River Currents

Sometimes I think of what we could

Have been

And in my fantasy it’s always

beautiful

But in reality

It may not have been

And the most beautiful thing of all about this

Is that you can be whatever you want

But my love for you is mine alone

Impervious to change

And it’s something I can hold onto

Because fantasies can never be broken

In the same way reality can

So my love can stay pure and innocent

In the same blossoming form it started out as

And I will never learn to hate you

Because a love that never truly happened can never truly die.

 

Tried out a new style of poetry today inspired by some of the instapoetry accounts I’m following at the moment. The fluid, undulating structure is meant to represent river currents and the fantasy, dream-like atmosphere of the poem. What do you think? Let me know!

On a side note, my novel ‘This Really Happened’ is free on amazon until 30/09. Would love it if you could download it! Thanks!

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BOOK LAUNCH: This Really Happened

It’s BOOK LAUNCH day! It’s March 1st and to celebrate the start of spring, my New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ is now available on Amazon worldwide!

I can’t say how excited I am. This book has been years in the making. I started it during my first year at University, when I was studying a creative writing degree. It was the best year of my life and I was desperate to immortalise it somehow, so I decided to write about it.

While the events and characters in ‘This Really Happened’ are purely fictional (luckily my university experiences were nowhere near this traumatic), the emotion behind it is very real. The excitement, the scary and liberating idea of independence, the confusion, the loneliness, the forging of strong friendships that will last a lifetime. University is a rollercoaster; for many it’s their first time leaving home, which can be both a positive and negative thing. It’s a chance to take responsibility for your own life, to live by your own rules and discover new sides to yourself that you didn’t even know existed. It’s intense, and tiring, but also life-affirming and life-changing in so many ways.

I don’t see enough books about University out there. The literary narrative for young people nowadays seems to stop as soon as they reach 18, at which point they’re deemed ‘adults’. But life doesn’t work that way and age can’t be defined by a number or the ability to legally buy alcohol. Leaving home and trying to forge your own path in life is only the beginning. I think, more than anything, age is defined by experiences. So at the heart of it, ‘This Really Happened’ is a coming-of-age story. It’s a story about a group of young people learning to be responsible adults and dealing with all the obstacles that life throws at them.

You can buy ‘This Really Happened’ online here: 

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Follow me on Facebook

I’m also looking to give away a limited number of review copies – if this is something you would be interested in, please get in contact

 

 

This Really Happened: Excerpt

 

This really happened
POSTED ON FEBRUARY 24, 2014 / BY ERIN T / LEAVE A COMMENT / FACEBOOK

Have you ever wished you could go back and change something? Thought about all the things you would’ve done differently? Everyone has regrets, even the people who claim they don’t. The world is full of shit that could have been avoided with the power of hindsight. And it’s natural to wonder about the what-ifs, the could-have-beens, even though it won’t change anything. They’re just so much easier to believe in than reality.

I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a story about one night when everything changed, a night I go back to all the time, seeing my mistakes and wishing I could go back and change my own mind. Maybe if I could, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. Maybe if I could, the chain of events that followed wouldn’t have happened.

The story starts with Rita Ora: they were playing her in the club again that night, for the third week in a row. It wasn’t a bad song really, but it wasn’t my thing. The others didn’t seem too keen either; Allen was grimacing, Gabe had disappeared into the mass swarming the bar area long ago.

Through a haze of people, I spied Dan wrapped around a tall blonde girl, seemingly fused at the lips. Definitely his type. Ava was tottering around in her high heels, trying to simultaneously dance and stay upright. I was a happy medium; tipsy enough to feel that familiar warm buzz, sober enough to get myself home if I needed to. This was going to be a good night, I decided. Maybe one of the best. With everything that had happened, it’d been a while since all six of us had done something together and I’d really missed it.

Suddenly Charlotte appeared next to me, her whole face a bright, sweaty pink that complimented her fiery hair. “Selfie!” she demanded, throwing an arm around my shoulders and holding up a camera in front of us. We pressed our faces together and grinned stupidly up into the lens as it went click.

“You’ve got a bit of flush going on you know,” I laughed. “You’re completely red.”

