Charlotte Howard’s Top Writing Tips

Please welcome guest author Charlotte Howard to the Cafe.

When it comes to writing a novel – be it your first, or hundred and first, I’ve got a few tips that help me find inspiration and create new characters and story lines.

  1. Always carry your smart phone – I used to say always carry a notepad and pen, but with technology progressing the way it is, I find my iPhone works just as well. Not only can I use it to scribble down ideas and notes that spring into my head while I’m waiting for the children to come out of school, but I can record thoughts (and conversations!) that might bring inspiration later.
  2. Join your local writers group – Being a member of Yeovil Creative Writers has not only brought new friends into my life, but it has helped improved my writing skills and even inspired new stories. Without the critiques, laughter, and nagging from my friends at YCW, I would never have written Taking Care of Leah.
  3. Join every single social media site – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest… Join as many as you can. They’re a great way to get your face, name and books out there, and network with publishers, editors, cover designers and other writers.
  4. Save money now – You won’t make millions overnight, not unless you’re one of the lucky few who manage to go viral. And although good publishers won’t expect you to pay for any of their services (publishing, cover design, editing etc.), it’s a good idea to put some cash aside to pay for marketing, blog tours etc. They all help get your name out there. And they’re not cheap.
  5. Don’t get arrogant – The worst thing a writer can do is think that the first draft is the final version. Taking Care of Leah was in its third draft before I sent it to a private editor and a Beta-reader, and its fourth draft when I submitted it to Totally Bound. It also had a different title.
  6. Your mum is NOT a Beta-reader – Your mum, your sister, your husband, your wife, your best-friend – they will all tell you how great it is. And that’s not what you need. When you’ve finished your second or third draft, find someone (at YCW we have a buddy-system where we pair with other writers) who will read your novel and give you an honest opinion.
  7. Grow a thick skin – Sorry, but you will get negative reviews. Your Beta-reader may even tell you that your idea sucks and you need to start again. Your writers group will critique and tell you to stop telling and start showing, drop the adverbs, and stop repeating yourself. Suck it up buttercup, grow a thick skin, and get started on that re-write.
  8. Don’t stop writing – Whether you believe in writer’s block or not, at some point you will lose your muse and ask why the hell you started this in the first place. Write a diary, create a blog, do something to keep the words flowing from brain to keyboard or you risk being stuck in that rut.

So that’s it. Make friends, write, write, and write some more, and more importantly – don’t ever give up!

~   ~   ~

Taking Care of Leah

Chapter One

Taking Care of Leah coverLeah watched the seconds tick by. She was sure that time had been stuck at twenty-five past one for at least an hour. With a heavy sigh, she reminded herself that the last five minutes of term were always the longest.

Tick.

Another second struck, moving her ever closer to the door.

Tick.

Feet shuffled, kicking bags toward ready hands.

Tick.

Books began to close. Pencil cases were zipped.

Tick.

“Oh, go on then, what difference is a few minutes going to make?” Leah slammed her own book closed and pushed herself up. Her students grabbed their bags and some remembered to put their chairs onto the tables, before racing out in a chorus of “Have a good summer, Miss,” and “Thanks, Miss.”

“Bye,” she called as the last of her Year Nines left the room. She chuckled to herself. The door slammed against its hinges and she sank back into her chair, kicking her feet onto the small patch of empty desk space. Stretching her arms and back out, she balanced the chair on two legs before letting it drop to all four.

She was enjoying the silence when the door clicked open. Her breath caught when he walked in. It always did. Whenever she saw him, she would turn into a puddle of hormones and fantasies of being spanked for misbehaving. Ty Sinclair could be unblocking one of the school toilets, and all Leah would be able to see was the flexing of his biceps. She’d made up plenty of excuses for him to come into her classroom so she could watch him work. Today’s excuse was not being able to reach the top of the display boards without breaking every health and safety rule.

“So what have you broken today?” he asked, flashing a melt-worthy grin.

