Friday, 11 November 2016

My Writing Journey

And so it’s nearly here - d-day to publishing my fifth novel – The Body in the Bath. Back in 2008 when I started writing, if you told me I’m be on my fifth publication in 2016 I’d have laughed. Don’t get me wrong I would be hopeful and determined (I’m always determined) to reach that target, but I would still have laughed.
Writing for me started as a hobby, a pass time, turned in to a little business and now has reverted back to a hobby. A hobby that pays me. I do have a full time job, so many people I meet ask if writing is my full time profession, but it’s not. I work full time as a project manager in property development for a housing association and I love what I do. Writing is just a nice little side line that keeps me sane and if you’re a writer you will know that once you start writing you can’t stop. It’s something that is in your blood. To stop would be a big ask. 
So as I get ready to release the Body in the Bath this Sunday the 13th November (as an e-book – paperback to follow soon after) - I thought it would be a good time to take a moment and reflect over my writing journey.
When I started I didn’t really know what I was doing I just wanted to write, I self-published my first book – perhaps too hastily as looking back on that first novel I’m not entirely happy with it. Obviously I was at the time or I wouldn’t have published it! And it taught me so much: How to self-publish (before the days of Scrivener), the joys of 5* and the pain of 1* reviews, finding a glaring error five years after publication and how to deal with it. The commercial success of the book (it has sold the most copies of any book I have published). It has enabled me to keep writing knowing that I’m making a profit and it was this commercial success which planted the seed that is now The Chupplejeep Mysteries.  But mostly without the publication of the first, I wouldn’t have produced any of my other work – all of which I am proud of. So my advice to anyone who has written a book and is scared of getting it out there, or even someone who is thinking about writing is to just get on with it and do it. Why not? What have you got to lose – as a writer friend wrote in her recent guest post on my blog – no one ever died from writing a book – so what have you got to lose. Yes you are scared of 1* reviews, but trust me you will learn more from them then the 5* ones and much more than from your manuscript sitting in a drawer.
Joining a writing group too has done my writing wonders. I don’t take stuff to read every week – In fact I rarely do these days – just the first chapters – but listening to critique and critiquing has been valuable. In the first couple of years after I joined I read out quite a bit as well and the feedback was just what I needed to fix those issues with my writing that I just couldn’t see. What has been really helpful though is the sub-writing group that I’m in where we critique full manuscripts. Three of my books (the last three) have been critiqued and the feedback has been invaluable. The editors I have worked with have commented (in a positive way) about my plot lines relatively free of gaping holes and I put this down to the critique. So that is my other tip – join a writing group and not a loving one. We are not loving – we tell it like it is. Of course you want to hear that your writing is fab but that isn’t going to improve your writing.
It isn’t just writing groups that are helpful. I’ve read countless books on punctuation (believe it or not they have improved my punctuation – but I’m still not great) and a couple on novel writing. I have stacks of information and books on forensics and on trees and birds of Goa (for Chupplejeep research). I probably know more Konkani (native language of Goa) than I have ever known. Reading general novels as well as been a help – sometimes an inspiration, but  mostly light relief and being able to appreciate some amazing authors.
So after the steep learning curve of the first book, I signed up to an indie publisher for the second – The Bittersweet Vine - and although I don’t see much of a return from this book, it has opened doors for me. I’m now a member of the Society of Authors and more recently the Crime Writers Association. Two prestigious and fantastic societies I am proud to be part of. And I did learn from my publishing experience. I signed to another small press for my fourth book – Poison in the Water and the experience was better. I’m not sure what the sales have been like but again I’m not expecting much. The beauty of Indie publishing is learning from other publishers - that and not having to pay for the publication. It keeps my profit and loss account looking healthy (that business degree of mine is coming in handy!), but long term it isn’t the best financial decision as my self published books make more of a profit. I’ve realised though I like having the mix. Self publishing is hard work and having someone else worry about the cover, the editing and the actual publication is a welcome change.  
My third book Under the Coconut Tree was by far (I think) my best work. I think by book three I had honed my skill and with Chupplejeep I found a niche I’m comfortable and confident in. It is cosy crime so not to everyone’s liking. I know people who loved The Bittersweet Vine didn’t really take to Chupplejeep. I do love writing thrillers and my fourth book Poison in the Water, although marketed as a romantic suspense novel, I think is more of a hybrid between thriller and romantic suspense.
Chupplejeep is a series and book 5 – The Body in the Bath is A Chupplejeep Mystery!
So that’s it. My writing career in a nutshell. It has been an interesting 8 years and it has flown by. My advice to you is that if you are thinking of starting a book…just do it – what have you got to lose?!