My Top 3 Tips for Drafting

Writing the first draft is one of my favourite parts of the writing process. (World building and creating magic systems take the top spot). But I know it’s a lot of people’s most hated part, and some of you even prefer editing *shudder*.

So, I thought I’d share a few quick and simple tips for getting that first draft done, whether you’re a plotter or a pantser. Here we go:

Tip 1.

Write a scene/chapter summary at the top of each new page to refer to whenever you get stuck.

Okay, this one is more for the plotters amongst us, but even a lot of pantsers have a general idea of where the story needs to go before it reaches its ultimate conclusion. If you know some of the essential beats or big plot events that will happen in your story, jot them down and paste them throughout your document so that when you finish the first beat you have an idea of the next one. Or, if you’re an outline obsessive, like me, you can write a paragraph at the top of every single chapter so you never find yourself staring at a blank document with no idea what’s supposed to happen next.

Tip 2.

Stop in the middle of the action so you know exactly what’s happening when you come back to it.

This is the one I find the hardest to put into practice, I much prefer ending a writing session with a complete scene, but if you want to hit the ground running the next day, this one works a treat. Just close your laptop mid-battle/kiss/argument/revelation and when you open it again tomorrow you can carry on from there, easing you into a new writing session with as little pain or procrastination as possible.

Tip 3.

Leave yourself a short note about what needs to happen next at the end of each writing session.

This one works if you’re like me and hate to stop in the middle of a scene. When you’re in the flow of the story, you probably know exactly where it’s going next, but you have to stop at some point to eat/walk the dog/socialise with your friends or family. It’s a drag, I know. Just kidding, but if you quickly scribble down a summary of the next scene before you stop for the day, you’ll thank yourself tomorrow when you don’t have to spend ages rereading your last few pages or trying to think of what to write next.

And there you have it, three very simple and effective ways to help yourself get that first draft finished and move on to the next phase of your publishing journey!

Lyndsey

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Interview: Portal Fantasy Author Becky James

Hi fantasy fans! I’ve got a real treat for you today, I sat down to chat with the lovely Becky James, author of The Tenets in the Tattoos, one of the most unique and gripping fantasy books of the last few years!

Keep reading to find out what we chatted about…

LH: Hi Becky! Thanks for joining me. First off, can you tell us a little about yourself?

BJ: I write NA sword and sorcery mashed with contemporary fantasy, about a cocky swordsman and his exasperated friends. I’m also writing something more fantasy-romance themed, it’s shaping up nicely. I like noblebright, with worldbuilding threaded throughout the plot, and anything unexpected. I love it when a story comes full circle and closes off nicely, ready for the next. 

I’m from Wales originally, then I moved to Scotland, now I’m trying out living in England. (I’ll do Ireland one day to complete the set). I speak conversational Welsh, French and Japanese and eager to learn more languages. I am a massive extrovert, but nearly all my friends are introverts, so I know how not to energy vampire them. I will still talk your ear off though. 

LH: As a card-carrying introvert, we appreciate you! And if it’s about your books, I’ll happily let you talk my ear off for hours. When did you start writing and what inspired you? 

BJ: I got into fantasy young, and I’m all for stories that use the settings / events to explore human nature and character-driven storylines. My first “grown up” fantasy writer was Eddings, and I love that balance of humour and heart. 

LH: I love a character-driven story too, it’s the characters I fall for more so than the plot, especially when there’s a big group of them and we can really get to know and love each one over the course of a series. Sarah J. Maas is my favourite author for that, introducing lots of new faces slowly over a long series, and making me obsess over every single one. What are some of your favourite books, and why?

BJ: What I love is when characters and their choices drive the story, rather than weathering event after event thrown at them. Fantasy books – I’ve been told my books are like Trudi Canavan’s (what an honour!) I love Eddings, especially The Redemption of Althalus; the banter is absolute mint. T. Kingfisher’s whimsy and rollicking prose is always a good time. 