She poked her cheeks in disbelief. “Really? Where?”

“Um, everywhere.”

She looked devastated. “But I don’t wanna look like a tomato.”

“Maybe you’ve just had a bit too much.”

She stumbled, nearly pulling me down with her. “Urgh…can we go outside for a bit? I need some air.”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.”

I half-carried, half-dragged her out of the club, past the main square until we found a more secluded set of steps to sit on. It was 2am in the morning and the campus was alive; all the lights were still on and students wandered around in groups, helping drunk friends back to their dorms. Friday night was always the most popular club night.

Charlotte immediately curled up and gripped her head in her hands, trailing ginger strands of hair through her fingers. She was shivering. I distantly realised that it must be freezing, even though the alcohol blanket had numbed me to it.

“Are you feeling okay?” I asked, tentatively placing a hand on her shoulder in what I hoped was a comforting gesture. “Do you think you might throw up?”

She shook her head but didn’t look up. “I-I’m just so cold,” she spoke through chattering teeth. Then she began to cry. It started out as a quiet sort of sniffling, but quickly turned into loud, messy sobbing. I was, understandably, alarmed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, but she didn’t answer and only cried harder. Eventually, after ten minutes, she calmed down and sat up, looking at me through red-rimmed, watery eyes.

“Thank you,” she slurred.

I was beyond confused. “What for?”

“I’m not sure. Just thank you. For existing, I guess.”

“Um, you’re welcome?”

“I really like your existence,” she continued. “I think it’s great, honestly.”

“Charlotte, you’re really drunk right now.”

“I know, but I mean it. I want you to know that I appreciate you…being here. Does that make sense?”

I sighed and patted her shoulder. “Yeah. I like your existence, too.”

She smiled at me – a floaty, oblivious sort of smile that people only conjure up when they’re completely hammered. Then she leaned into my shoulder and I tentatively gave her a one-armed hug, feeling strangely protective of her. If I could redo that moment now, I wouldn’t have pulled away. I would have stayed there on those steps with her, holding her close. I would’ve made sure that nothing bad could happen to her. But I didn’t.

“Do you want to go home?” I asked, after a few minutes of comfortable silence. She shook her head. “Okay, water?” A small nod. “I’ll have to go buy some. Just wait here for me.”

I dragged myself up and crossed the road to get to the kebab van on the other side. I bought water for Charlotte and a burger for myself. Just as I was counting out the change I needed, I happened to glance in the direction of the road. I froze.

I felt like I was seeing it all in slow motion, an old black and white film on repeat.

Her stepping into the road. The car, sleek and black, careening around the corner. No. No, please god no –

The forever too-slow braking, the sound of wheels skidding. The car’s headlights illuminating her dazed expression for a moment like a spotlight as it made contact. Her lying on the ground. Too still, too still.

Then I heard screaming, distant and muffled, as if I was underwater. It took me a long time to realise that I was the one screaming.

This is an excerpt from my new New Adult novel ‘This Really Happened’ which will be released on Amazon March 1st! Read the blurb on my books page and follow for more sneak previews and updates coming soon. If you’re a book blogger and interested in getting an ARC review copy, get in contact at annmariemcqueen@aol.com 

7 Ways to Boost Your Book Sales

In my last post, I looked at how to prepare yourself for self-publishing. This time I’ll be focusing on what to do once your book is already out there, and how to increase your sales revenue. Here are my top tips for marketing your novel on Amazon:

