Writing Your Blurb – Millie and Bird Collection

M&B cover

Part of a mocked-up cover

Very excited to be looking at mocked-up covers for my Millie and Bird short story collection  and very fortunate to have the permission of artist Barbara Skingle to use her painting Katherine and Millie, which inspired my Costa winning story, as the cover image.

I have also been trying to write my version of the blurb and bio for the back of the book – it’s great to have this degree of involvement with the whole process and also to have great  advice from my editor at Iron Press  Peter Mortimer. But writing your own blurb can be tricky. One way to get started is to find a blurb on the back of  a book you already have that you think is good and use that as a starting point, if not as a kind of template. Ask yourself how is it structured, how long, what language is used – key words, questions etc?

Blurbs should be concise and punchy, they are not about telling the story although they may give  a glimpse of the beginning and  a hint of what is to come. They should pose questions, intrigue, make the reader want to know more. To write them can be revealing – suddenly we have to ask ourselves what is this collection of stories all about, what do these stories have in common? For this reason it can be a great exercise to write the blurb for your work in progress. If you are working on a novel or a collection of stories or poems try writing the blurb and you might be surprised what you discover. Knowing the essence of the novel, of what it is really about, can also inform the rest of the writing.

So what did I discover about my collection? Well, for one thing it’s teeming with birds – birds fall out of the sky, herons inhabit the river, a swan comes at night… I could go on. It was a surprise to me, I tend to think of water as my element but maybe it’s air too.  There is earth too and invisible pathways. Less of a surprise was the way loss and survival are threaded through my writing and mingled with them, the coming of ghosts and the whisper of dreams and longing.

My Top 3 Tips for Dealing with Rejection

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAThe life of a writer is paved with rejection but if you wait long enough and work hard enough there will be success too. While I was away in France I experienced both. There was the good news and then there was the bad news. First came the good news: I’d been shortlisted in a big competition (more of this at a later date!) Then the bad news: an editor turned down my novel. But her reasons were good and her comments were encouraging so I’m not taking it to heart. Besides, since I’ve been back I’ve been busy with lots of things including a new short novel and the editing of my Millie and Bird collection of  stories, which Iron Press are publishing next year. Keeping busy is a sure fire way of dealing with rejection – Here are my 3 top tips for dealing with rejection

1.Write the next thing, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, keep…this is crucial, involving yourself in the next project keeps you from dwelling on the disappointment.

2.Try not to blame others and don’t fall into the envy trap it just makes you bitter and twisted

3.Love your life and celebrate your writing – buy cream cakes, drink wine with a friend, keep a special notebook where you write down 3 good things a day, everyday.

‘Don’t take rejection to heart. It’s NOT personal.’ I read this today on Nik Perring’s blog and I think it’s great advice – there’s lots here, so do take a look.

Beautiful France

Back from France to a dreich day – ah where ‘s that soft sun and balmy breeze?  Well I have my photos and if I close my eyes I’m almost there…well almost…




  • cafe

House, river, cafe and writing – Bliss..

How NOT to Write the Book that Makes You Millions – 3

Ok – you get the idea. I’m just not convinced by all that ‘how to make a million,’ ‘write a bestseller,’  advice out there. It’s really for people who want to make their fortune, not people who want to write a good book. Although of course the two are not mutually exclusive – there are great, best selling books and always will be. But books are not soap – for more on this  read the comments here from lifetwicetasted…


So how NOT to write the book that makes you millionsmistake number 3 – I do not draw up a marketing plan before I start! I do not know before I even finish my book who I am going to sell it to and how – big mistake!!!


How Not to Write the Book That Makes You Millions – 2

So, as I said in yesterday’s post, ‘I’m terminally tired of reading about how to write the book that will make my fortune, sell millions, sell at all.’

I’ve confessed that in my weaker moments I get drawn in by the hype. ‘Of course I want to sell my books – what author doesn’t? So the hype catches my attention, tugs at my insecurities and sensitivities, stirs my suspicion that all’s not fair in books and publishing and  leaves me wondering why not me? Why haven’t I written a best selling book? Why haven’t I written a book that publishers are fighting over? Why am I not feted and literary festivaled?’

