I’m FINALLY a published author…

…and I still feel like a bit of a fraud.


I think it’s because I’ve done it all myself. Which you’d think would be an even bigger accomplishment, wouldn’t you, given that I’ve had to play all the roles myself: writer, cheerleader, muse, mentor, promoter, publisher, technical adviser (don’t even get me started on my failings at this one)… But for some reason, it still feels a bit like I have to qualify every single announcement about my book with ‘I published it myself, though…’ so that people don’t automatically assume I’ve got Penguin or Random House gunning for my success and therefore validating my self-worth…

I’m going to get over this, though. Like with anything, it’s probably normal and just because I’m new to it. I’ll find my groove, and I’ll own the whole ‘author’ label.

I’ll tell you something though, publishing an ebook is a massive fucking anti-climax. Phew. I’ve been building up to this for years, and when I finally got the email from Amazon telling me it was live…it was more of a ‘Huh. Cool. Does it look like a legit book though?’ moment than a Breakfast Club fist-pump kind of moment. It was also 1am, so…zzzzz.

And I announced my book baby’s birth in the same way I announced my pregnancies: awkwardly and by stealth to small numbers of people at a time, via email.

Anyway. After all this time, my gorgeous Tilted, a dark, slightly sex-obsessed romantic comedy of a novel is being purchased and read by other people. Not all of them my family and friends. (But most of them). Despite the anti-climax, it is a great feeling.

It was nothing compared to holding the paperback though. I just want to look at it all the time, and stroke it. Sadly it’s a proof copy and has ‘Not for Resale’ printed all across it’s beautiful frontage, but I still love it and want to prop it up in my windowsill and point it out to passers-by.


And I even have a website with an unnecessarily large image of my face on it because I clearly want to immediately distract from the bit where I was prompted to write that I’m an author. Because that’s the kind of go-getting, super-confident gal I am.

It’s all been so, so worth it.

I’m an author! I have a book! If you wanted to, you could even buy it...

Life Goals: Level One Complete

My Self-Publishing Diary: the matter of front and back (matter)

Writing front and back matter matters, apparently. It contains important legal things. And marketing things. Stuff that can make a difference to an author’s continuing professional success.

So here’s the thing: I tried to do this drunk. Two times. Partly because it’s kinda boring, partly because it’s kind of terrifying. This kind of thing is definitely where it’d be nice to have an agent/editor/publisher to do it for you, or at least reign you in when you are becoming ridiculous.

And I was definitely becoming ridiculous.

What front and back matter does a book need?

Generally speaking, it’s the stuff like copyright information, a title page, dedication, author info, acknowledgments and so on. If there’s a gold standard, then I don’t know what that is; I just read a few traditionally published books – and indie titles – until I got a feel for what was important. On an ebook you generally jump right into the first chapter, right? So I erred on the side of brevity and just included the bare minimum at the front end: title page and copyright. For the title page I created something fractionally more snazzy than standard in Canva, and for the copyright page I just used the same wording the majority of other books used.

It was the back matter that twisted my melon, man.

Be interesting! Be funny! Be yourself! Don’t be weird!

Here’s what I boiled the back essentials to:

  • Request for reviews
  • About the author

But, ugh. For a start, I’m not strong at writing about myself in third person, so the About the Author page was a bit weird. How much do you include? How much do people want to know? When it’s your first book, you already feel like a bit of  fraud assuming anyone wants to know anything about you – or that they’ll even get that far.

Again, for inspiration I read other author’s info pages and bios – but of the twelve I read, ten were established writers and seven had also been journalists, a fact which featured heavily in their bios. I’m neither of those things. So I winged it.

Ditto the request for reviews page. This is a tricky one. I don’t wanna sound desperate for reviews (though – let’s be clear, I definitely will be) as I find that a bit off-putting when I read similar pleas myself. On the other hand, it’s clearly worth mentioning because sometimes it doesn’t occur to readers that reviews matter, especially if they don’t know you’re an indie author and are basically clawing your way through publishing like that girl in The Ring across the floor.

