Tips on How to Rewrite Your Book

Writing my novel Picking up the Pieces – which I’m currently gearing up to publish – has been no mean feat. From first ideas to draft six we’re talking two years. I got paranoid about this, and convinced myself that I wasn’t a real writer, until reading this article about slow writing, which put my mind at ease. For me, the first big rewrite felt like a monumental task, but as with the original writing, once I’d established a good writing habit, it became much easier. So here are my tips, just in case you’re struggling with your own rewrite.

Take a break

After convincing myself that the book was a huge steaming pile of poo (damn those self doubt demons!) I took six months off from it altogether. In hindsight it was the best thing I did, as it gave me a new perspective and fresh set of eyes. Sometimes we are simply too close to our own words to be able to see what is right in front of us.

Get a second opinion

If you can afford it, I’m a massive advocate of having a manuscript critique by a professional editor. This means sending your work to someone who edits books for a living, and asking them to provide you with detailed, constructive feedback. I had mine done on the first draft about a year ago, and still believe that it £150 well spent. She pointed out that I was jumping around flitting from one point of view to another, which I hadn’t even realised I had been doing, or wasn’t allowed. She also mentioned other things that would have more than likely gone unnoticed. In addition to the editor, I’ve also sent various drafts off to friends and friends of friends to beta read. Their feedback has been really positive and some of it vital to moving the draft along.

tips on the rewriteGood writers are great editors

Which brings me nicely onto my next point. Don’t be afraid to cut whole paragraphs out, and even a whole chapter if you’re acting on good advice. I have a document called the cutting room floor, which is where I’ve kept whole chunks of text that didn’t make the final draft. It contains around six thousand words, which could potentially be used for other things. This provides a way for me to edit brutally without panicking later that I’ve deleted my best work.

Trust your gut instincts

Writing a book is like having another baby, and my maternal instincts have definitely come into their own. One of the conclusions I came to after my six month break was that the book being written in third person narrative wasn’t right. Picking up the Pieces is an emotionally charged roller coaster ride through motherhood and mental health, and first person narrative works so much better. It meant a crap tonne of additional work, but it was well worth it. I don’t think there’s a woman on the planet who won’t be able to connect with my protagonist Kate, especially mothers. With later drafts I just knew that certain things were not right. All it’s taken is for someone else to pick up on the same thing, to prompt the necessary changes. 

Don’t ignore the feedback you’ve asked for

Last week my dear friend – who is also a writer – read the book for the second time. She loved the very first draft, but said she literally couldn’t put it down this time. She read it in two days, and gave me some excellent feedback. The most significant thing she mentioned related to a chapter that I knew in my heart of hearts was the weak link. So it’s gone. It was Kate’s back story, and had key pieces of information which I’ve included elsewhere. Essentially I added two thousand words to the cutting room floor, but my goodness it felt good to not feel attached to them anymore.

Do you have any tips to add? Tweet me @mummytries

** thanks once again to the fabulous Unsplash for the gorgeous photos! 

Bankrolled by My Husband or Working as a Team? 

Bankrolled by My Husband or Working as a Team? I read a really thought provoking article the other day, written by a writer who openly states that she’s being bankrolled by her husband.

Ten years ago it was very different story while she worked multiple jobs, whilst married to an addict, and raising three kids. Back then she got precisely zero writing done. Nowadays she’s married to a wealthy man who adores her, and supports her in every way. She writes full time and banged out her last novel in an impressive eight months. She sounds like a true survivor and I was rooting for her throughout the piece.

There are obvious similarities between her situation and mine

I worked full time from the day I left home at fifteen. First came the truly awful jobs (which fortunately got better) and in the early days I often worked in the evening too. Fast forward many years and although money was super tight, I went down to two days after my first maternity leave. I knew from the outset that time with my eldest was more important than money. I worked there for five happy years and took voluntary redundancy eighteen months ago. 

On paper I’m now being bankrolled by my husband, but I don’t view this negatively. It’s hardly like I’m swanning around having long boozy lunches every day. I’m raising our three children, and home educating our autistic daughter. This is no small thing, and I’m astonished that I manage to write anything most days.

