My first book Become the Best You was self-published on Amazon in November 2014. Several months later I was offered a deal with an independent publisher, but it didn’t work out. For many reasons, we made the mutual decision to terminate my contract earlier this year. I’ve thought long and hard about what to do next, and have decided to sell the book directly here on the blog.

You can now buy the e-book version of Become the Best You for just £1.99 (£1 cheaper than it was on Amazon)  




The print version of Become the Best You is just £4.99 including UK postage* (£2 cheaper than it was on Amazon)




What’s the book about?

For those not in the know, Become the Best You details how I broke free from a dysfunctional past to ensure that my children have a dramatically different upbringing to the one I had.

I began writing it in the January (2014) when I went on maternity leave just before Freddy was born. Most of the first draft was written on my tablet while my little man feasted on boobies in the early hours of the morning. The book started to properly take shape over the summer, and after blood, sweat, tears, anguish, more tears and undergoing two professional edits, it was published at the end of the November.

With so many self-help books out there telling you what to do by qualified professionals, why should you listen to a word I have to say? I don’t have letters after my name or a rags to riches story, so why should you bother reading this book?

become the best youCan you identify with this list of demons that I had to conquer?
– Raised by parents who had dysfunctional childhoods and subsequently had one myself
– Moved house lots and went to many schools
– Suffered bullying in several schools
– Suffered sexual abuse as a child
– Left home at a very young age after not finishing school
– Struggled with depression
– Got into a lot of debt
– Had very little self-respect
– Used to sleep around
– Abused drugs and alcohol
– Put myself into unnecessary, dangerous situations

What do I hope you will achieve by reading the book?
– The ability to make peace with your past
– The ability to look in the mirror and like what you see
– The ability to find your inner strength and start respecting yourself
– The courage to re-define the rules of relationships that have become toxic
– The courage to cut ties with people who make you miserable
– The courage to break the cycle, keep it broken and become the best you

What the book doesn’t do
– Use overly complicated words or examples that are difficult to understand
– Go into minute detail telling you exactly what to do
– Patronise you and assume that you aren’t capable of turning your life around

Here’s what a Top 500 Amazon reviewer had to say about the book

“I received this book for free from the publisher in return for a review. The following is my honest opinion on this book:

Many people have a happy, well-adjusted upbringing. But plenty of us have had a dysfunctional childhood, a past that haunts us and causes us to create a repeating pattern of negative behaviour. If you feel like you’ve been stuck in this pattern of self-destructive behaviour, feel you are repeating the mistakes of your parents or just want to be able to let go of the past then this book is for you.

This book is an easy read and at 104 pages it won’t take long but the advice given will inspire anyone to motivate themselves to change. I’ve picked up many self-help books in the past and a lot of what I’ve read in this book I have already read in others, but what makes Renee Davis’ book unique is that she herself has had a dysfunctional past. The whole book isn’t written from the perspective of a therapist or trained professional who knows what to advise but hasn’t experienced it, no, Renee Davis is just a normal person who has gone through the process of breaking from her dysfunctional past and now she advises us how to do it too.

Renee is very open about her past and her own dysfunctional and destructive young adulthood. It is because of this openness that the book is really readable and relatable. While you may not have gone through the exact same things as Renee you really feel as if a friend is helping you deal with everything rather than a tone of being told what to do, which many other self-help books can be like.

Each chapter of the book starts with an inspiring quote to get you motivated.”

To learn more about the book, check out this podcast interview I did with Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham

If you still aren’t convinced, check out these blog reviews

Leigh from Headspace Perspective 

Zena from Zena’s Suitcase

*Get in touch for a postage quote if you are outside the UK. 

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 🙂

whatimwriting

HOw to write a bookI’m very pleased to report that I have reached my target and finished draft one of my second book, a fiction novel clocking in at almost 80,000 words.

Getting to this stage is a wonderful feeling, and I’m trying to enjoy it rather than thinking too much about the next bit. Everyone knows that the hard part (and some might say real work) is in the editing, editing, and more editing that needs to be done to get a book reader-worthy.

No doubt I’ll also agonise over the cover and the blurb that goes on the back for weeks, and then of course there is the promotional side of things. Unless you’re lucky enough to find yourself snapped up by a top literary agent who will do the majority of the leg work for you. One can dream, but the odds are stacked against new authors with most agents only taking on a handful each year.

You might be wondering how a busy mum of three found the time to write a book?