  1. Start driving traffic towards your amazon page. Post the link on your social media accounts, your blog, everywhere you can. Change your signature in any forums you’re part of to your book cover, with a link to the book. Ask your friends or fellow bloggers to tweet the link out for you. Write some articles for news websites or online magazines. Make sure to include a mention of the book and that link in your bio at the bottom.
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  2. Send out review copies. Research book bloggers that you think will be a good fit for your book (there are many internet databases out there which make this much easier) then send them a message politely enquiring if they’d be interested in reviewing your book on their website. If they say yes, give them a free copy. In the internet book community high-profile book bloggers are basically celebrities. Their opinions matter. Get them on your side and you’re good to go. Just make sure to read through their review policies first.
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  3. Hold a giveaway. You can do this through Goodreads, or twitter, or any other social media website. Ideas include ‘like my Facebook page for a chance to win a free of copy of *insert your book title here*’ Everyone loves free stuff. Make them want your book, and get them to follow you while you’re at it.
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  4. Engage. When people leave you reviews, you can reply to them to say thanks. When people tweet about your book, tweet them back/retweet them. Leave reviews on other people’s books. Chat to other writers on forums. People appreciate you showing interest and making an effort.
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  5. Make it easy for your readers to follow you. At the end of your book, include a page with your social media handles, your website, info about any other books you’ve written and a ‘thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this book please leave a review.’ Asking for reviews actually makes people more likely to review the book.
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  6. Build up your writing CV. Submit short stories to magazines, and if they get published make sure to mention your book in your author bio. You can post excerpts of your book (up to 10%) or other things you’ve written on some popular writing sites such as WattPad. Publish multiple books on Amazon, since then you can cross-promote them.
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  7. Put your book on sale. Strategically putting your book on sale at the right times can have a massive effect on sales. Make it 99p or even free for a week and see how the book performs once it’s back up to full price. Usually if the book is good, a strategic sale will kickstart the domino effect and get people to start talking about the book. By the time it’s back up to full price, the word will be out and people who have heard about it based on recommendations will be willing to pay an extra pound or two for it.

 

Follow me for book reviews and more tips on self-publishing, writing and marketing. i’m also looking to host author interviews and guest blog posts in the future – if this is something you’d be interested in please get in contact!

8 Things you need to do before you self-publish

I recently wrote a post about my experiences of self-publishing on the Amazon Kindle store, explaining my reasons for going through with it and why I think it’s a great idea. However for those who are planning on trying it for the first time, it can be a daunting and scary prospect. I would recommend doing as much research as possible beforehand, to know what you’re getting into. Jumping into self-publishing without adequate preparation is a huge waste of an opportunity. Here are some of my top tips for preparing to self-publish your novel:

  1. Decide on your author brand: Are you going to use your real name, or a pseudonym? What sort of books will you write – romantic comedies or dark thrillers? How are you going to market yourself and to which type of audience? It’s a good idea to come up with a basic marketing plan before you start by choosing how you’re going to sell yourself. Your author name is essentially a brand you’re selling to potential readers, so understand it first before you try to pitch it to the wider public.

    .

  2. Start building your author profile: Get a twitter. Get a wordpress blog. Get an instagram. Start writing things, posting on your social media accounts regularly, and in general make your presence known on the internet. Try to keep the same sort of aesthetic and tone across all of these accounts – continuity and strong branding is the key here.

    .

  3. Research. Read up about digital marketing. Read other people’s blogs, read the kindle boards, read all of the FAQs and self-help sections on Amazon direct publishing. It’s there to help you. Take notes of the important points and make sure you fully understand everything and have a basic working knowledge of how the self-publishing world works before you attempt it.

    .

  4. Make a plan. Next week, I’l be going over book marketing strategies in detail. However your plan doesn’t have to be anything super complex. Build a list of resources for yourself, such as potential book bloggers to offer review copies to. Jot down names of forums you want to get involved in. Come up with a rough timeline of when you want to release the book, when you want to have a sale, when you want to make the book free for a week etc..

    .

  5. Engage. Don’t just passively post on the internet about your upcoming book release, it gets boring fast. Instead, take part in writer forums. Comment on other people’s blogs and start conversations on twitter with open-ended questions. There’s a huge book-loving community out there on the internet, with a lot of very valuable knowledge. Go out there and make the most of it. This way you’ll curate a much more engaged following and you’ll develop a relationship with your potential readers, so that when book launch day comes they’ll be much more likely to return the favour and promote it/buy a copy.

    .

  6. Edit your novel to perfection. It’s best to hire a professional editor or proofreader, though if you’re on a budget and can’t afford it, you should at least send it to a few friends to check over. Many writing forums, such as AW writer forum, offer opportunities for authors to swap novels and gain mutual feedback. Make sure you’ve also gone over your book until you’re sick of it. On average, I redraft a novel 3 times and then do a read-through edit 6-7 more times. By the end the novel barely even resembles the first draft. If you’re having trouble with certain areas of this, see my post 8 tips for writing a novel.