Equally, I don’t yet have anything to dangle as an incentive to sign up for my newsletter – other than the promise of a sequel. Which hasn’t yet been written, but WILL BE. Therefore, in lieu of actual useful information, I’ve combined the scant details I do have with a sprinkle of my own personal brand of ‘it was funny when I first thought it but only for twenty seconds and not to anyone else’ humour.

Thank GOD for my online writing pal Claire who served as a sounding board when I was well into my third glass of Sav Blanc, and was able to suggest that mis-quoting song lyrics at my readers was…unnecessary.


And that’s it, really. I think. I fully intend to keep tweaking over time (and that’s the gorgeous thing about going indie – you can change it up at any time) as I write more books and have more to say – but for the first book I’m keeping it simple, low key and only a little bit weird. Tiny. Wincy.


My Self-Publishing diary: Creating an author platform

I’ve spent the past week preparing to publish Tilted, and from all that I’ve learned so far, it seems clear that the non-negotiables you need in place when you publish are:

  • An author website
  • A mailing list

That’s it. Social media platforms are a bonus. On which note, a quick slide sideways:

Me, myself and social media

Gah! I really struggle with it, I’m not going to lie. Is it just me who finds being online generally a fraught and strange experience? I really value my privacy (in-person over-sharing aside) and I feel weird having a lot of stuff about my life on a public platform. Also, WHO HAS THE TIME?? Seriously! Especially when you’re meant to be writing at the same time. The only platform I use is Instagram, because I enjoy the visual medium and I’ve made some fantastic writing friends, but a single post generally takes me about 30 minutes, not including the time spent fretting over whether I should be posting more, and if so, what the hell I should be posting. Twitter would just suck me into a never-ending wormhole of despair, and Facebook just… No. I don’t want Facebook. So I’m just going to have to hope that not having a presence on every damn platform isn’t going to doom me to (further) obscurity. I’ve heard really mixed opinions – some say social is essential, others say it’s a nice bonus but not a deal breaker. I’ll have to find out the experiential way.

What’s the best website option for authors?

There are some really good resources out there. David Gaughran (my go-to on all things self-pub) wrote a good article about it here. He uses, and is a fan of, a website theme called Parallax V2 designed specifically for author websites. It does look really good. It’s also $399 (which does include installation, so that’s a bonus, but still.) On top of that, you’d have domain name costs, self-hosting costs and mailing list service. Here are my rough notes on costs and some recommended providers (not linked, just for info):

Platform: WordPress.org (flexibility, own domain, needs host) – free

Hosting: Flywheel (WordPress hosting service – £18 p/month, £216 a year)

Theme: Premium theme – (Parralax 2.0 £315 one off)

Domain: iwantmyname.com – £10 yearly

Mailing list service: Mailerlite – Free (up to 1000 subscribers then c. £10 a month)

Total – £541 to set up, c.£230 per year ongoing

So… Yeah, I’m gonna be honest, the editing wiped my savings. I have about £500 left to spend on my book(s), and I don’t think that right now this is the best use of it. It’d be slick, sure – but it would be overkill for one book and – let’s be honest – minimal -to-nil traffic. It’s something I’ll seriously consider when I have three books out, a working sales funnel and a better idea of what the hell I’m doing.

So I went the free-er, easier option.

Using Wix as an author

I set my site up with Wix, lured in by the slick registration process (I already had a website set up by the time I realised I’d been stealthed into creating an account). The basic plan is free – though I upgraded so I could connect my own domain. Wix has an Editor function that allows you to have fantastic levels of control over every aspect of your site – but I’m not good with too much choice. I need limited options in order to get anything accomplished. THANKFULLY they have something called Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) which creates a website for you based on your needs and preferences. It’s a good system – and it saves a LOT OF TIME. Seriously, so much time.

You can choose from a number of pre-set themes and styles. They are simple, but get the job done.

And the costs were appealing:

Wix – basic upgrade £3 per month

Domain – £10 per year

Total – £46 a year

That makes me a lot happier. And though I haven’t published it yet – it’s going live along with my book – I’m really happy with it. It’s visually pleasing and it makes me feel – I’ll say it – legit. And as any wannabe writer knows, that’s half the battle.

