Friday, March 6, 2015

Jane Holland: 21 Ways to Write a Commercial Novel

Today we welcome Jane Holland who tells us how she went ‘From Blog to Book’

Last year I went a bit crazy and decided it would be fun to write a How-To blog for writers who were not necessarily beginners but felt lost within the publishing industry. I called it 52 Ways To Write A Novel, with the cheerful thought that I could blog a few hundred words every week for a year, and it wouldn’t hurt too much or distract from my novel-writing.

I was wrong, of course. Writing intelligently about our unforgiving industry is not easy to do in a soundbite, and I didn’t like putting out posts that felt rushed or unpolished. So it did take more time than I liked. But the feedback I received from other writers encouraged me to keep going.

52 Ways doesn’t deal specifically with romantic or historical fiction, both of which I have written in abundance, but any kind of commercial novel. However, many of the writers who chatted about their own experiences in the comments section are fellow members of the RNA. So the blog developed a slight kink, if you’ll pardon the word, in the direction of romance. But I was writing a crime novel at the time, so crime crept in too. My hope was that the blog would help commercial writers, so I focused on that rather than genre.

After Week 20, it occurred to me that I was totting up thousands of words of free advice on my blog, and wouldn’t it be nice to publish an ebook of my wisdom so far and charge a few pennies in return? (I’m a mercenary type, you understand.)

But when I sat down to convert my blog into an ebook, I discovered that it wasn’t as simple as transferring all the posts into one file and publishing it. For a start, I had dozens of photos and captions in my blog. All that needed to be stripped out and the formatting simplified. Furthermore, my blog was not in a coherent order. For instance, I had given advice on making friends with other writers before advice on how to write a chapter opening, and while we all like to relax at RNA lunches, I thought I had better put business before pleasure!

So I cut and pasted the posts into a more logical order, wrote an Introduction and an Afterword, then expanded each post into a full chapter. I had used short paragraphing on the blog, but that looked odd so I increased paragraph length. To keep things dynamic, I got permission to use a selection of comments left on the blog by other writers, then sprinkled them throughout the text.

The result is 21 Ways To Write A Commercial Novel, a combination of my blog posts with other writers’ comments, plus a fantastic letter of advice to new writers by Rowan Coleman, addressed in the first instance to our mutual friend, Sarah Callejo. ‘Write the damn book!’ Rowan urges Sarah … advice even the most experienced writers can take to heart.

Jane Holland writes as herself, plus Victoria Lamb, Elizabeth Moss and Beth Good among others. Her archived blog is here and you can chat with her most days on Twitter: @janeholland1

21 Ways To Write A Commercial Novel is £1.99, published by Jane’s imprint Thimblerig Press, and is ONLY available on Amazon Kindle (but can be read on most devices): Amazon:  

Thank you joining us today and good luck with the book.

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Unknown said...

I feel exhausted just reading about your writing projects, Jane!

I'm so glad that you've put your blogs into the form of a book - every single word you wrote was well worth reading and will be invaluable to writers everywhere.

Jane said...

Thanks so much, Liz!!!

I'll be back to blogging again soon. Totting up more words for Part Two.


Carol McGrath said...

I shall purchase this as you make me smile. I missed the blogs and I have no doubt you give wise advice. And with fun.

Jane said...

Thanks, Carol!

Unknown said...

I enjoyed the blog posts and am now happy to have the book on my Kindle.

Unknown said...

What fabulous work!
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