Writing Process

Book News: RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2020

The winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Associations’ Joan Hessayon Award is due to be announced tomorrow (5th September 2020) via an online presentation. 

The contenders for this award are published authors who have passed through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (as a member of this scheme myself, I can’t recommend it enough.) If you’d like more information on the scheme, click here.

There is a wonderful selection in this year’s shortlist from romantic comedies, to fairytale romance, to both historical and paranormal romance.

The Joan Hessayon Award is generously sponsored by gardening expert Dr. David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife, Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme.

The winner will be announced at 3pm on Saturday 5th September (for more details, click here or here.) I wanted to say good luck to everyone.

The writers shortlisted for the 2020 award have shared a little about their novels and what it means to them to be nominated. Some of them have also shared some writing tips with us.

 

Impervious by Zoe Allison

(Totally Bound). 

Vampires exist in secret. The malevolent of their kind exploit their powers to terrible ends and a league of benevolent vampires works covertly against them. Amber Ridley is unique as the only human on that team. She’s an ‘Impervious’, and immune to vampire attack. However, is Amber impervious to love?

Zoe said, “I am delighted to be in the running for this award alongside other fantastic authors. I’m also extremely grateful for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s amazing New Writers’ Scheme which gives us all such an amazing opportunity.

My bottom line in writing advice is don’t be afraid to do things your way. Whether you’re a plotter, a pantster, or a plantster there’s no right or wrong way and we’re all different. When it comes to editing the best tip I’ve had is to read your work out loud. You’ll catch loads of errors with missing or additional words and issues with flow that you’d otherwise miss because your brain automatically fills them in when you read in your head.”

 

Zoe Allison is a medic who writes romance in her spare time as a means to create the happy endings that real life often doesn’t provide.

Follow Zoe on Twitter. Click to view Impervious  on Amazon UK.

 

 

Her Mother’s Secret by Jan Baynham. 

(Ruby Fiction)

Alexandra inherits Elin’s diary after her death, and is shocked to discover a part of her mother’s life she knew nothing about. Why had Elin kept her summer in Greece a secret? Compelled to visit the same island, will Alexandra uncover what really happened in that summer of ’69?

She said, “When I started writing short stories, I never thought I’d be able to write a novel. After I’d accomplished that, I never in a million years thought I’d be published, so to be a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020 is beyond my wildest dreams. Without the RNA and so much support from other authors, I would not be here.

Always look for the positive and NEVER give up. Whenever I get a written critique, I highlight the positive comments first. Next, I do the same for the shortcomings, using a contrasting colour. If I agree, I then make a list of those, ticking them off as I edit to improve my manuscript. Seeing a critique visually and progressing through a list of things to work on is a great motivator for me.

Thank you. Good luck to my fellow contenders, too.”

 

Jan Baynham loves family secrets and finding skeletons that lurk in cupboards. When she decided that her main character was an artist with a well-hidden secret, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her story. As a Grecophile, she felt that the colours of the sea and flowers, together with the warmth of the people, would be perfect for an artist’s travels and it would involve more Greek holidays for Jan for the purposes of research!

Follow Jan on Twitter. Click to view Her Mother’s Secret on Amazon UK.

 

 

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey.

(Simon & Schuster)

Tori is offered a reviewer’s spot on a wellbeing retreat, and is worried that she’ll have to share too much of herself. But as The Farm weaves its magic, she soon realises that opening up isn’t the worst thing in the world. And sharing a yurt with Bay definitely isn’t!

Laura Bambrey said, “Being shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon award, along with so many other fabulous debuts, is such an honour. I can’t thank the RNA enough for their support.

My top piece of writing advice is to read your manuscript out loud to yourself. Don’t plug it into a piece of technology to do it for you – read it in your own voice. Doing this helps you check the ebb and flow of your writing – the pacing and the sentence structure. If anything trips you up, change it so that it flows better. This is particularly helpful with dialogue – and stops any of your characters from hogging the limelight with a monologue!”