On the evenings that hubby is out training, once the kids are asleep, I’m usually good for nothing. Knowing that I’ll be woken up multiple times throughout the night, I’ve taken to going to bed shortly after they do. In an attempt to maximise my writing efforts, I’m using that teeny tiny window to read a book that will help me be a better writer. My hope is that I’ll get a big chunk of the rewrite done for my novel on our holiday in May.

My own money

I earn a very modest amount of money through blogging, and although I could put myself out there more and take on extra work, I don’t want to. I like that I’m not attached to social media 24/7 chasing potential opportunities, and that I can fully switch off from blog land. I came to the conclusion over a year ago that I wouldn’t be able to successfully home educate and write prolifically. 

I’ve had plenty of time to make my peace with that.

So I don’t beat myself up over it. I’m in the very fortunate position, for the first time ever, for someone else to take care of the finances.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I like it

The additional pressure to earn more on top of all the other pressures I’m under would surely tip me over the edge. Hats off to anyone who is winning whilst doing everything work wise and everything kid wise. (If anyone reading now is in this position high five!) Raising children, and home educating, is bloody hard going. It’s all-consuming and life affirming at once. It will destroy your mental health if you’re not in a good place, and make you realise how strong you are during happier days.

The way I see it is that it’s a team effort. Just so happens to be my husband who is working full time and earning the roof-over-our-heads-food-in-our-bellies money. For the moment at least. I have absolutely no qualms with being bankrolled by him at this stage in our lives. We both have equally tough jobs, and we both respect what the other is doing.

Maybe one day when the children are older I’ll get some proper writing done, and become a bestselling author. Then he can take a break from the work place, and we can swap roles.

After all, none of us has a crystal ball. Who knows what the future holds?

How I Plan to Get my Novel Published Before the Year is Out

How I Plan to Get my Novel Published Before the Year is OutOn December 31st 2013 I made a very small bucket list for the year ahead.

1. Write the book
2. Stay sane

Getting Become the Best You not only written in 2014, but also published, remains one of the greatest achievements of my life.

How did I manage it, you might be wondering? Well, I simply made that damn book my priority. Writing was the closest to ‘me time’ I was getting, which is understandable given that my third child was also born that year. Rather than go back to sleep after his 4am feed, I stayed awake and cracked on with the book.

A new idea 

After the initial hype of Become the Best You had died down, I started getting itchy fingers. I wrote a short story and published it on the blog, not expecting much. The positive response was a pleasant surprise and I started thinking about how I could turn those 2000 words into an actual novel.

Was I really capable of pulling it off? The short answer is yes I was.

how to get a book publishedI wrote snippets in 2015, but at the beginning of 2016 I realised I needed to make writing a priority once again. So I did. Every single day I wrote. Every spare chunk of time I had was dedicated to writing (even if it was only five minutes sitting on the loo). I took every opportunity I could, and just wrote my heart out. It was a very liberating experience. 

A great response  

By the summer, I had a decent first draft on my hands. I sent it out to my beta readers, who all loved it. They each had brilliant feedback for me too, and I’ll be eternally grateful to them for reading my words in their infancy.

I had a manuscript critique carried out, and the suggestions from the editor all sounded doable. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of work I was faced with, and started straight away making edits on the printed manuscript. I did a Facebook Live, where I read out the synopsis and answered questions, which went better than expected. I changed the title of the book from Kate’s Story to Picking up the Pieces. I started thinking about a cover, and what my publishing options were.

It was all going a bit too well.  

Then life got in the way 

I wrote recently about how low I felt towards the end of last year, and my novel was one of the areas that suffered most. I completely lost confidence in my writing abilities.

Suddenly the background noise became all-consuming and I couldn’t find the time to continue with my edits. The task at hand now felt like an inexplicable amount of work, that I didn’t have a hope with completing. Worst of all, I started truly believing that the story was a pile of crap. What was the point in bothering to finish a book that no-one would buy or read?

how to get a book publishedSo the manuscript languished for months on my kitchen counter. My enthusiasm died down, so people stopped asking for updates. 

