writing retreat

With the deadline for my next book looming, I headed to Somerset for a writing retreat at Book Camp. It was a spur of the moment decision, taken when I looked up from the words “The End” on my Christmas sequel to Sealed with a Kiss. It dawned on me why people were giving me That Look when I said airily “oh yes, I’ve ages until the next one’s due, and I’ve written loads already”.

The reality was with 10,000 words done (curse the three chapters and a synopsis method of securing a book deal) and nothing more than a Pinterest board and a theme song in my head, I was a bit lacking in book. So off I went. And here are the five things I learned on writing retreat:

1. Silence is a bit surprising. If you’ve got a busy life/lots of children/lots of children and a busy life (I dunno, some people might have staff or something) you’ll find the sudden drop into the silence of a writing retreat quite disconcerting. I found myself walking around for a bit when I first arrived, saying to myself in a hearty tone of voice “Gosh, well, this is nice, isn’t it?” and “Why don’t we take a walk down here to the end of this field” like I was talking to my seven year old.  By the end of the first evening I’d started to settle into the idea of spending a large amount of time alone with only my thoughts for company.

2. Planning helps. I got there with a synopsis, a set of pretty well-developed (in my head, in any case) characters, and a copy of Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris. We had dinner and a good chat and I headed upstairs, thinking I was off for an early night so I could get straight to writing in the morning. Instead (still not quite knowing what to do with myself) I stayed up until 2am doing this.

20140406-094731.jpg

 

That’s a beat sheet, a basic character development chart for each main character, and the whole novel measured out in post-it notes. And a lot of stationery. Oh, how I love stationery.

3. You have to sit down and write. We were in a beautiful farmhouse, complete with a swimming pool and a sauna, surrounded by the Somerset countryside. The first morning, a bit exhausted from staying up until 2, I ended up ambling around, having a swim, and then finally sitting down to write 1500 words or so before lunch. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my fellow book campers had all got a substantial number of words down already. I felt like a bit of a slacker so I got down to work in the afternoon and hit 4500 words by dinner time – my least productive day. The other days I reached 5000 words. I ended up each day feeling like my brain was a sponge that had been squeezed dry, my eyeballs spinning in my head and my ability to string a sentence together seriously impaired.

But what I did realise was this: setting a one hour timer on the clock and telling myself to just write actually works. And “I only write in the afternoon/when I’m listening to music/when the wind is blowing in the west and the corn is high” and all the other things I’ve told myself over the years – they’re crap. And for that alone, Book Camp was invaluable.

4. When in doubt, insert comedy animal. Talking tactics over one of the gorgeous dinners, we established that the secret to getting the first draft down is to just keep swimming. So my first draft has things like this:

and meaningful phrases like this:

 

and technical detail like this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 21.36.20

If I hadn’t put the Self-Control app on my laptop, I’d have disappeared down a Google vortex looking for meaningful gardening quotes I can half-remember, or finding out what the technical name for LANDGRAB THINGOLOGY was. Instead I just kept going and realised that at the end of this first draft, once I’ve told the story, I can fill in the details. And insert monkeys.

5. Spending time with other writers is essential. It felt a bit self-indulgent disappearing off into the countryside on a writing retreat, armed with my laptop and a mountain of stationery, but it has left me inspired and far more productive than I was previously. We gossiped about publishing, we cried (over Saving Mr Banks) and laughed (over Crazy Stupid Love), we told ghost stories and talked politics and thanks to Basia, we ate the most amazing food (and I had no idea that writing huge amounts made you so hungry, but I was permanently ravenous).

book camp

 

Thanks to my new friends Lisa, Julie, Annette, Emily,  Cesca, Kat and Basia for a brilliant week. See you all next time (I’ll definitely be back).

 

I’m writing madly on my Book Camp writing retreat and hopefully getting lots done, but meanwhile I wanted to grab a moment (and one of the scraps of internet access which are few and far between here, which is a blessing and a curse) to pop up a guest post by my writing friend Cathy, who has a book out today which looks fab.

IvyLane Spring Cathy Bramley

Last summer on a flight back to the UK after our summer holiday I fastened my safety belt, turned on my Kindle and gave a contented sigh. It was hubby’s turn to sit with our daughters; the three of them were in the row on the other side of the aisle and I sat alone. Hurrah.

For two and a half largely uninterrupted hours I read. For those of you who love reading and for those of you who love reading AND have children you will feel my bliss. The book I read was Sealed With A Kiss by Rachael Lucas.