Other books I enjoy are more on the adult romance side – I am a huge fan of Alexis Hall, his portrayal of modern age Britain is so real and visceral, from sullied seaside towns to the dreaming spires of Oxford, and the relationships between the characters are so well done. 

LH: It sounds like you have a very eclectic taste, and I can see that coming through in your writing. Tell us a little about your first published book.

BJ: The Tenets in the Tattoos is my debut novel, so it will always be my baby. I do enjoy a delicious comeuppance, especially if I think whoever this is happening to absolutely deserved it. Thorrn starts off as an overconfident swordsman, convinced he’s god’s gift, and you can just bet he’s heading for a wake-up call. So my favourite early scene to write is when Thorrn realises he was wrong about someone and acted rashly. He goes careening around the castle trying to find her to right his mistake, and everyone he meets is telling them how much they have come to like her… it’s just so tasty, I was laughing so hard. 

My favourite scene from The Tenets in the Tattoos has to be when they try to convince Aubin they are in a dreamworld. The apothecarist is confused by what’s real and what’s not, and Thorrn hits on the idea of using his tattoos, those small details, to prove to Aubin that he’s in the waking world. Next time you’re in a dream, try looking at your watch. You won’t be able to discern a time, and those details are what will shock Aubin into realising he’s dreaming. So Thorrn designs a tattoo, and he chooses something to represent the group; a sword for him, a book for Evyn, a rock for the stone mage, and then a plant for Aubin. He chooses the spikiest, scariest looking plant he can find, modelled after sea holly. And then Aubin calmly informs him that that plant helps with, ahem, male personal problems. You can feel the wind knocked right out of Thorrn’s sails!

LH: That’s hilarious! I love all of the detail and meaning you’ve woven through the story, it adds so many layers and gives the reader so much more than they expected! Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

BJ: My stories are heavily UK influenced, from the mythology and folklore to the settings (semi-rural British countryside and our canals feature a lot. Slightly obsessed with canals). I’ll feature the dreaming spires of Oxford next to steel-crash impacted Sheffield, and there needs to be more about the laylines influencing Milton Keynes and the real story behind the Magic Roundabout in Swindon.

As for characters, well, Thorrn walked into my head one day and wouldn’t leave me alone. So it goes!

LH: Being from Sheffield, I heavily support this, and my books are similarly filled with British folklore and the realities of life in a Northern ex-mining town. Plus, who doesn’t love canals? Their history is fascinating. I’ll have to pick your brain about them another time! Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

BJ: I’ll be writing away and have no idea where this is going. The characters have a situation in front of them, and it’s up to them to solve it. I’m hardly ever involved! I guess that makes me a pantser, but I’ll be pantsing along and some item or event from earlier in the book or series suddenly has a role. Maybe that’s a special type of plantser (plant as in planting things there – but utterly by accident). This just supports my theory that we actually just channel stories, like some kind of medium, and that the author has very little to do with the process apart from technical execution!

LH: I know exactly what you mean, the number of times I’ve foreshadowed something without even realising it or meaning to, those are my absolute favourite moments when writing! So, what are you working on right now?

BJ: I am writing a fantasy romance! It will be featured in the Realm of Darkness set.

LH: Ooh, I’m very excited to read this collection! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

BJ: A popular Welsh saying is, “It never hurts to ask the question. Them that don’t ask don’t want.” Always try, because rather an ‘oops’ than a ‘never was’. 

LH: Brilliant advice, and so true, I feel like so many people don’t even try to achieve their dreams because they’re afraid of failing or looking daft. It’s only the ones who are willing to fall flat on their faces, and then pick themselves back up, who succeed.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Becky! It’s been a dream. Before I let you go, how can we find out more about you and your books? 


That was so much fun, I love chatting with my fellow UK-based indie authors, it’s such a treat to share so much in common. And Becky is just the loveliest. And incredibly talented to boot! I’m not jealous at all…

Go check out The King’s Swordsman series and the Realm of Darkness boxset and enjoy some fabulous fantasy stories, and support an indie author!