 

Laura Bambrey has been a book blogger for nearly ten years, writing about and reviewing books from a range of genres, but mainly commercial women’s fiction. She’s also held down a range of weird and wonderful jobs, including trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker.  She has always dreamt of writing her own books.

Whilst writing, Laura did a lot of research into loneliness, anxiety and phobias – little thinking that lockdown and Covid would come along to make these issues far more prevalent. She found the Mind.Org website to be an incredible source of information and support for those who might be seeking it.

She is keen to mix the grittier bits that life throws at you with the romance and humour that make life worth living … but she’ll always make sure her heroine gets her happy ever after in the end.

Follow Laura on Twitter. Click to view The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness on Amazon UK.

 

 

Finding Prince Charming by Victoria Garland.

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NK Chats To… Nia Lucas

Hi Nia, thank you so much for joining me for a chat today. It’s great to welcome you back to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for your new novel. Can you tell me a little about Choices, Shape, Losses Break and what inspired the book? 

‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ is a real shift in tone from my first novel ‘Love Punked’. I’ve described it as My So Called Life meets Top Boy meets Skins! It’s a Contemporary Fiction/Contemporary romance hybrid and it’s interwoven with some challenging themes and issues which aim to get the reader continually re-evaluating their assumptions about risk and threat.

It’s set firmly in the 90’s where, shunned and struggling at home and school, teenager Lorna Davies clatters into chaotic and charismatic Shay O’Driscoll and Leon Barrett at an illegal rave. As Lorna’s talent for dancing sees her unexpectedly employed in the strobe-lit heart of 90’s club culture, her world is turned on its head by her budding friendship with Shay and Leon. For the boys, their high-risk lives endanger all three of them in an association that blurs the lines between friendship and dependency.

As the risks escalate, Lorna’s best friend Hannah, her brother Dan, her bully-turned-protector Nico and her unexpected friend Rosa watch with concern as she is thrust ever closer to harm in an intoxicating new landscape. When life-threatening events threaten to separate them permanently, Lorna, Leon and Shay juggle love, loyalty, sacrifice and exploitation as their lives change beyond recognition. Will the losses they face break them all?

‘Choices’ was inspired by some of my own experiences of rave culture in the 90’s and the people and places that I knew back then. I actually sat down to write it back in 2016 when I realised that two people who were really important to me back in those days, would have turned 40 that year. Their impact on my life has been pretty significant but we lost touch. I guess in some ways, ‘Choices’ started off as a bit of a tribute to them but in typical ‘pantser’ style, it turned into something very much unexpected. ‘Choices;’ is written to be a standalone novel but there are 3 further books in the series. The next one is due for release later this year.

 

Which songs would feature on a playlist for this novel? 

Music is a massive part of ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’. 90’s club culture was- and remains- an important part of my life. My friendships and experiences of that world were huge inspirations for the characters and events in the novel. This playlist could go on indefinitely and so I’ll pick my top 10:

Paul Van Dyk- For an Angel
Prodigy- No Good, Start the dance
DJ Taucher- Ayla
Dodgy- If you’re thinking of me
DJ Flavours- Your Caress
Dub Pistols- Cyclone
Faithless- Salva Mea
Marc and Claude- I need your loving
BT- Remember

 

What’s your writing process like and how has it changed from when you first started writing? 

I work full time in an incredibly busy inner-London social work team. Writing is truly my escape from the madness and demands of my work life! I have terrible insomnia and only need 4/5 hours sleep a night so my writing process is that I write while everyone else sleeps- I love the coziness of sitting in the gloom tapping away and creating characters and places.

I’m absolutely a pantser, I never plan anything when it comes to my novels. I’ve written 4 books and both ‘Love Punked’ and ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ are available right now on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, rated 5 stars, I have another two finished novels that are due for release later this year. I’m finishing one that’s nearly complete and I’m working on 3 other ‘new’ ones that are only 20 or so pages long each so far. I do like flitting between them all and I genuinely work out the plot as I go.