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  7. Get a professional-looking cover. If you’re capable of making one yourself, go for it. I always use my own photos for covers because it makes the copyright issue simpler, since I already own the photos. Canva is a brilliant online website that allows anyone to make beautiful looking book covers in less than half an hour. Google is full of free stock photos you can make use of. Just make sure you know who owns the copyright for the image. If you’re not confident making your own cover, many indie authors also design book covers pretty cheaply on the side.

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  8. Build up hype prior to the book release. Start this at least 1 month in advance of your launch date. Post excepts of the book and cover reveals on your blog. Mention it on social media. Hold a giveaway or a competition. If you look up ‘pre-launch marketing campaign’ on google there’s a whole bunch of articles out there with ideas on how to do this. By the time your launch day comes, it shouldn’t be a surprise to your audience, they should be eagerly anticipating it!

 

If you’ve found this article useful, please share it. Follow for more tips on marketing, writing and self-publishing. I’m also looking to host guest posts and author interviews – if you’re interested in taking part please get in touch!

 

My Amazon Self-Publishing Journey

I wrote my first novel, Cold Water, when I was thirteen. At the time I thought it was great, and enthusiastically shipped it off to literary agents expecting a publishing contract to land on my doorstep. Of course in hindsight it was actually pretty terrible, basically angsty-teenage word salad. I put it in a drawer for a few years and forgot about it. Then when I was seventeen, my dad suggested that I self-publish on Amazon. At first I was wary – would it be worth the effort? Would they just take away any royalties I made? But I decided to give it a shot because what did I have to lose at that point?

So I did it. I went back, I rewrote the entire novel until it didn’t make me want to physically cringe anymore, then I published it on the kindle store.

At first I only sold a few copies. I made some pocket money out of it, nothing glamorous but enough to give me a little electric buzz of happiness every time I saw the number go up. It gave me a purpose, something to work towards. And soon I became addicted to that feeling. I wanted more of it. I needed to sell more copies.

So I started doing some marketing, though at the time I didn’t really know that’s what it was called. I joined writing websites, forums, chat rooms. I’d made my own book cover so I flogged that thing everywhere I could. I posted samples and excerpts. I sent off review copies to book bloggers. I made the book free for a week. And then something amazing happened.

My sales went from 3 a week to 30 a day.

It was so incredible, so completely unexpected that I was honestly in shock for a very long time. I’d expected to sell maybe 10 books total. The real number was in the thousands. I still don’t completely understand how it happened, whether it can be attributed to my marketing efforts or luck. I expect it’s a bit of both along with good timing. I published at a time when the indie book market was just starting to take off, with people like Amanda Hocking and Jamie McGuire gathering fame.

I was still in school, trying to make decisions about University, and this was the thing that made the decision for me. I thought ‘look, I’ve got this novel out there, and people are reading it. They’re paying money for it and recommending it to their friends and blogging about it. So maybe studying Creative Writing isn’t a stupid idea. Maybe I could really do this one day for a living.’

I think of self-publishing as similar to starting up a business. Most people will go the traditional route of being employed by a company because there’s structure, guidance and a boss to give you jobs and targets. There’s stability and financial security. Building something yourself is different – you are completely accountable for your own success or failure. You’re not reporting back to anyone, there’s no one to tell you that what you’re doing is right or wrong. You’re essentially on your own, which can be both terrifying and liberating.

For me, and many others though, Amazon self-publishing gave me something I couldn’t find elsewhere. It gave me an opportunity to test myself. It gave me the chance to take control of my publishing experience and see how far I could go. It gave me the validation I so desperately needed at the time and the courage to base a huge life decision such as going to University on my writing. It  made me realise that writing could be more than just a hobby for me, that maybe there was an audience out there for it, I just had to reach out to them.

I’m not saying self-publishing is the right decision for everyone. Even now, I would love to have the approval of traditional publishing houses. But I do think it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s been an exciting journey up till now, one that I’ve learnt so much from and has made me a better writer. My initial dabbling in book promotion has led into a career in marketing, which I realised through that is something I enjoy.