Happy reading,

Lyndsey

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Mid-year update 2022

How is it June already? 2022 has absolutely flown so far, and as we’re now halfway through the year I thought it was a good time to check in and do a little update on my reading and writing progress.

Reading

I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge to 36 books for 2022 – I’m an incredibly slow reader and I don’t have a lot of time to read between work, writing, being a mum and all of the other plates I’m spinning. But I’m really pleased with my progress so far, I’ve read fourteen books and am on track to hit my target.

I fell into a huge reading slump while I was editing The Solitary King at the end of last year. I couldn’t get into any fantasy books, I started several and just ended up putting them down and trying something else – nothing to do with the books themselves, and I’m looking forward to going back to them (I’m halfway through A Court of Silver Flames on audio and a few chapters into House of Sky and Breath on audio, so it’s definitely not because I chose badly!). I ended up grabbing a couple of crime/domestic thrillers from the library and they turned out to be exactly what I needed, so I’ve been predominantly reading thrillers all year. But I can feel the slump coming to an end, and I’m ready to jump back into my one true love, fantasy.

Here are the books I’ve read in 2022 so far:

And I’m currently reading I Know What You’ve Done by Dorothy Koomson. Then it’s back to fantasy for some of my favourite authors’ new books, including Kingdom of Feathers by Alice Ivinya.

Writing

After editing and publishing TSK, I was so completely burnt out I couldn’t write a word for months. I’m only just coming out of my burn out and it feels so good to be inspired and motivated again.

I’m currently working on a new WIP, it’s the next email subscriber exclusive story, A Fair Vendetta, and you can find out more about it and the rest of my upcoming short stories for subs in this blog post. My plan is to publish all five shorts on Amazon as ebooks, and give them away free to my email list, and once they’re all published I’ll compile them into a collection called Fair Tales which will be available in ebook and paperback.

I’m also really excited to be cowriting a short story for an anthology with the absolutely incredible Shana Vernon! We’re working on a villain romance/redemption story for Jafar from Aladdin, which we’ve titled Three Dark Wishes. It features a gender-swapped Aladdin and Jasmine, and a romantic arc for Jafar and our female Aladdin (all names will of course be changed, we’re not planning on getting sued by Disney!).

And I’ll also be getting back to The Fair War, book three in the Fair Chronicles, as soon as I can, but at the moment the muse is really pulling me towards these two stories, and who am I to argue!

Publishing

Back in January, I published the second book in my The Fair Chronicles series, The Solitary King. It’s doing really well, and was a fantastic launch, more than quadrupling what I achieved with The Fair Queen. Reviews are coming in steadily and they’re really positive. I’m actually planning to have a few free days to celebrate the release of an upcoming anthology, so keep your eyes peeled if you’d like a copy of TSK for FREE!

Get The Solitary King on Amazon

Then in April, Once Upon a Name was published, a short story anthology that I put together with some of my Enchanted Anthologies friends and coauthors, and a whole host of new teammates! Working with such a big team (twenty of us) was an incredible experience and I learned so much from every one of my coauthors, about writing, publishing, marketing and more. My story, Baroness of Blood and Bone, is an urban fantasy centred around a female alpha of a pack of wolf shifters and her quest for vengeance under the Blood Moon. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever written before and I actually loved it, so don’t be surprised if somewhere down the line I do write a full length urban fantasy series!

Get Once Upon a Name on Amazon

And today marks exactly one month to the day Enchanted Forests comes out! We enjoyed working together on Enchanted Waters so much that we decided to do it again (and again, but more on that soon!). As you can tell from the title, these stories focus on forests and woodlands, featuring all manner of magical and mythical creatures including unicorns, elves, and a talking racoon. My story, One Fair Eve, is a spin on the goblin market with a young man in Victorian England searching for a way to get into the prestigious musical conservatory he dreams of, and finding more than he bargained for.

Preorder Enchanted Forests on Amazon

And that’s it for the first half of 2022 so far! Seeing it all written down like that, I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved this year, alongside all of my other commitments and responsibilities, and being thrown some serious curveballs.

How is your 2022 going so far?

Lyndsey

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