NaNoWriMo2016 Day 2 – Why I’m doing this now.

By Jo Franklin

Jo Franklin NaNoWriMo Day 2

Day 2 NaNoWriMo dashboard

Once upon a time I didn’t know how to plan a novel. I’d have an idea and next thing I knew I was writing it and I felt euphoric. Then I realised that if I was ever going to be a published writer I had to grow up a bit and learn how to create a satisfactory structure for my readers. I learned to plot. You can read about the process I normally follow here  here.

These days, I spend weeks examining the structure of my novel before beginning writing in earnest. I also clear my outline with my agent to make sure I am onto a commercially viable project. I firmly believe that up front planning is a very important part of writing a good book.

NaNoWriMo isn’t like that. The ethos behind the scheme, as I see it, is to get on and write madly for a month even if you aren’t very sure where you are heading. I guess that’s why I’ve avoided it up until now. I spent years writing like that and it didn’t get me anywhere. Since I’ve been a confirmed planner I have had five books published in seven different countries. Planning works.

But this year I found myself in a funny place at the end of October. I’d had to call a halt to the project I was writing because it wasn’t going to a commercial place in its current incarnation and for once I couldn’t find a solution to the problem. My brain felt empty.

Not writing is like not smoking when you are a smoker. Writing is an addiction and not writing is torture. All writers say the same. They are relieved when they type the end and congratulate themselves while they take a break to recover but before very long they have the antsy itch to write again. Soon that itch takes over and even though they have promised their kids that they will spend the summer focused on them or have taken out a new gym memberships determined to shed the writer’s butt pounds they put on during the last manuscript, they break open a new notebook or open a new file on the computer and start again.

For various reasons I could see that I wasn’t going to be starting a new book his year and I felt bad about it. As October drew to a close, a number of writer friends started talking about doing NaNoWriMo this year. Most of them had done it before. And for the first time I was tempted to join them.

But when I looked at my diary for November, my heart sank. There were so many events lined up. Good meaty author events. The sort that take all day and leave me exhausted for the following three days. The sort of events where I will meet my readers and maybe even sell a few books. Really important events that I have been looking forward to. How could I possibly fit in writing a whole novel in this time?

Then out of the blue on October 20th my dear friend AJ, announced that she was going to do NaNoWriMo this year! AJ is a brilliant but unpublished author who finds it very difficult to make the time to write. If she could give NaNoWriMo a go then so could I. So without thinking much about it I Googled the website and created my very first NaNoWriMo profile.

And now I am committed!

Day 2 = 1650 words

Total wordcount = 4044

Nanowrimo – Day 1 Write a novel in a month? Arghh!

by Jo Franklin

November is traditionally Nanowrimo month which stands for National Novel Writing Month. All over the world people pledge to write a novel in November or at least 50,000 words of a novel.

nanowrimo shield

National Novel Writing Month Motif

Luckily as I am a children’s author, my books are never over 50,000. In fact I’ll struggle to find enough words to fill 50,000.

Normally I don’t bother with it. November is not generally a time when I am buckling down to a new book. That happens in September for me, or sometimes January or anytime when I get a contract. But as I find myself at a loose end this month and know that December is a write off for me for boring medical reasons, I decided to throw caution to the wind and sign up.

Loads of people in my writing community are also writing like mad this month. I don’t exactly know who and I don’t know how to make them my buddies on the Nanowrimo website. In fact I’m still working out how the Nanowrimo website works, but I have done my words today and managed to post them on the official website so that is an achievement.

TODAY’S TOTAL = 2394

Jo Franklin's Nanowrimo total Day 1

Day 1

In order to meet the 50,000 word target you have to write 1666 words a day, every day for the thirty days of November, so I’m ahead. Feel free to cheer now. It probably won’t last because I have a sore throat and a very busy calendar ahead this month, but 2394 is better than zero.

It’s 17.45 and I haven’t done any of the things I have to do today so I’m off now to send a few emails, cook supper and think about what I am going to write tomorrow.

Chatterbooks Are Go!

By Jo Franklin

I’ve got a number of visits to Chatterbooks groups lined up in November. I tend to spend many hours locked up in my writing cave with nothing but my characters and my mad dog for company. I can’t wait to get out there and meet young readers.

What is Chatterbooks?

