Today I’m hosting my very first guest post. And who better to be my first but Catherine Ryan Howard. Catherine is a 29-year-old writer, blogger and enthusiastic coffee-drinker. She currently lives in Cork, Ireland, where she divides her time between her desk and the sofa. This is a stop on her blog tour promoting her first novel, Results Not Typical, which will be her fourth self-published book. Find Results Not Typical on Amazon.co.uk or, if you’re a Goodreads user, click here for your chance to win one of five paperback copies. Find out more about Catherine and her books on www.catherineryanhoward.com.
Before I hand you over to Catherine, let me tell you a little bit about Results Not Typical:
The Devil Wears Prada meets Weightwatchers and chick-lit meets corporate satire in the debut novel from Catherine Ryan Howard, author of the bestselling memoir Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida. Through their Ultimate Weight Loss Diet Solution Zone System, Slimmit International Global Incorporated claim they’re making the world a more attractive place one fatty at a time. Their slogans “Where You’re Fat and We Know It!” and “Where the Fat IS Your Fault!” are recognised around the globe, the counter in the lobby says five million slimmed and their share price is as high as their energy levels. But today the theft of their latest revolutionary product, Lipid Loser, will threaten to expose the real secret behind Slimmit’s success…The race is on to retrieve Lipid Loser and save Slimmit from total disaster. If their secrets get out, their competitors will put them out of business. If the government finds out, they’ll all go to jail. And if their clients find out… Well, as Slimmit’s Slimming Specialists know all too well, there’s only one thing worse than a hungry, sugar-crazed, carb addict – and that’s an angry one. Will the secret behind Slimmit’s success survive the day, or will their long-suffering slimmers finally discover the truth? Available now in paperback and e-book editions.
Doesn’t it sound fantastic? So it’s over to you now, Catherine.
Dreaming of Writing a Book? The Right Time and Place is Now and Here
I first decided I was going to become an internationally best-selling, highly acclaimed and stinking rich author who only worked three months out of every twelve and summered on the Cote D’Azur about ten years ago, when I was 19. I had just dropped out of university, having discovered that studying for a science degree wasn’t for me, and was getting used to the first paying job I’d been able to find, that of a sales assistant in a greeting card store. Writing a book that would land me a six-figure deal seemed to be the shortest distance between me and me, rich. After all, barely a week was passing by without news of yet another angst-ridden teenager, working mum or bored housewife who had just signed a 3-book deal for a trillion euro (or pounds, as it just about was at the time) after accidentally dropping the first three chapters of their novel, hand-written in crayon on the inside of a Cornflakes box, into the lap of a literary agent they’d serendipitously crossed paths with on the local bus.
Thanks to a reference library of books on the subject (e.g. How To Conceive, Write, Format, Synopsize & Submit Your Novel, Bag an Agent and Get a Book Deal in 30 Days: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Reason to Use “Summer” as a Verb), I wouldn’t have to resort to dropping pieces of cereal boxes on strangers on the bus. I knew exactly what to do with my book (boil the plot down to a succinct, one-page synopsis), how to format the manuscript (double-spaced, Courier point 12, 1 inch margins all round) and where to send it to (the agents whose listings I’d highlighted in my most up-to-date edition of The Writers ‘and Artists’ Yearbook). I’d be a super star author in no time. Probably by the end of next week, if I skipped a few nights’ TV.
There was just the little matter of writing the book.
One Saturday morning I opened up my laptop, ran the word processing program and typed “CHAPTER ONE” onto a virtual blank page.
Then I deleted it and typed “CHAPTER 1” instead.
Then I deleted that and typed “PROLOGUE.”
Then I went back to “CHAPTER ONE.”
It clearly wasn’t working, and it was obviously the laptop’s fault. It was too old; the keys were just too creaky. It was distracting me from writing The Greatest Novel Ever. There was only one thing to do: buy a new one. Even though I could ill afford it, I splashed out on a brand new, top of the range computer. But again, I was stuck on “CHAPTER ONE.” Perhaps it was because I didn’t have the right desk…
So I got the right desk. Soon after that, I found the right place to put it – in a corner with enough light, but away from the distraction of a window. Then I got the right sort of notepad to make notes on, and the right kind of pen to make them with. Then I got the right books to tell me how to write, and I got the right highlighter to mark the most relevant sections in them. Then I signed myself up for the right workshops, seminars and other literary events. I made the right word count charts and the right scene lists. I read the right websites, subscribed to the right magazines and stuck the right motivational quotes right above my (right) desk.
But I never actually wrote anything.
Then, over the summer of 2009, I got an idea for a novel. A novel which, after a decade of procrastination, I miraculously just sat down and started writing. I wasn’t concerned with what kind of computer I was using or how my notes looked or what reference books I had to hand. I’d worry about the details later, in the second draft. For now, I’d just get the story out, get the first draft down. So I got to it, writing 54,000 words in five weeks. I just did it.
And what I came to realise is that even if I spent the rest of my life reading more of those “How To” books and attending seminars and standing way too close to Real, Live Authors at signings and other events, I would never learn what I learned in those five weeks about how to write a book. Those things certainly helped, yes – especially with motivation – but as for the practicalities regarding how to conceive, plot, write and finish a novel? The only way to learn how is to just do it. Then you not only have the knowledge, but a finished book too.
So if being a writer is on your list of dreams, step away from the Apple website. Put down the stationery catalogues. Stop haunting the reference section of your local bookshop, waiting for the new edition of How To Conceive, Write, Format, Synopsize & Submit Your Novel, Bag an Agent, Get a Book Deal in 30 Days: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Reason To Use “Summer” as a Verb. Instead, spend your time writing a book.
Just sit down, now, and just do it.