So to anyone out there who’s undecided on whether or not to go for it, I say to you: ‘why not? What have you got to lose?’ It might just turn out to be everything you wanted, and more.

 

To find out more about my work, see my books page. Follow for updates on an exciting new release scheduled for next year, as well as more tips and tricks for self-publishing. I’m also looking to host author interviews and guest posts on my blog – if this is something you would be interested in, please get in contact!

 

 

Porto, 13/11/16

7pm.

Oportoflowers.
Flowers in Porto and
Pink-lit lanterns strewn above
City square stone, painted
Faces on outcrop walls
Fire in the sky and fire from
Inside, feet dangling ledges
Boats moored to hard edges
The view from the barricades
As you pulled me away
From the dancing bridge lights
From the streaming, flowing gold
From this city of angels and fear but
I’ve forgotten the lyrics to that song
And the lights will blow a fuse
In my head; they are burning
Through my vision, cars clamouring
in the late evening rush, headlights
Flaring like angry bulls as we weave
Back towards our starting point
Wandering, wandering
Finding this city in ourselves
Folding over and over again
Running between traffic lights
Spinning between tramlines
Trekking up steep alleys for –
What?
What are we looking for?
What is there here to find?

Unique blogger award

I’m super excited to announce that I’ve been nominated for the Unique Blogger Award! My blog is fairly new and this is my first award so it’s a big deal for me. I can’t thank Raistlin0903 enough for nominating me. Definitely go and check out his blog – he does some fantastic reviews of movies, TV and books. I’ve even discovered a great new anime series called ‘Orange’ through his blog which I’m really enjoying so far.

The Rules
• Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you
• Answer the questions
• In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 people for the same award
• Ask them three questions

The Questions

1 If there was anything you could change about your favourite movie or novel, to make it even more perfect, what would it be?

Not the most original answer, but my favourite book series is Harry Potter. And while I would not dare to suggest that such a masterpiece needs changing in any way, I really wish J.K would write a canon series about the marauders. She’s clearly interested in exploring more of the Potter universe which I think is great, but if she wrote a screenplay about the marauders I think I would actually die with happiness. There’s so much potential! Ah well, guess I will just have to satisfy my bromance cravings with fan-fiction for now.

2 Name three topics that you haven’t written a post on yet, but might be planning sometime in the future.

  1. I’m planning to write about my experiences with self-publishing through Amazon kindle, as I think it might be helpful to anyone thinking of going through the process too.
  2. I  want to write a ‘twitter guide’ for authors, as I think it’s an incredibly important tool for self-promotion and working in marketing has made me see social media in a whole new light.
  3. I’ve read a lot of excellent YA books lately dealing with mental health, so I will be doing a round up of those and discussing how mental health is portrayed in the YA genre.

3 If you could arrange a debate between two people that you admire, who would they be, and why would you want to let them debate?

Virginia Woolf and Caitlin Moran – obviously it’s not possible as Woolf is dead, but they’re both such different characters in the world of feminist writing that I think it’d be interesting to see them discuss it.

 

My nominations 
1 I’ve read this
2 Hokus Grey
3 Melanie Noell Bernard
4 The Magpie Says 
5 Swooning over fictional men
6 Dreaming the day
7 Scrambled Symbiosis
8 Wild and Whirling Words

 

My questions

  1. What’s one cliche or trope that you secretly really enjoy in a book, movie or TV show?
  2. If you could have a dinner date with one fictional character, who would it be and why?
  3. What’s the next thing you’re looking forward to?

8 tips for writing a novel

So recently I’ve decided to get more active in the online writing community. I think the internet provides so much opportunity for writers to connect, to share knowledge and help each other improve, more so than writers in the past have ever had. It’s a resource I’m determined to make the most out of. The writers forums and sites I’m currently part of are incredibly supportive; they include a mix of professional authors and beginner writers and provide a safe space, free of judgement, for people to have open and honest conversations about their writing. It’s something a younger, pre-University version of me would have killed for.