The Reading Agency have been coordinating Chatterbooks – the UK’s largest network of children’s reading groups – since 2001. 10,000 children belong to groups, which are run in libraries and schools to encourage reading enjoyment. The groups are run by librarians, teachers, teaching assistants, or volunteers – anyone with a passion for reading.

 Chatterbooks reading clubs help children build a lifelong reading habit. Because everything changes when we read.

If authors are lucky, they get invited to meet their readers.

Jacqueline Wilson discussing books at a Chatterbooks session

Jacqueline Wilson discussing books

My publisher Troika Books, set up a competition in conjunction with the Reading Agency, asking readers what they would take with them to another planet. The prize was some books and a visit from me!

 

Chatterbooks Visits

This month I’m visiting the winning groups from Kingston and Worcester Park, Sutton and I’m looking forward to meeting the Gateshead  group in the new year.

In addition I have a bonus visit lined up. I’ll be visiting Petts Wood Library on 7th November.

petts-wood-library

Petts Wood Library

If you run or are a member of a Chatterbooks group then please get in touch as I would love to come along to talk to your group about being an author and reading and writing.

Help! I’m in the News Visiting Peckham Library

by Jo Franklin

I recently visited Peckham Library to talk about the importance of reading and libraries to their Chatterbooks group. Southwark News came along to take my picture and to write up the event.

Libraries are such an important resource for the community. Not only are they stuffed full of brilliant books, but they also provide much needed study space for students and authors. I wrote Help I’m an Alien in Peckham Library and I am thrilled that they now stock my book.

Here is the page from my scrap book with their report

Jo Franklin scrap book

Me at Peckham Library courtesy of Southwark News

And this is the online article of the same event.

Peckham author comes full circle as she talks to kids at library where she wrote book

Juggling Children’s Author

by Jo Franklin

Being a children’s author is really hard work. I thought it was going to be all about writing books and living the life of an eccentric recluse in a hobbit hole or writing shack. But I was so wrong. I am juggling so many things and I don’t think I am always successful.

Here are some of the things that I have to do every day :

Write my books – This is the best bit of my author life. I’d love to be doing it all day every day, but that is totally unrealistic. It takes me a year to write most of my books. That is partly because I have to do all the other things listed below, but it is also because the space between actually writing is as important as the writing itself.  I like to leave gaps in between writing my drafts so that I can look at my work with fresh eyes and come up with important improvements to the text. The non-writing spaces in my working day are also important. It’s amazing how I often find the answer to a problem in my writing in a pile of dirty laundry.

me-writing-snipped

Jo Franklin at work

Website Design – In case you didn’t realise, this website was designed by me. I hope you like it. The problem with having a website is that I need to keep it fresh so my visitors (you!) don’t get bored and keep coming back to see what I am up to.
I feel I am failing at this. I have to keep reminding myself that I do more on my website than some authors but not as much as others (Pop over to Candy Gourlay’s website if you want to see some awesome content) . And now someone has emailed me telling me that a link doesn’t work and I don’t know how to fix it. Gah!

School Visits – Not only do I have to develop great school visits, I also have to go out there and deliver them. Yes I do school visits and author appearances at libraries and festivals. Here are the details.  Meeting readers is the second best bit of being a children’s author (after writing the books in the place) but the downside is that it is very tiring and normally wipes me out for a day afterwards which stops.

Author Talks St Alphege

Jo Franklin visiting St Alphege school in Solihull

Provide Extra Content – Either on my website or to schools I have visited or will be visiting soon. This means colouring sheets, wordsearches, teacher’s resources, craft activities to go with my books. I have totally failed at this one but it is on my To Do List – honest.

Twitter – I’m on Twitter – @Jofranklin2 – but I need to be better at it. I think I should be engaging in lively conversations with the right people (authors, publishers, librarians, bookshops and teachers) without engaging with the wrong people (trolls and spammers for certain, but also an sort of time suckers that don’t lead me anywhere) while promoting myself, my book and my author appearances (children’s authors need to do many author events and school visits)  without being a promotion bore which upsets people (especially me).

Acronyms and How to Use Them – SEO, HTML, CSS and probably a hundred more that I don’t even know exist at the moment. I am having a go at this but I’m still an amateur which probably shows. Part of the problem is that SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is such a black art that it is easy to upset Google by mistake.

FYI – I never mean to upset anyone but it does happen sometimes so if that’s you – I’m sorry!

