Tuesday, 20 October 2020

The 12 Christmases of You & Me Publication Day

 

The 12 Christmases of You & Me Jennifer Joyce


Happy Publication Day to me!


Today, my eleventh book has been released, and I'm so pleased I get to share Maisie's story. It was a lot of fun writing the book, filling it to the brim with all things festive while enjoying a bit of 90s and early 2000s nostalgia. I've wanted to write a time-travel rom com for a long time so it's a very exciting time!


If you're a newsletter subscriber, you should receive an email today where you can enter my giveaway of a signed copy of the book, and over the next few weeks I'll be sharing lots of 'book extras' here on the blog, including 12 Fun Facts about the book, the very festive playlist, and we'll be stepping back in time with Maisie.


If you read the book, I hope you love it as much as I do. I'd be ever so grateful if you left a review on Amazon as every one of them helps, even if it's just a sentence or two.


Find out more about the book


Jennifer Joyce The 12 Christmases of You & Me


What if you could go back in time and fix the biggest mistake of your life?


Two years ago, Maisie’s best friend walked out of her life and she hasn’t heard from him since. When she wakes up in 1994, she naturally assumes she’s dreaming. But when she finds herself in the past again the next night and her actions in the dream alter her present-day life, she begins to wonder if she’s somehow hopping back in time. And if she is time-travelling, can she save her friendship with Jonas?


When Maisie is forced to relive Christmases of the past, will she face up to her mistakes, or make them all over again?


The 12 Christmases of You & Me is a magical tale of friendship, first loves, and learning to live in the present.



Friday, 9 October 2020

5 Ways I'm Getting Ready for Nanowrimo 2020

Nanowrimo

It's that time of year again, when the leaves are starting to fall from the trees, everybody's grumbling that it's too soon for the Christmas stuff to be out in the shops and writers are gearing up for another go at Nanowrimo.



What is Nanowrimo?


I'm planning to write a big chunk of my next book during November (50,000 words if possible) and here are 5 ways I'm getting ready to jump into Nano:


1. Registering My Intent


I've set up my writing goal on the Nanowrimo website, so it's all there on the screen: my intention to write 50,000 words of Book 13 during November.



Now I'm ready to watch the tracker climb from zero words to - fingers crossed! - 50,000.


2. Plotting


Some people plot, some people don't. I'm definitely a plotter - and a massive one at that. So it makes sense to plot out my book before I even attempt Nano.

Pen and Paper


You might want to jot out a few ideas, or a beginning, middle and end, but I'm going full-on three-act structure, because I've found over the years that I need this level of planning before I start a book. Do as little or as much that works for you - every writer works in different ways.


3. Getting To Know My Characters


We'll never know our characters at the beginning of the first draft as much as we do at the end of it, but it's handy to have some idea of who these people are in your mind before you start.


Character Development


I'm using the character questionnaire from the Nano Prep 101 on the website to develop my characters. Hopefully I'll know my characters a bit more by the time 1st November comes along.


4. Pinteresting Stuff


Another way of developing my characters is to use Pinterest to give me a visual representation of who my characters are: what do they look like, what's their fashion style, what are their hobbies and interests? I've created individual boards for each of my characters and I've been pinning images as I fill in the questionnaire.


Pinterest is also good for world-building, so you can get an idea of what the town or workplace or home of your characters looks and feels like. It doesn't have to be a million pins - when I was planning my novel The Little Bed & Breakfast by the Sea, I had just 35 pins in my board, but it gave a flavour of the kind of seaside town I wanted my characters to inhabit and gave an insight into their characters.


5. Setting A Word Count Schedule


50,000 words is a lot, and it's a pretty daunting task to complete in just one month (if this doesn't seem daunting to you, good for you. I'm not jealous. At all), but breaking it down into smaller chunks can help.

Schedule

I've set myself a daily goal of 2,000 words for six days a week, which means I can have a little break if I need to, but I've also got a bit of wriggle room if I need to catch up at any point. 2,000 words a day seems more manageable than 50,000 words in a month, even though it adds up to the same amount of words!


Are you taking part in Nano this year? How are you getting yourself prepared?

Friday, 25 September 2020

Want to have YOUR name used in my book?

 

writing_book_13


My latest newsletter will be going out soon, and I'll be asking my subscribers if they want to put their name in the (virtual) hat, where one will be picked at random to be used in the book I'm currently planning. So, if you'd like the chance to see your name in print, make sure you've signed up!