I get asked a lot how I find the time to write, and the shortest answer is that I take my writing very seriously. Carving out time amid family life can be tough, but if you are going to make writing a book more than just an unattainable pipe dream then you will also find the time. It’s as simple as that. Click here to see how other successful authors do it.

As for me, I though it might be useful to share the background to the book, and some of the insights I’ve learnt on my writing journey so far.

Some pointers on how to write a book

You will need a good idea for a storyline. The first chapter of my book was originally written as a short story, but was so well received that I decided to see if I could possibly do what I’ve always wanted to do and write a book from it. Kate’s Story tells the tale of a wife and mum of two who has an affair with her ex, and ends up losing everything as a result. The first chapter tells you the basics, the story is then told in reverse, to see how she gets from the person she was, to the person she becomes.  

Remove distractions. And by distractions I’m looking at you Facebook, Twitter, IG , Snapchat, etc, etc. Social media is a huge noisy distraction, and writing amid the chaos can be nigh on impossible. Start by removing the phone apps, and never open social media websites when you get the laptop out for a writing session. If you’re a blogger ask yourself honestly about the content and frequency that you’re posting. Can you cut down, and can you smartly promote your posts, rather than being glued to your notifications? I made a huge decision at the end of last year, and took a big step back from my blog. Not only have I written a book in the spare time I used to dedicate to blogging, but my blog has gone from strength to strength. Good content is all about quality not quantity.  

Just write. Even if you know it’s not going to be your best work, writing something is always better than writing nothing. I’ve had evenings where my brain has been so frazzled from my day with the children that I could barely string a sentence together. BUT, even adding a sentence to the word count is preferable to leaving it the same as it was the day before.  

Glorious writing setting, the Take every opportunity to write that you possibly can. My kids hate me ‘doing work’ around them, and are very intolerant of me being on the phone or laptop in their presence. Also, with my sleep situation being as horrendous as it is, staying up late or getting up before the rest of my family (kids are up at 5:30-6am) is not an option. I also like to have a relatively tidy house. All this means I’ve had to be super creative about making time to write. My exercise bike workouts have doubled up as writing sessions; I took my laptop on our recent holiday and wrote while the girls were at kids club; and I’m that naughty mummy who doesn’t switch her phone off in the cinema. I’d rather give the film just 50% of my attention, if it means I get to finish off a chapter. 

Squash the monsters. Do not let the self-doubt demons get the better of you. They are vile little creatures who get inside your head and destroy your confidence, the trick is not opening the door and allowing them in in the first place. From what I gather it is perfectly healthy to doubt yourself at points of the book writing process, but being plagued with self-doubt is going to seriously hinder your growth. If you’re finding that the monsters are winning too often, and you need a bit of help figuring out where they’re coming from, you might find my first book Become the Best You useful.     

Us writers need cheerleaders. One of the best things I did was join a writing group, and the encouragement we give each other is invaluable. From thrashing around ideas safe in the knowledge that they won’t get ripped off, to helping me push through the self-doubt, my What I’m Writing crew have been amazing. Huge thanks to you all, you know who you are! 

It should be fun. If it’s not then there could be something fundamentally wrong with your story, so you might want to rethink continuing as is, and change some stuff. 

Have you written a book? What are your top tips for aspiring authors? I’d love to hear from you!

An Update on my Novel (8th March 2016)“How’s the book going?”

Pretty good actually! I love being able to say that.

I’ve now written about 25,000 words, which is just under a third of the 80,000 I’m aiming for. I know that realistically not all of these words will make the final cut, but I consider it a damn good start seeing how challenging I’ve found getting the writing off the ground.

My self-help book/memoir Become the Best You is only 20,000 words in its entirety, but a novel is different. In the self-help world the fewer words the better, people want you to get STRAIGHT TO THE POINT. For a novel, you need to set the scene and paint the picture, and make the reader feel as though they are right there in that moment. Writing the fluff that fills up pages, yet isn’t going to have the reader rolling their eyes and skimming onto the next paragraph is a real art form. It’s one I’m learning to embrace, but it doesn’t come naturally!

When I was piecing together the snippets I’d already written a few weeks ago, I was surprised to learn that I wrote the first chapter way back in April last year. Friday the 13th was originally a short story, which meant it had to have a distinct start, middle and end. I can’t remember why I decided to develop it, and attempt to turn it into an actual book, but I’m glad I did. I’m really enjoying writing fiction, delving into my protagonist’s mind and making up a world that bears similarities to my own, but is completely different in many respects.