Oh my word! I loved that story so much. I wanted to be on that island, in that cottage with that dog, building those holiday cottages…

Anyway, the flight ended, the holiday ended and it was back to work. I stalked googled Rachael, followed her on Twitter, read her blog etc. Because Rachael was living my dream.

She was following the same path that I hoped to follow and I was desperately keen for her to succeed. Because if she did, then there was a chance I could do the same. Since then obviously Rachael has secured agency representation and signed a book deal with Pan Macmillan and I couldn’t be more pleased for her. She has works incredibly hard and deserves her success.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a pretty decent few months myself. I self-published my first novel Conditional Love in October and it became an Amazon best seller. I now have an agent and most excitingly, a book deal with Transworld.

 

Cathy Bramley MarshAgency

And today Thursday 3rd April is publication day for my new novel Ivy Lane!

Ivy Lane, will be comprised of four individual parts – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – which Transworld will publish as ebooks in their respective seasons (April, July, September, October). Ivy Lane tells the story of Tilly Parker, a young woman who moves to a new town for a fresh start. Tilly signs up for a plot at the local allotment on Ivy Lane and is drawn into the kind-hearted, funny and quirky cast of characters she meets there.

The paperback will follow next year, but the ebook is available from Amazon, iBooks and Kobo today!

Normally I would spend the day checking the Amazon charts, but I’m actually going to be on an aeroplane for six hours. With my Kindle fully-loaded, of course.

A massive thanks to you, Rachael for inviting me onto your blog today!

 

I’m in Somerset on a writing retreat with very wonky wifi. I’m working on the next book (yes, I only finished the novella sequel last week and no, I don’t know who I am or what day it is).

Outside my cell window bedroom it looks like this.

20140401-144613.jpg

It’s all lambs and daffodils and chirpy birds. But instead of that I’m surrounded by this:

20140401-144042.jpg

And I’ve turned that into a big heap of plans and beaten the synopsis into some kind of order and now I’m making all these post it notes into a book. See you in a few days (and a lot of words).

20140401-144324.jpg

As part of her blog tour I have an interview today with the brilliant Paula Daly. I was given a copy of her new book Keep Your Friends Close just before release and I devoured it in one day (you can read more about that here).

keep your friends close

Over to Paula’s answers…

Me: What’s your favourite comfort reading? Do you have old favourites you return to again and again?

I return to Kate Atkinson’s books over and over – not particularly comfort reading but I love the jaunty tone and rhythm of her language. I can read a paragraph and feel totally inspired. My one real comfort read is Anne of Green Gables. I will never tire of the story and my sixteen year old daughter and I re-watch the DVD together every Christmas. I think I am still trying to be Anne on some level.

Me: Do you read when you’re writing? (I know a lot of writers don’t tend to, and I’m always fascinated by this question. I’ve found I have to stick to different genres or I end up accidentally picking up writing characteristics by some kind of osmosis)

I am always reading. I read each morning in bed with a coffee (I treated myself to an espresso maker next to the bed when I got my book deal). I read when I’m cooking, in the bath each evening, in the car outside school. I’m not sure what I’d do with the chunks of time available when I’m writing if I wasn’t reading. I’d have to talk to people, I suppose…

Me: Where do you write? Do you have a routine?

I get the children off to school, put the washing machine on, walk the dog, and then start writing. I aim to write 800 – 1000 words before lunch and I generally don’t switch the Wi-Fi back on until I’m done. I have to be really strict about this as I know after one-thirty p.m. I’m pretty much brain dead. So I don’t answer the phone unless it’s one of the kids calling in distress or some other emergency.

I write in my bedroom overlooking Lake Windermere (although I have to pull the curtain across a little to shade the laptop screen). When I’m stuck I stare out the window and when I’m tired I have a sneaky nap. It is the BEST job.

Me: Your teenagers in Keep Your Friends Close were incredibly well written – do you think you’d ever consider writing a book in a different genre?

I can’t see myself writing in a different genre – thriller is my thing. And I’m not really turned on by YA. But never say never.

Me: When you’re not writing, do you keep a journal or do you have a break from writing altogether?

I have a break from writing altogether. That is, from the composition side of things. I find getting the words down the hardest part of the process, so I’m eager for a rest. What I don’t do is have a break from being a writer – if that makes sense. As soon as one book is done, I’m dreaming, planning and researching the next. I love doing this. There is nothing as exciting for me and I don’t think I could stop myself doing it if I wanted to.

Thanks to Paula for a fab interview – I’m feeling a bit of a slacker now, and I’m going to switch off the internet and get some writing done… more on that later this week.