If you want to check it out, keep your eyes glued to my Instagram account – I’ll let you know when it’s live…




My Self-Publishing Diary – Part 1: Side-eyeing the starting line


Well, as it’s the end of the month (and has been a big one for my novel) I thought I’d do a round-up of my self-publishing journey in diary form  – the nitty gritty of what I’ve been doing and how far I’ve still got to go. Not to mention what I’m actually aiming for…

Editing and formatting : DONE

So. This month I had my novel edited, and received the final manuscript, all clean and shiny and void of clangers. I have to say, I’m not entirely sure what I expected from a full copy edit, but I definitely thought there would be more changes. I was surprised by how light on red pen it was, and I don’t know if that’s testament to my writing or just a misunderstanding on my part regarding the scope of the edit. In any case, I’m thrilled with it. It definitely wasn’t something I could have done well myself. There were so many style points and grammatical nuances I just wouldn’t have picked up on. I’m going to study my edit like my life depends on it when it comes to self-editing the next novel though, partly because my editor is booked up about 6 months in advance and partly because it’s not cheap!

(Side note – I’m learning that there is nothing more satisfying than discussing your novel with someone who loves words and gets your characters.)

With the manuscript essentially publish ready (I think??) I’ve been focusing now on formatting it and compiling all the bits and bobs I’ll need once it goes live on Amazon’s Kindle Store. For example, I’ll need a description of the book to hook people in, an author bio – and I’m thinking I need to jazz up the title a bit. You know how everything on Kindle Store is called ‘Mynovel: The best and funniest and amazing romantic comedy you’ll read this year! Unputtdownable! Amazing twist! Book 72 in the Mynovel Series.‘ Personally I find this upsetting. It feels like showboating and noise, and I don’t like excess of either. But if I just stick with ‘Tilted’ it’s really not going to stand out, or tell people what it’s about. So. I’m going to have to suck it up and call it something like ‘Tilted: A sexy romantic sort-of-comedy where some people get shot.’ Or something, I’ll work on it.

Also – the author page: ugh. Writing about myself in third person feels weird. Writing anything at all about myself feels weird, especially as I’ve only written (or am publishing) one novel. But as with many things, I’m going to have to get over myself and push on through.

For formatting, I’m going to use Vellum. Even if you don’t actually intend to self-publish, I’d recommend downloading the free software (Mac users only) and importing your manuscript to see what it will look like formatted, because it is rather beautiful and motivational. And after actually weeping with frustration trying to compile ebooks with Scrivener (and making mistakes every single time) it was the easiest process ever. EVER. It will cost about £200 to purchase the license to format ebooks and print books – but if I keep writing then I do think it will be worth it.


Next steps : One, two, two and a half…

I’m dithering, actually. Technically – technically – I could publish my book this weekend. I mean, the actual book and cover are there – all I need to do is set up an account on Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Direct and go for it, and then start telling people. But… I’m not sure. I feel like I need to build up a bit of a head of steam, first. I’d like to set up an author website, for example, maybe set up a mailing list (both things EVERY indie publishing guide tells you to do asap). But that takes more time, more money and more fiddling around trying not to be a perfectionist.

I know that generally, it’s never your first book that gets noticed. You build up momentum by creating a funnel – publish a series of books that all feed into the other and hopefully one day it snowballs into lots of readers buying lots of your titles. Some advice I’ve read has basically been to just get the first one published however you can, and then immediately get to work on the second/third/fourth at which point you can get more bang for your buck on any promotions because there are multiple products in the funnel. You see?

I’m going to split the difference and throw a little launch celebration for Tilted – probably in a month or so – and then really crack on with the sequel and the novella. Yes – I’ve turned my standalone novel into a two-and-a-half piece boxset. Why not? The sequel is all planned out (thanks, Save the Cat Writes a Novel) and I’m still dithering around in my off-message (dark, gay, twisted) novella born from an Instagram dark love story prompt. My plan is to maybe offer the novella as a freebie for signing up to my mailing list? We’ll see how it pans out. It’s still a little spicy for public consumption right now…


Where’s this all going?