Video Artist – It’s all about YouTube these days. In fact it’s getting to the point that no one is ever going to get a contract for a children’s book ever again unless they have a YouTube channel and a gazillion subscribers. I currently have two videos on my YouTube channel (as of 10th October 2016) and I will make more but they are so time consuming to make and then I have the added responsibility of making sure that I don’t accidentally post them with obscene words in the subtitles. Don’t ask! I leaned this the hard way.

Photographer – So that I have an unlimited stream of visual publicity material. This is one of my latest efforts. In fairness, I had to enlist the help of my daughter Eleanor because taking a selfie while sitting on a grave is very difficult

jo-looking-wistful-snipped

Jo Franklin pretending to be wistful in Nunhead Cemetery

Ideas Factory – I need to be able to come up with new concepts at the drop of a hat so when my agent lets me know about a new opportunity for some commissioned work I am able to respond instantly. I did this the other week and …. yippee! Sorry it’s secret squirrels for now but it seems to have paid off this time.

Juggling all of the above – The hardest thing of all is that I have to juggle everything. Switching between tasks is very bad for my writing. I am trying to be more disciplined about ring fencing my writing time, but it is difficult because if I get an email from my agent or from a librarian trying to organise a school visit, I have to respond immediately.

So next time you ask yourself the question ‘What does an author do all day?’ think of me juggling all these tasks and more.

 

Chatterbooks Author Visit to Peckham Library

By Jo Franklin, Children’s author

Very excited to announce that I am going to Peckham Library on Thursday 29th September 2016 to visit their Chatterbooks group.

ad-for-peckham-29sep2016

I love to meet my target audience so that I can find out what books they are enjoying reading right now. Hopefully they will be interested in finding out about my life as an author and maybe be inspired to pick up a pen and write something themselves.

Look out Peckham, here I come!

Goodbye Lovely Friend

by Jo Franklin, children’s author

This week I turned my full focus on a new project. It’s one that has been bubbling away in the background for a while, in a couple of different guises, but as I sent my latest wip (work in progress) off to my agent for what will hopefully be her final comments, the time had come to throw myself into something new. I felt totally invincible as I do every time I start something new. The publishing world were going to love this book. What’s not to like? It isn’t even written yet. There can be no bad words in it.  So I began. It was great.

And then I received the terrible news that a lovely friend of mine had died.

Sue Hyams

Sue Hyams

Thank you Sue Eves for this rare photo.

I guess it wasn’t totally unexpected. Cancer is like that. It creeps up silently, screams aggressively right in your face and then dares you to strike back. The doctors have a powerful array of weapons but they are something of a blunt instrument and nearly wipe out the whole person, not just the unwelcome visitor.

Once Sue had come to terms with the diagnosis – Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer – she got on with it. The prognosis wasn’t good, I can’t remember the exact figure she told me but it was something like only a 20% chance of survival. I can do the maths. It meant that there was an 80% chance she wouldn’t make it. But we never talked about the 80% and concentrated on the 20% instead. Grueling treatment followed and some serious surgery followed by more treatment. She also turned to alternative treatments to supplement the traditional and I believe this was a major factor in her being able to reclaim her health for a while.

She was a great friend to me during this time. I was cracking up and she didn’t bat an eyelid about my more bizarre behaviour. In fact she was probably the only person who could see exactly how unbalanced I was. She didn’t judge. We talked about stuff. Old and new and we both got better.

Of course, I wasn’t the only person in her life and she shared with me her excitement for her daughter’s progress through the various ups and downs of being a budding actress. She told me about her sister who lives in Wales with a gaggle of horses. Somewhere in the mix her mother died so there was lots to deal with there. All the time we were both writing. Sometimes the output was better than others. That’s the writer’s lot.

And then the cancer came back. More treatment and I knew my friend was slipping away. On Thursday 8th September 2016 her suffering came to an end. She was 56.

It’s been a tough few days. I had to tell our friends. Share my grief. Hear theirs. I am sad that my lovely friend was taken away too soon. But I am also grateful to have known her. We had a laugh and shared all sorts of knocks and bumps along the way.

My life goes on now and although she isn’t with me physically, she is in my heart and I hold her enthusiasm for my own writing very close. I’m going to go back to my new project with renewed gusto, because I’m writing it for you, Sue. With a massive thank you for being my friend.

Author Visits – What can they bring to schools?