But then it dawns on me that the people telling me how to write a book that makes millions are hoping to make millions by selling me their book; CD, bootcamp, etc and I  know again just why I haven’t written that book…

Here’s reason number two:

Call me foolish but I write freely allowing the story to grow under my pen, allowing it to find a life of it’s own. I plan yes, but not in micro detail from beginning to end before I even start writing . Where is the joy in that?

How NOT to Write the Book That Makes You Millions – 1

I’m terminally tired of reading about how to write the book that will make my fortune, sell millions, sell at all. I don’t know about you but I have to admit I get drawn in by the hype. Of course I want to sell my books – what author doesn’t? So the hype catches my attention, tugs at my insecurities and sensitivities, stirs my suspicion that all’s not fair in books and publishing and  leaves me wondering why not me? Why haven’t I written a best selling book? Why haven’t I written a book that publishers are fighting over? Why am I not feted and literary festivaled?

But then I get down to reading the advice offered by those who insist we can all be best selling authors if only we listen (or pay  £50.00  for a CD that will reveal all) and I  know then just why I haven’t written that book -

Here’s reason number one :

1 – I go where the muse takes me – yes I dare to do that! I write what’s inspires and excites me, what I will enjoy even though it might be hard. That is my first big mistake.

Mistake number 2 tomorrow or sometime soon…..

In the meantime I have written several books – my book on writing From Writing With Love (some great reviews) is on offer this week - HERE  No ones bought it yet this week!

From Writing With Love – Dealing with Rejection

From writing with love final cover smallLast  week I was responsible for putting up the RoomtoWrite short story long list on the website. To my great delight and surprise, when we finished judging the competition and then matched stories to writers, I discovered that several of the longlisted writers subscribe to my newsletter!

So big congratulations to those on the long list and those who go on to win but I can’t help thinking about the writers who submitted but weren’t chosen. I’ve been there. I’ve entered competitions and come nowhere. I’ve had a number of novels rejected and I know how it feels. Rejection is hard to take and anyone who says otherwise is not being truthful. So for all writers everywhere, here’s my take on rejection. It’s from my book From Writing With Love which is on special offer on Kindle all week – at  just 99p -do read the reader reviews. You can find it HERE

Cream Cakes and Wine

Rejection slips, or letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them ~ Isaac Asimov

Dealing with rejection is tough but it’s part and parcel of being a writer. Rotten Rejections: The Letters that Publishers Wish They’d Never Sent is a collection of rejection letters sent by publishers to writers – many of the authors are now famous and the books are classics:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D H Lawrence – for your own sake do not publish this book.
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame – an irresponsible holiday story
Lord of the Flies, William Golding – an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.

When you get that rejection letter, or these days more likely that email, don’t despair, you’re in good company. Try not to take it personally after all we are not our novel, no matter how close we feel to it and this is just one person’s opinion. Here are my rules (in this case I think rules are needed!) for dealing with rejection:
Be disappointed – swear, shout, stamp your feet, proclaim the unfairness to anyone who will listen, vow never to submit anything ever again… then get over it.
Keep believing in your work. Know there are people out there who would love it – call it their book of the year. It’s true, it happened to me with The Sweet Track which finally made it after a fair few rejections.
Send it out again – do not give up and/or find a way to share it with the world, e publishing, self-publishing, blogs etc.
Learn what you can from it then write the next thing, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, keep…….this is crucial. Involving yourself in the next project keeps you from dwelling on the disappointment.
Try not to blame others and don’t fall into the envy trap it just makes you bitter and twisted
Love your life and love writing – write down 3 good things a day, everyday
Buy cream cakes, talk it over with a writing friend and a bottle of wine.

Follow my rules and believe me in a couple of days it won’t feel half as bad and soon it will be forgotten.


The Novella and The Risk of Reading


Katie – at what some described as a rather pagan wedding (I liked that, so did she) – she smiled all day!

As my daughter’s wedding and it’s afterglow receed so the writing emerges and the reading too.

