Kathryn Brown is the author of two books, mum to 13 year old daughter Amy and runs a sheep and arable farm in Northumberland. Being a lover of writing since an early age, Kathryn has written many short stories and articles before focusing more on novels, reaching her ultimate ambition to have her debut novel published in 2011. Her second book, Nightingale Woods, was released on 30th January 2013 and here she shares her tips with us
Have you ever thought, “I want to write a book,” but then sighed and assumed you wouldn’t have time, what with being a busy mum and all the other commitments we parents have? Well stop sighing because writing a book is a goal anyone can achieve. You might work 40 hours a week then come home at weekends to a pile of ironing, a couple of demanding kids, and a house that needs a good deep clean, but writing a book doesn’t have to be an overnight achievement.
In fact, it can takes years to pen a novel and a few more years to get it published.
I spent three years researching and writing my first book, Discovery at Rosehill. Admittedly, I spent several months unable to write because of an illness, but every day I would think about the next stage of the book and make a few notes, until eventually, those notes merged together and I could finally visualise a manuscript in its entirety. The research focused around mediumship and paranormal investigations and that wasn’t something that could be rushed. I did a lot of investigative work because the subject of spirits is one that not many people understand. I didn’t want to just write what I know, what I experience myself, but instead wanted to expand on my knowledge and give a broader view of mediumship to those who perhaps may not have appreciated it. Through taking my time with that research, many people who had little or no understanding of the spirit world, got in touch with me and expressed how a book about ghosts, manifestations, mediumship and things that go bump in the night, would never have been a book they’d have read. Yet they enjoyed it because I’d made it easier to understand about a world beyond our own.
That was great feedback, and it was more than appreciated. It meant that all my hard work had paid off. Being a mum to a daughter with autism, running a farm, being an active social networker and a special needs campaigner hadn’t stood in my way. My determination to write my debut novel stayed with me; tired as I was I finished that book and got it published. I knew I could write a book but I wasn’t sure if I was able to commit myself enough. But I did, eventually.
Last week I launched my second novel, Nightingale Woods, a completely different genre, not a ghost in sight and the only spirits being in liquid form that my main character drowns her sorrows in. Nightingale Woods was a much easier book to write because it didn’t need as much research. I wrote a draft synopsis for my own benefit, created the characters, gave them names, ages, hair colour, eye shades, height, personalities and an accent, then opened a Word doc and started to type the first draft of the manuscript. I wrote the whole book, all 83,000 words, in less than two weeks. I did most of my writing whilst Amy was at school, and perhaps a little in the evening when I wasn’t being pestered with ‘what’s for tea?’. I won’t deny that I probably neglected my husband a little and most definitely neglected my daughter, but both entertained themselves because they understood I was on a tight deadline, a deadline I’d given myself. That was my commitment.
A few pointers to note if you’re serious about writing a book could be:
- Create the characterisation for your characters and get to know them as though they were real people in your life. Go out and do some people-watching to get some ideas of their image; hair colour, eyes, height, personal features such as, do they have a limp or are they in a wheelchair; are they beautiful, handsome or particularly pretty; are they giggly, serious, miserable, sociable; what are their ages, are they married, widowed, divorced, single, gay.
- Where is your book set, i.e. place names, pub names, school names etc. I find it easier to write about places I’m familiar with. For example, I’ve never been to Australia so I wouldn’t base my stories there, but I live near the Scottish borders and have visited many parts of Scotland several times so I base my books around this area. Do you want to use real place names or would you prefer to invent them? I use both. I know someone who mixes place names up, eg, Newcastle and Gateshead might become Newhead, or Gatescastle. These are just very vague examples of course.
- Will there be sex scenes in your book? If so, do you know how to write a good, juicy sex scene… or are you like me and just leave most of the scene to your reader’s imagination. Perhaps you want your book to be adult-themed but you’re not really familiar with getting that perfect sex scene. That’s where research comes in *wink*.
- One of the most important parts of being an author is being a reader first. You need to read books, particularly in the genre you wish to write. If you are writing chick-lit, download ten or so chick-lit books onto your Kindle; if you are writing a ghost story, same applies, and so on. Get a feel for how other authors pen their manuscript. Don’t be afraid of using big words. Have a dictionary and Thesaurus handy at all times.
It sounds like a daunting goal to fulfill but I’ve done it, twice. Most days I don’t know what day it is but because of my determination to reach the ambition of being an author, I made that commitment to myself and got through it.
Just remember that you don’t need to write your book overnight or indeed in two weeks like I did with my second. I didn’t intend for it to take me three years with my first novel but it did, and when it was finally out there to be read, criticised, scrutinised and fortunately appreciated, however nervous I was about the reviews, it was the best feeling an author can experience. I did it. Twice. And I can’t wait to do it again.
You can find Kathryn blogging regular over at Crystal Jigsaw