Bella Osborne

Bella’s first novel, It Started at Sunset Cottage was released by Harper Impulse. She was a runner-up for the New Talent Award at the 2013 Festival of Romance and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

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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Bella’s Scribblings: Learning a New Language

rp_Bella-185x30011.jpgSo here we are at the start of a new exciting year with all the promise and potential that it holds. People around me are shunning chocolate, joining the gym and taking up new challenges. Someone said to me that their goal for 2015 was to learn a new language which I think is most admirable and it got me thinking…

Two years ago I embarked on the challenge of finishing my first novel and to help me achieve that I joined the RNA New Writers Scheme. The RNA has been simply brilliant at introducing me to like-minded people and I’ve made some terrific friends but most importantly I’ve learnt shed loads about writing and publishing. It occurred to me that one of the things I’ve learnt is a new language – the language of writing and publishing.

Let me explain: The new people I had surrounded myself with were using familiar words but my understanding of them was very different. For example – talking about an ‘Advance’ (Advance To Go on the Monopoly board perhaps?), ‘WIP’ (useful item wielded particularly well by Indiana Jones) ‘Jackets’ (Easy one – they are either potatoes or an item of clothing), ‘Royalty’ (jolly nice posh family that appear in magazines), ‘Beta Readers’ (people still struggling with the big words), ‘POD’ (Home for peas or trendy Eco house?) and asking me if I was a ‘Pantser’* too. I mean really, I wanted to make friends but it all seemed too soon for underwear discussions.

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Bella’s Scribblings: Christmas Shopping!

rp_Bella-185x3001.jpgSo here we are on the downward straight to Christmas – isn’t it exciting?! There is probably no easier way to divide an audience than to ask them about Christmas. As many people that relish it and countdown from August (No, that isn’t me) and get their festive jumpers washed and ready in October (OK, that might be me) there will be the same number of people that either don’t care or actively loathe it.

And just like religion and politics it is very unwise for any of the ‘Happy Christmas’ gang to try to persuade the opposition to defect – it’s just not going to happen. I accepted this years ago and I am a lot happier for it. I will still continue to wear my reindeer jumper with pride and extoll the virtues of roasted chestnuts.

Some people carry on regardless, mumble obscenities under their breath (yes, I do do that but it’s not Christmas related) they try to block it out, pretend it’s not happening and avoid all things festive. But however you feel about the season of good cheer there is one thing most people cannot avoid and that’s Christmas shopping.

Again the camp will be divided into those that get excited about finding the perfect gifts and those that anything will do, those that plan out trips to specific stores and those who grab a few things at the local petrol station.

It will be no surprise to regular readers that I obsessively plan out my approach to Christmas. There is a spreadsheet with columns for budget, ideas, actual items purchased, cost and a column to tick when the items are wrapped. I know this would drive many to the gin bottle but it works for me. It also means that most of my shopping is completed by now with just a few things left to buy (mainly so I can enjoy the late night shopping and Christmas markets – so much better when you are buying things).

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Bella’s Scribblings: Be Happy

rp_Bella-185x300.jpgThere are lots of things that make me happy, some ordinary and some slightly odd (yes some of these are people). If I were to produce a list of things that make me happy it would be vast and even the speed readers amongst you would still be ploughing through it come Christmas Day. (I actually read quite slowly, I think I may be a slightly remedial reader but there are worse afflictions right?)

So if I know that there are so many things that make me happy why, oh why, do I dwell on the other stuff? Don’t get me wrong I’m not on the edge or anything but I do find myself worrying over things that I shouldn’t be wasting valuable energy on. For example Christmas presents (apologies for using the C word twice in one post) I try really hard to find great gifts for people, spending hours trawling gift guides, shops and online to make sure I have something they will really enjoy (sometimes I question this when I open my own parcels). However, I do suffer from buyer’s remorse – that feeling when you suddenly question your purchase. Is it the right thing? Will they like it/use it? Have I spent too much/too little.