I don’t mean the blog. Jury’s still out on that, but publishing-wise I’d like to focus first on my books in the Tilted series, then switch focus to my mystery novels – I’ve written the first of a planned five-part series, and the feedback so far has been really good, so I’m feeling positive! If I can crack on with those (and streamline the process) then in a few years I will hopefully have seven full novels published. And I’d also like to work on a serialised project – a sort of book soap-opera where I release an episode a week/fortnight or something (like they used to do in magazines back in the day!). I have ideas, but no plan, so that will take some thinking.

I have absolutely no idea if that sounds too ambitious. Tilted has taken me almost four years to get to this point! I’ve learned a lot, though, and I’ll get there. Most importantly, I no longer have The Fear about it all, or worrying that people won’t like my books (they won’t! But some will!). I’m willing to put myself out there. You’re a long time dead, after all.

Anyway, that’s May done!

Come at me, June.

How do you know when you’re ready to self-publish? Part Two

You can find part one of this thorny question riiiiiiight here. In it I offered two questions to ask yourself before self-publishing. To summarise, if your story is complete, positively received by betas and well-written then you’ve probably got a good wind behind you for publishing the thing. (Actual LOL! That may be the shittest piece of ‘wisdom’ I’ve ever shared.)

But for the final two questions, I’m moving onto the less obvious stuff. The stuff that relies on inner fortitude and ability to develop a thick and impenetrable skin. Basically:

3. Are you ready to fail spectacularly–or more likely, fizzle out with no fanfare whatsoever?

We’re all biologically wired to fear abandonment. OBVIOUSLY few of us are going to be thrown out of our tribe for not being an incredible author (if you are I STRONGLY encourage you to find a new tribe toot sweet), but there’s still something within us that makes us want to shy away from putting ourselves out there, to invite scrutiny, ridicule, pity…

For me personally, this is an inexplicable barrier that I’m really having to push through. Like most things holding us back in life, it doesn’t make any sense but that doesn’t make it any easier to ignore. However, if this is holding you back, here are some things that are helping me push on through:

–          Write yourself the worst review for your work you can possibly imagine. Really go to town. Just drag that baby through the mud and then stamp on it. Then read it, and breathe it in. Then write yourself your dream review. The kind of praise that would make you weep with joy. Again, go wild. Then read that and let it sink in. If you publish your book, and tell the world about it, are you ready to read reviews like this? Are you ready to accept that both reviews can be true, and that both can be false at the same time? Can you step back and acknowledge that other people’s opinions will generally tell you more about the reviewer themselves than the book being reviewed?

–          Find your favourite books and go read the worst reviews. There’s bound to be at least one crappy review for every book. Which just goes to show that you can’t please everyone, and it’s not personal. Also, that some people just get great joy out of being angry and disappointed by everything and who are you to ruin their fun by giving them a book they might actually like? Puh-lease.

–          Embrace your insignificance. You might knock a bestseller out of the park on your first book. But more likely, not that many people will read it. Or, lots might, but they won’t tell you about it. A tiny percentage of readers actually leave reviews. And I know from experience that even people you think would be dying to read something you’ve written (ie, your family or friends) might not actually get around to it. Or they’ll just casually forget that you’ve done something as astonishing as write an entire book. It happens. And though it sounds a bit sad, I find it quite comforting, because it boils down to this: nobody is going to care if you don’t get it exactly right. Readers don’t know how many books you’ve sold, fellow writers are too wrapped up in their own creative quagmires and your friends will know whatever you choose to tell them. So relax. Do your thang.

If all of this still feels a bit terrifying – and you really can’t imagine embracing the fear and doing it anyway – then maybe you’re not ready to publish. No-one in authority is going to pat you on the back and give you a big sticker, after all. (Though I will totally celebrate with you! Hit me up with your achievements – tiny and tall!) In reality, the worst that will probably happen is that nobody will care either way, and is that so terrifying?

4. If you don’t do it, will you regret it?

Finally, this. You can talk yourself out of a lot of opportunities and put a lot of things off forever – out of fear, self-doubt, discouraging family members, whatever. But if you feel happy that you can positively answer all the questions above, and there isn’t anything left to do, then what’s stopping you? Everyone has to start somewhere – and anyway, it would be weird if your first book was your best. Weird, and really annoying – I mean, where is there to go from the pinnacle of your career except down? This is just the first step to bigger and better things.