I've used newsletter subscribers names in my books before (for The Accidental Life Swap and soon-to-be released The 12 Christmases of You & Me) and I'm looking forward to doing it again. I have nameless male and female characters, so anyone can put their name forward.


Want to have your name used in my book?



It's quick, easy and free to subscribe and I only send out newsletter 4-5 times a year, so your inbox won't be bombarded. And, when I do send out a newsletter, there's always a subscriber-exclusive giveaway. Plus, when you subscribe, you'll be able to get my romantic comedy ebook, Six Dates for FREE.


You can find out more info and/or subscribe by clicking here


free romantic comedy Jennifer Joyce Six Dates

Friday, 18 September 2020

Planning Book 13 - A Bullet-Point Plot & Three-Act Structure

 


As I said last week in my 5 Point Pitch post, I'm a MASSIVE plotter. And that 5 Point Pitch is only the very beginning of my plotting. It forms the base of what is to come next:

  • a synopsis
  • a bullet-point plot
  • a detailed three-act structure

Last week, I used an example of the short pitch I created for The 12 Christmases of You & Me:




Once I have this, I expand the pitch into a synopsis: 
How does she travel back in time? 
What happens when she finds herself in the past?
How does her time-travelling affect her present? 
I expand on the history repeating itself and explain how she embraces living in the present, ending up with around a page of plot.

And then the real work begins.

With my synopsis, I start to divide the plot up into bullet points, expanding the bare bones into what will later become chapters and scenes. This is usually a sentence or two (or maybe a few more) of what is happening to move the plot along and filling in the gaps (using The 12 Christmases of You & Me as an example again, I will have mentioned Maisie's time-travel, but I won't have detailed each one). It'll be fleshed out during the first draft, so there's still plenty of room for creativity, and there will always be changes that will be made throughout that first draft. This bullet-point plot and the three-act structure that will follow (because yes, there's more planning to be done. I know lots of people don't plan at all, but this is how I roll and it works for me) isn't set in stone.





Once I have my bullet-point plan, I can start to divide it up into a three-act structure. I use Alexandra Sokoloff's Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors as a guide, but the main parts I'm looking for are the opening scene, the inciting incident, the midpoint, and the final battle.

Some people use a whiteboard or squillions of post-it notes to plot their structures, but I simply use an excel document, with tabs for each act. (I would love to do the post-it note thing, but I have limited space and I'm not sure a wall full of post-its would work in my living room.)

With the main plot points copied and pasted into my excel document, I can then transfer the rest of the bullet points into their relevant places, giving me an overall view of what each act - and the entire book - will look like. I'll expand even further at this point (I told you I'm a massive plotter) and then, finally, I'm ready to start writing...

Friday, 11 September 2020

Planning Book 13 - 5 Point Pitch



I'm a MASSIVE plotter. I have huge admiration for Pantsers and the way they can jump into a new book and see where it takes them, but I don't have it in me to do that myself. I need to know what my book is, where it starts, where it ends and all the bits in the middle. And so I plot, plot, plot until I'm ready to start the first chapter.

Plotting can be pretty daunting. Where do you start? How do you transfer the messy jumble of ideas and characters from your head into a coherent plan? As a writer, I'm always learning new techniques and adapting the way I work, particularly when it comes to planning a book. One technique I've found incredibly useful is creating a short pitch.

The pitch starts with five points:



I'm going to use my upcoming book, The 12 Christmases of You & Me as an example to fill in the boxes:


I then use this information to write a short pitch:

The 12 Christmases of You & Me is a romantic comedy about single mum Maisie who finds herself travelling back in time to the Christmases of her teens and early twenties. She hasn't spoken to her best friend, Jonas in two years, and she decides to use the opportunity to fix the mistakes she made and save their friendship. But when history keeps repeating itself, Maisie has to learn to stop looking back and embrace living in the present.



This short pitch is incredibly useful because it will form the base of the rest of my plans, from the synopsis to the three-act structure that I'll work from when writing the book. Click here to see the next stage of my planning process.
 

Friday, 4 September 2020

Back To School

 



And just like that, they're back to school. 