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Bella’s Scribblings: Which Sandwich Are You?

Bella OsborneApparently I’m a grilled cheese sandwich (English translation is toasted cheese sandwich) – seriously what is going on with the world?

Now I may just be having a grumpy day but just lately there seems to be so many questionnaires that people do online and then share the results to tell me all sorts of bizarre things for example: what song are you most like? Which Harry Potter character are you? How Swedish are you? What age are you going to live until? (How creepy is that one?) and a very long list of other auto generated random nonsense that lands on my Twitter and Facebook feeds.

I have to admit that I am a little suckered in by it because I frequently find myself going “Oh, I wouldn’t have said she was a Pinot Grigio more like a Sancerre.” And then merrily wasting time choosing my favourite colour/90’s TV show/Online company/picture of something blue/Other such nonsense which is going to miraculously provide me with some incredible insight into my persona or more frighteningly into my future.

I know it is very easy to be distracted by the internet and a couple of minutes here and there does no harm, unless you are Katie Hopkins, but these questionnaires are getting sillier and more obscure. And who does one, gets to the punchline and goes “Knowing that has changed my life?” – Continue reading

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Bella’s Scribblings: Personal Branding

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

Now here’s an interesting phrase I heard recently ‘personal branding’. My immediate thoughts were ‘Someone has a new tattoo’ which was closely followed by ‘or pencils with their name on’. Do you remember the pencils by the way? They were great, new school term, new pencil case and your own pencils with your own actual name on them – genius! (Makes note to order some for myself)

Anyway, it turns out I was completely wrong on both counts. Personal branding is all about you and it’s is quite important if you are promoting yourself or your own business. We are all familiar with big company brands like Disney, Coca Cola and Cadburys but what does it mean for us as individuals?

So I did a bit of research (which we all know means I watched funny cats on You Tube for 20 minutes and then googled personal branding). There was loads of content to read but here are the highlights I picked up that I thought might be useful:

  • Personal branding is about thinking of yourself as the product you want to sell – about making the impression you want to make with others
  • You need to establish what your personal brand is by being clear on:

o   What is unique about you?

o   What do you want people to remember?

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Bella’s Scribblings: Is There Any Writer Out There?

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

Hopefully at some point in time you have faced the inevitable. You have given in to your deepest most feelings, (no not the one about the biscuits) those ones that have been telling you to stop hiding your true self. To embrace the real you and accept who you are. And declare to the world, with pride, I AM A WRITER.

Well done for that, it’s not easy and I hope you are coping with the repeated questions of So when will you get published? When can I buy it in a shop? How much have you made so far?’

It’s truly fun isn’t it? Why are you shaking your head at the screen (I can actually see you… Oh, yes I can… Anyway…) No, it isn’t fun, but mostly they do mean well. Even when they say, ‘Don’t you think it’s time you stopped wasting your time on this?’ Or ‘It’s only a hobby isn’t it?’ Honestly, they still only mean well. The thing is they really don’t understand. They may have known you all your life or just met you in the supermarket queue but the thing is you could spend a lifetime trying to explain but they will most likely never really get it.

The reason for this? (there are a lot of questions this week, I hope you are keeping up.) The reason is… drum roll please… they are not writers.

I can tell you are not blown away by that answer. Because you are most likely thinking that these people know you very well and they’ve probably witnessed the blood sweat, tears and coffee that you have poured into your writing, so surely they must understand – but trust me it takes a writer to understand another writer.

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Bella’s Scribblings: Finding The Time To Write

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

I have covered this in a previous column but this is School Holiday season and it’s particularly hard. Children are like limpets but with a more advanced sticking ability.

First of all don’t feel guilty about wanting to spend some of your hard-earned holiday time on your writing – IT IS OK. The children will get the lion’s share of your time, which goes without saying. It’s most likely that soggy middle that needs some attention now (soggy middle of your novel that is).

So the big question is how do you find the time when the offspring are demanding your every waking moment and a few of the night-time ones too?

