Bella’s Scribblings

Bella is a member of the RNA’s new writer’s scheme. She has recently finished her first novel, Acting on Impulse and she’s represented by The Kate Nash Agency. She lives with her husband, daughter and a deaf geriatric cat.
Every fortnight, Bella will be sharing tales and experiences from her writing journey.

Bella’s Scribblings: Running Off A Novel

rp_Bella-185x300111111-185x300-185x3001-185x300.jpgIf you a regular reader of Bella’s Scribblings (firstly – thank you and secondly apologies for any nasty side-effects) you may be aware of my custard cream addiction and fondness for all things cake and chocolate. As I writer I spend a lot of time sat on my backside, which can have frightening consequences for your derriere – the wonderful Jane Wenham-Jones talks eloquently about the curse of Writer’s Bottom in her ‘How to be a Writer’ books.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the combination of custard creams and sat on my bum for hours on end does not bode well for the future of my physique. After a particularly good Easter, where copious amounts of chocolate was consumed, I decided I should start doing some exercise. When the laughter had died down I explained that I was serious about it and started to investigate my options.

I embarked on the NHS Choices Couch to 5k program where you start off slowly and gradually increase the amount of time you run for with each session. In total it was only 30 mins each time, but even that small amount of time is tricky to find some days. At first I wondered what the point of this despicable torture was – my lungs sounded like the Hogwarts Express and felt like someone had set off a couple of fireworks in there, my leg muscles were agony and my face was a shade of red never before discovered. Continue reading

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Bella’s Scribblings: Dabbling in Different Genres

rp_Bella-185x300111111-185x300-185x300.jpgI understand it is quite common that writers like to have more than one project on the go or at the very least like to have an alternative writing outlet that they can indulge in. For example the lovely Miranda Dickinson, famed for her best-selling Romance novels, talks opening about The Mystical Wombat’s Guide to Life and the T-Cup spy network of tea ladies which are her other writing projects that she dives into when not writing romance.

I’ve heard it said that it’s a good thing to regularly flex your writing muscles and apparently Twitter and Facebook posts don’t count. Whilst writing Romance is my main writing focus, from time to time I do have a break and switch to a different genre. So I too have a pet project that I drift off to when not engrossed in a Romance story and it’s a children’s adventure.

This came about because my wonderful writing tutor, Gill Vickery, sets the class a variety of challenges and encourages us to try new things. One of the exercises she set had me scribbling merrily away and before I knew it I had a coupe of well-formed children’s characters. This combined with a story I wrote in my teens, that filled a whole exercise book and was dutifully marked by the ever accommodating Mr Bundy, produced a whole set of stories in my mind.

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Bella’s Scribbling’s: Shelfies

rp_Bella-185x300111111-185x300-185x300.jpgYou may have noticed that a well known UK Superstore is now stocking my novel – ‘It Started At Sunset Cottage’ and if you haven’t then I suggest you hot foot it down to the store where ‘Every Little Helps’ to check it out for yourself. To be honest I’m guessing most folk are not quite as excited as I am to see it on a shelf (I could stand there staring at it for hours but apparently they’re not very keen on that, or so the nice security guard man said as he showed me out).
So how did this happen? (Grab a cuppa and I will update you).

Apparently my lovely editor at Harper Impulse, Charlotte Ledger, has been encouraging everyone she knows to read my book and one of the people she offered it to was Caroline Kirkpatrick from Avon (no not the curly paged magazine that gets poked through your door and then an odd-looking man comes to demand it back a few days later – not that. This Avon is another imprint of Harper Collins and thankfully has no curly pages or odd-looking men). Luckily Caroline enjoyed the story and this is where I get a little hazy as to what happened next, so I may have to make bits up.

After various discussions deep within the nooks and crannies of the News building in London they decided to repackage my novel and make it ‘supermarket friendly’. I wondered if this meant it would have a sell by date and come with two packets of custard creams (well, a girl can dream). Apparently, the supermarkets are very specific about what they want and what their experience tells them will sell. So with that in mind my cover was tweaked – it gained some bunting and the cottage was thatched but sadly we lost the dog in the handbag and the pineapples hidden in the floral arrangements. But overall the revised cover was definitely striking.

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Bella’s Scribblings: Am I a Writer? (Part Two)

rp_Bella-185x300111111-185x300-185x300.jpgMy last post was about what title you should have if you are a person who puts pen to paper (see how well I avoided the whole writer/author debate there?) and it got me thinking.

You can call yourself whatever you like but at the end of the day (sorry that was very corporate speak – apologies) it doesn’t matter what you call yourself but it does matter what you do.