Now that I’m getting back to feeling like me again, I’ve been thinking about the novel. A lot. I mean, what a waste of effort it would be to not get it finished! The only way it’s going to happen is by being single minded about it, and regular followers of this here blog will already know that I’m a force to be reckoned with when I put my mind to something.

So here’s my plan of action 

Tuning out to the noise. I’ve fallen into the trap lately of being easily distracted, and it needs to stop. No amount of me being on social media is going to change what’s happening in the world, so it’s time to step away from the feeds. 

Tuning out to the self-doubt. All writers doubt themselves, and think their stories are rubbish at some point, that’s just a fact. The trick is to find a way of pushing past those negative thoughts, and turning them into something positive. Perhaps certain parts of the story are a bit crap, and need more work than others. Perhaps self-doubt is actually a writer’s way of facing up to what we already know? 

how to get a book publishedTuning out to the idea that I don’t have the time. I know from past experience that if I need to find the time for something that’s important, then I will. For me, editing is trickier than writing. I need peace and quiet to edit, whereas I can happily write anywhere. That doesn’t make it impossible though, I just need to be regimented about making the time, and protecting that time once I’ve made it. 

Tuning out to the idea that it’s too big and too scary. Last night, I took a big deep breath and opened the manuscript. I spent two hours working on it, and felt so bloody good afterwards. Once I get a routine established, the book will just become part of my day to day. 

Tuning out to the idea that no-one will read it. When I published my first book I was quite naive about how it all works. This time around I’m not under any illusions. I know full well how hard it is to sell books in such a saturated marketplace. This time I’m not doing it because I’m secretly hoping it’ll go viral (although that would be awesome!) I’m doing it for me. 

It’s high time I did something that I’m super proud of. Wish me luck!

What I Learnt from my Recent Book Promotion 

what-i-learnt-from-my-recent-book-promotionLast week my self-help book/memoir Become the Best You was on offer on the Kindle store for 99p. I was hoping the promotion would revive it a little, and I’m pleased to report that it did just that. I also learnt a thing or two along the way, which is always a bonus. 

You can’t force or hurry success

I was thrilled at how well the book initially did when I first self-published at the end of 2014. I took annual leave from work, and approached the launch like it was my job (while all of my children were at school or nursery). It was impossible for me to keep that momentum going though, and pretty quickly I was in the territory of not having any time to promote the book at all. Without promoting the book, sales rapidly dropped.

I can imagine that every author, especially self-published ones, hope they’ll have a viral success on their hands, and that word of mouth will sell their book. Unfortunately having a great product that people rave about simply isn’t enough. Competition is fierce in the book business, and there’s a ton of hard work and truck load of luck that is needed along the way. A little help from our friends doesn’t go amiss either.

Special thanks to fellow bloggers Vicki and Tim for featuring me on their super successful blogs during the promotion. You can read my guest post on Honest Mum here, and interview on the Meet the Parents Podcast here

You need a seriously thick skin to survive as an author

There’s only so much self-promotion I’m comfortable doing, yet I still feel like I’m in danger of boring everyone by banging on about my book. If you haven’t snagged a fabulous agent or huge publisher who will champion you and treat you like part of their family, then you’ll need a massive audience into the hundreds of thousands to guarantee sales.

john-irving-thick-skin-quoteCards on the table, my book selling mission mostly feels like pushing jelly up a hill. The effort it takes to sell one book can be immense, because people don’t like parting with their cash unless they know they are going to like what they get. Even then it can still be tricky. The upside of being one of the little guys though, is that the lucky breaks are unbelievably awesome when they come, however small time they might be.

I’m proud of this book

Shortly after I published the book, one of the school mums asked if I felt that I was on display now, and whether I felt uncomfortable about people having access to all this knowledge about me. I honestly hadn’t even considered I would feel like that until she asked, but I suppose I do in some respects. I guess I’m giving anyone and everyone the opportunity to pick at my old wounds, and reopen them, if they wish to do so.

Mostly people have been supportive, but I have been trolled. I was told in no uncertain terms that walking away from family is the biggest sin you can possibly commit. That I should be ashamed of myself for taking drugs and sleeping around when I was younger, and that I deserved everything that came to me.  

Do I wish I had never written the book? Absolutely not. Am I proud of this book? Hell yeah.