No1 – Be prepared. I know you love stationery so make sure you always have a notebook and a pen (one that actually works not that free one) with you at all times. (I will excuse you in the shower/bath but have one ready for when you come out). This means you won’t miss an opportunity to write, even if it’s just the odd sentence of brilliance – they all add up.

No2 – Be vigilant. Time is a crafty little thing and these childfree moments creep up on you. So you have to recognise them and grab them quickly. Usually they occur when the child/children are unexpectedly distracted – Loom bands is working well in our house but the length of time they hold child’s attention is varied. They can be unexpected so watch carefully for those ones. An example would be ‘Picking fluff out of Daddy’s tummy button’ bought me 9 minutes the other day!

No3 – Be creative. Set them up with tasks or games that they will hopefully become engrossed in and will leave you in peace for a few minutes without trashing the place. Make sure you sell this in at the start e.g. “Mummy/Daddy (I do have some male followers and I am all for equal opportunities) has some work to do so instead of you having to sit quietly and be bored would you like to…?”

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Bella’s Scribblings – Why is a One Liner so Hard?

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

I can write a novel, I have proved it by doing it twice. Neither are published yet but that’s not the point. The point is I can write circa 100,000 words relatively easily but when I have to write something in a card my mind goes blank. The worst scenario is when you are under pressure. When someone sidles up to your desk, plonks a card down and says ‘Freda is leaving, write something funny’. I actually think one of my brain cells dies and it is most definitely one devoted to writing funny things.

I generally manage the situation by panicking and asking for more time, which results in lots of huffing and eye rolling until they eventually slope off, leaving me to sweat over the card. So then I start to read what everyone else has put – this does not help. All this does is waste more time, highlight that most of the office are just like you and have nothing funny to say, not that this has stopped them penning it in the card.

However, there is even more pressure if you have to go first, always try to avoid this scenario. There will be the odd one or two who have put in something slightly humorous and right there is the spark that I needed. I now have a challenge and I have a target to beat (not that I am in anyway competitive, you understand). At this point I find it works well to pretend you have a meeting and head off carrying papers or laptop, supporting a purposeful stride. Find an empty meeting room and get to work.

I will start by having a one woman brainstorm – What is Freda known for? Are there any funny stories already that I just need to recall? Is there an opportunity to play on words here? What did she get up to at the last office party? After much head scratching an idea will alight. I write it out in draft and see if it needs editing to make it punchy. Once I am happy with it I need to find a space in the card. (Why do the people who say the dullest things have the biggest writing?) Eventually I reach the point where my mission is accomplished and I return the card with a smug look to the card co-ordinator.

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Bella’s Scribblings – Boozy Book Club

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

My husband rolls his eyes when I mention that Book Club evening is approaching as his opinion of our book club is that it’s a boozy night out with the girls. This opinion may have been influenced by the rare occasions that I have fallen giggling into the house at some late hour.

Many pieces of advice that you will see for writers often say that you need to read. My writing tutor is forever drumming into us the benefits of reading and more importantly reading as a writer. By that she means, doing a bit of analysis as you read. Looking for things like how it starts, pace, seeing where the author have added description and where they have left it out, where they have utilised dialogue and how it develops the characters. Also trying to understand what the key things are that make you want to keep reading. That elusive page turning quality that is so often referred to but nobody can quite put their finger on exactly was it is. And also what it is for different people. This is, without doubt, great advice.

As a writer there is sometimes an expectation that you are well read, this is so not the case with me. I read the books I had to at school and ever since I have read the books I liked. So as an adult I have indulged my love of chick lit, or women’s fiction if you prefer, and this is a path from which I have rarely strayed.

So being the girly swot that I am, last year I joined a Book Club or more accurately I tagged along with a group of friends who decided that reading a book each month might be a nice thing to do. The aim was to become more widely read, to experience different genres and to do some analysis. We agreed we would put in random suggestions for the next book and draw one out each month. So far we have read a great selection from thrillers, to ghost stories, to historicals and a classic.