I guess one thing that’s changed is that I am far more conscious of streamlining my writing as I go- I had a real journey to edit down ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ and I’ve learnt lots of lessons from that heartbreaking process! I definitely challenge myself as I go now (“Does this actually progress the plot?”  “Is this scene truly necessary?” “Is this character essential?”) . I’m definitely more succinct in my style!

 

What’s a typical writing day like for you? Do you prefer silence? Coffee? 

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Familiar Days

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

 

Today’s prompt: Familiar Days.

You have a bad day. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

You are pleased when it’s time for bed.

When you wake up, you find yourself reliving your bad day. And it happens again and again and again.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: I Remember

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

 

Today’s prompt: I Remember…. 

 

You wake up one morning and discover a world without books.

You ask people about them and no one knows what you’re talking about. In fact, you’re the only one that remembers them. You are the only one that owns books.

Write about what happens when your small selection of books is discovered. Are you seen positively or otherwise?

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: The Middle of the Action

Welcome back to the Novel Kicks Writing Room.

Today, I wanted to do some free-writing but focused around beginning the story in the middle of the action.

Using dialogue as your starting line, write up to 500 words of an action scene that puts the reader in the middle of the action. Continue to use dialogue as much as you can.

For example, ‘You need to jump. Now.’

Who your character is in terms of age and background is up to you.

You are welcome to use my example if you like.

Let me know in the comments if you try this and how you found it. What was easy or difficult about it?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Freaky Friday

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

 

Today’s Prompt: Freaky Friday

You have a chance encounter with the person you envied in school. You have always wanted to know what it was like to be them.

When you wake up the following day, you discover you and this person have swapped bodies. They are now you, you are now them.

Write about your day and how you attempt to make things right? Are things as great as you imagined?

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Freewriting Objects

Happy July everyone. 

For the writing room today, I thought we could do some free writing.

First, write down the first four objects that come to your mind.

You are looking under your bed for something.

At the very back, behind some bags, is a shoebox. It is dusty. It’s not been touched for a while. It’s a box you’ve never seen before and you didn’t put it there.

You open it and discover….

Set a timer – ten minutes per object. Write about finding each one.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Trapped in a Lift

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

 

Today’s prompt: Trapped in a lift. 

Three people find themselves trapped in a lift.

These people have not seen each other for a few years.

They are all enemies.

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NK Chats To… Murray Bailey

Hello Murray, thank you so much for joining me today. What was the inspiration for Singapore Killer?

The whole series was inspired by my father who was a military policeman in Singapore during the 1950s.

 

What prompted you to start writing the Singapore Series?

I read a Lee Child novel and thought: I can do that. I have a character and an exotic setting – plus the seeds for a plot. However I subsequently found it harder than I expected.

 

How much research did you do before starting?

I took my dad to Singapore for his 75th birthday. He thought it was a holiday but I never stopped asking questions. I’ve been again since. I’ve and also been to Kuala Lumpur and Penang, both of which feature in the series.

 

So no further research as you work?

Lots of research! I have a number of good reference books for the period including a fabulous one full of photographs. Of course I use the internet, but I also have a few readers who can also be called upon to help.

 

Singapore Killer is book 5. Can it be read as a stand-alone?

I hope so. It’ll help to read them in order, but it really shouldn’t matter.

 

Will there be a sixth book?

Yes, it’s called Singapore Fire, and it will be the last of the series. However Ash Carter may well appear in Hong Kong if he does resurface.

 

Map of the Dead which had flashbacks to ancient Egypt, was an Amazon best seller. Your dad didn’t inspire that one?

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NK Chats To… Derwin Hope

Thank you so much for joining me today, Derwin. Can you tell me a little about your book, Charles Dickens: My Life?

It is the life story of Charles Dickens using his own words to tell his story. On a number of occasions Dickens expressed the wish to write his own life story, but he died prematurely in 1870 at the age of 58 without doing it.

Now 150 years later and for the first time I have collected up all the various pieces of that jigsaw of things that he said about his life and put them into the narrative. It produces the nearest thing to an autobiography that is now possible.

Details of me, what I have done, and the written comments of people who have read my proofs can be seen on my official website at www.dickensmylife.com.

