if you really want to believe in The Secret, but need a bit more of a push in the right direction! Just a note: it is very ‘science heavy’, so it’s perhaps not for everyone.
Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss
I loved this book! At the grand old age of 26, I may be slightly too young to have read some of the books mentioned in their heyday, but there were many I did use to love reading when I was younger (Sweet Valley High being my favourite as I am a twin myself…!). This book is not only engaging both visually and narratively, but it is so well researched I think one would be hard pressed to find any other book/website/source of information that covers this fascinating subject in such a detailed and captivating way. It’s so interesting to me to see the development in this particular genre of literature, and thus I imagine there are many others that will enjoy reading this delightful book. Would also make a great gift!
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Before reading this book, I had hit a bit of a ‘reading wall’, mainly because I am currently in the process of writing my own thriller, which like The Hunting Party, has various narrators, all with their own subplots and narrative voices. I was stuck. I had no idea how to successfully write a book with more than one narrator. And then I read this. I enjoyed every second of this multi-character study, and I cannot express just how impressed I am at how wonderfully it is written. Initially, when I realized just how many narrators there were in this novel, I was worried I might get confused, but I needn’t have been. Each narrator has a strong, unique voice, and unlike some multi-POV novels, all the narrators drive the plot forward. The intimate POVs made it possible to understand how each character saw themselves as well as how they saw each other, and the dissonance and contrast between these two viewpoints was super interesting. I also loved the choice of setting (I spent the past NYE in Scotland and know just how stunning yet isolating the landscape is). Amazing novel.
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
I loved this book! As an avid reader of psychological thrillers, I was surprised when the blurb for this book caught my eye. Once I started reading it however, I was hooked! It really reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine by Gail Honeyman (the second book to do so on this list…), which I read recently and really enjoyed. Both novels have a wholly engaging, unique and loveable main character, as well as a host of wonderful secondary characters, who you find yourself rooting for throughout. An uplifting read which left me feeling happy and warm. Would recommend.
Just a fun post for today, based on what I have learnt during my writing journey. It’s been three years since I started my current WIP, and although I’m not deterred by the length of time it’s taken me to reach this point, there are a few things that would have sped up the process a little, had I known them before I launched in. But alas, it’s too late for me, but perhaps they may be of some help to you…!
1) You are not going to complete your finished manuscript within 6 months
Yep, Naive Heather did actually believe she could have a polished, completed and awesome novel within 6 months. Don’t get me wrong, you could easily finish your first draft in that time but your manuscript will be nowhere near as good as it could and should be. But why? This question leads us nicely on to point two…
2) You will improve with time
And with practice. Even if you think you know enough, you will never know everything, hence there’s always room for improvement. If you write consistently, you will be constantly improving. This is a good thing for your novel but a bad thing for your deadline. Please bear in mind that as you learn and improve…
3) You will likely stray from your outline
Even if you’ve spent months outlining, chances are, as you’re writing (and hopefully getting better at it), you will encounter flashes of inspiration that you didn’t have when you were planning. That plot device you loved? It doesn’t fit your character as well as you thought it might. That character you thought was necessary? She’s dead weight. But remember, straying from your outline isn’t a bad thing, as long as you bear in mind that…
4) Story structure is important
Don’t worry, structure won’t inhibit your creativity. Like it or not, satisfying stories follow certain structures – beginning, middle, and end, with rising tension, conflict, climax and resolution. For this reason, it’s vital to understand structure before you begin, so it’s wise to read widely on the subject. But don’t just stick to reading about structure…
5) Find out as much as you can about how to write a good novel
There are so many awesome websites and books on the subject so just Google it and get going! As stated before, you can’t possibly know everything before you begin, but it’s good to get a solid handle on the basics: POV, structure, character, tense, genre etc. I have beta-read for several writers before, some of whom didn’t even know how to use full-stops (there were none in the entire novel…!), let alone understand what POV was and why it was important. I wish I was joking…
6) Bonus point: no matter how ‘finished’ you think your book is, you will pick it up several weeks later and realise that long-standing scene you love is actually rubbish
To be honest, it’s pretty blindsiding. You’ve been sure about said scene since day one, so why is it only now, on day 700, that you realise it doesn’t actually make sense/is written terribly/doesn’t fit with the rest of your tweaked manuscript. It feels a bit like having the rug pulled out from under you – I mean, you were practically finished, and now you have some major restructuring to do?! It is scary but it is normal. So don’t worry, you got this!
I’ve got a bit of a different post for you today! Before we dive in, I’ll give you a little bit of background information.
As you may or may not know, I’m a freelance graphic designer. Before going freelance however, I worked full-time as a graphic designer in a publishing marketing company in London. Although I love graphic design, working in and commuting into London took SO much time, I felt I had no time to write. So, being young, stupid and still living with my parents, I quit my full-time job and took a local part-time job in the hopes that it would give me time to focus on my own goals (mainly writing my novel and building up a base of freelance clients). What was this part-time job you ask? You probably didn’t ask, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume you did… I am now working as a ‘display technician’ in a secondary school.
I’m guessing most of you have never heard of a ‘display technician’ before, but basically, I make and put up all the displays around the school, mainly in the classrooms and corridors. I get to be as creative as before, only I now also have time to work on my writing, which is amazing.
So today I thought I’d show you some of my ‘book’ related displays! English, reading and book displays are my favourite ones to do as I’m obviously passionate about the topic. I also think it’s super important to try and convince teenagers and young adults to read, especially in this age of Netflix and smartphones.
The below display is up in an English classroom and is perhaps my favourite. As you can see, it takes popular books (such as The Hunger Games) and suggests books that are similar, so the students can find a book which hopefully they enjoy as much as the original. I had a lot of fun making this one, and you might even find it inspires your next read!
This one is in the same classroom and is The Hunger Games themed (obsessed, much?!). This is obviously much simpler. You can find the poster printables on this fabulous blog here. The idea with this one is that the teacher will fill the blank space with student work. Did you know, in England some students study the first book during their lessons? Sounds so much more fun than any of the books I remember studying at secondary school…
Last but not least is this display. Again, pretty self-explanatory, but it’s a really easy way to display books in a way that will hopefully encourage the students to read.
And that’s a wrap for today. I’m also currently working on a super exciting blog post, which should hopefully be up sometime next week!
Happy reading guys!