On October 25th I’ll be running a RoomtoWrite day workshop with my colleague Wendy Robertson on The Novella – all the details are HERE if you’d like to join us for the day. As well as beginning a new novella – a form I’m really excited about – I’m reading novellas too. So far the prize goes to  Edith Wharton’s – Ethan Frome. New to me but how did I miss this? It’s captivating and unputdownable, in my opinion everything a novella should be.

Great fiction, like Edith Wharton’s, touches us and teaches us about  ourselves and the world. This is the premise of the Changing Lives Through Literature programme I had the good fortune to visit in Boston USA. It’s inspirational founder Prof. Bob Waxler has a new book out – The Risk of Reading.

It is an important and fascinating book especially for those of us who care about reading. You can find it HERE.

I pre-ordered my copy so I for one will be reading it.

In my newsletter this week – some American literary magazines to submit to and ‘Writing can be Scary.’ If you’d like to receive the newsletter – which is not really news but very much about writing -  free every Monday just e mail  at -  amjoy@hotmail.co.uk and I will put you on my list.

Getting Back to Writing After a Break



Flowers as arranged by Gillian

Flowers as arranged by Gillian

As you may know I’ve done very little fresh writing of late, this being due to my daughter’s impending wedding and all the work that a wedding entails. Well the great day is now past! Thank you so much for all your good wishes – we had a lovely, memorable day with family and friends – no disasters and lots of fun, so now it’s time to get back to the writing.
I’ve been looking forward very much to getting back to what I do but I have to admit that I wonder quite where and how it will happen…

Getting back to writing after a break of some kind, even after a summer holiday can sometimes be difficult. After all writing is hard, we may love it but it’s still hard work, possibly the hardest thing we do and it demands that we give a great deal of ourselves as well as of our time.

When we’re in the habit of not writing it can be easy to find distractions: emails that must be sent, business to attend to, people to meet, books to read, blogs to write, etc. etc. We can persuade ourselves that this is writing and in doing so we can avoid the real work.

If there’s a novel waiting then at least we know what we have to get back to and in this case I think it’s mostly a question of setting a date, then: Day 1 opening the file and reading, Day2 Editing what’s there so far (you may want to do this DAY1 as you read, Day 3 Writing on.

This process of re-acquainting ourselves with our work is key to starting afresh after a break. But what if there is no novel waiting? Here are 7 ways to help you get writing after a break: but firstly take your diary and pencil in a writing day, evening, or a few hours, whatever time you have when you know you will not be interrupted

1. Read something you’ve written, maybe the best thing – remind yourself you are a writer.
2. Find a past notebook, open it and read – discover something fresh, something you’d forgotten, the beginning of a poem, a note, an idea and develop it into a poem/ short piece/ story etc
3. On a fresh page in your notebook finish this sentence: If I could write anything it would be…………..(eg. If I could write anything it would be a novella about imprisonment, a story set in on a Greek island, an historical novel set in the American civil war…) There may be more than one thing you want to write – write them all down and mull them over. In downtime listen to the radio, go for a walk, daydream, while thinking about these.

4. Read something inspiring by someone else – your favourite novel/short story, the one you wish you’d written. Be inspired. Write a paragraph or two in the same style about one of your ideas from number 3.
5. Find a competition you think worth entering or a magazine to submit to and as well as deciding to edit something you already have, write something new.
6. Don’t get hung up on perfection, start small, use the freedom of the notebook in which you can just scribble away – sometimes getting away from the machine is key.
7. Go find a café or a favourite spot and write there, this way writing is a treat not a task. Enjoy.

Now it just remains for me to take my own advice……………..

No Time For Writing


Drying homemade confetti – some I made earlier!

My house is rapidly filling with bunting and bridesmaids dresses, sparkly shoes, orders of service, confetti, and a hundred to do lists, also a somewhat nervous bride and mother of the bride!

There is really no time for writing but I have an idea brewing, a story or perhaps a novel or maybe a novella and for once I’m taking Rose Tremain’s advice and allowing myself to ‘dream’ it  ‘into being.’  Holding off can be a good thing.

Here are Rose Tremains 10 rules for writers as published in The Guardian – in my book it’s up there with the very best of advice for writers