Jilly: Which Story Would You Tell?

“Where do you get your ideas?” is supposedly the question most asked of successful authors.

I collect and hoard story starters from here, there and everywhere (Alexis grew from the juxtaposition of two fascinating anecdotes shared by my hairdresser), but my all-time favorite source is the BBC website.

Most weeks I stumble across something weird or wonderful that makes my brain fizz. I bookmark them in a folder called ‘story stuff’ and forget about them until I’m looking for ideas or inspiration or just something a little different to get the wheels turning.

I had one of those days today, so I took a stroll through my story stuff file. There are more than a hundred nuggets in there, but here are a trio of good ones.

A sci-fi classic: Continue reading

Jilly: Making Good Use of Critical Reviews

Do you read reviews when you’re thinking about buying a book? How do you use them to help your decision-making?

I never take account of the star ratings, but I used to spend quite a lot of time sifting through the reviews themselves, trying to find ones that I thought were written by a reader with tastes similar to mine, who’d bought the book with their own hard-earned money and reviewed it because they wanted to discuss what worked for them and what didn’t.

That’s become almost impossible of late, because reviews are so important that publishers and authors will do whatever they legitimately can to collect as many high-scoring, positive reviews as possible. Searching for the few that might be useful to me has become a needle/haystack exercise, and linking reviews to verified purchases has, if anything, made the problem worse.

Now, if I see a book with hundreds or even thousands of five-star reviews, it does not make me think the book is likely to be good. I start with the expectation that the book is very probably the beneficiary of a well-executed and possibly expensive marketing campaign, and that I should disregard most if not all of the enthusiastic endorsement.

So I’ve been trying a new tactic lately—if it’s a book I like the sound of, but there are so many unhelpfully positive reviews that I can’t use them to form an opinion, I read the detailed critical reviews instead. Perhaps that sounds odd, but it’s been working quite well, for three reasons. Continue reading

Michille: Recorded Sessions

RWA 2017So many recorded sessions, so little time. Actually, the second part isn’t exactly true. I have all the time in the world. I’m referring to the RWA National Conference recordings. I bought them at the last RWA Conference I attended with every intention of listening to them regularly for motivation and craft reminders. I thought, oh, I have lots of time because I don’t have to listen to them all at once and was looking forward to parsing out the listening as motivation until I went to the next one. Continue reading

Jilly: Relaxed, Entertained, Informed, Inspired

How do you like to spend your evenings?

I’ve always been a morning person. I find that I do my best writing from breakfast time until early afternoon, when I slow down and eventually grind to a halt. Then I’m usually good for business or household challenges until dinnertime. After that I have an hour, maybe two or three, when my brain doesn’t seem to want to work, but is oddly susceptible to ideas and impressions. If I use this downtime well, it can be incredibly useful later.

Continue reading

Jilly: Fantastic Free Resource–Alli Independent Author Fringe

Alliance of Independent Authors Indie Author Fringe–London Book Fair, March 2017

Big thanks to Kay for alerting me to this great resource: the Alliance of Indpendent Authors (Alli) is holding an online conference this weekend to tie in with the London Book Fair.

By 10am London time today, they will have uploaded 24 hours’ worth of great presentations on topics like understanding the writing process, perfecting your first 50 pages, identifying and eliminating the biggest mistakes most fiction writers make, and all kinds of advice about self-publishing including writing better book descriptions, advertising, and audiobooks.

Best of all, the sessions are archived for you to view at your own convenience, and they’re totally free.

Check out the conference agenda here.

And find the links to the presentations here.

I’ll be catching up on some of the technical ones later today, but I already watched and really enjoyed fantasy author KM Weiland’s one-hour talk: Are You Making These Common Fiction Writing Mistakes?

It’s worth noting that Alli will be hosting a further two conferences this year, to coincide with the major book fairs, so if you find these presentations useful, it might be a good idea to sign up to be notified of future events. I did 😉

Enjoy!

Jilly: Educated and Entertained

Anyone interested in hearing Eloisa James, Ilona and Gordon Andrews, Alisha Rai, and Sarah MacLean discuss various aspects of romance writing?

I just spent almost three hours online watching a recording of a fascinating, funny and insightful seminar held last week at Duke University. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. My plan was to skim it for the good bits and listen to the rest later, but it turned out to be all killer, no filler. The only bits I skipped were the rest breaks 😉 .

The event was called Gender, Sexuality, Feminism and the Romance Novel, and indeed all those subjects are covered in an intelligent and engaging way, but there was so much more.

Each author talked about their home environment and what led them to become a romance writer. After that, the Q&A session included: Continue reading

Jilly: Don’t Leave Your Story in the Cold Over the Holidays

dont-leave-your-story-in-the-coldCan you believe it’s December already? How’s your month looking? Busy?

May I add something to your schedule? Earmark a few minutes each day – five, ten, fifteen, whatever you can shoehorn in – to make sure your story doesn’t get lost in the seasonal brouhaha.

Even for a holiday humbug like me, December is a time sink. It was worse when I had a day job – closing the payroll ten days early with the extra headache of bonuses to calculate and pay; a year end to prepare for; and in the middle of the financial scramble, parties to organize and/or attend for staff, clients and suppliers.

I’m glad I don’t have to do that any more. My life is also relatively quiet on the family front, but my calendar is still filling up. Multiple catch-ups with friends and ex-colleagues who are home for the holidays. A birthday trip to see the Abstract Expressionists at the Royal Academy. A night at the theatre. A few days with my mum, even though she doesn’t really know it’s Christmas anymore. Visits on mum’s behalf to her friends and ex-neighbors. A haircut. Gift and grocery shopping. A rare opportunity to see my expat brother, who’s flying home for a couple of weeks.

In the midst of all this activity, my immediate writing priority Continue reading