Small consistent progress is the best kind of progress

“You need to remember why you wrote the book in the first place.” My husband said recently, while I dried my tears of frustration. When I was writing the book, all I could think about was getting it finished. I thought that publishing it and holding it in my hands would be enough, but who honestly goes to all that trouble (and cost) of writing and publishing a book, to have no-one read it?

I’ve come to the conclusion that success for me is making a genuine difference in real people’s lives. On that note, I’d like to leave you with an email that I received from a reader.

“Reneé, I really enjoyed your book and getting to know you a little better by reading it. 

Firstly, I thought that the beginning of the book was very easy to identify with. I would have liked to have found it when I was a lot younger, when I first started to analyse my life and patterns of behaviour. Great to introduce you into thinking in different ways and questioning the repeat offenders in your life, including yourself.

When I got to the middle of the book, I found it pricked my conscience on a number of issues I had brushed to the side conveniently and ‘not dealt with’. Once I stopped mentally squirming uncomfortably (thanks for that!) I decided to lay to rest a couple of issues which really needed to be confronted and I have to say, it wasn’t easy.

After a bit of further support from a very old friend, I kind of did though! I’m not sure I would have started the task of cutting a tie, let alone completed the task if i hadn’t read your book and spoken to my mate, but the combination worked well. It may take a repeat though as some ties are bloody stubborn but I know it can no longer be ignored.

Some relationship patterns are so ingrained in you it’s really, really hard to break it along with other associated enforcers. I’d like to know how to keep them at bay…………any tips? I seem to need to repeat them every few years or so with the same person.

The end of the book, is also very easy to follow. It gives you practical, black and white advice for many situations you can find yourself in and a perfect ending to a book that gives you a wake up call in the beginning.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t do the exercise because firstly I feel I’ve already been doing that for the last ten years at least. Your book was a really good reminder of how I used to be and pushed my refresh button.

Thanks for sharing it with us.”

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Manuscript Critique aka The Best Money You Can Spend on Your Book

manuscript-critique-aka-the-best-money-you-can-spend-on-your-book**this is not a sponsored post**

When I had written what I considered to be a brilliant first draft of my now-published book, I sent it off to a top literary agency for a manuscript critique. The editor was highly experienced, and I paid handsomely for his wisdom.

The brutal truth

I’m not going to lie, I had high hopes of him telling me that it was going to be the next big thing. That he would be handing it over to his agent friends asap, who would of course ensure that it fast became a best seller. What actually happened was a different story.

He was complimentary about my writing abilities, but he also gave me a laundry list of holes that needed to be filled. It was a tough blow, and for the first couple of days I considered ditching the entire idea of the book altogether. Then I pulled myself together, had a stern word in the mirror, and cracked on with incorporating his advice into draft number two. About six months and several drafts, later, and Become the Best You went from being a pipe dream to making the Top 50 of the Amazon best sellers chart. Not a bad self-published effort.

There was no hesitation second time around 

Fast forward two years, and I had a first draft novel on my hands. I knew that it was in much better shape than my first book at the same point, as I had tinkered with it relentlessly before even considering it a first draft. I sent it off to the same editor who did a marvellous job on Become the Best You, and she gave me a brilliantly insightful manuscript critique. 

She assured me that the tone was perfect, and the writing was great (phew). She also said that there were no significant plot holes (woohoo), and that I had it nailed from a continuity perspective. She said my characters are likeable and believable, and that people will be able to relate to them (yay).

BUT

She also highlighted the areas where I was doing a bit too much telling, and not enough showing. The places that needed more dialogue, and a few sections where I had switched from third person narrative to a character’s point of view (something I was unaware of doing whilst writing, and editing, although seems ridiculously obvious now). All of her comments were a revelation, and have helped me massively with writing the next draft.

I am also extremely fortunate that my dear friend, and school teacher Mel, went through the manuscript and corrected everything that was grammatically incorrect. 

My beta readers have provided a constant stream of confidence boosting, and have been unbelievably supportive. I’m planning on writing a whole post about that another time.

So now I’m working on draft three. Whilst trying to find an agent. I’ll keep you posted on progress 🙂

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