Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Taking Stock

Now we are coming to the end of another year, I like to look back on what I have achieved and what I didn't achieve with my writing this year. Primarily my writing time has been taken up with the three Great War books I wrote for Pen & Sword Books. The first, Newport in The Great War will be released at the end of January 2016 with the other two, Kidderminster and Ludlow in the Great War following shortly afterwards.

When I started the books, I was unsure as to whether I would ever get all that research and writing done to deadline, but I did! It's always a worry at the start of any new writing project as to whether, with the wind blowing in the right direction, you will ever get it finished. But it is possible to research and write three books in 18 months. So what did I learn/find helpful throughout the process?

*Start your research immediately. Don't leave it, thinking you can catch up later on. You can't and you won't. It's bad enough trying to keep on top of writing one book, but with three, you have to keep to a tight schedule and you have to get the research done and done right from the start. You won't have time later on in the process to go back and check.

*Staying with the topic of research, don't outsource it if you can avoid it. It is only by doing it yourself that you get a feel for the era you're researching. There is nothing like turning the pages of a 100 year old newspaper, the texture and the smell to help you feel the history. Plus, only you know what you're looking for and someone else might discount something that you would not.

*Keep your publisher up to date. Send progress reports periodically and specifically if they ask you.

*Don't lie! Lies have a habit of catching up with you, eventually. If you are falling behind on your writing project or you are struggling, tell your publisher. The sooner they know along the process, the easier it is for them to grant you some leeway. But if your project is due in a couple of weeks time and you're still researching and haven't even written the first draft, that's bad news.

*Be kind to yourself. If you go at it full pelt and don't allow yourself down time, you will burn out and your book will suffer for it. This is especially important if you, like me, have a full-time job to fit your writing around.

*Try and fit in your research visits together. For instance, I arranged to meet the curator of a local museum, a couple of relatives of those I wanted to include in my books, and the library in one day because they were all in the same area. It saves time, petrol and money.

*Don't be afraid to ask questions if you're not sure of something during your research or when you're writing the book. It's better to iron out any issues early on in the process than having it delay publication.

*Be very careful about images. Credit them properly. Make sure you know where they came from and who has copyright, if possible. If you can't find out or it is unclear make sure you make this clear in your book. For instance, I found some images in a local library archive that stated who had donated the pictures to them. I sent letters to all those people. I didn't get any replies, so I sent a further letter and I am awaiting replies. If I don't get any, at least I can prove that I tried. The person's name will be under those images in the book and I have acknowledged them in the front of the book, I've also said in the book I tried to contact them.

*When you're researching, get the details right. The problem I had was that a lot of the information I was researching was from local newspapers 1912-1921, so they were not always reliable or were, in some cases, contradictory! You have to do your best and state that the information in your book is, to your knowledge, accurate. As long as you keep detailed records of where you found the information, should anyone read your book and complain, you can point them to your information source.

*Your editor is your friend. I've had the privilege to work with two wonderful editors on my three books. They saw the book with fresh eyes and spotted some mistakes/ambiguities I can tell you! So treat them with respect. They know what they are doing and they have your and your book's interests at heart,

* Rise to the challenge. It was definitely a learning curve for me and I feel each book is better than the last. No writing was wasted, even if it didn't make it into the final draft.

So there you have it. I hope my achievement, although won through hard work and sheer bloody mindedness (to be honest!) inspires you with your writing projects in 2016. I look forward to hearing what you're all hoping to achieve with your writing next year. Do let me know.

Next year I will be writing another book for Pen & Sword: Birmingham in World War 2. My hard work with the WW1 books has led to a further contract so I must have done something the publisher liked!

Have a look back at your own achievements and take stock of where you were along the journey this time last year and where you are now. Good luck for 2016.

Best wishes


1 comment:

Simon Whaley said...

Some great advice here, and well done on your achievments!