Just wanted to say have a fantastic Christmas... I've illustrated this post with some Christmassy pics I took on my cycle ride home last night, so hope you enjoy them. Wish that amazing house was mine!
And as a special Christmas treat it occurred to me that On the First Night of Christmas is my tenth published book. As readers to this blog will know, I'm currently being tortured by my latest manuscript which was all a bit of a dog's breakfast until I had a long chat with my editor on Friday afternoon. I'm now clear about what needs to be cut (namely about 20K of the 30K I've written!), what needs to be changed (thou hero shall not be a complete git!) and what needs to be finessed (more fun, more flirt, much less fraught)...
So I've put some top tips together for happier writing in the New Year compiled from what I've learned while struggling with this book and others before it...
1). Every Book Is Different: Sounds obvious, but remember unless you're constantly writing the same story, every book will vary according to how easy or how hard it is to write, the important thing is to do whatever is necessary and not stress too much when you hit a roadblock (or several hundred).
2) Beware of the Convenient Plot Twist: Yes, your story will have turning points, but be very wary of a plot twist which conveniently brings your couple together (like a flash fire that burns down your heroine's house and means she has to move in with the hero) or keeps them apart (like a misunderstanding that could be sorted out with a proper conversation) because it may be a substitute for a decent conflict.
4). A Good Editor's Not Just for Christmas: Published authors have the huge luxury of an editor. Some of my books have had very little editorial input, but others would simply never have reached publishable quality without that essential feedback and advice... So if you're unpubbed, seek out constructive feedback wherever you can, and use it.
5). You're the Only One Who Knows What's Right for Your Story: Sort of sounds like a contradiction of 4 I know, but bear with me here, folks... Basically, you are the creator of your story and those characters and if you lose sight of that, your story will lose it's integrity not to mention it's unique you-ness, so while constructive criticism is important, don't be scared to ignore it, when necessary.
7). Don't be Afraid to Take Risks: Or, it's remarkable what you can get away with in a plot... Like a heroine who doesn't realise she's three-months-pregnant... If you do it with conviction and make it believable. Now in the interests of full disclosure, I have had more than a few crits of that particular book (Pleasure, Pregnancy and a Proposition) because some readers were either unconvinced (or just plain outraged) by that plot hook, but it's also my biggest seller (by a long way) so yes, some readers weren't convinced, but for those that I persuaded to suspend their disbelief it was a risk worth taking.
8). You Can't Please Everyone, So Don't Try: Sort of follows on from 7, but you really can't please everyone, and the last thing you want is to stop taking risks because you're worried about what people will think... Everyone's got an opinion and rightly so, they've paid money to read your book, but in the end when you're sitting down to write, the opinion that counts the most is yours. You know, in your heart of hearts when something works and when it doesn't, because you've read loads of romances yourself (I hope) and you know when they don't work for you.
10). After the Agony, Comes the Ecstasy: Whether that's just the sense of achievement you feel when you finish a particularly thorny scene to your satisfaction, or the whoop of joy in your stomach when you see your published book on the shelf for the first time, or get a decent review from Dear Author (I got a B this week for On the First Night of Christmas, and boy am I basking here, folks!!). This is bloody hard work, don't ever be fooled by anyone who says it isn't (they're lying!!), but it will eventually be worth it. And just like childbirth, it's agony for a reason, because then the ecstasy is that much more ecstatic. Honest.
So from one writer in North London currently going through the agony...
HAVE A HAPPY WRITING NEW YEAR EVERYONE!