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The Luxury Of Being Read To.

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

As young children many of us were lucky enough to enjoy a bedtime story, read to us by our parents and many of us will have kept up this tradition. But once a child is able to read competently the gift of being read to somehow slips away. You don’t necessarily miss it as it’s part of you growing independent but I think there is a magic in being read to that disappears.

I have been known on occasion to partake of a frivolous extra holiday with a female friend and during those we would read to each other. Often it was magazine articles although some of the glossies are mainly photographs in which case it’s very difficult to make a soap stars kitchen sound exciting. However, it was still a relaxing and pleasurable experience all the same. At the time we felt it was the height of laziness!

I am in my second year of attending a local ‘Writing Fiction’ class where, those that would like to, read out short pieces or extracts each week for feedback and critique. As a new writer it is totally terrifying to read out your own work to twelve people (give me a PowerPoint deck, a microphone and five hundred in the audience any day!) However, as one of the listeners it is an enriching experience. Hearing something written and read by the author, usually for the very first time is quite a privilege and we are lucky enough to have a talented group of writers so each piece is a gem.

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When is Swearing in Books Acceptable?

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

When it comes to swearing in books I think it’s fair to say that most of us who write will have found ourselves swearing at our books but is it right to use swearing IN the book?

I think this is an interesting dilemma when we live in a society where swear words are frequently used by pretty much all members of society. It is no longer a shock to hear someone swear. There is no longer a Mary Whitehouse or equivalent to protest bitterly about such things (for anyone that ticks the first two age boxes on surveys you may need to Google Mary Whitehouse). Swear words are scattered liberally in films and television which normalises them further. However, I still agonise over it in my writing.

I am not a very sweary person but when a particular set of circumstances convene I too will utter something my grandmother would not have approved of.

I know of an author who received a letter from a reader complaining about the swearing in one of her books and how it was unnecessary and unacceptable. It made the author look at their writing differently and they responded by cutting out swearing considerably in future books.

I used the ‘find’ function for swear words in my first novel and found initially twelve instances of strong swearing and was quite shocked. However, this isn’t me swearing this is the characters and right there is the nub of the discussion (sorry did it take a while to get there?) You see it’s not about how I am as a person or the people that hopefully will one day read my books, it’s about the characters depicted within the pages.

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Finding The Time To Write

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

“I would like to write a book but I haven’t got the time.” How many times have you heard that? How many times have you thought that you don’t have the time to write. My bet is that it’s more than once.

This is where I can help. Firstly, you can find time, if you really want to. It is so very easy in today’s busy world to think that you don’t have time to write. But I guarantee that if a friend called you now and you needed to drop everything to help them, you would do it. Because you’re a good person and you would find a way to accommodate their request. So why can’t you find a way to accommodate your writing? Don’t you deserve the same level of dedication as your friend?

The issue is time stealers. Time stealers are everywhere (they may have even been in an episode of Dr Who) they are the little things that eat away at your precious allocation of time almost unnoticed. If you could just grab back a fraction of those minutes even just the odd twenty minutes here and there it will make a big difference. Here are some suggestions of where to look for those elusive nuggets of time:

You could look at the ends of the day – could you get up a little earlier and write then? Or stay up a little longer and write then? Can you grab time in lunch and coffee breaks or boring meetings?

If you watch television regularly, start adding up the hours – you will be shocked. Continue reading

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Is there such a thing as a chocolate hangover?

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

So here we are at a key point in the year and one that involves copious amounts of chocolate – what is not to love about that? I have to say that I may well have overindulged as I am having nightmares about drowning in a sea of mini eggs and I believe I may have suffered from the first ever chocolate hangover – it wasn’t pretty.

Thanks to Mr Fry producing the first chocolate Easter Egg in the UK in 1873 we see them on the shelves from 1st January and then the week before Easter we remember that we need to buy them for friends and family at which point all the good ones have gone and there are just Toffee Crisp and Power Rangers ones left. (There is definitely a comparable analogy about men in there somewhere but I’m going to let it go).

