Saturday, 27 May 2017

Help! Too Many Book Ideas

Call it a gift, or call it a curse, but one of the hardest parts of being a writer is deciding which book idea to pursue. Simply having too many ideas!

It's been a year since I published Gabriel's Game, Part 2: The Black Knight - marking the end of a journey to write the Sheridan and Blake books, that started in 2009.

A combination of factors has led to my books dropping off the radar and the worst sales since I published The Bronze Box in 2013.

My reasons (or excuses) for being rubbish at selling books in 2017:

  • Being too busy with my business, and focusing my energy on writing the 'Write Your Way to Success' online course for business bloggers

  • Amazon's algorithms have changed to favour paid advertisers. Organic reach for books is more and more difficult to achieve without some serious work at it.

  • Just not doing enough to market my books and maintain consistent sales 

  • Psychologically, I left Sheridan and Blake behind when I finished the series, I'm mentally in other book ideas...

...And here's the rub - I've got 5 ideas now for books to spin off from the series. 

Each time I have a new idea, that one seems like the one I should pursue, then another one pops into my brain and the previous one gets side-lined.

I always say to the clients I coach, "The hardest part of writing is getting started."

If only I could learn to follow my own advice?  

I wrote on Linked In about 'Taming The Ideas Junkie' - how to organise your ideas and make decisions.

However, I can do all the filtering I like, the fact remains, that whichever book idea I pursue next, it will involve me dedicating the next few months of my life to writing a little every day.

At which point, it becomes an issue of prioritisation and time management.

Or maybe I just need a little help deciding?

So, here are my 5 book ideas, tell me which one you like:

1) Finding the Scream 

When a cache of art stolen by the Nazi’s is uncovered in an abandoned mine in Austria, Katarina Orlov is called in to investigate. She enlists the help of a former colleague from The Agency - Tom Sheridan - who is now an art dealer. Amongst the cache is a missing version of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. When Tom and Kat walk into an ambush, they must find the art before it's sold into the black market. But first Kat must face the demons from her past if she wants to find The Scream

I've already written portions of this, but I don't know where the story will go or how it will end. It’s proving to be a struggle.

2) The Ruining

To break a man, you must take from him that which he loves the most; to ruin a man, you must make him believe it's his fault. 

Art dealer and former spy Tom Sheridan’s wife has been kidnapped. The ransom? To step into the darkness of his past and commit a terrible crime, or his wife will die.

This idea gives me chills, and scenes from it are vivid in my mind’s eye. Any excuse to get Tom Sheridan at his flawed hero best again. All I've written so far are some notes and scraps of narrative, I don’t know what the crime is Tom is asked to commit yet, or why the kidnappers need him to do it.

3) The Professor's Legacy

His reputation on the line, his marriage on the rocks, his life's work about to be ripped from beneath him, Dr David Thornton is a desperate man. He accepts an anonymous donation, no questions asked, to fund the archaeological dig he's dedicated his career to, but there's a catch; he must retrieve an artefact from the site, a mysterious Bronze Box and deliver it to his benefactor. When his conscience gets the better of him, Professor Thornton wants to know why this box is so important. But how much will he sacrifice to find the truth?

This is a prequal to the Bronze Box. Fans of the book will know the fate of Dr David Thornton, but fans of the series will want to learn more about why. So far this is just a concept, with a few notes. It could potentially be a novella, and much of the plot is already established from the Sheridan and Blake series. I just need to pull it together and work out the connections.

The next 2 ideas are both part of the Katarina Orlov series. It doesn't matter what order I write these in, although the stories all star Katarina, each will be a stand alone book.

4) Finding the Seeker

Freelance seeker, Katarina Orlov, is sent deep into the rainforests of central America to retrieve an ancient Mayan artefact stolen from the Natural History Museum in Mexico City. She unwittingly attracts the attention of a Mexican drug cartel, who believe she is in possession of a shipment of cocaine bound for LA.  The cartel kidnap Kat’s daughter, Elly, as leverage. Katarina must find and deliver the drugs to the cartel by the deadline or Elly dies. 

Again, none of this is written yet. All I have is the concept, notes and a clear idea of the characters involved. There will be a certain noir irreverence to this story, with the Mexican drug barons being comically, yet deliciously, evil.

5) Finding Revenge

Freelance seeker, Katarina Orlov, travels to Key West on the trail of a missing artefact that went down with a ship in the 18th century - a ship taken by pirates and renamed Revenge. But to solve the 200-year-old mystery of this ship, Kat must resist her own temptation to seek revenge.

This is just concept, but I love the idea of doing some research on piracy. With Bristol as my adoptive home, I'm fascinated by the piracy trade that was the dark underbelly in the history of the city. I'm also, unashamedly, inspired to write a pirate book by 'Black Sails'. I've no idea what the 'missing artefact' is at this point, or who Kat is seeking revenge over, but it could be a great caper of a story?