 

What challenges did you face when writing this novel?

The overwhelming challenge of hunting out things he actually said and did, as distinct from what other people have said about him in the last 150 years.

 

How did you approach the writing process for this novel?

I began my research about 25 years ago, became more focussed about collecting up the relevant pieces after I became a Judge in Portsmouth (his birthplace) in 2004 and visited the bedroom of his birth, and once I had retired in 2014 spent nearly 4 years putting all the pieces I had found together into a continuous narrative.

 

What do you think Charles Dickens would feel about the current state of the world?

I suspect he would be highly critical about it, as he was in his own day. He never trusted most politicians, having seen them at work in Parliament in his early career as a Parliamentary reporter. He later referred to Parliament as “The Dustheap of Westminster”. He was equally damming on the politicians he saw in America, as well as the way the press reported things over there.

He said many of the newspapers were only fit to be used as a water closet doormat. He was a Radical by nature and had a huge social conscience and whenever he saw anything that he felt was socially wrong he spoke out strongly against it. He became the people’s champion and that is why he was so loved in his time, apart from the brilliant fictional novels he also wrote. I think he would have taken the same approach to the social issues of today if he was alive now.

 

Which Charles Dickens character would you like to meet and why?

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Stranded

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt: Stranded.

You wake up to find that you’re on a deserted Island. You don’t remember how you got there. The last you remember, you were at home.

There doesn’t seem to be anyone around until you are approached by an animal. Yes, this animal seems to be able to walk like a human can.

What shocks you even more is when this animal smiles at you, welcomes you to the island and hands you a tent.

Continue the story…

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Planning Short Stories

Today, I want to go back to the beginning and look at planning. 

I am quickly becoming aware that I am not a writer who can just sit down and write. I need to know where I want my story to go or I end up with a lot of similar scenes as my story goes around in circles as I have no idea how to move it forward.

So, today’s exercise is the following…

Make a plan for a story, in note form that’s related to one of the following topics..

Inheriting an old house.

A blind date

Broken down car in a deserted area

A holiday that goes wrong

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My Writing Ramblings: Finding my Motivation

May is finally on the horizon.

April has seemed such a long month.

There is certainly a strange atmosphere right now as we all try and navigate our way through this situation. To me, it feels like that week between Christmas and New Year where you’re waiting for something to happen but not quite sure what to do with yourself.

I am naturally the type of person who likes being at home, preferably with warm pyjamas, a duvet, a cup of tea, a snoozing cat and a book although I am slightly obsessed with Animal Crossing right now. Despite being this type of person, even I am beginning to struggle with the lockdown. It’s necessary to stay at home but we’re only human. It’s natural to find it hard, even when you know it’s the right thing to do.

At the beginning of April, I was struggling with motivation to do anything (my enthusiasm to do housework is never there.)

It’s amazing how tiring doing nothing makes you, right?

I have been reading a lot which I love. I am also finally writing and I am so proud of this fact.

If you’re struggling to be motivated, I wanted to share something that has really helped me in the last few weeks.

Since discovering a website called Unchained Writer, I have managed to write every day since 9th April. My aim is 1,000 words each day and for the most part, I have managed this with a couple of exceptions. Regardless, it all helps to get me closer to writing and finishing a novel I have been trying to find the confidence to write for years.

Unchained Writer has been a real game changer for me. It’s made such a difference.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Childhood Differences

Today, I want to again focus on how the same scene can be seen differently by two people despite being in the same room, witnessing the same thing. 

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. When writing from the point of view of my main character, I also wonder what the other people in the particular scene are thinking.

In my own childhood, if asked, I would probably remember an event differently than my siblings would. I used to dance and enter competitions. How was it for my brother who was dragged along?

Think of an incident from your childhood where you were the centre of attention. How did you feel? What happened? Write for ten minutes, basing your story about this incident.

Now, write for another ten minutes but this time, write from the point of view of a sibling, cousin or friend who was also there. What differences are there in the thoughts, feelings and view of events?