So given the chocolate hangover situation I felt duty bound to do a bit of research – so please bear with me.

People claim that chocolate has a variety of effects on them; that it’s addictive, it perks them up or in some cases it gives them headaches. To understand that we need to know how it works. Well, it’s all to do with brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which charge around the brain telling the body what to do (like Dr Who and whoever his latest sidekick is). They have an impact on our emotions, mood, thought patterns, energy and concentration. (The neurotransmitters, not Dr Who). Continue reading

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I don’t do Marmite or a Short Story by any other Name

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

I don’t do Marmite (it is the work of the devil) and I also don’t do short stories. Short stories are incredibly difficult to get right, whether you are writing them for magazines, for competitions or just for fun. They will almost always come with a word limitation (hence the short) and despite this huge restriction there is an expectation that there is a whole story wrapped up in the prose (hence the story).

My track record with stories has seen me fill a whole exercise book at school with one story much to the mixed reaction of my English teacher who was wonderfully encouraging but with a pile of other marking to do, my lengthy witterings were not always timely. My next attempt at a finished story was my novel ‘Acting on Impulse’, the first draft of which came in at one hundred and twenty-eight thousand words. So you can see my ability to be succinct has not improved over the years.

So when my writing tutor asks the class to write a Short Story I break out in a cold sweat (and curse the fact that I sit next to both the radiator and the draughty window), my mind goes a complete blank and I decide categorically that I can’t do it. I will then spend the whole week trying to think about a plot based on whatever criteria has been set and will almost always conclude that it’s impossible to fit any of my ideas into anything shorter than ‘War and Peace’ or ‘Ivanhoe’ at a push (approx. 587k and 192k word counts respectively, in case you were wondering).

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Mummy Lit – What?

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

So I was looking at the calendar and I got a little excited as it was nearly Mother’s Day and I love Mother’s Day. It’s a day that I thought I would never get to celebrate after a rocky road to becoming a Mummy but thankfully we made it via the scenic route and each year it is an utter pleasure to receive a homemade card and cold toast for breakfast from my daughter.

I was slightly wrong footed when I was discussing my writing with another writerly type person (we like to seek each other out, there’s safety in numbers) and we started discussing genres. I will call my writerly type person Bonita, for that is not her name. I explained to Bonita that I thought my writing was Romantic Comedy with a slightly darker side and went on to regurgitate my short blurbs on novel number one and my current work in progress. She agreed whole heartedly for novel number one which could be described as Notting Hill meets Eastenders and is about a womanising Hollywood actor, Tim, who falls in love with an ordinary woman called Kate. However, when I started to talk about my second novel which has the working title Virtual Family, there was lots of head shaking from Bonita (it’s a good name isn’t it?).

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Bella’s Scribblings: Ideas Are Everywhere

Those of you that have ever admitted to another living person that you are a writer whether ‘wanna be’ or official will at some point 

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

have had the question ‘So where do you get your ideas from?’ fired at you. Unlike me you may well have a very articulate response to this. You see, I’m not entirely sure where my ideas come from, they either just materialise (sometimes at night like a spider from the skirting board) and sometimes it’s a Batman style POW moment.

Just the other day I had a POW moment and of all places it was at the vets. Now you need to understand that whilst I am friendly, I am generally not flirty. So after a tedious wait where me and the child had learnt about what plants are poisonous to rabbits and had both developed spontaneous itching thanks to the poster about fleas, at last the vet called out “Claude Osborne”. There’s an opportunity right there for a comedy moment or two but you need a good quality surname to start with like Ramsbottom or Butts or Winkle … you get the idea. Anyway, a rather good-looking man hiding behind outdated glasses was beckoning us and our protesting cat carrier forward with a welcoming smile.

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Seasonal Writing

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

By Bella Osborne.