By Jo Franklin, Children’s Author

Author visits can be a great way to give reading and writing a boost in any school. A 2013 survey by the Society of Authors confirmed that author visits can promote reading for pleasure, wider reading for all abilities and inspire creative writing.

Check out the full article here – Author Visits in Schools Survey

I’m an author but I’m not a trained teacher. I don’t know what the restrictions of the literacy curriculum are. I certainly don’t know what a subordinated fronted adverbial preposition is. But I do have a passion for words and stories, especially my own, and I find that my enthusiasm rubs off on classes of confident and reluctant readers.

Author Talks St Alphege

A visit to St Alphege school in Solihull

Children see published authors as celebrities. As someone who has never appeared on television or spoken on the radio. I find it totally amazing that having a name printed on a book cover is enough to give an author kudos in today’s celebrity led culture. Supplement that with a website and maybe even a video or two and any author can be come a celebrity for the day.

Children take notices of celebrities, so listening to an author talk passionately about how they became a writer, were inspired to write a particular book, how many words they write in a day or books they have read in a year or how many unpublished manuscripts they have under their bed will inspire and enthuse their young audience.

In the Society of Authors report above, Malorie Blackman says

Author visits by Malorie Blackman

Malorie Blackman

‘With over two decades of first-hand experience regarding school visits, I have seen and learnt for myself just how much of a difference author and illustrator visits can truly make. Such visits inspire not just reading and writing, but also fire a child’s imagination and lead to previously reluctant readers actively seeking out stories.’

I love to talk to my readers in schools, libraries and festivals. If you would like me to visit your literary community then please get in touch.

 

Reviews of Help I’m an Alien

By Jo Franklin, Children’s Author

I am so lucky that  so many people have read and enjoyed Help I’m an Alien, but the awesomeness doesn’t stop there. Many readers have also been willing to talk about the book on their websites or leave a review on Amazon.  I’ve summarised a few reviews below and provided links so you can click through and read more if you want to.

Help I'm an alien cover

Online Reviews

The Bookbag

“This is one of the funniest opening chapters that I’ve read all year … The reader immediately warms to our main character. He’s engaging and witty with a collection of insecurities that children are likely to identify with.”

Full Bookbag review here.

Lancashire Evening Post

“Being different is something to celebrate! And that’s just what warm-hearted author Jo Franklin does in the first book of what promises to be a hilarious new comedy series featuring a trio of madcap school friends.
Franklin’s own freewheeling sense of fun transfers perfectly to the page, making this anarchic, crazy, hilarious adventure one of the most entertaining books you will read this year.”

Full LEP review here.

The Book Activist

“This is a great fun story, with lots of humour (unpleasant toilet habits in particular!) and some slightly sweeter (less smelly) moments, highlighting the difficulties we all sometimes face in ‘fitting-in’. The pace of the narrative is perfectly pitched to keep the reader interested and entertained. You very quickly feel great empathy for Daniel, especially where his ‘mega-mean- ‘obnoxious’ or ‘murderous’ sister Jessie is concerned.”

Full Book Activist review here.

My Book Corner

“Jo Franklin has penned a brilliant tale of fitting in, very annoying big sisters and friends who will literally go to the ends of the Earth for you! Full of humour and feelings, Help I’m an Alien with illustrations by Aaron Blecha, is a great read for readers aged 8+.”

Full My Book Corner review here.

Nayu’s Reading Corner

“I loved the random mood generator moments for Daniel’s sister, Jessie, because she is definitely a temperamental teen with attitude.
I hope it’s not the end as I want more adventures from this crazy boy trio!’

Full Nayu’s Reading Corner review here.

Amazon Reviews

I found myself really loving Daniel and am sure loads and loads of children will enjoy this and maybe even be beguiled into reading if they weren’t keen before.

Hilarious start to a new series.

***** A brilliant tale of fitting in, annoying big sisters and friends who will literally go to the ends of the Earth for you!
***** Thoroughly recommend it for your children and quite frankly, for the parents too, particularly if life is on a bit of a downer currently. Guaranteed to cheer you up.
***** It has a sweet, tender quality , mixed with well observed jokes about family life and the feeling all children (and adults!) can have of not quite fitting in.
***** What really makes this book zing for me is the interface between the terrific humour and a convincing story with experiences of feeling- well, quite simply, Alien
***** I thought the ranking of Bod’s friends as first best friend & second best friend was amusing – and also true to life. Some lovely illustrations too. My niece is going to love it.

More Amazon reviews here.