As part of this new resolution I applied to be part of the The Literary Consultancy’s ‘free read’ scheme which is a merit-based scheme offered to low-income writers who they see as having potential. I was accepted into the scheme and quickly paired up with YA author C.J flood, author of ‘Infinite sky’, who wrote me a detailed report on the 20k words I submitted to her of my current WIP.

As promised, a few weeks later I received a 7 page pdf with some very insightful comments on my storyline, character development and general writing technique. I’m super happy with the quality and the clarity of the report: sure, it wasn’t a glowing review of what I’ve convinced myself is my best book yet (I convince myself that every novel I write is going to be ‘the one’ until I get disillusioned and decide to start all over, so this is nothing new) but what I have learnt are some invaluable, personalised tips that I’ll be thinking about the next time I sit down to write. So for anyone who wants to improve as a writer, I would highly recommend applying for the TLC scheme.

Though the report was specific to my current novel, I decided that Flood’s insights were too good to be kept to myself and I’ve compiled a short list in my own words of some of her best general writing tips.

1. Clarify your characters’ motives: characters drive a story. But before rendering a character in text, it’s important that you understand who that character is, what drives them, what motivates them to make the decisions they do. If you’re not completely sure about your character’s motives, then you can’t expect the reader to know either, and it will weaken every aspect of the story. People want to read about characters they can relate to, and relating is based on some form of understanding. Don’t just imply a motive, be very clear about what your character wants and why they want it. I think the mistake I made is that I spent too long on the ‘how’ and not enough on the ‘why.’ Especially with fast-paced, plot-centric stories, it’s an easy trap to fall into. One thing I recommend to help with this is to write up character profiles or biographies that includes background, family history, unique traits/habits etc…

2. Avoid the manic pixie dream girl/boy: Clarifying motives and building character shouldn’t only be all about the protagonist. Does the protagonist have a best friend, side-kick, love interest? Do they have their own storyline or is it all about backing up the protagonist? Make sure you spend time building their character too. Give them a history, a personality, a whole other life that exists outside of their relationship to your protagonist. A couple of strange quirks does not make them a realistic, 3-dimensional character; giving them independent goals does. Why are they so invested in helping your MC? What do they get out of it? Maybe it’s love, maybe it’s money or power or something else entirely. Something is driving them to act the way they do. Explore it in subtle ways. Maybe you’ll find that it changes more in your story than you thought it would.

3. The ‘Cut and Pace’ approach: Even pacing in a story keeps the plot flowing nicely and gives it a sense of rhythm, like a calm river flowing down a one-way channel with no blockages in sight. You don’t want blockages. You don’t want a great big dam in the middle of your story, or even worse every few pages. Best way to fix this? Cut and pace, cut and pace. Usually it’s best to write out the story you want to tell first, then go back and cut all the necessary stuff, i.e the slow bits that don’t move the plot along or build character. Be ruthless with your cutting. I know it hurts, and sometimes I can’t bring myself to take out passages because I get attached to them, but do you really need that extra metaphor? Does that bit of dialogue really add anything? Don’t let your dramatic tension be diluted. Cut it out, go back and read it again, see if the pacing is any better. Rinse and repeat.

4. Show don’t tell: This is something we were told repeatedly in my screenwriting classes. But it rings true for prose as well: too often I see, even in acclaimed published books, the tell-tale signs of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ particularly when it comes to character’s backstories. Of course there are exceptions to this rule and sometimes it can be a stylistic thing, but if there’s a better way of bringing a scene to life then do that instead. I’m going to quote Flood here when she says: ‘sometimes when we write we are really telling ourselves the story.’ I thought it was a very profound statement. So don’t get too hung up on this in the first draft. Write what comes naturally, even if that is just to clarify certain things to yourself, and when you go back to edit you’ll have a much better idea of how you can turn that big block of backstory into something more engaging.