After five months of home-schooling, of baking lime loaves (and lemon and orange ones), of community-style games of Scrabble in the kitchen, of planting dahlias and watching them grow on the windowsill in repurposed Pot Noodle pots, and watching bees enjoying our flowers in the garden, of cream teas and chocolate chip pancakes, of rock painting, of building bug hotels and making bird feeders from plastic bottles, of social-distanced leavers' gathering in primary school playgrounds, my girls are back at school and college.




In some ways, lockdown has gone on forever (I can just about remember back when Isobel came home on that final Thursday of primary school, although we didn't know that would be her last day. We thought she'd be home for a few weeks of home-schooling and then be back after Easter. Bless us) but it also, weirdly, seems to have passed by in the blink of an eye. And I'm usually itching for the kids to go back to school after six long weeks of summer holidays (ha ha ha) but this year it's harder to let go and I would quite happily remain cocooned in our house for a bit longer (although I'd pass on the home-schooling, thank you very much). 




I'm always anxious when it comes to back-to-school time, but it's even more nerve-wracking this time around; not only is Isobel going back to school, she's starting a whole new one, with teachers she's never met before because with no school, there was no transition period between primary and secondary school to ease them in. Plus, there's the added worry of everything Covid-related - masks, the inability to social distance in a school, the threat of a second wave. Can we go back to rock-painting and growing dahlias, please? Just for a teeny bit longer?




No, I know that can't happen, and Isobel was looking forward to starting her new school (while fully aware the novelty will soon wear off). I've got to put my big girl's pants on and get on with things, aka dive into planning my next book, which I'll be writing a (hopefully) big chunk of during this year's Nano. I'll also be making sure everything is ready for the publication of The Twelve Christmases of You & Me next month which, like starting a new school, is exciting and scary in equal measures.



Friday, 28 August 2020

The Babysitters Club

 



Did you read The Babysitters Club when you were younger? I loved them, along with the Sweet Valley Twins and High series (there wasn't much else in the teen section of our local library, so it's lucky I enjoyed them). As well as the copies I borrowed from the library, I also owned a few, which I kept hold of and passed onto my oldest daughter, who then passed them onto her younger sister. My daughters both loved the series too, so when we heard that Netflix had made its own adaptation, we had to watch it.

Adaptations don't always live up to the books, but I thought the series was great and it definitely delivered the hit of nostalgia I was hoping for, plus I liked the tweaks they'd made to characters and story lines to bring it up to date. My only teeny, tiny niggle was the horror of seeing Alicia Silverstone playing one of the mums *insert screamy-face emoji*

To me, Alicia Silverstone is Cher from Clueless, who is fifteen (sixteen by the final scene, but whatever), not a mum. And especially not a mum to a teenager. It doesn't matter that I'm a mum to a teenager now as well - it was still a slap in the face and a reminder that I'm no longer the kid reading about Kristy and the gang during the long summer holidays.

Seriously though, Netflix has produced a brilliant series that I hope will have another generation picking up the books and devouring them.


Have you watched the series? What did you think?

Friday, 14 August 2020

A Quick Catch Up


I haven't done one of these for a while, so I thought we could have a little catch catch up. Let us know what you're up to in the comments below :)




I'm between writing projects at the moment as I've just finished the first draft of Book 12 and I'm having a little writing break. In September, I'm going to start planning Book 13, which is a festive book that I'll be writing a big chunk of for Nanowrimo. I wrote 50,000 words of The 12 Christmases of You & Me during Nano 2019 (my first ever attempt at Nano) and I'm looking forward to getting stuck in again!

While I'm on my writing break, I'm going to be working on my family tree, which I've been building up on and off over the past few years. I love history, so delving back into the records and piecing together my family tree is a lot of fun!






I'm currently reading On The Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. It's been on my Kindle for a long time but this year I told myself I was going to stop neglecting the many, many ebooks I've one-clicked and abandoned. I'm doing well with my pledge as I think it's about a 50/50 split between ebooks and paperbacks.




I know lockdown hasn't been easy, but it has presented me with the opportunity to watch things I missed the first time round. With shows being broadcast again to fill slots and box sets being added in the catch up section, I've managed to find some real gems. My favourites are:

Last Tango In Halifax
The A Word
Car Share and
Bad Education

I also binged my way through seasons 1 and 2 of Dark on Netflix in preparation for the third and final season (and then binged that too!)






Books, books news and writing, stuff from my garden and Luna.


So that's what I've been getting up to. Don't forget to let us know how you've been getting on in the comments below!