Well, now that everyone who is on my newsletter has had their exclusive sneak preview (if you want to sign up, just click that link for loads more lovely stuff in the future) I’m really excited and happy to reveal the gorgeous brand new cover for Sealed with a Kiss…

Rachael Lucas sealed with a kiss

And here’s the blurb…

Kate is dumped on her best friend’s wedding day by the world’s most boring boyfriend, Ian. She’s mostly cross because he got in first – until she remembers she’s now homeless as well as jobless. Rather than move back home to her ultra-bossy mother, Kate takes a job on the remote Scottish island of Auchenmor as an all-round Girl Friday. Her first day is pretty much a disaster: she falls over, smack bang at the feet of her grouchy new boss, Roddy, Laird of the Island. Unimpressed with her townie ways, he makes it clear she’s got a lot to prove.
Island life has no room for secrets, but prickly Roddy’s keeping something to himself. When his demanding ex girlfriend appears back on the island, Kate’s budding friendship with her new boss comes to an abrupt end. What is Fiona planning – and can she be stopped before it’s too late?

This funny, big-hearted novel is the perfect read for fans of Carole Matthews, Trisha Ashley and Katie Fforde.

Only another six weeks and two days until it’s released by Pan Macmillan, complete with NEW STUFF. Yippee! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have about two more scenes to write of the novella sequel which will be out in November (if you want a sneaky look at how the planning is coming along, have a look at Pinterest) and then I’m off next week on a writing retreat (that sounds SO posh) to get on with the next book (more about that on Pinterest, too).

rachaellucasblog

Name: Rachael

Blog: You’re on it.

Twitter ID: @karamina

Height: 5ft 9in

Hair: Long, brown, wavy.

Eyes: Hazel.

Is this your first blogging conference?

No! It’s my… (counts on fingers) 7th. That makes me feel a bit ancient.

Are you attending both days?

Yes, I’m speaking in a session one day and will be wandering around chatting the next.

What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2014?

I find I get most from the chats in funny places, like at the mirrors in the loo or sneaking outside for a chat and some fresh air. I’ve met some really interesting – and some very surprising – people quite by accident in those circumstances.

What are you wearing?

I have NO idea. Definitely not heels – I’ve done that at a couple and had the blisters to prove it. Probably jeans and converse.

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2014?

I’m looking forward to catching up with some of the friends I’ve made over the last five years, and meeting lots more. I’m also looking forward to meeting some of my favourite writers who are going to be there and picking up some tips.

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before?

Definitely – wear flat shoes! Bring headache tablets because it’s surprisingly noisy when you bring together a huge gathering of opinionated, excited bloggers. Think hard before about which sessions you want to see – and if you can’t make one, try and pair up with someone who can and ask them to share notes. Don’t forget to take a moment now and again to gather your thoughts if you’re an introverted type, or it can be a bit overwhelming. And most of all – have fun (and don’t forget to come to my session).

Dear Polly,

When we said to someone at the rescue centre that we were looking for a family-friendly golden retriever, they laughed in our faces. They’re like gold dust, they said. And then a few days later they called.

You were like gold dust. You came into my life when I was juggling four small children, a failing marriage, and I’d lost my beloved dad to a heart attack.

me and polly

You’d never seen roads before, or cars. We had to teach you all about the outside world, and I took you to training classes where it was pretty clear after a couple of sessions that you weren’t ever going to do quite what you ought to, but that you and I were so closely bonded that the instructor said as long as I was around, you’d never go far. And so you stuck beside me for the last seven years, wisdom in those beautiful long lashed eyes, an expression that said you’d seen it all before.

j and polly

Everyone said you should never trust a rescue dog, but they’d never met a dog like you.

polly dinner

You had a personality like no other dog. The expression on your face when dinner wasn’t up to scratch, and the lie down protests over biscuits.

polly at halloween

You did your share of dressing up. Witch hats, cloaks, scarves and hats were borne with your usual patience and grace.

polly

You even wore a fez, because fezzes are cool.

polly leg

Last summer when I was stuck with a broken leg you were by my side the whole time, keeping an eye on me. And as long as there was noise, and fun, and children, you were there by my side, quietly watching, tail half wagging, nosing me if I stopped stroking your head.

polly garden

I don’t think there’s such a thing as just a dog, Polly, and you were so much more than that to all of us. We’re going to miss you enormously. Run free, my beautiful girl.

Rest in Peace.