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A Moment With… Nia Rose and Octavia J. Riley

Octavia J. Riley

Nia Rose and Octavia J. Riley are co-authors of Spellbound and Hellhounds and Secrets of the Sanctuary, the first two novels in the Coven Chronicles. 

 

About Spellbound and Hellhounds, book one in the Coven Chronicles. 

Enter the world of Raen, turn left at the land of dragons, and you’ll find yourself in the country of Aeristria. A place overflowing with magic and creatures that were once only heard of in fairy-tales. In the heart of Aeristria is the capital city, Tolvade. Here you will find shops and taverns, laughter and fun, runesmiths looking for their next job and sneaky pickpocketing imps. Steer clear of the galloping gang of centaurs and you will see the headquarters of the prestigious Coven.

Within the Coven’s lower ranks, you’ll find Vanessa, a third-year Hunter itching to become a Spellweaver. Her and her trusted demon partner, Botobolbilian, must investigate an explosion at the academy and bring the culprit responsible in. Easy job, right?

Wrong.

Nia Rose

Vanessa and her partner find that this investigation runs deep in black magic and sprinkled with feral demon summonings. With countless lives on the line, Vanessa struggles with self-doubt and following her heart (and laws) as she tries to right the wrongs of these heinous criminals and bring them to justice before they do any more harm.

But, with an oncoming yearly blizzard just days away, is it too late? Even with all the magic, spells, and power on Raen, this job might be the last that this duo ever faces…

 

About Secrets of the Sanctuary, book two in the Coven Chronicles.

Thea Bauer has earned her way to being a highly skilled member of the Coven. Ranked as a Spellweaver, she’s assigned the more dangerous missions. Corralling a herd of wild unicorns? No problem. Taking down a witch riding the high of black magic? Piece of cake. Finding out why magic-based creatures are suddenly flooding the local sanctuary, protected by a powerful sorceress with a hatred for the Coven? Thea might need more than her tethered demonic partner to see this mission through.

She calls upon Summoner Rafe MacBain, a trusted colleague she’s known for years whose dreamy eyes might keep her up at night—but she’s not admitting that to anyone. He’s got his own demonic companion, and altogether they’re a force to be reckoned with. But, even with their combined strength, it might not be enough against feral demons escaping some of the farthest reaches of Hell.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Thea must conquer her own demons residing within herself that conjure up a painful past. Will she be able to overcome herself, or will the memories she’s tried to stray from keep her from fighting enemies in the physical realm? Thea is starting to wonder if the sorceress may be one of those enemies too. What secret is she hiding at the bottom of the sanctuary, and how will it affect everything Thea has come to know?

 

Octavia has joined me today to talk about duel writing and the challenges both she and Nia face. Thank you for joining me. Over to you.

 

Nia and I get asked quite frequently how we go about writing a dual-trilogy of the same world in the same timeline. We always look at each other and agree: challenging. Not in the “Oh, this is so hard“ or “You can’t do that, it doesn’t work with MY story” sort of way (not to say we haven’t said that once or twice…). It’s challenging in a way that forces us to think, adapt, grow, and roll with what we’re given. It challenges us as authors and puts our imaginations to the test, which is invaluable when delving into fantasy.

 

There’s definitely flaws and loopholes when writing  in a world shared by another author, but the beauty of that is that there’s two set of eyes to catch these loopholes. I remember we were so engrossed in our stories that we kind of got carried away, and Nia came up to me and was like, “Uh…hold on, was I at the Grim Bean the same time you were talking to the imp?” We realized that our characters did, in deed, come into close contact with each other, and this gave birth to our first cameo appearance in Spellbound & Hellhounds. We were able to sneak one more cameo appearance in when both of our characters were in Tasgall’s at the same time (something that we both realized later when we read over the story, because we clearly didn’t learn about paying attention to the timeline the first time). We’re those authors who don’t know exactly where the story’s going when we write it. We just write it however it comes to us. Neil Gaiman once said “Write down everything that happens in the story, and then in your second draft make it look like you knew what you were doing all along.”

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