Merry Christmas!

Hi Everyone,

We would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year.

Thank you so much for your visits and comments - keep 'em coming!

Here's to a festive, restive time and then a creative 2014!

Our best regards,

The Strictly Writing team.


Bring on the Sequel

Nowadays, especially with the digital-first imprints, it would seem writing sequels and series is a popular path to follow - which is odd, because when I started out years ago, I remember wanting to write one and the idea being pooh-poohed in literary circles. Apparently it was the typical thing any aspiring writer longed to do. Guilty as charged! Although over the years, I lost the urge and thought of my books just as one-offs. On 10th November 2013 Harlequin’s new digital-first imprint, CarinaUK, published Doubting Abbey, my debut novel. When I wrote this romantic comedy, I always thought of it as a standalone story which came to a firm end.

However, as I went through the revisions it became clear to me that the characters had more to say. Fortunately, my publisher is wholly behind sequels and series and I can see the commercial appeal – especially for the digital imprints, where there is more flexibility and less to lose if the series doesn’t work. Several times recently writers, either traditionally or self-published, have said that to increase sales, this is the way to go. When the second book comes out, sales of the first will increase. The original one could be offered at a slashed price, if bought with the follow-up. Plus, each book can be advertised at the back of the other and the first one will, of course, be mentioned every time you promote your new book.

So, now that I’ve begun that project, what are the challenges? Well, if like mine, the sequel is not closely related to the first, with an on-going detailed plot, then firstly, you must make sure that the sequel tells a fresh, new tale – which sounds obvious but I sent off a synopsis for my agent to take a look, and unwittingly I’d put the characters into a similar situation as in the book before, just under different circumstances.

One solution might be to choose lead characters who were minor in the original tale. If the protagonists are the same, you must make sure that the new theme or character development doesn’t simply go over old ground.

Another pitfall to avoid is including too much backstory about the first book (again, if the two books are not, plot-wise, intricately connected). I am trying to make my sequel a standalone as well, so that readers aren’t put off by thinking they have to read another book first, to understand everything that’s going on. However, a degree of information, about the plot of Doubting Abbey, will need to be covered. Someone who pulls this off very cleverly is Sophie Kinsella in her well-known Shopoholic series, the success of which is no doubt majorly due to a strong, appealing very lovable main character.

Another frustrating aspect is that you could suddenly have a brilliant idea of where to take your characters in book two, but can’t because it wouldn’t fit with what happened in book one. For example Gemma’s mother died when she was young – I might have come up with an amazing story for the sequel that, say, needed her to have a fortune-telling actress for a mother who lives in Hollywood! However, as I’m finding already, with artistic license a lot of these wrinkles can be smoothed out.

So, if you already have a publishing deal, writing a sequel might be worth discussing with your agent or publisher. If you are still to snag that contract, perhaps keep the idea at the back of your mind and if you feel your characters might eventually have more to say, be careful how you end book one. Don’t close all the gates!

It's a Blast!

Forgive me for I have not posted of late.  And by 'late' I mean for about 3 months, so I'm sorry. There - I've said it.

And yes, I'm back here today with a figurative cap in hand to ask for forgiveness.  Because after all, if you can't ask for forgiveness at Christmas-time then when can you? (I feel like I'm badly quoting something from Love, Actually but I can't be bothered to check.)  And before you mention, YES, I DO come bearing gifts but also YES they do come at a price - appalling attempt at making small print amusing.
I'll stop rambling shall I?

You will recall.... and I absolutely insist you will so here's the link: ...that I posted about something I had become involved with called 'Stories for Homes' which was a project conceived by the fabulous Debi Alper and her equally fabulous friend, Sally Swingewood.  And although I have no real proof that these ladies are in any way officially 'fabulous' as they are two of those most elusive of creatures - 'Facebook friends' - I can undeniably state that I have come to realise their proper fabulousness first-hand, once removed (that'd be Facebook again).

Debi and Sally had an idea, spurred on by their own personal experiences, of raising awareness and money for the Homeless charity, Shelter by compiling a book of short stories by published and emerging writers.  

Announcements were made, stories of up to 3,000 words were submitted and the girls set to work sifting through the well over 250 submissions they received, and writers who needed to edit their stories a tad were paired up to (is this called Beta-reading?) help each other with the polishing up of their story.

In three months - 3 months - they had not only come up with the idea, they also had 65 stories, proofreaders, editors, cover designers (*ahem*), e-book formatters and even a promotional video put out for the anthology.
 Friday 13 Dec 6pm at the Bookseller Crow on the Hill, London SE19 3AF.

The book went live on Amazon to rave reviews.  It soared up the charts during its first week and has continued to sell well with ALL money going directly to the charity Shelter.

In fact it's done so well, the paperback was published last week.  It's a thing of beauty, it's polished, professional and it's even gone DOWN in price since it's birth last week.  It's now a very lovely £12.44 (reduced from £14.99) which is an amazing price considering there are nearly 600 pages of solid gold stories.  I still haven't finished reading them and each one delivers a different emotion.

The paperback is available from Createspace here:, from Amazon here and here are the story/discussions and threads for Facebook and Twitter.

I know you can adopt llamas and penguins as gifts, or pay for an elderly chap you've never met to have his Christmas lunch brought to him by elves and reindeer, and they're all very commendable.   But whilst you're considering which one of these you'd like buy this Christmas, don't forget that the purchase of 'Stories for Homes' (mine took only 3 days from Amazon order to letterbox) means you are supporting and donating ALL proceeds to the homeless charity Shelter, you're getting a great read into the bargain AND you're making a fellow writer smile.

It's not often you can give so many gifts with one present.

After all 'tis the season :)