I can tell you have that stunned mullet expression again so please let me explain. If you are a singer then you sing, if you are a saxophonist then you play the saxophone, if you are a runner then you run – I think you’ve got the hang of what I’m trying to say. So if you are an ink slinger or writer working under some other title then what you need to be doing is writing.

I own a Saxophone. It is a beautiful instrument and it lives in a lovely leather case in my loft. I bought it on a whim, as I had always wanted to play one. Little did I know how hard it was and therefore how much time and dedication would be required to achieve this. So I may own a saxophone, but I am most definitely not a saxophonist.

Someone once introduced himself as being a drummer. I was obviously impressed and immediately scrutinized their features for anything familiar, perhaps they had played with world famous artists, been on stage with great legends or even been part of a well known group. However, on further questioning it appeared that he had had a short stint in a local band three years before but was now working in an office, although he was still very ‘into’ music. I asked further if the band was still together and no it wasn’t. I asked if he still had the drums, which he did and if he played them to which his response was , ‘no, not really. I don’t have the time’. Which all begs the question as to whether or not he is a drummer – in mind he is not. I know that sounds harsh but think about it…

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Bella’s Scribblings: Am I a Writer or an Author?

rp_Bella-185x300111111-185x300.jpgI had a lovely time at the RNA Summer Party in May (there is wine, nibbles and writing chatter – what’s not to love?!) and had many interesting conversations with lots of lovely people. One of the conversations was about business cards (don’t worry this was well-balanced with topics of cake, happy endings and Spam donors – don’t ask!) As there were a few new members attending their first RNA event there was the usual swapping of business cards and the encouragement that if they didn’t have any they needed to get some for the RNA Conference.

There were some particularly lovely business cards too, my favourite was a shiny one (I’m easily distracted after cocktails!) but it was a discussion about what you have as your role title that really interested me.

Someone said that they had put ‘writer’ on theirs and that once they were published they would change it to ‘author’. This prompted further discussion as to whether this was the acceptable terminology and after lengthy debate I think we came to the conclusion that we have absolutely no idea as to what was the correct etiquette.

So once I had got over my tiredness (okay it may have been associated with one too many mojitos) I thought I would ask my trusted friend Google for an opinion. After circa three days trawling through the myriad information I discovered the following:

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Bella’s Scribblings: Sell! Sell! Sell!

rp_Bella-185x300111111.jpgSo I’ve been out of the writing closet for a while now and friends, family and work colleagues have got used to the idea that I have another life as a writer. So when I see people they often ask “how is the book going?” (which is jolly nice of them to show an interest). I usually reply with something along the lines that my editor is very pleased with how it’s doing for a debut novel and that I’m thrilled with the fab reviews I’ve received which shows that most people are enjoying it. At this point I usually get an odd look from them, followed by “So how many have you sold?” To which my answer is “I have absolutely no idea.”

Am I alone in really not being that interested in how many it’s sold?

My original intention was to see if I could actually finish a whole novel (I was a serial novel starter who got distracted and then started another one). Getting it published was never in the plan, because I knew how unlikely this was, but with a lot of luck and good timing my MS landed on the right desk at the right time.

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Bella’s Scribblings: Research

rp_Bella-185x30011111.jpg“Are you busy?” asks my husband.

“I’m doing research,” I reply.

Dictionary definition of ‘research’ – investigation esp scientific study to discover facts.

Reality of my ‘research’ –
• Type in key words to Google
• Follow first link
• Read and jot down a couple of interesting and informative facts on subject for novel
• See link to something unrelated but interesting – click
• An hour later realise you are watching funny cat videos again
• Try to find original Google search results on one of ridiculous number of open tabs
• Get distracted by Facebook update from friend, follow link to quiz…
• Notice another hour has disappeared
• Get a cup of tea and give self a good talking to about time-wasting
• Close down distracting tabs and stare at Google page – what was I researching again?

Whilst watching cats on the internet is highly entertaining it really is not moving my novel forward. I am particularly liking animal photo bombs at the moment. However, the reality is that even with all the distractions I know I can find out what I need to know and a million other things in a nanosecond (assuming I can stay focused for that long!)

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Bella’s Scribblings: Bringing Characters To Life

BellaStitchCould there be a better place on the planet for an excitable individual like me than Walt Disney World Florida? If there is I haven’t discovered it yet.

I have more bounce than Tigger, more manic a laugh than Stitch and I’m more playful than Pluto! So to be lucky enough to be able to go with my family to Disney World meant that I fitted right in and could skip around the Magic Kingdom without anyone batting an eyelid. For the child, Disney is also an amazingly magical place – the stuff of dreams. She saw the characters she has grown to love and the stories she knows so well actually come to life in front of her. She could watch them on stage, experience their world through rides, meet them and have a photograph with them and best of all be able to give them a hug! This is the ultimate holiday for her.