What do you think?

Which of these stories would you like to get your teeth into first?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

How Should I Structure My Book? - Infographic

I write fiction as Amy C Fitzjohn, but when I'm not writing, my day job is to help others discover the joy of writing - in particular, businesses. 

As a Content Coach, I work with small businesses every day to help them bring their words to life, using my experience as a fiction author, story fanatic and a trainer.

I'm working with a client who is writing a non-fiction book.

At our last session, we talked about how to structure her book, the 'architecture' behind building that book.  

It made me realise that putting together a book, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, needs to follow a sensible structure and there are differences between books, and in the world of digital publishing best practice is still evolving.

For example, in a print book there are sections that would traditionally be in the front, such as, achknowledgements, list of other books by the author, etc.

However, in an eBook it's better to put these in the back. 

This is bacasue when people go to 'look inside' the book on Amazon, they want to read the book! 

There's nothing more infuriating than not being able to read any actual book content! 

You really don't want to infuriate people before they buy - they'll never be a customer if you do!

I've put together this handy infographic for anyone planning a book. 

It gives you a sense of how to structure it and where to put things.

When you write the first draft, don't get too hung up on the order of things and what should be where - writing a book does not have to be a linear process. 

The most important thing is to just write. 

Get the words out of your brain, just as they come, then chop, change a rearrange later.

Happy writing!

Friday, 7 April 2017

10 Tips for Beginner Writers

Today, I'm proud to host a guest on the blog, Rachel Summers.

Rachel pitched an idea for an article to me. I'm always happy to welcome guests PITCH HERE.

Even as a published author, there are some great tips in Rachel's article, especially for those days when you just can't seem to find the writing mojo...

10 Tips for Beginner Writers


Starting out a career in writing, or just looking to expand on your skills? You can improve your skills quite significantly by learning from the experts, and taking on board some of these simple tips.

1. Be Concise

The title for this tip could have been ‘Don’t spend too much time explaining yourself’. Instead, it is ‘be concise’. By ensuring that you use only the words necessary to fully explain your point, you can keep your reader’s interest for longer. Be concise in your wording, but don’t miss out important points either. 

2. Be an Editor

On some days, writing can be daunting. On the days that you don’t feel like writing, use that time to be your own editor. Spend time going over content you have already produced, checking your spelling and grammar, and seeing if there is anywhere you can simplify what you have written.

3. Have Patience

Writing something you are really proud of isn’t always instant. While the learning process will allow you to write better content, quicker, you will still have to be patient during the writing process. It make take a couple of attempts before you get the piece you imagined, and it could take quite some time editing. This is advice you can obtain from a wide range of writing specialists, including Goins Writer.

4. Write for Yourself

A piece of advice that many people question, is to write for yourself. Even when you are writing for an audience, writing for yourself has a number of benefits. You will become more honest, more open and more thorough in what you write. You won’t need to lie or exaggerate, and you will develop a style that is uniquely you. When you stop worrying too much about the audience and focus instead on writing quality content that portrays the right message, you become a better writer. Writers over at Writer’s Digest swear by this method.

5. Disconnect

Disconnect yourself from social media. That means logging off Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Don’t let these notifications distract you as you are writing, as even just five minutes away from writing puts you in a different headspace and takes you out of your ‘zone’.

6. Create a Workspace

Rather than writing from bed, or in your favorite chair, set up a workspace that is dedicated only to writing. When you enter your workspace, log off your social media and enter the ‘zone’. Writers over at UK Top Writers will tell you just how important this is to write quality content.

7. Read

Someone who doesn’t read will find it difficult to become an exceptional writer. Read the books and articles of people you admire and who you aspire to write like.

8. Practice Your Summaries

When writing a longer piece, it’s important to summarize your points so that you can take readers through a complex journey. Practice your summaries, by writing summaries for shorter pieces, and not publishing them.

9. The Three Ps

The three Ps are ‘patience, purpose and perseverance’. Always remember that patience and perseverance are necessary for you to create good content, but your writing must also have a clear purpose. If a reader is unsure of what you are trying to say and why, they will become disinterested and stop reading.

10. Manage Your Time

It’s important to manage your time and create schedules that you stick to. If you don’t stick to your schedule, you will find yourself missing deadlines or simply taking longer than you need to. Time management is a big part of being a writer.


Rachel J Summers is an experience local newspaper reporter and journalist with a passion for truth and great writing. She also works at UK Top Writers, and has years of experience as a freelance writer and editor. You can find her on Twitter at @RachelJSummers.

A big thank you to Rachel for contributing!