Friday, 7 August 2020

Reaching 'The End'



I did it! This afternoon, I reached The End of the first draft of Book 12! It's a pretty messy first draft, so there's still a lot of work to do before it's a coherent, can-be-read-by-someone-else manuscript, but the main ingredients for the book are there.




I started the book on 20th April, about a month into lockdown and homeschooling, so I was bit apprehensive about what I could achieve during this time. I set myself a goal of finishing the book in September, which meant I could write 4,000 words per week (or 800 words per week day), which seemed doable under the circumstances. I also gave myself little pats on the back for every 10,000 words I reached in the form of post-it notes, which I shared on social media:




Writing a book during a global pandemic hasn't always been easy, but it has been quite nice having an escape into a world where coronavirus doesn't exist, where characters can meet up with friends (and hug them) and popping on a mask to go to the supermarket isn't the norm.

I'm going to have a little break from writing (it's needed, believe me!) so I can recharge my batteries before I start planning Book 13...



Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Are We Friends On Instagram?



I love using Instagram, whether I'm sharing photos of my dog, Luna (cute), my attempts at baking or crochet or other crafty stuff, or shouting about books (my own, but mostly other people's). And I love seeing other people's pictures and stories (especially if they contain books and/or dogs and/or cats).

Instagram is a lovely, friendly place to be (I have yet to see an Instagram spat) and it's probably* my favourite social media platform, so I'm always looking for more people to follow!





*it absolutely is my favourite

Friday, 24 July 2020

Free Romantic Comedy (Warning: May Give You Cravings For Cake)



I send out my newsletters 4-5 times a year, where subscribers receive free short stories, extra content, book recommendations and more. Plus, once you've subscribed, you'll receive a welcome email where you can claim a FREE ebook, Six Dates, which is exclusively available to my subscribers!




If you've read The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts, you'll recognise the setting of Six Dates - plus the delicious cakes and biscuits Natalie is treated to during her dates. And if you fancy having a go at baking them yourself, there are recipes included in the book. If you do get baking, I'd love to know how you get on - you can tag me on Twitter or Instagram, or share your pics on my Facebook page.




Speed dating has never been so sweet!

Natalie has been cajoled into attending a speed dating event with a difference - the difference being a delicious baked treat to enjoy with each date. But will her possible matches prove to be just as sweet?


Subscribe to my newsletter for free here to find out!

Friday, 17 July 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: We Did It!


*Me the parent, not the kid


We did it! We somehow got through lockdown home schooling and we can now breathe a massive sigh of relief - and give ourselves an enormous pat on the back. It's been a long 17 weeks (probably the longest term-and-a-bit in the history of schooling) but it's a time we won't forget. I'm going to keep all of Isobel's home schoolwork in a file, which will be something to look back on fondly with the grandkids one day.




For Isobel, it isn't only the end of home schooling - it's the end of primary school. When she started Year 6 back in September, I never imagined her leaving ceremony would be a socially-distanced one in the school playground ('social distance' wasn't even a thing back then. What a time that was!) but I'm glad she got to go back yesterday and say goodbye to her friends, her teachers, and the school she's attended since nursery. Before lockdown, she'd been walking to and from school by herself, but this was my last chance to do the school run, and I took it!

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Procrastination



What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task



Examples of procrastination:

Checking emails. And Twitter. And Facebook. And Instagram. And back to Twitter...

Housework (seriously, some people do this. Not me, obviously, but other less normal people)

Writing blog posts about procrastination instead of writing their book



Yes, I am writing a blog post about procrastination instead of working on Book 12 because, right now, this seems a lot easier. I'm in The Slump, where the words won't seem to come no matter how much I will them to. It's doubly frustrating because I've planned the book and know what should be happening on the page. In fact, it's triply frustrating because I've reached 60,000 words of the book. The End is tantalisingly close and yet the words are stuck.




The last 5,000 words of the 60,000 were hard won, but I got there. I celebrated with a post-it note progress marker and a doodled butterfly. And then... nothing. There were NO MORE WORDS to be had. Cleo's story had decided to grind to a half even though it isn't finished yet. And not only that, I started to pick holes in the part that was written. I don't edit as I write - I start at Chapter One and power through until The End and fix everything later. That's what second drafts are for, and it's always worked for me because I know if I start to tinker, I won't progress.