For me this is what writing is like. I have these characters that appear in my mind and they act out their story. Getting it down on paper is the first step in bringing them to life, it makes them more real; with a backstory, a goal and a personality. Seeing them come to life on the page of an actual book and being able to talk about them with readers is very similar to a trip to Disney World.

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Bella’s Scribblings: Paperback Writer

rp_Bella-185x30011111.jpgI am riding along on the tip of the foaming crest of a magnificent wave of excitement. I have been really lucky to have received so much support from brilliant bloggers, lovely readers and my ever-enthusiastic friends and family. My novel came out as an e-book on 12th February and has been bouncing around in the Amazon and KOBO charts each day since (my husband is obsessively monitoring it’s fortunes). Yesterday saw my novel ‘It Started At Sunset Cottage’ enter the world as a paperback – an actual real, hold in my sweaty palm (I’m excited and roll-on doesn’t doesn’t work on that part of my anatomy), proper book with paper pages and everything! I have avoided stroking the beautiful cover so far, but it’s been hard. I thought I was excited when the e-book came out but seeing it in real life is a whole new level of excited!

So next week on Wednesday 29th April I am joining four other local authors to hold a joint book launch at Coventry library. We have exchanged e-mails and decided that we will each talk about ourselves and our writing for ten minutes and then read an extract from our book. It suddenly struck me (like a chair in the face) that our audience of lovely readers (assuming someone turns up) will be coming along expecting to see real authors. Right now I feel like I’m masquerading and have sneaked in alongside these multi-published individuals experienced at such book events and there will be a line of proper authors and then… me. I feel it will be a little bit like putting Miranda Hart on Prime Minister’s Question Time – which would be fun for all the wrong reasons.

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Bella’s Scribblings: When Stupid Strikes!

rp_Bella-185x3001111.jpgI have often read criticism of Women’s Contemporary Fiction, Romantic Comedy, Chick Lit – call it what you will. A frequent comment is that the seemingly intelligent heroine suddenly does something rather stupid. Readers condemn this as ridiculous , out of character and unbelievable. Now, please bear this in mind as I tell you my sorry tale…

I am not a genius (neither Mensa nor NASA are beating down my door and begging me to enlighten them) however, I am also not stupid. I did well at school (I was a bit of a girly swot, actually) I got good grades in my exams and I hold down a fairly pressured job. Even so I have discovered that ‘stupid’ can strike any of us and any time.

I was printing off copies of papers that needed to be stapled together in pairs – a fairly simple task for someone of my experience and deep knowledge of stationery items (I have a serious stationery buying habit) and a task I have accomplished before unaided and without incident.

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Bella’s Scribblings: Holiday Planning

rp_Bella-185x3001111.jpgI ragged my holiday – well not exactly.

Any of you lovely people who have read my column before may have picked up the fact that sometimes I quite like to plan things. Okay, maybe it’s a bit more than sometimes and perhaps I really like it… Okay! I admit it I have to plan things and I love it – there are you happy now?

So it should be no surprise that when it comes to holidays these too are planned. I am very proud to say that all of 2015’s holidays were booked by October 2014 and 2016’s main holiday is in the bag. (Smug grin). Now usually that would be sufficient but this year things are a little different, this year we are going to Walt Disney World in Florida and it is a return visit so we have the benefit of our ‘Lessons Learned’ from our trip three years ago (dusts off file).

My husband was not surprised when I counted out the days on the calendar and placed reminders at 180 days before our holiday (that’s when you can make Disney Dining reservations), 60 days before (that’s when you can book your Fastpass Plus times for specific rides you want to go on), up to 30 days before you can customize your Magicband (a very clever bracelet that is your room key, your park entry ticket, your Fastpass Plus selections and a contactless wallet so you can tap and pay and it charges to your credit card!)

Husband and child were not surprised when a spreadsheet was produced that detailed all the information that had been booked and noted down reference numbers and the outcomes of the family discussions we had held e.g. what was our top priority at Universal? Character breakfast with Winnie the Pooh or Lilo and Stitch? Fireworks at Epcot or Magic Kingdom? (Answers were Minions, Lilo and Stitch and Epcot – I voted for Harry Potter but was outvoted – glum face).

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Bella’s Scribblings: Exceedingly Good Expectations

rp_Bella-185x300111.jpgMy new claim to fame is that I have had a conversation with Mr Kipling about cakes. Not a dream, but a real life exchange with the real Mr Kipling. (Well, possibly not the real Mr Kipling because I don’t think there ever actually was a Mr Kipling who made the cakes – sorry if I’ve just shattered a fantasy).