I’m reminding myself that book one is an experiment, a fun foray into self-publishing, and that if the whole world turns on me for writing a terrible book (I flatter myself with my own importance) then I’ll just take it down and start again.

Hope this helps anyone in this strange, exciting and slightly nervy position that I’m in. And if you’ve already reached the giddy, dizzying heights of self-publishing success (whatever that looks like to you) then please comment and share your experience so that we may learn from your wisdomosity. I bow at your writerly feet.

Powerful Bloody Women

I’m open about most things. To the point of oversharing, definitely. But I don’t think I’ve ever written about periods before. Or, for that matter, been able to use the phrase ‘menstrual cycle’ without embodying the spirit of my uptight Year Nine sex-ed* teacher who didn’t understand the concept of lesbianism and seemed awfully uncomfortable telling a class of teenage girls what this menstruation nonsense was all about.

(*It wasn’t called sex-ed. I’m British; it was called Personal, Social and Health Education which is much more repressed and unhelpful.)

Anyway. Times are changing, my friends, and here I am, using the phrase ‘menstrual cycle’ on a publicly open platform. I don’t even care if you cut me out of your life for such a transgression! Gosh and cripes.

It’s just, I’ve only just realised how much power there is in really knowing what’s going on with myself every month. Physically, mentally, energetically… When I discovered that there was a pattern to the madness of my life – and one shared by practically every woman – I had a total ‘aha!’ moment. Except…that makes me sound like Alan Partridge.


We’re actually quite similar, facially…

More of an ‘Oh!’ moment, then.

I can’t help but suspect you won’t be interested in the history of my period (why not, though?) so feel free to skip the next paragraph. I provide it only for backstory.

When I was about 27, I came off the pill after more than a decade and found myself battling really shitty skin again. That was why I’d gone on the pill in the first place. But now I just wanted to have some control over my body and my skin – I wanted to be well and function properly without having to rely on chemicals that were having fuck knows what effect on my body and fertility. I tried a lot of things: veganism, supplements, psychotherapy (on myself, I should add – I read a book called Skin Deep that was all about the psychology behind having acne. It was a fun read), affirmations, meditation, keeping a cycle-diary. I was desperate for my period to return so I could see what effect my hormones were having on my skin. When I got to day 245 of my cycle, though…I started to think something was up. At some point in all this, I did have a period, and then it went away again. When I got pregnant with my first daughter the midwife asked for the date of my last period. I told her it was 9 months ago; it was a weird moment.

Fast forward to this year – and I finally got back in the flow (as t’were) after pregnancy and breastfeeding etc. I had three cycles, at which point reflecting on my behaviour caused me to pause for a moment and squint into the distance. I asked myself, ‘am I dealing with a split personality, or is this somehow…normal?’

Because, seriously. Let’s (wrongly) assume I have a 28 day cycle and take an average month. For half of it, I’d be a motivated writer, full of ideas and confidence and – crucially – the ability to sit down at my keyboard and write. Then for a quarter of it, I’d be unable to do anything but critique everything I’d written and snippily edit my work, finding fault with it all. Then, for the final quarter I’d be able to do NOTHING AT ALL. No words. Words would not happen. I wouldn’t even want to open my laptop, let alone muster up creative energy and pour it out.

That happened several times, and each time, that ‘dry’ week made me question everything. (As did the annoying critiquing month, but as least then I was still sort of writing).

And it’s not just writing. You should see my wardrobe. It’s the wardrobe of someone who doesn’t know who the hell they are. It’s mostly grey and black, and sensible boots and tights. But there are weird things in there. My pink fur coat. Suede pink platform sandals I can’t walk in. Tropical print skirts. Sheer shirts. Crop-tops. A jumpsuit! Cute, quirky slogan tees that I put on then immediately replace with something less controversial.