Story mapping on index cards

Mapping out the story on index cards was a great move, and means that my half an hour here, hour there writing sessions are much more focussed because I roughly know what I’d like to say beforehand. I’ve also given every single character (even the ones who are only in the book for a few pages) an identity, which has made them feel much more real than they did previously.

I’ve been concentrating on a chapter at a time, not necessarily in order of where it comes in the book, and I don’t move on until I’ve written at least 2000 words. Some chapters have taken a couple of days to write, others a week or more. Each time I go back to it, I look for errors and give it a quick edit. By doing this I hope to have less editing to do when I go through the novel as a whole, but that of course remains to be seen. I’m not sure this is the most efficient way of writing a book, but it’s definitely working for me, and that’s what counts. 

I’m aiming to have a first draft completed by my birthday at the end of July, but knowing how much life can get in the way, I won’t be piling unnecessary pressure onto myself. 

**This blog has been written for what I’m writing, feels good to be back 🙂

WhatImWriting

Exclusive Interview with Author and Illustrator Chrissy ByersI am absolutely thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview today with Australian children’s author and illustrator Chrissy Byers. This is a must read for anyone hoping to follow in Chrissy’s footsteps and publish a book for kids, so grab yourself a cuppa (or hide in the loo!) and enjoy…     

“Written, illustrated and self-published by Chrissy Byers, ‘The Magic in Boxes’ is a 52 page children’s book, manufactured using recycled materials, and inspires children to engage in creative play using the humble cardboard box. Written in rhyming couplets, with some repetitive text, this book is bound to become a favourite with your child. Suitable for children 0-7 years. Sample pages of the book can be viewed on the official website. Free international postage available through The book depository.”

Tell us a little about yourself, and what inspired you to the write / illustrate the book

I was born in the small country town of St George in South-West Queensland, Australia where I was fortunate to spend my childhood living on my parents’ cotton farm. As a child I loved stories and would often write and illustrate little books. It has been my life-long dream to be an author and illustrator. As a teenager I was discouraged to pursue this as a career due to the competitive nature of the book industry.

Thoroughly enjoying the idea of working with young children and delighting at the chance to discover first hand from classroom experience, what works well in children’s literature, I embarked on a teaching career spanning a decade and a half. The majority of which was teaching in a North London School in the UK. As a dedicated teacher I did not have time to focus on any writing or illustrating, anything spare went on travelling Europe!

I took a break from teaching after having my boys, and once they started school I was finally presented with the opportunity to write and illustrate my first book ‘The Magic In Boxes’.

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How long did it take you from conception of idea to holding the book in your hands for the first time?

The concept of the book and the photos taken for the illustrations occurred three years before publication, but most of the work was done in the last eighteen months. It was all too much of a juggle while the boys were so young.

Why did you decide to go down the self-publishing road?

After submitting mock-up booklets to several Australian publishing houses, and getting rejections, I felt I couldn’t let all my hard work sit on the shelf. I was fortunate to have some talented friends who could help me with the language edits and graphic designer details required to get the book to a professional standard.

It was important to me to keep my 52 pages and use recycled materials in the books entirety – which would never have come to fruition if a publishing house had taken me on. Being self-published provides the opportunity to make decisions based on integrity rather than the dollar sign.

The up-side of self publishing is that you get things done your way; the down-side is that you got things done your way! 

Tell us one thing that you would do the same again next time, and one thing that you would change

I’m really proud of the paper choices. I hope to have achieved a book which the reader is pleasantly surprised to discover is self-published.

I am sticking to the standard 32 page plan for the follow-up book, ‘The Magic in Dress-Ups’. Printing costs for this book were crippling, and the extra weight bumps up postage when sending it out.

What would your top tip for aspiring writers / illustrators be?

Surround yourself with positive and supportive friends! There will be enough knock backs and disappointments along the way, but if this is something that you really, really want then the only thing holding you back is you! If this is your dream, then you will make it happen if you want it desperately enough.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us Chrissy, I can relate to a lot of what you’ve said here. From the juggle of small children, to making decisions based on integrity and surrounding yourself with wonderful friends… 

We love your awesome book in my house and cannot recommend it highly enough. To learn more about this wonderful lady, visit her website Books by Chrissy Byers. You can buy the book directly, or through The Book Depository with free international postage.