“I’m having height issues,” she said, pointing to the wall of quotes from, and pictures inspired by, Macbeth. “If I get caught standing on the sideboard again, Mrs. Davis will be wearing my guts to hold her stockings up.”

He smiled, let out an audible sigh and shook his head as he dragged a stepladder into the room. He set it up and started to ascend, and she couldn’t help but watch his ass, beautifully caressed by worn jeans. She fought the low growl that threatened to give away her horny thoughts.

“You know, you really should use drawing pins. They’re easier to remove.” He used a pair of pliers to remove the embedded staples.

“Sorry,” she said, not sorry at all. Anything to give her an excuse to ogle him and have memories to use later.

“Any plans for the summer?” he asked, making small talk. More staples dropped down, clinking as they landed on the laminate-surfaced short cupboards that spread down one wall of the classroom.

“House hunting.” She shrugged, walking around the room and putting the remaining chairs on the tables, ignoring the urge to bite his backside. The closer she got to thirty, the more lewd her mind became.

Clink.

“You’re not leaving us, are you?” Ty stopped and gripped the ladder while he twisted to look down at her. She couldn’t help but give an inward smile at the thought that he might be upset if she did leave.

“No,” she assured him. “I’ve been living with my sister since I moved down last September, but she’s pregnant and I think her husband has enough with one Beauchamp, never mind two of us.” She laughed and walked toward the walls, pulling off the final pieces of border that were within her reach.

He was still looking at her. Leah cleared her throat. Going to her desk, she emptied the drawers into her bag. Ty went back to the job at hand. The Shakespeare board was clear, and he had turned to the punctuation posters.

“Sooo…” Leah sank into her chair and watched as his back muscles flexed beneath his T-shirt. “Are you going to the drinks thing tonight?” she asked, referring to the end-of-year party that the school staff held every summer.

“Nah,” he said with a shake of his head. He turned around and Leah shot her look up to his face. Her cheeks began to heat at being caught ogling his ass.

“That’s a shame.” She cleared her throat and closed down the laptop, placing it into the computer bag by the desk. “But I’m sure your girlfriend will be happy to have you at home.”

The corners of his lips twitched into a smile. “I’m single,” he said.

“Oh, really?”

“You sound surprised.”

“I just thought…you know…” Leah began to fiddle with a bit of Blu-Tac stuck to the edge of her desk, avoiding eye contact. “That you would…” She took a breath. “Have a girlfriend.”

Ty climbed down the ladder, landing with a small jump, and began to gather up the staples, sweeping them into a nearby bin. “Nope,” he said, walking toward her, and she was sure there was a swagger to his gait. “No girlfriend. I’m most definitely on the market.”

“Well, I should go home. Lots to do.” She took out her mobile and read the text message from Maggie asking her to pick up milk on her way home, and frowned.

“Boyfriend wanting to know where you are?” he asked, stepping closer.

“No boyfriend.” She hooked one bag over her shoulder and clasped the laptop bag in her hands, praying that she was imagining her legs and fingers trembling.

“Now that I don’t believe.” He was so close she could smell the coffee on his breath.

“See you in a few weeks then,” Leah said, sidestepping around him.

“Yeah, bye.” A hint of a laugh teased at his voice.

She couldn’t help but feel saddened that it would be six weeks before she got to see his gorgeous face and perfect ass again. “Have a good holiday,” she said as she left him behind, wondering if she hadn’t just thrown her chance away.

~   ~   ~

Charlotte Howard author photo

British author, Charlotte Howard, was born in Oman and spent much of the first part of her life flitting between Oman, Scotland, and England. Now settled in Somerset, Charlotte lives with her husband, two children, and growing menagerie of pets.

Her career as a writer began at an early age, with a poem being featured in an anthology for the East Midlands. Since then Charlotte has written many short stories and poems and finally wrote her first full-length piece of fiction in 2010.

During what little spare time she has, Charlotte enjoys reading and writing (of course), spending time with her family and watching action movies whilst eating curry and drinking tea.

Charlotte is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Yeovil Creative Writers Group.

You can read Charlotte’s Blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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