Self published author shares her secrets

Self published author, Elle Field, has hit the no1 spot this week in the much-desired Amazon US Kindle bestseller list – pretty impressive. Look out America, the British are coming…

bestselling self published Elle Field author photo

from Elle herself –
I would have scoffed in disbelief if you had told me 11 months ago at the start of my self publishing career that I would be #1 in the Amazon.com free Best Sellers chart. That’s the position I found myself in though, just a few days ago, and I’m utterly thrilled that so many people have downloaded my debut novel Kept. It really is a dream come true.

Elle Field Amazon.com self published best seller Kept

Being a self published author is something I love, but it can be exhausting. You’re not just a writer; sometimes it can seem that writing the book is actually the easiest part of the job! You also need to edit it, organise the book cover and promotional side of things, as well as dealing with tax issues and so much more.
The only person setting you a deadline as a self-published author is you. Whilst it’s important to be strict with yourself if you are doing everything yourself – probably alongside a day job, not to mention you want some kind of social life – it’s OK to give yourself a break every now and then. Life happens, and sometimes that’s just dandy.

Kept, for example, was published in late April last year. I received the final copy edit back from my editor at the start of February, and I had every intention of turning around her remarks in just two weeks so I could publish Kept at the end of February. What I didn’t count on was coming down with crippling flu, semi-recovering, only to come down with crippling flu again. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches!

When I did hit publish, I hadn’t thought about my marketing with everything else that was going on. Shameful! For my next book though, Geli Voyante’s Hot or Not, I had a set in stone publishing date of October and I started working on the marketing in July. One thing I’ve found is that you definitely learn as you go along, and also as you start to network with other self-published authors. Life is definitely a little easier with a friendly helping hand, or two, along the way.

I suppose that’s the one thing that I value the most, the support of the self-published community. I’ve connected with some brilliant authors and bloggers – their support is invaluable to me – there’s a real community out there. Being a part of it is both inspiring and motivating.
It might take you six months to self-publish your novel or it might take you six years. If you give up though, it never will – you just need to stick at it, even if there are days where you feel like you’re juggling sixty things in the air. Believe me, we are all having those days!

Good luck to all those aspiring self-published authors, and I can’t wait to see you out there on Amazon, on Kobo and so on – there’s plenty of room for all of us. 🙂

self published bestseller Kept by Elle Field

Kept

Elle Field’s fab and quirky debut novel Kept, self published last April, made it to #1 in the Amazon.com Best Sellers (free) chart this week, as well as #1 in the Literature & Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Romance and Humorous Fiction categories . It also reached #5 in the Canadian Best Sellers chart and #13 in Australia.
This was the last time Kept will ever be free on Amazon but, to celebrate the huge demand, Kept will now be available for the next five days at the bargain price of 99p/99 cents for all those who didn’t get their free download. With an average rating of 4.5/5 on Amazon.co.uk,
you need to read this book!
As a thank you to all those who help to spread the word about this, make sure you enter yourself into Elle’s giveaway for your chance to win one of six Amazon vouchers or a signed copy of one of Elle’s books.
Kept’s sequel – Lost – will be out in summer 2014, but if you fancy reading another fabulous novel by Elle Field before then, Geli Voyante’s Hot or Not is available worldwide on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Kept
‘Did she really just say that? I am fifteen again, except the reality is I am experiencing full parental horror, aged twenty-five. I want to die.’

Life hasn’t quite worked out how Arielle Lockley imagined it would. Becoming the next Coco Chanel was always her childhood dream, but she’s spent the past four years living a dizzying whirl of glitzy parties, luxurious holidays and daily shopping sprees – all paid for by boyfriend Piers – and not doing anything to make her Coco dreams happen.

When the recession hits, it’s not just the economy that takes a tumble and Arielle finds herself living back with her parents, on bad terms with Piers, and having a CV that’s as welcome as a pair of knock-off Jimmy Choos. And maybe it’s the location, but she’s also finding unwelcome thoughts of her childhood sweetheart are popping into her head…

What’s a girl to do? Can Arielle figure out what it is she now wants to do with her life and move on, or will she be doomed to spend the rest of her life dwelling over her worst mistakes, stuck listening to her parents’ embarrassing dinner table talk each night?

About Elle
Elle Field is a twenty-something chick lit author who lives in London with her boyfriend. She enjoys exploring and photographing Blighty’s capital, seeing far too many musicals, and eating her way around London’s culinary delights.

Her first self published novel Kept was released in April 2013; Geli Voyante’s Hot or Not followed in October 2013. Look out for Kept’s sequel, Lost, in Summer 2014

Read her blog at ElleField.co.uk, follow her on Twitter: @ellefie and find her on Facebook: ElleFieldAuthor

Buy it here: Amazon UK
Amazon.com