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: 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 Hiccups

So here it is, my last Novel Kicks column of 2014. I have had a brilliant time doing Bella’s Scribblings and I truly hope someone has been reading them (if it’s you Thank you!.

rp_Bella-185x3001.jpgNow it’s time for Christmas!

We three kings of Leamington Spa, one in a taxi, one in a car… Oops sorry got carried away with the festive spirit (it’s Baileys again this year although I did find myself teetering near the Sherry which is a worry.) So here we are, you can almost smell the turkey. I am getting more excited by the day as I count down the sleeps till Christmas! We are munching our way through the advent calendars and ticking off the jobs on the festive to do list. Only a couple of hiccups so far:

We merrily skipped off to the local garden centre last Friday after school to see Father Christmas (I did take the child in case you were wondering – but only because they wouldn’t let me in last time without one) but our trip was cut short as we were told that he only works weekends! Seriously? He only works one month of the year as it is – this flexible working thing has got totally out of hand!

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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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Book News: Bella Osborne To Release Debut Novel

rp_Bella-185x300.jpg

Bella Osborne

It-Started-at-Sunset-Cottage-Cover

Harper Impulse, Feb 2015

I am so delighted that Bella Osborne (from our Bella’s Scribblings column,) has secured a two book deal with Harper Impulse (an imprint of Harper Collins.) The cover for her debut novel, It Started at Sunset Cottage has been revealed by Harper Impulse and I LOVE IT. So pretty.

It sounds fantastic and we want to say congratulations to Bella. Her novel is due for release in electronic form on 12th February 2015 followed by the paperback release on 23rd April 2015.

About It Started at Sunset Cottage:

Kate Marshall is slowly getting her life back on track after losing her fiancé. As an author she has been able to hide herself away from the world and its expectations – but now one of her books has been optioned for a film and Hollywood suddenly comes knocking on her door!

When Kate is given the opportunity to stay at a beautiful country retreat and concentrate on the screenplay, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. Encouraged by her best friend, sharp-tongued single mum Sarah, Kate sees it’s finally time to stop letting life pass her by.

Looking for confidence and inspiration in the idyllic Cotswolds countryside, the last thing Kate expects is for Timothy Calder, A-list actor and leading man in the movie adaptation of her book, to turn up on her doorstep, hoping to lie low after his latest tabloid scandal! But after a rocky start, with Tim narrowly avoiding death by watering can, they find they have a few things in common: a liking for Lady Grey tea, walnut whips and bad ‘knock knock’ jokes. Actually, the bad jokes are just Tim.

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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: Half-Term Research

Bella OsborneIt’s nearly Halloween which not only means things get a bit creepy and there are horror movies on the telly, it also means you need to stock up your house with bucketfuls of sweets and prepare to be terrorised by small children. I quite like the change to Halloween. I was quite creeped out about it as a child so it’s nice to see my daughter getting excited about choosing a costume and putting up decorations. Someone once proposed to me on Halloween (you would have thought I would have spotted the obvious warning signs here but I didn’t).

Anyway, Halloween got me thinking about half term which is usually followed by the word ‘holiday’ and that got me thinking about needing a holiday and the mismatch of my need to the availability of cash to pay for one. (I know it’s a tenuous link but stick with it). Then I thought about all my lovely writer friends that are just popping off somewhere in the name of research!

Many a mini break is booked in the name of research. Trips to take in the details of specific locations, to experience things unique to certain places, to take in the atmosphere and ambiance of a particular place. Google maps and the rest of the wonder that is the internet can take you so far but it can’t tell you what the breeze feels like against your face as you teeter on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland or the taste of the weird and wonderful ice cream flavours as you walk along Aberdovey beach in Wales or the sound of the Titanic hitting the iceberg (OK maybe the last one you could imagine).

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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: Post Holiday Blues (PHB)

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

Oh my word it’s hard being back at the proper job! All those wonderful days relaxing in the sun are so quickly a distant memory as you walk back into the office, open your in-box and start catching up. It all takes so much effort to keep your brain focussed in the room and not wandering off back to that sun lounger by the pool, with the warmth of the sun of your skin, the gentle breeze and the distant laughter of children splashing in the pool… sorry what was I saying? Yes, keeping your attention on the day job is tricky, but essential, because it’s the one that pays the bills.

Somehow after a holiday it all seems just a little bit more pointless than it did before you went away. Before you went on holiday, you were excited about the plans for the second half of 2014, you knew you were adding value, heck you actually enjoyed your job but something has changed. Of course nothing has actually changed – it’s just post holiday blues (PHB).

So question is how best to overcome them? There are probably quite a few right answers for this but here’s just a few suggestions that I tried:

  • Cake – no don’t laugh, I’m serious. There isn’t much that can’t be solved with cake. Also if you share it with others it means less calories and lard points for you and a kind gesture to others suffering from PHB.
  • Tea or Coffee – More frequent tea/coffee runs gets you away from your desk, which stretches your legs and gets the circulation going again. Giving yourself a break from a computer screen is good for your eyes. So physically this is a good thing.
  • Lists – I love lists. It may be because they involve stationery and I have a proper fetish about stationery but any list is a good way to concentrate on the ‘must do’ things. Just take it one day at a time. Too much on the list makes it a ‘laugh and tear up’ list, you need it to feel achievable. You will also feel great as you tick things off your list. Make the first item on the list – Make a list!
  • Choices – You do have a choice. You don’t have to do the day job. You could quit and do something completely different or do nothing at all but you choose to stick with what you know. Sometimes it helps to accept that it is your choice to stay in your current job, you could choose to leave but you dislike the alternatives more than staying so you choose to stay. Oh yes you do – I’m not saying it’s a great choice but it is a choice!

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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: Procrastinators Anonymous

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

Last time on Bella’s Scribblings I talked about finding time to write. What I didn’t cover was how to avoid squandering it on non-writing displacement activities. School holidays is the time when most of us grab a couple of weeks away from the proper job to spend time with our offspring and hopefully get some writing done too. What actually happens is that offspring magically eat up all but a smidgen of the time we have and when we do get time to write what do we do?

I’m afraid to say that sometimes, not always, but sometimes we waste the time that we do have. I am thinking of starting a local group of Procrastinators Anonymous, but in the meantime here are my suggestions for combating procrastination:

My family want feeding – This is an easy one. Go back in time and spend a day making batches of food you can reheat and use fish fingers for the other days, they’ll be fine – that’s what vitamin supplements are for.

The house needs cleaning/tidying – scientific fact that living in a sterile environment isn’t good for the immune system so a little bit of dust will be better for your family’s long term health.

I need to go on Twitter to keep my social media presence current – and a couple of quick posts a day should do it. You do not need to read everything from the last ten hours on your feed nor do you need to look up everyone you know to see if they posted something interesting in the last few days. Trust me, they won’t have. Do not get caught up in conversations about dogs, cats or wine – they go on forever. Stop obsessively checking the number of followers you have and trying to work out who has deserted you – it doesn’t matter – well, certainly not as much as finishing your writing does.

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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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