© 2016 by Catherine Bilson

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November 13, 2019

What this book is REALLY going to tell you is that there are no easy answers. With thousands of books being released every day, if you don’t want yours to disappear from view instantly, you’re going to have to actually market it. Even if you’re with a mainstream publisher, you as the author will still have to do something, from book signings to library talks. Self-publishers have to do everything, or risk sinking without trace. And being self-published myself, I can tell you, it can seem appallingly daunting. There are so many options, and it’s easy to let it overwhelm you or take over your life to the point where you have no time to actually write (been there, done that). 

If you’re finding the whole thing overwhelming, this book will give you a lot of places to start which are quite small. From optimizing Amazon keywords to hitting up book...

November 3, 2019

First of all, let me just comment that this book isn’t just for romance writers. If you’re a man concerned about his work ever winding up featured on the @menwritingwomen Twitter account, for example, or you’re terrified of one day being nominated for the Bad Sex In Fiction Award, you should make this book required reading, because the authors definitely know what they’re talking about, and they disseminate the knowledge in easily-digested, comprehensible chunks paired with sensible exercises to improve your writing. 

One of my favourite exercises, for example, is a suggestion to improve your ‘first meeting’ scene by writing a scene set 50 years on, where your characters are reminiscing about their first impressions. This really makes you focus on what makes that particular scene memorable, what will make it exciting to the reader.

The title...

October 22, 2019

With 100 books to her name and over 35 million copies sold worldwide, Leigh Michaels knows a thing or two about writing romance, and in this fantastically thorough guide, she shares a great deal of it in easy-to-understand language. Divided into four parts, the first three cover the actual writing process, from deciding what kind of romance novel you’re writing through establishing the framework - and making sure you plan to include everything a reader expects to find in a romance - to actually writing the book. There’s a lot of solid information here about story structure, how and when to use narration and dialogue, plot devices and character building etc. While writers in other genres will definitely learn something, this is genuinely invaluable advice for aspiring romance authors who have yet to learn all the conventions of the genre (an...

September 29, 2019

There’s a lot of very useful information for the aspiring novelist in this guide. A literary agent and experienced author of both fiction and non-fiction, Essinger knows his craft and presents some excellent advice here, breaking down and explaining terms often presented to aspiring authors, such as ‘show don’t tell’, how to make your story into a page-turner and how to make your characters both realistic and sympathetic. 

There were spots where I thought Essinger dumbed down the explanation a little too much, such as when talking about ‘plants’, he doesn’t mention Chekov’s Gun, the dramatic principle that every element in a story must contribute to the whole. There were one or two oddities as well, such as using a specific book he admitted he hadn’t actually read to illustrate a concept, which I thought strange. And the fact that he doesn’t...

July 7, 2019

This is quite a short read, and the actual meat of the advice contained in it doesn’t start until about the 60% mark. The first part of the book is basically some statistics on why you should include female characters in your story, which basically boils down to ‘women buy books and watch movies and TV’ which strikes me as common sense, but then I suspect that, being female, I’m not really part of this book’s intended audience demographic.

Some of the advice in the book is excellent, regarding making your female characters realistic and three-dimensional, and honestly? You can’t beat free, which is the permanent price of this book.

I do, however, disagree with the author on two fundamental issues. The first is the Bechdel test, which she airily dismisses as ‘a 30-year-old comic strip’. 30 years on from that comic strip, if your story fails th...

June 21, 2019

This is one of those reviews I might have to revisit once I’ve had some time to put the advice it contains into practice, because make no mistake, this is not a get-rich-quick scheme. David Gaughran lays out a methodical plan for getting BookBub ads to work for your book, using some basic math, decent graphics and a reasonable budget, but it isn’t going to work overnight. Not unless you can afford to do all the testing he recommends simultaneously, anyway, which I definitely can’t.

What I like best about this book is it’s not math-dense. I’m no dullard with math, but my eyes glaze over once statistic-heavy spreadsheets start to come into play, and with Gaughran’s method, you have absolutely no need of them. He gives some very understandable targets you can see right from your BookBub ad dashboard, and then discusses how to go about optimizin...

November 9, 2018

A book review about book reviews? How very meta! 

Full title: Book Review Secrets For Author Success: How to win great reviews to make your book shine by Barb Drozdowich.

As an indie author who’s been learning the industry for a few years now, one of the questions I most often see from folks who’ve just put their first book out is “How do I get reviews?” Well, if you’re lucky enough to be signed with one of the big publishers, they might do some of the work for you. Otherwise, dear rookie author, it’s all up to you, and Barb Drozdowich is here to guide you gently through the process.

First of all, what a lot of folks outside the industry don’t realize is that there are different types of reviews as well as different sources, and more places to share those reviews than you ever imagined. Drozdowich carefully explains the difference between prof...

October 19, 2018

Where Rock Your Plot differs from other plotting books is that it is unashamedly aimed at genre (read; popular) fiction. Which means it works great for THE most popular genre of all, romance, and that’s what I’m going to focus on in this review because I am recommending this book SPECIFICALLY for romance authors who want to improve their plotting skills.

Cathy Yardley knows exactly what she’s talking about. She’s written category romance for Harlequin, among many other things in a stellar career. She knows how to plot out a romance novel scene by scene, to make it hit all the correct beats at the right times, and in Rock Your Plot she shares a really simple method for doing so.

Starting with a one-line story premise and building on through to an outline of every single scene (up to 60!) in a full-length novel, Yardley walks you through the ex...

October 13, 2018

Full title: Fool Proof Outline: A No-Nonsense System for Productive Brainstorming, Outlining, & Drafting Novels - Christopher Downing

I’m going to start this with a note that if you’re a romance writer, the Fool Proof Outline Christopher Scott Downing has created for you to use in Scrivener or Excel isn’t going to work for you. It’s not suited to romance novels (except possibly suspense or paranormal which is heavier on the plot than the romance). However, though I don’t write them myself, I can see how this would work brilliantly for mystery, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy and pretty much every other major genre of fiction. It’s perfectly laid out in terms of beats you’ll need to hit in your book, following a traditional nine-part plot structure. Romance beats work differently, which is why I’d recommend someth...

October 5, 2018

Full Title: The 8-Minute Writing Habit: Create a Consistent Writing Habit That Works With Your Busy Lifestyle by Monica Leonelle.

This is an excellent resource for someone who wants to write but is just too busy. For someone in full-time work or being a full-time mom (or both), who at the end of the day just wants to collapse into a comfy chair. Yet, they’ve still got characters in their head and stories which need to be told.

If this describes you - you want to write but you just can’t find the time - this is the book you need. Monica describes not one but a whole bunch of different techniques for carving small slices of time out of your day. Where a half-hour seems impossible, 8 minutes is a segment of time anyone can find. I’m a big advocate of using modern technologies to write on the go, from portable Bluetooth keyboards to dictation or...

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