When I purchase those things, I’m desperate to wear them. But by the time they arrive and the weather is right for me to do so, it’s like I have no idea why they are in my wardrobe. It’s like someone else ordered them for me. A fun version of me. The version of me I like to think I am, but frequently turn out not to be.

I make social plans that just two or three weeks later I dread the thought of, despite my excitement at the time. I make plans to decorate my house in pastel colours, only to find a week and half later that I want to paint everything navy and embrace low-lighting.

I kind of rolled with it, but all along I wondered… Is it just me? Am I really just so insecure that I can’t make up my mind who I am or what I want? Because I don’t feel insecure. I like myself a lot, even if I never know quite which version of myself I’m going to wake up to.

Then I downloaded an ebook called Adore Your Cycle, by a women’s coach and author called Claire Baker. I’d followed her for a while via her blog, and something kept pulling me back to her and her approach to women’s health and periods. I made the decision to download her book – and just as I went online to do so, she sent an email with a 50% off code. Winner.

Honestly, it is transforming my life. I mean, I only read it last week, so it’s probably too soon to say, but the RELIEF and understanding that I experienced when I read the book was immense. She explains how women’s cycles follow different seasons – withdrawn, silent winter (when you’re bleeding), outgoing, flirty spring (up to ovulation), proactive and motivated summer (after ovulation), then reflective, critical autumn (pre-menstrual).

It explained all of my tropical-print skirts (bought them in my ‘spring’ phase). It explained my writers block (ALWAYS when I had my period, why did that not click sooner?!). It explained my drive to edit. It explained why for a week or so each month I’d suddenly want to change EVERYTHING ABOUT MY LIFE and do all the things I’d previously lacked confidence to do.

Ugh. Why did I not know this from the start? WHY? I can work with this knowledge! I know when to sit down and write, and when to expect my inner-editor to come out. I can plan for that! I can make peace with the fact that – for seven days or so, while my uterus decides to just fall to pieces – I’m actually not gonna want to create much, thanks. Just going to want to sit here, in silence, and watch chick flicks and cry about very small things. The book will wait.

And I know when to make life changes, and when to hold back. I know when to start trying to save the world, and when things are likely to overwhelm me and make me feel like my actions won’t be worth the effort. I know when to try and change my diet and make it stick. I know when to accept that I won’t be able to fight cravings, and to not give up just because I have a bad few days.

There is so much POWER in this knowledge. I can’t tell you how energised I feel by it. (I mean, I can tell you. That’s what I’m doing right now.)

You might relate to some of this, or you might relate to none at all and wish I’d stop saying ‘menstrual cycle’ already. I know when I mentioned it to my colleagues, they said I was sounding dangerously close to being someone who uses a Mooncup.

And you know what, I probably am. Maybe. (They are actually a lot bigger IRL than I imagined and that frightens me, so….it’s not a definite no.)

But that’s not what this is about. This isn’t about being a hippie, earthy, ‘I am woman hear me roar’ do-gooder (I can only aspire to such giddy heights). This is about realising that we hold power in different ways at different times, and that if we learned to work with those powers instead of sucking it up and carrying on as normal, then maybe we’ll all be a little bit…better? Happier? Aligned with ourselves, at least. Empowered, definitely.

I’m going to be reading so much more into this. I’m quite excited about what else I might discover about myself. If you’re in any way interested, I’d recommend you check out Claire Baker’s website and see what resonates. Her free resources are a good place to start.

After a bit of experimenting, I’ve finally found the right week in the month where I can actually wear my red lipstick without feeling utterly ridiculous. I might even graduate to my jumpsuit, next cycle….


Look lively, lads.


How do you know if you’re ready to self-publish? Part One

Long answer below. Short answer: You probably don’t, and that’s okay.

When you’re going the indie route, you don’t have an agent reading your work and deciding it’s worthy of their time. You don’t have a publisher bidding for your book. You don’t have a team of people validating your decision to write the story you’ve written, or approving the quality of your work.

You are, in this respect, alone.


But never lonely! So many people have trodden this path before us and if there’s one thing you can count on with authors it’s that they LOVE to share their experiences. Which is good news for us newbies!

