Writing a book

I've always thought about writing a book, but just never done it, but keep diaries (like most folks I suspect) and I know the Life in France type of book has been done to death - some good, some not so.

There is def. a book that could be written about folks in these parts - have to change names/places of course, but it's just so funny what happens in these small areas that it's quite funny, you just could not make it up..!

pointers where to start on a book without rambling away, would be great.

There is a CW group in a group around here, we have a few published artists in our midsts, but is it wise to join, or just head on into the unknown alone?

Other than that, just writing about my family would fill a shelf or two.... :-)

I have hit the 2000 word mark. It all seems a bit too easy at the moment. Having started to jot down ideas, the structure and story followed on and I pretty much know what I want to write. I am sure though that it will not all be plain sailing.

I too write down events and anecdotes and plan to incorporate them into my storyline. I know when they will fit into the story, it is just a case of putting flesh on the bones. I usually have a pen and pad of paper in my pocket and write things down when ideas come to me. I have also been known to get up in the middle of the night.

Thanks for your comments Alasdair.

It is amazing where the flow comes from once you create a few characters. I just imagine myself being in the situation with them and eavesdropping in on the conversation. Probably the traits of characters are made up from a mixture of people that I know, not that I would let the know that!

I try to write down a few events that will happen in the future, then built the story up to those events.

However, I am just a novice but it seemed to work for me, but I am the first to admit that my novel is just a light holiday read. I am still in awe of real serious writers that create an amazingly complicated plot, full of wonderful characters.

It probably takes years to create their craftsmanship, but some are talented enough to create a best selling first novel.

Good luck with your novel and keep us informed of the progress, their in no shame in self promotion, after all if you do not shout about it no one else will.

Congratulations Steve, first of all on completing your novel and secondly on publishing it. I only have 1200 words down on paper at the moment, having started to jot ideas down last week, but reckon I have at least 50,000 words floating around in my head.

I will be checking out your blog as I am sure I will be able to learn from your experiences. Thank you!

Hi Karen

As I started a thread about this subject a while ago, so that other budding authors could follow my progress, I have had a few months of first hand experience.

But this is only my own advice as a real novice, so I can only tell it as I see it through my eyes.

Firstly, there are too many cookery books out there, but people still write them, there are too many florists, but someone will open a new one and be successful. Another example is this forum, there are too many Anglo/French forums, but I would say this new one is doing particularly well. This all comes down to how well you do the job and promote your business or novel. Yes it can be a hill to climb, but just because things have been done before, doesn't mean they cannot be done again.

I have written a little fictional novel based in France, I wanted a different angle, so I chose 'white van man' moving to France, so it is miles apart from 'A Year in Provence' and books of that ilk. But I was sure there was a market for it, albeit a far smaller one. I wanted to write a book, so this was just going to be a trial to see if I had it in me.

To get it taken up by a publisher, I knew would be virtually impossible but I still tried, then I stumble along Amazon publishing. I had no fancy programme, just WORD on my pc, this was more than enough to upload the book on to Amazon for Kindle and now Create Space for a paperback version.

The results so far:

Vantastic France was launched on Kindle early January 2012, I have had nearly 800 downloads, some were free as promotion days, but I am now selling about 5 to 8 downloads a day already.

The paperback version is just out and in the UK due to competition from suppliers that can buy it from Amazon, the price is now £5.99 in the UK.

I am quite pleased with my results, it also shows that books about France are far from over done. I still buy them every week myself, especially as some are just £1.99 on Kindle.

Yes, some will not a appeal to everyone and one that looked well rated turned out to be just a copy of someone's blog, so not much of a story line there, and you could say a waste of money, although I have noticed that the latest reviews were not very good.

So I would use your diary to create the story, you have lots of material to work with which is a great start. You could also choose to write it as fiction so you could then add a little spice to it, or non fiction which I understand is slightly more popular.

As I have said, I am a total novice and I do not regret one second of the hours it took me to write my 75,000 word novel.

I have a blog stevebichard.com which gives some advice on how I managed to get published, with a few tips and links about setting up your book on Amazon.

I could see old established authors looking down their noses at Amazon self-published authors, as anyone can now put a novel on the market. However, that is progress and the strongest will still survive, it's just that a few of us are now having a little slice of their pie.

As the old adage say, 'just go for it.'

Hi Susie

Great advice indeed! I have starting writing my memoirs which makes me sound incredibly old, although I am only 38. It may be a lonely experience writing, but feels great to put thoughts and memories down on paper, and so many funny anecdotes come to mind.

I decided to write in French, as a challenge if nothing else, but I also love the freedom of expression it allows me and of course it is a beautiful language. I will definitely check out WriteItNow, thanks for the tip. Although I am guessing it will not be compatible with French text. Is there a French version or similar?

And to Karen, good luck!

Solid advice, Karen? I'd say so.

Since she won't blow her horn, I will do it for her:

Susie Kelly knows what she is talking about and wrote several absolutely fabulous books ... about France. The latest: The Valley of Heaven and Hell, cycling in the shadow of Marie-Antoinette is a must-read and actually, so are the other books.

Her blog, No Damn Blog (http://www.nodamnblog.wordpress.com/) is worth a daily visit.

I'm overjoyed to see her here and yes, I do admire her and like her one heck of a lot.