Anyway, I love Twitter. Where else can you have a conversation with Mr Kipling? You see you really don’t know do you? ‘Mr Kipling’ (see I’ve put it in inverted commas just to prove that I know it’s not an actual person) asked me what type of Mr Kipling cake my book would be! Well, I was obviously thrilled but also a bit scared by the question.

Have you any idea how many different types of cake, slice and tart ‘Mr Kipling’ produces? Well it’s about twenty-six, which is more than enough to look through when you are put on the spot to decide which one your book is! This is the one only time I wished there was one of those silly questionnaires – ‘What type of Mr Kipling cake are you?’ but no, there’s never one when you need one is there?

Now, it is true, that there is a smidgeon of a chance that I over thought this one and that a complete review of all the Mr Kipling cake types alongside my story synopses was not essential but I had been asked a question and I wanted to give a thought through answer. The first Mr Kipling cake that popped into my head was French Fancy – yours too? How strange? Anyway, my book does have a couple of scenes in Paris but it is definitely not a French Fancy. Now don’t get me wrong, when the mood takes me I enjoy a French Fancy as much as the next person but it’s not my first choice and it’s not right for my book. My book simply isn’t that sweet.

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Bella’s Scribblings: Marketing Plans

rp_Bella-185x300111.jpgApparently I have a marketing plan for my book! I’m very pleased because I was starting to panic when I got asked for the third time what my marketing strategy had been for my book and my answer had been to do a very convincing impression of a retarded goldfish.

I then scurried off to investigate whereupon (that’s a very good and much underused word by the way…) whereupon I discovered lots of wonderful advice about marketing your debut novel. Off the page jumped a very scary piece of advice that said you need to start marketing three years in advance.

So I went to check on the progress of the time travel machine the child is working on and sadly it’s not quite ready for use yet. Cue lots of nail-biting and hair pulling (all my own I’m not that strange).

After a large glass of Baileys (I’m still ‘tidying up’ after Christmas) I had another look at the amassed advice. All of it was very helpful and logical:

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Bella’s Scribblings: Publication Day!

rp_Bella-185x30011.jpgSo yesterday was publication day for my debut novel ‘It Started at Sunset Cottage’ and I’m still too excited for words (actually bad luck I may be able to squeeze a few more out!) It’s a day I still struggle to believe is real because when I started writing my novel I had no plans, and certainly no expectation, of it being published. I have a million people to thank for getting me to this position but a wise and Yoda-like person (they’re old, not green, they do have quite big ears though…) pointed out that the key to all of this was me because I sat down and wrote the novel in the first place. I brushed it off as modestly as I could because I do genuinely believe that there is a great deal to do with luck and timing when it comes to getting published – your manuscript has to land on the right person’s desk at the right time and in an ever-changing world where everyone is looking for the next big thing (but nobody – I repeat NOBODY knows what that is) it takes a great deal of luck for that person to take a risk on you and your story.

However, Yoda does have a point. I come across so many people who either want to write a novel or are trying to write a novel and my response is always ‘You should do it.’ Interestingly I get a lot of responses to this and very few are ‘You’re absolutely right, I will start today!’ What they usually tell me are a big host of reasons why they can’t do it. Sometimes it’s a lack of confidence, in which case I encourage them to finish it all the same and give it to another writer to read. Because what’s the worst that can happen?

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Bella’s Scribblings: Editing – The Benefits of Memory Loss

rp_Bella-185x30011.jpgJust a short column this week as I am busy with all the usual commitments plus organising cake and wine for my debut novel publication day (eek) as well as trying to finish off all the Christmas chocolate by Easter (it’s a hard task but someone has to step forward) my only escape has been an afternoon with the child watching a bit of Disney’s Frozen. So my debut novel has a publication date of 12th February and we have now finished the editing. I’m not entirely sure what’s been going on as this is the first time I’ve been through this process and I’m still trying to manage my excitement levels which did reach a peak after seeing my lovely cover (by the very talented Jane Harwood).

Editing is when you really appreciate the wonder that is track changes. It makes it so easy to flick to the next query or amendment. It’s also good to go back to your manuscript with fresh eyes and to try to read it as a reader. It’s funny because I very rarely read the same book twice (I have a To Be Read pile to rival the Eiffel Tower so must keep forging ahead). The big exception to the not reading twice rule is my own novel because I have to read it to edit it, so I have read it many times. It does make you wonder if you have some sort of split personality disorder or acute memory loss when you read whole chunks that you can’t remember writing. Continue reading

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