5. Don’t withhold too much information: It’s funny because often in creative writing classes you’re told to make sure you don’t spill all your secrets right away. However the opposite is also true: withholding too much information in your first few chapters frustrates your reader and causes them to lose interest. Crafting a good hook is probably one of the hardest elements in writing and it takes years and years of practice. You’re interested because you know all about this world you’re creating, but remember that your reader is starting from nothing. You have to start from the basics and world-build all over again except inside their heads this time. I would suggest taking some time out, reading other books written in your genre, and seeing how they handle it. Read like an English student would i.e read critically. Analyse how those books create dramatic tension and whether or not it’s working. Then go back to your own work and edit it line by line, making sure you’re saturating each sentence with as much detail about setting, character and plot as you can without it sounding like a lecture or an info-dump.

6. Raising the stakes: As the story progresses, make sure to keep the reader hooked by gradually raising the stakes, eventually resulting in some sort of climax where everything is resolved (or not resolved, I guess). This is generally quite a linear story structure and not every good book follows it in that order, but there is that whole saying that you should know the rules first before breaking them. Link the stakes to your character’s motives and use that to create conflict: MC wants something, but there’s an obstacle in her way, how does she overcome it? Something that threatens the MC’s wellbeing, the attainment of her goals or both usually works best. There should also be some sort of emotional pull to it, as this is what keeps readers feeling engaged.

7. Make your dialogue work harder for you: Dialogue is built on the bones of real-life, authentic conversation, but then artificially constructed to give away details of plot development, character, setting, socio-economic class, relationships, power-relations and pretty much everything in between. If you’re not comfortable writing dialogue, trying some basic exercises like eavesdropping on a conversation and transcribing everything they say. Read it back to yourself. It will sound strange. The way we speak is actually incredibly disjointed, to the point where it makes you wonder how we manage to communicate at all. Of course dialogue in prose isn’t like this, but still, pay attention to the differences between how people talk and try to manifest those differences in the way your characters interact. Give them a voice, a tone. Does one of them come from a very posh background? Think about the sort of words they’d use, the way they might relate to the people around them and how this can be conveyed through dialogue. They might appear haughty, superior, patronising, or they might use long multi-syllabled words and less common phrases. What about their age, is the way they’re speaking appropriate for their maturity level?

8. Build a sense of place: Creating a setting for your story to play out and transporting your readers into that setting is incredibly important. You don’t have to go through the 5 senses every single time you’re describing somewhere, but at least try to keep them in mind and drop them in when it feels appropriate. Sometimes a particularly unusual and vivid metaphor or simile can bring a place to life and give it a certain feel: make sure to use figurative language to create the right atmosphere you want, something that fits the characters and the general tone of the novel.
That’s it! I’m sure for all you seasoned writers out there what I’ve said is nothing new, but if nothing else I hope it reminds you of some of the main things to keep in mind when drafting and editing. And for any beginner writers, or anyone thinking about writing for the first time, go for it! Despite my long wordy list writing isn’t all about the technical stuff. It’s a craft, yes, but one that’s supposed to be rewarding and fun. So while I’d suggest keeping in mind some of these points, it’s also important that you enjoy the process of writing itself and don’t let it turn into a chore.

Quality Street

You ask me what your best quality is
And I tell you you’re a coconut eclair,
Average blue on the outside
Tropical sea foam underneath
Waves roaring to the surface
White sand beaches on sugar-coat shores.

But you say coconut is for
Hipsters and lost souls
Those who lack a refined taste
The commoners of confectionary.
You see yourself as a caramel swirl,
Endlessly smooth, filled with buried treasure.
And I, this is where I come in,
I am the green Bermuda triangle to your
‘life is a box of chocolates’ analogy
That mystery space on the map you
Just can’t pin down, alluring with my
Sharp edges and crackle-foil shields
Just waiting to be discovered and claimed,
Claimed and unwrapped, loved because
I am original and unique
‘not like the others’
A rare species, you call me.

But my three sides are a lie and
You mistook the shade of green I am:
I’m the average one, plain milk chocolate
Or vanilla fudge, family-friendly and
Comforting when you’ve had a bad day.
I’m not your green light and I’m not the
Disappearing space in your head that
You keep trying to navigate even though
The compass needle spins arcing circles
And the stars realign every time you look up.

I do not exist in your praline dreams
Soft centres and chewy toffee fillings.
I am alive, I am real and
I am here
Living out my fantasies in a
Broken little house on quality street.