I don't like these nagging thoughts telling me how rubbish the book is, or telling me the bit I'm writing now should be several chapters back, or that there's so much work to do on the second draft and I haven't even finished the first yet. These thoughts really aren't helping the words to flow, and ignoring them and having a leisurely scroll through Twitter isn't going to get the words on the page either, so I'm doing something I don't usually do yet: I'm writing my notes for Draft Two while working on the first. I'm making a note of all those nagging thoughts, all the things I keep reminding myself need fixing, and ploughing on with the book. I've managed to add a thousand words to the book this morning, so fingers crossed it continues to work and I'll be celebrating 70,000 words with a post-it note soon!

Friday, 3 July 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: 2 Weeks To Go!


*Me the parent, not the kid


If you're still home-schooling, give yourself a massive pat on the back because the end is in sight. In just two weeks, our home school adventure/nightmare (delete as applicable) will be over!

I've just had a look at my original home school blog post, and it brought back how anxious I felt when the text message came through from Isobel's school telling us that her school had closed. I had no idea what I was doing, so I'm grateful for the help that was out there: the online classes from her teachers and the work they set, Twinkl for their resources and worksheets, BBC bite-size, and other parents on Twitter, especially those who admitted how stressful they were finding it too because they made me feel normal. We usually present our best lives on social media, so I can only imagine how much of a failure I'd have felt if everyone else was showing how wonderful it all was going (even if they were hiding the bad bits).




I was also feeling anxious about my writing, worrying how I was going to work with a house full of people while juggling home-schooling. Luckily, Isobel's at an age where she can mostly get on with the work set, so I take my hat off to those parents with younger children - you really do deserve the hugest pat on the back!

We quite quickly found a new normal, with three of us working in one room (my older daughter has been doing her college work upstairs, on her own. She's obviously the smartest of us all) and while it hasn't always been a pleasant experience, we've somehow muddled through. I usually struggle to write during the school holidays, but as I've written 60,000 words of a new book so far and released the paperback of Everything Changes But You during lockdown, it should be a breeze from now on. Right? I guess we'll find out in a couple of weeks...

Friday, 26 June 2020

Keep It Pinteresting



Reaching the 40,000 words milestone for Book 12 a couple of weeks ago was amazing as it meant I was around the halfway mark. But it also comes with a hint of trepidation; reaching the halfway point is a reminder that the book is no longer shiny and new, yet you've still got a huge chunk to write before you can type those glorious words: The End. 




This part of the writing process can have me feeling a bit bogged down with it all and in The Slump. Sometimes this is full-on writer's block, where the words simply won't come. Or sometimes there's an idea or two for new books floating around my head, jumping around and calling for my attention - and these ideas are shiny and new. I need to somehow keep myself in this book and one way I've found is to keep myself 'pinterested' in the story.

It's a really simple idea of highlighting the important plot points of your book in Pinterest by pinning relevant images. I did this for The 12 Christmases of You & Me, and it was fun picking out the images and seeing the story build up visually rather than just seeing a Word document. You can see my Pinterest board for the book here.




When I started to write Book 12, I set up a new Pinterest board and started to build the story up in images. It's only the first draft, so some of the pins may change or get removed later on, but I love seeing my book in a different medium. I'm writing a romantic comedy, but this would work for any genre, and it doesn't matter if you're writing your first novel or you're got a few books under your belt - we all need a bit of motivation and focus sometimes!

Friday, 19 June 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: Still Home Schooling


*Me the parent, not the kid


Some schools have started to take some of their pupils back in. My daughter's school decided to only take their Year 1 classes back in, but as we're in the North West and the R rate is still high here, they postponed this (though they may be in now, I'm not sure). Isobel's in Year 6 and they're looking at bringing them in from 29th June for the last three weeks - but only if the parents are happy to do this. As things stands, we're going to continue with the home schooling.




Our timetable has had another tweak over the past couple of weeks. Because some pupils were due to go back into the school, the online classes Isobel had about three times a week have stopped because the teachers are needed for the classroom 'bubbles' at school, and I've also decided we're having a little break from basketball in the garden after my washing line came down three times in one week.

As well as the schoolwork provided by school and the worksheets I downloaded from Twinkl, Isobel has been watching BBC Bitesize every day, which has been a godsend over these past few months. It's twenty blissful minutes where somebody else takes over. I'm not sure if they'll stop too now kids are starting to go back into school or if they'll carry on until the end of term, but I'm grateful for every episode that's been made!

There are four weeks of term left, so we're on the home stretch now. We can do this.