Good luck with your book. I haven't used Scrivener, but I can very highly recommend WriteItNow from http://www.ravensheadservices.com/. It is very clever, will keep track of timelines and relationships between characters (Very useful!) and you can build characters (even upload photographs of them), keep track of events, and if you run out of inspiration, it will offer you suggestions if you want. There are loads of free add-ons, too giving background information about different eras and names. You can download a free demo version to try it out and see what you think. The only downside I have found with it is that it offers so much you can spend an entire day playing with it. :) Well worth a look at.

As far as your book is concerned, you do it. Write what you enjoy, and what you know. There may be too many books on living in France, but you could also say there are too many cookbooks, romances, crime thrillers and vampire stories, and people still keep buying and enjoying them. And one man's meat is another man's poison, as they say. Some readers may have had their fill, but there are always others who still enjoy them.

Well Karen, stop talking about it and get on and do it!!! Seriously books get written by placing bum on seat and fingers on keyboard (unless you're Barbara Cartland and have a secretary to dictate to) and are composed of 10% inspiration adn 90% perspiration (can't remember who said that but it's so true).

Join the CW group if you can, writing is a lonely business and it's great to have fellow writers to talk to but frankly apart from being a means to oblige you to write something for each session I never found that my CW group in London helped my writing enormously, our styles were far too different. I, for instance, wrote light comedy, the others wrote serious plays, literature with a capital L, horror and science fiction. I still wouldn't have missed a session.

I've never written non fiction but I imagine it's much like fiction, the best place to start is at a point of change - not necessarily when you move to France but when something happens that sets in course a train of events. For instance if a child changes shcool, or you discover you need a new roof, or the day your neighbour decides he wants to learn English... The truth is once you've finished the book you'll probably edit the first chapter out of all recognition so don't worry too much about it, start and get some momemtum going. And even if you do eventually decide that there isn't room in the market for another living in France book you can look on what you've written as source material for a novel.

Hi Karen

I think it’s an excellent idea to use your diaries and experiences to write a book, be it memoir or novel. I agree there is an awful lot of Living in France books, but I think there might be just a little space for 1 or 2 more. Ok, I’m writing one, sorry Valerie, but it probably won’t ever get published and if it does you don’t have to read it. My book is a bit different to any other I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot), which is why I decided to write it. It’s about our experiences as a family of 7 living in France – having babies, schools, health, starting various business, etc etc, and it’s an honest reflection of our experiences over 8 years – the good, the bad and the ugly, so it’s not your normal “I’m living in France and isn’t it quaint” type book.

I would say just go for it Karen, I’m really enjoying the process more than I ever thought I would. I agree with Jim, just get as much practice as you can. I started a blog and have found it really useful as a way to practice writing and interact with others. Writing a book can be quite lonely, so I’m using the blog as a way to get feedback from potential readers. Joining a writing group is probably a good idea too – I haven’t yet, but intend to soon.

Good luck!

ha ha, I agree, I've read them all - some are truly awful......I was thinking of just using the characters here and making up a plot (not necessary based here though)

they are hilarious.....

or just a novel based on life in general......my family could fill a few....

just feel I need to unload everything - but then maybe it might be too much to do and unlock a few things I might not like....

oh well, all in good fun

Please, please, please, Karen, don't write yet another book on a Brit living in France. You have simply no idea how many there are.

I'm a fluent French speaker, and spent 7 months of my 13+ years in France working in Paris. Most Saturday mornings I used to go to W H Smiths on the Rue de Rivoli (nothing like the huge W H Smiths in the UK), and every time I used to groan inwardly as I saw yet another book that had just been published on someone's life in rural (it was usually rural) France.

I've read a fair few of these books, and the majority are awful - including the book that started it all, 'A year in Provence'. My French and British friends keep saying that I ought to write a book on what has happened to me in France as so many things simply defy belief, but no way am I ever going to do this.

This surely must be a saturated market, and I, for one, have decided never to read another book on the subject.

I'm now fully expecting outraged replies from all SFN members who can't get enough of this genre of writing, and who don't share my opinion that this subject has been done to death.

Sorry, but this type of book is a particular 'bête noire' of mine.


Thanks Jim, fellow scot...!! Will take pen and new lined pad and make a start jotting thoughts down, sounds better than opening laptop and typing somehow.

Been reading some of you chats - interesting things, and the visit to Ord. Sur G, reminded me of my visit, many years ago and it's still fresh in my mind. What a place......

Hi Karen,

I can only tell you how I am doing it. I suspect that like me, you have always felt you had a good book in you? Firstly then, it is necessary to gain as much experience and practice as you can. Short Stories is a very good start, committing to competitions with various themes in some of the Internet Writing Sites. e.g. UK Authors, The Cave. Alternatively, and given your choice of subject, it may be better to start a Web Blog. Ultimately, it is probably a good idea to build experience and receive some sort of feedback, reaction to your voice and style.

I now have any amount of Poetry, Flash Fiction and Short Stories published in Anthologies both in paperback and in Ebook form. I also have a Short Story "The Baker of Vaugirard" due to be published in both Paperback and Ebook, as one of twelve stories in the Book "Best Paris Stories" in Spring 2012. My point is not to blow my own trumet necessarily, but to make the suggestion that I have sharpened both skill and expertise, and am now in the process of producing a novel. (60,000 words so far).

I used the software "Scrivener for Windows" to help plan and organise the novel. I use a Beta version at present whilst waiting on the first release of the purchased version for windows. It will retail at about £40, and is money very well spent. The Software simply proves the maxim that there is only one way to eat an Elephant - one bite at a time!

Being talented is nowhere near as important as being committed. Just go for it girl!!

Best of Luck'

Jim (Franciman)