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. There’s not a day that goes by that I 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!
You know the drill! Below are some ‘mini reviews’ of some of my recent reads. As I haven’t reviewed in a while, there are lots of books, so I’ll probably split the reviews across one or two posts. Let me know what you think!
Lies She Told by Cate Holahan – 5*
Lies She Told centres around the life of author Liza Cole, as she attempts to write a novel – which she hopes will be as successful as her previous bestseller – whilst simultaneously dealing with the death of her husband’s business partner, among other personal issues.
This novel follows an extremely interesting structure. The chapters alternate between Liza’s P.O.V in the real world, and the P.O.V of Beth, the main protagonist in Liza’s novel. We are, therefore, following both Liza’s actual story, alongside her fictional story. At first, the similarities between the two are small – a shared feeling or a similar setting for example – but after a while, the similarities become more pronounced, leaving us to answer the question: what is real and what is fiction?
I personally love this structure. As a writer myself, we’re forever told that elements of us, our personalities, feelings and life stories will inevitably bleed into our fiction, so not only does this structure work in terms of building tension and results in an awesome novel, it also subtly explores several interesting elements of writing, which I find very clever and engaging. As well as this, the structure offers us, in essence, two novels to read at once, both of which I found clever and full of suspense. The alternation also serves to increase tension, as you jump from one cliffhanger to the other. I always looked forward to the next chapter in both stories, and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.
Lies She Told will appeal to anyone looking for a unique and engaging thriller, or anyone searching for a novel that’s a little bit different. Must read!
All Things New by Lauren Miller – 5*
All Things New follows the story of Jessa, our protagonist, as she attempts to come to terms with the after-effects of a terrifying accident, and the physical and mental scars left behind.
Long story short, I loved this book. It’s so sensitively done, it’s hard not to, and I believe the comparisons with The Fault in Our Stars and All the Bright Places are justified. It tackles several very difficult subjects carefully and beautifully, weaving a sometimes heart-breaking yet hopeful tale that’s part love-story part coming-of-age. I’d recommend this to everyone.
Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas – 4*
Last Seen Alive follows main protagonist Libby as she swaps her tiny flat in the city for a large, sprawling house by the beach, for what she hopes will be a relaxing get-away. As expected, things don’t go to plan – this is a thriller after all – and the holiday soon turns into a nightmare.
This is a fabulous book, which I very much enjoyed reading. Rarely do I reach the ‘twist’ of a novel without any prior ideas as to what the twist might be, but I’m happy to say this wasn’t the case here, and the twist was shocking yet still managed to maintain believability. Douglas has cleverly managed to allude to it throughout, creating tension and suspense, and laying a solid foundation for the later revelations.
Then she was Gone by Lisa Jewell – 5*
This book was incredible. Dark, twisty and sometimes horrifying, but incredible. I loved reading it and flew through it in a single day. My heart was thumping in my chest throughout and I’d absolutely recommend it to everyone – the fact that it’s so believable makes it all the more shocking.
The 100 by Kass Morgan – 3*
This book was OK and kept me interested throughout, but to be honest, I felt like it lacked something. There seemed to be an awful lot of nothingness (no real plot) and ended with a cliffhanger. I enjoyed it as a ‘listening whilst doing other stuff’ audio-book but may have stopped reading if it was a paperback. I probably won’t read the rest but I’m interested to see the TV show. * UPDATE * The TV show is incredible! I think it might even be my favourite programme…!
The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond- 2* DNF
I’m sure others would enjoy this novel as it offers all the standard things you would expect from a thriller – interesting protagonists, intriguing premise, conflict and unanswered questions. Despite this, this novel wasn’t really my cup of tea, due solely to the fact that I don’t think the intelligent protagonists would have ever opted into the pact in the first place. They seemed to ask almost no questions and didn’t think it was weird at all. I liked the writing and characterisation, but feel I would have had to suspend belief whilst reading to actually enjoy it properly. Thanks anyway to the publisher and author for the ARC!
UPDATE: Apparently this book has sold its movie rights…!
No Filter by Orlagh Collins – 5*
Emerald, our female protagonist is likeable yet somewhat troubled. She’s forever checking her social media accounts and lusting over those sometimes-elusive ‘likes’ ‘hearts’ or ‘shares’. My prior experience of novels that try to emulate the social media age is wholly negative, but this is one of the rare books that actually manages to be ‘social media savvy’ without being boring or try-hard. Both protagonists are well-rounded, and I think Collins has done a fabulous job of writing in two distinct voices (which is hard to do right!).
Overall, I’d describe this novel as a ‘modern-day Romeo and Juliet’, which I understand is a little cliche, but to be honest, that’s exactly how I’d describe this wonderful book. The plot is deep, occasionally heart-wrenching and is populated with well-thought out characters and conflict. Loved it!