I don’t actually claim to know any answers here, guys. I’m exploring this with you. But I am reading and researching and absorbing everything I bloody can, and by jove I’m starting to understand a few things. I’ve been jumping on and off the fence about publishing my first novel, Tilted, later this year and I’m tired of all the jumping. I’m tired, and like every other sodding Brit right now (for different reasons) I just want to know one thing: am I in or am I out?

Putting our totally normal and human insecurities and self-doubts aside, there seem to be four key questions any wannabe indie publisher should ask themselves before making the decision to go go go. But first, ask yourself:

Is it obvious you’re self-published?

Because if it is, then you’re probably not ready. Is your formatting shonky? Is your cover done in MS Word (and if your title is in Comic Sans then NO. BAD WRITER!) or very obviously home-made? Does your story actually work or is it full of plot-holes? Is your writing polished and accurate? It’s unlikely you won’t know the answer to any of these but if you don’t, then chances are you’re not ready yet. Research the market. Read and learn from other indie authors. Get eyes on the project. And not your mum/spouse/best friend’s eyes: impartial ones.

1. Is your story ready?

The question isn’t ‘is it perfect’, but is it ready. It will never be perfect. The story idea might be perfect, the hook impeccable, the characterisation sublime – but there’s simply no such thing as a perfect story. It’s too subjective and too abstract, and there’s freedom in that. What started out in your head felt mind-blowing, ground-breaking, akin to a spiritual revelation, possibly – but getting it out of your imagination and into something as restrictive as language is really, really tough. The thing you felt and the thing you read will never be the same, but it doesn’t mean that the finished product isn’t absolutely worthy of being published. And once it is published, it has a chance of finding its way into the hands of the one or two readers out there who actually will think it’s perfect.

So how can you tell if your story is ready?

–          Do other people like it?

–          Are plots tied together?

–          Does it have a satisfying beginning, middle and end?

Readers are crucial – beta readers, critical partners, editors, friends, family, colleagues—whatever. Just get your story in front of people and beg them to be kindly honest. Don’t just say ‘do you like it?’ Ask them if it made sense, if it flowed, if it dragged, if characters were logical and believable, if anything confused them, if they wanted to stay up all night reading it or could quite happily go several weeks between chapters… (that’s always a red-flag for me, though as most of my beta readers are working mothers it’s not exactly conclusive…or so I tell myself).


A developmental edit – while pricey – will really help with this, but my advice to those starting out is to start with beta reads, then progress to a professional beta read when you’ve taken on feedback and made obvious changes. This is usually a lot cheaper than a full developmental edit and will give you a good, overarching sense of whether or not the story works, and if not why not. Then you can decide whether you need professional help or can go (almost) the rest of the way on your own.

Takeaway – your story doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be a complete and compelling story.

2. Is your writing good enough?

Again, ask your readers. I remember my first ever reader – my dad – telling me in surprise, ‘it was so beautifully written!’ Looking back at that draft, it was gauche and clichéd and in need of serious editing—but that comment gave me the confidence that my writing had the potential to be beautiful.

I really believe you need an editor, though. Or at least someone who can perform the role of an editor, and I sense that it’s not as easy as it looks. I pride myself on my writing skills, and have even trained as a copywriter to really improve myself – but I’m still making basic errors and creating tangled sentences all the time. Sometimes I spot them, but mostly I don’t because you can only read your own work so many times before you just stop connecting with it. So pay as much as you can afford to get the best editor for your project.

And to be clear – you don’t have to be bloody Dostoyevsky. I maintain that Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the most annoyingly-written books I’ve ever read, but I’ve still read it at least twice because something about the story and characters unexpectedly grabbed me. And the woman knows how to pace a novel, fo’ sho’.

Of course a novel will survive the writing not being devastatingly profound and heart-piercingly astute – but it does need to be accessible and clear.

Takeaway – grammar, spelling and sentence structure are the bare minimum – make sure your writing is enjoyable (only readers can tell you, and ideally ones you don’t know) and if you can get a pro to hone it, all the better.

That’s the technical side of things; in Part Two, I’ll dig into the mindset stuff. Are you ready to handle the reviews? Can you live with yourself if you chicken out of hitting publish?



Until next time, players.