28 day blog challenge in one go

Response to a 28 day blog challenge.

Having made a mess of keeping up on a regular basis, I am going to attempt a brief response to the 28 prompts posted.

Day 1 Earliest memory of writing.
Making tiny books for my dolls.

Day 2. Classes and workshops.
I’ve attended a variety of events over the years. Some big events with numerous lectures, and others on a more personal level, all have been useful, though the more I learnt, the more aware I became of my shortcomings, and the need to keep learning.

Day 3. Most admired writers.
There are too many to mention. Some have only written one or two books that touched me.

Day 4 What do you love to read, or try to avoid.
I love to read a book with problems, locations, and situations that are unlikely to feature in my life, but make me appreciate how they could and do alter the way others act and behave. Interplay between characters that moves a story on will keep me engaged.
Fantasy, science fiction and brutal crime are genres which don’t appeal to me at all.

Day 5. Literary characters.
Again too many to go into here.

Day 6. First ideas for a book, and who I told and their reaction.
I had been thinking about writing for a long time, but didn’t have the courage to tell anyone. I had a guest come to stay who was a writer. He gave me a copy of his book – Use your head. It was cold so I sat by the fire and read it from start to finish. Talk about perfect timing. The advice to divide challenges into manageable chunks got me thinking about trying to write a chapter per month. Next came the idea that telling family and friends about my project would keep me on target. I announced to the family my plan to write a novel. The reaction was somewhere between tepid, complete disbelief and “she’s lot the plot”. The good side of this action was that my mother-in-law seemed to accept that lying in the sun in the garden was “working on the book – do not disturb time”.

Day 7. Outlines and organization.
Use your Head, introduced me to Mindmaps. Generally I map out an idea, then do mini mindmaps for chapters and often do a map for each character. The end result often bears no relationship to the original plan, but the process helps to get to know characters and how they might interact in any given situation.

Day 8. Research process,
I have to say God bless the internet. If stuck on something, I will look it up. Often this leads to new ideas that are far bigger than I wanted because they take the story off at a tangent. I work on the theory if in doubt leave it out. I’d far rather give too little detail about a process than have a reader moan about misinformation.

Day 9. Fiction to non fiction.
My novel is pure fiction, but if it had to be non-fiction then it would be a biography. All I am glad about is that none of what is in the book ever happened to me. I think the story as it is would convert into a film without too much alteration.

Day 10. Critique groups.
These are not for the writer who has the utmost belief that their work is perfect. I do not belong in that category and have had some very helpful advice from critiques. Some people will only comment on typos or spellings which is useful and should be accepted with thanks. The best sort will point out plot holes, unnecessary sections, misused words, wordy dialogue, repetitions and all the rest. While it is disappointing that they have found faults, accepting these faults spoil the read and need addressing will improve the readers experience. Treasure these people.

Day 11. The editing process.
I hated it because I didn’t know where to start, never mind finish. Every draft left me wondering if I would ever get to the end and whether I was making more of a mess than an improvement. I discovered Autocrit, an online editing programme, which while no guarantee of perfection, certainly showed up some bad writing habits, repetitions and redundant words and phrases. The help of writer friends, who’ve been amazingly generous with their time and encouragement, has been unbelievably valuable.

Day 12. The cover.
I chose a picture I had painted myself inspired by a newspaper photo. I then discovered I needed to get the photographers permission to use it. Thankfully he was happy for me to go ahead. The lesson learnt was the need to be aware of copyright issues.

Day 13. The most challenging part.
First task was producing enough words, then editing, then the technicalities of publishing. All were tough, but marketing has to be the toughest of all. On the plus side, all the marketing mistakes made on the first book will perhaps ensure that the second does not suffer from the same lack of preparation. The question that now poses itself is the one of priorities. Is finishing the next book more important than marketing the first? I do feel that having two to market will make the task easier.

Day 14. Biggest surprise.
The writing journey to reach the point of publication has been long, so the sheer joy of actually handling a copy comes high on the list of memorable moments.

Day 15. Reading habits.
I didn’t get to asking anyone for input on this so will answer this one.
I buy two or three books per month on Kindle and will read at least two if I am lucky. Choice is usually contemporary fiction, romance and crime and the occasional biography, and whatever the local book club suggests or friends recommend. I buy from Amazon or on impulse in bookshops. Recently read books that I’d recommend are Warhorse and The Kashmir Shawl.

Day 16. Publishing decisions.
Ebook. Kindle seemed to be the best option for readers especially as a kindle app is available for computers for people who do not actually own a Kindle.
For the paperback I chose Lightning Source as my printer because they also distribute and have no minimum order requirement. No garage full of books to contend with was an important factor. They also have a worldwide POD distribution system with local delivery costs, so the price is acceptable. Their set up procedure is clearly listed and the quality of the books excellent.
These choices give me full control of covers, pricing and enable me to make any amendments I may wish to make at a future date.

Day 17. Market description.
By marketing my book as an action packed adventure with a touch of romance set in Kenya. I hope to appeal to men as well as women as readers. I have had positive response from male readers which is very satisfying. I think anyone from the age of twenty up to grandparents should enjoy it.

Day 18. Blurb.
I wrote my own blurb for the first book, but will be looking to get someone with relevant connections to write something for my second.

Day 19. Growing my Platform.
Generally becoming more active on the web will be my aim before the second book comes out.

Day 20. Next steps.
The art of tweeting, and becoming more Facebook savvy are on my skill requirement list. Having a computer that doesn’t go into hang mode would help.

Day 21. Advice to first time authors.
Write, write, write, edit, edit, edit. Get other people to read your work. Listen to what they say. You do not have to do as they say, but try to understand why they said it. All comments are worthwhile, even if you don’t like to hear them.

Day 22. First book signing.
I was fortunate to have organized an open garden and art exhibition to raise money for a local Children’s hospice the week after my first book came out. I sold 14 signed copies of my book and donated some of the royalties to the charity.

Day 23. Film Casting.
A friend who is a film buff suggested Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender to play the lead parts.

Day 24. The book business.
With the current pressures on my time, I don’t expect to put as much marketing effort into the first book until the second is ready. Then I plan to have a big launch of that, and hope that sales of the first will follow. I have a marketing strategy in mind for the second book which will I hope enable me to enlist the help of supporters on the web.

Day 25. Shout outs.
Where to begin? Family. Fellow authors, following a similar route to publication. The wonderfully helpful network of people who have shared their advice on writing, editing, book production, marketing on the web. I could never have achieved publication without their help.

Day 26. Next book
A contemporary family based drama about a family dealing with one member suffering from Cystic Fibrosis. It will be more about how the family copes, or doesn’t, rather than dwelling on the illness itself. But I hope it will raise awareness of this condition and some funds too.

Day 27. Best part in participating in this blog challenge.
Firstly, awareness of my inability to blog on a daily basis, even with prompts, has made me vow never to attempt such a challenge again. This is no reflection on this event but more to do with my over-stretching myself. The best part has been the marathon of rushing through the prompts in one session which has made me think about future tactics for my books, and marketing.

Day 28. Future blogging plans.
For now, I think I will revert to my old system of short sporadic postings as and when the call arises. I also plan to catch up on the blogs that I didn’t get to read during the month. The regular round-up list of the pick of the day was appreciated.

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