So here we are heading for March and it’s still cold and soggy and generally miserable outside. Am I utilising the impact this is having on my mood in my writing? Am I drawing on my surroundings to make my scenes in my novel more believable? Err, no, actually I’m writing about summer in Antigua!

You see I may well be an uber forward planner (actually I am, there are few to rival me) but what I hadn’t thought through when I plotted about book number two was what time of year I would be writing which scenes. The novel is set in the summer and I have written pretty much all of it during the winter. I guess the real question is – Does that matter?

I know that with book number one I felt the snow scene worked well because I had written it as the snow was tumbling down outside. I had written it as a ‘candy’ scene (I understand this is the correct term for a scene written out-of-order because you are compelled to write it). I think my scene in the rain was perfectly acceptable too, let’s face it living in the UK I have regular material and plenty of it to work with on that subject.

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Valentines Day – inspiration or constipation

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

By Bella Osborne.

So it’s Valentine’s Day this month. You know this by the sharp hike in the cost of wilting flowers and the sea of pink hearts that assaults your eye balls when you enter a card shop. Love it or hate it, it usually incites a reaction in most people. I have to say I’m a bit ambivalent to it, well I thought I was…

When I was at school I used to find Valentine’s Day hugely entertaining as a few cheap cards delivered to key individuals could cause all sorts of havoc. I suspect poor old Mr Midgely always wondered why the attractive new Chemistry lab assistant had pledged her undying devotion to his home knitted tank tops and why the spottiest boy in class got the most valentines much to the chagrin of his better looking contemporaries.

I, of course sent my long-suffering husband a card on Valentine’s Day but that was all. We have tried going out for a meal to mark the occasion but it is usually a bit of a disappointment as the restaurant is full to the gunwales and the food often suffers because of it. I once managed to pour hot soup over my fingers when out for a Valentine’s meal and spent the whole Continue reading

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NaNoWriMo Revisited

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

By Bella Osborne.

Back in July I was at the Romantic Novelists Association conference and I was lucky enough to be befriended by the Birmingham Chapter of the RNA who I sat with at dinner. After a few too many glasses of the fizzy stuff they started making pledges (apparently they do it every year). I was quickly caught up in it and a couple more glasses of fizz later I was signed up for NaNo (whatever that was). I was caught up in the buzz of the evening and nearly everyone else was pledging to NaNo (I was guessing it was the God of Writing or something similar) so added myself to the metaphorical list.

The next day NaNo cropped up again and I thought it wise to seek out a few more details, I was informed that it was actually fifty thousand words in a month. Oh right… WHAT??? After a glass of wine (for the shock you understand) I was suitably reassured that it was doable. Lots of them had done it before and had all become ‘Winners’ Continue reading

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Desk Disappointment & Lame Excuses

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

By Bella Osborne.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t then please do @osborne_bella) will already know the outcome of the desk delivery, so please bear with me.

As you know I was very excitedly awaiting the delivery of what I was terming my ‘forever’ desk. It had been a long while in the choosing and it was made of oak so I hoped it would be something that would accompany me on my writing expedition over the foreseeable years. I say ‘expedition’ as I hate the overused word ‘journey’ and a journey implies knowledge of destination whereas an expedition is a whole lot more unknown and exciting, so expedition it most definitely is!

I was counting down Continue reading

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Me & My Writing Desk.

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

We’re very pleased to be welcoming Bella Osborne to the Novel Kicks team with her new column, Bella’s Scribblings.

I was staggered to be asked by the lovely Laura to do a regular column for Novel Kicks and extremely nervous. You see I am a ‘Wanna Be Writer’ I have absolutely no credentials as I have neither self published or been published – I know what you’re thinking ‘Great choice Laura, was there really nobody else available,’ and I don’t blame you. However, I am a Wanna Be Writer with a plan, loads of enthusiasm and huge amount of tenacity. So over the next twelve months (oh stop groaning at least it’s got you off Twitter) I will be bringing you a fortnightly update on what I’m up to and how my writing is going. First up here’s a bit of background so you know a bit about me:

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