I’m delighted to welcome Rachael Lucas as part of her blog tour for her novel Sealed With A Kiss – already a top ten Kindle bestseller, and published in paperback by Pan on 8 May. As I’ve just started a creative writing course with the Open University, I’m quite delighted that she’s chosen to share her top writing tips! Over to you, Rachael…
I spent a long time thinking that there was going to be a mythical Right Time to start writing. There is no such thing, sadly.
1. Get into the habit of writing daily. One of the best ways to do this is to write a blog, so you’re writing a post every day or so. That gets you into the routine of sitting down and getting words down on paper even if you don’t feel like it. It took me AGES to realise that it doesn’t matter whether I feel like it or not – I just have to get it done.
2. Share your work. One of the biggest, scariest things is actually showing anything you’ve written to anyone else. I don’t know why, but it’s the same for everyone. What’s also true, weirdly, is that once you get over that hurdle, it suddenly becomes addictive and you’ll find yourself thrusting your work at anyone who’ll sit still long enough to read it. So my advice would be to get over that fear as quickly as possible – share your work, whether it’s on your blog, with some friends or Beta readers you find online, or on a site like Authonomy. The worst that’ll happen is someone won’t like it, and if they don’t, you’ll hopefully get some constructive criticism.
3. Read. It might sound counterintuitive to say that one of my best tips for writing is to step away from the pages you’re working on, but the best writers are also voracious readers. Read with a pen in hand – go back over your favourite novels and ask yourself what it is the author does that makes the story so good. Break down the characters – write a synopsis of your favourite books (good training for writing a synopsis when it comes to submitting a novel, too) and look at the rise and fall of the story. And read about writing, too. There are some brilliant books out there on writing, and they all help you to develop your skills.
4. Get out of the house. If you’re stuck, don’t just sit there banging your head against the keyboard. Grab a pen and a notebook and go and sit in a cafe. Listen to conversations. Wonder what would happen if… about the people you overhear. Watch body language. Go for a walk and think about the scenery that surrounds you. I find driving helps, too – if I get stuck, I get in the car and go for a long drive with music blaring. It almost always fixes whatever is wrong.
5. Don’t stop. One of the hardest things to do is to get that first novel completed. If you can, sign up for something like NaNoWriMo where you’ll have a set amount of time to produce a draft – it might start out scrappy and make no sense, but you can’t edit words unless they’re down on paper. Sealed with a Kiss started out as a rough 50,000 words written during NaNoWriMo and the finished book bears very little resemblance to the original work!
Some excellent advice there!
Kate breathes a sigh of relief when she’s dumped at her best friend’s wedding. Faced with moving back home, she takes a job with a cottage on the remote island of Auchenmor.
Kate’s told Auchenmor is too small for secrets, but prickly new boss Roderick is keeping something to himself. When his ex-girlfriend comes back on the scene, their budding friendship comes to an abrupt end – and Kate finds out Fiona’s got a sinister motive for coming back to the island she hates.
Can she be stopped before it’s too late, and will the island find its way into Kate’s heart?
I’m really quite fussy about the chick lit that I enjoy – the characters need to have a little depth (with minimal shopping and fashion), there needs to be a good engaging story with a little more than simply boy meets girl, there must be a little light and dark, and the supporting characters need to be as well drawn as the main ones. And the writing needs to be good – just because a book isn’t a major prize contender, it doesn’t mean that the writing should be inferior in any way. And I’m delighted to report that Sealed With A Kiss delivered at every level for me.
I loved Kate as the main character – having lost boring Ian, she decides to take a job as a girl friday on a remote Scottish island in exchange for somewhere to live, with no real idea of what the job entails. She decides to get a dog and give up men for a while – the first she does, the second proves rather more of a challenge. The contenders to become the man in her life are perfect, and her encounters fraught with misunderstandings – and things are made all the more difficult when you’re living your life under the keen eye of the community, where everyone knows everyone else’s business and every move is up for community discussion. I really liked the way her character was built and developed throughout the story – while you might be a little luke-warm towards her at the start of the book, the apparent airhead is soon forgotten and you’re soon entirely on her side, groaning at her mistakes, cheering her successes and hoping things will turn out well for her.
There are many wonderful characters in this book – the hunky gamekeeper Tom MacKelvie, Bruno from the ice-cream parlour, faithful housekeeper Jean, even Kate’s difficult mother – with the scenery of the island of Auchenmor as a further character in its own right. The island is quite perfectly drawn, with its dramatic scenery and the wildlife that is central to the story, and I loved the descriptions of the attempts being made to revitalise it and bring in visitors: in fact, I was rather disappointed to find it doesn’t exist, but the island of Bute on which it’s based is now very much on my “must visit” list.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book – a remarkably accomplished first novel from Rachael Lucas, a wonderful feel-good read with perfectly judged humour, and believable romance and a range of friendships that bring a tear to your eye and a warm glow to your heart.
Now closed – congratulations to the three winners, Anne Cater, Gail Bennett and Coombe Mill. Once I have your addresses I’ll pass to the publishers who will send your books direct. With many thanks to Lucie Cuthbertson-Twiggs at publishers Pan Macmillan, I’m delighted to offer three copies of Sealed With A Kiss to UK readers, with a closing date of Sunday 18 May (6pm). To enter, just follow the blog and leave a comment (mandatory): if you also tweet about the giveaway, please copy me in and I’ll give you an extra entry for each tweet.
Rachael Lucas is a mother, gardener, coveter of beautiful things, outgoing introvert, reader, bed lover, early morning riser, night owl and a sleep deprived mass of contradictions.
She wrote her first (astoundingly awful) novel at the age of 11, bashing away every night after school on a portable typewriter. It was rejected (very kindly) by a publisher.
Rachael lives by the seaside in the North West of England with her partner, their blended family of six children, a very hairy dog and two and a half cats. She likes listening to BBC Radio 4 and thinking about writing. When she is writing, she hates everything and everyone and doesn’t brush her hair.
For more about Rachael, visit her blog or say hello to her on Twitter, where she can be found talking nonsense under the username @karamina (and if you ask, she’ll explain the origin of the slightly odd name).