The Twenty-Something Series: Costs I didn’t expect as a first-time renter

Renting for the first time is pretty nerve-wracking, and there are a lot of costs I didn't expect. In this post, I share a few things you have to think about when you start renting.
Renting, on the face of it, seems pretty
straight forward. You pay a certain amount per month for the pleasure of
renting a place to live, and you most likely budget to pay bills on top of that.
Right?
Oh, God, there are so many things to budget
for. I mean, the good news is that a lot of them can be paid upfront if you’ve
got the savings, so you can get them sorted and not need to worry about them
every month.
The bad news is: there are so many things
to pay for on top of rent and bills.
I rented at uni, sure. With seven other
people. We put about sixty quid into a joint account almost every month to pay
for water and electrics, internet, loo rolls and group meals out. There wasn’t
a lot else to worry about.
But as a first-time renter now I’m moving
away from home to Durham for six months, it’s been a little hard to keep track
of all the things to organise that need to be paid for. Which is why I thought
I’d put together a little kind-of-checklist for all you other first-time renters as
part of The Twenty-Something Series.

Administration Fees & Bond: 

The estate agency don’t just want to take
rent off you every month. I paid £200 in administration fees when I sorted out
my flat in Durham – this included all the referencing work that needed to be
done, too.
There’s also a bond (deposit) to pay.
For me, this was the same as the first month’s rent. I paid both the bond and
first month’s rent bout two weeks before I got the keys.

Council Tax: 

Apparently, this is a thing. Apparently you
also get a 25% discount as a single person though, so yay! That’s always nice!
How to sort out council tax: Find out which
county the property you’re renting is in and visit the council’s website. A few
clicks around that – or a Google search, like ‘how to pay council tax in
[COUNTY]’ should get you there. I phoned up the council a couple of weeks
before moving in to say, ‘I’m moving into this property soon and want to know
how to sort out my council tax.’ They put me in the system and mailed me a
letter with further instructions, and there’s a separate form on the website to
fill in for the single person’s discount.

Also, because I’ll have to cancel this after my six-month placement is up, I’ll get a refund on the rest of the year. Always nice to know.

Contents Insurance: 

Okay, this wasn’t exactly ‘unexpected’, but
I’m still adding this to the list. I added in legal cover, cover for my things
away from home, etc., but didn’t feel like it was completely extortionate. I think
it’s a little cheaper when you only want to cover your stuff, and not the
building itself. I did spring for the super accidental cover thing, though. So
I’m covered if I spill red wine on my rented sofa, or something.
I’m also pretty sure that I can get a
partial refund if I cancel when I move out fo my flat in Durham – minus an
admin fee.

Travel Insurance: 

Not unexpected for me as I’ve been off the family policy for over a year, but I figured I’d add it to the list. If you’re still on a household policy with your parents, that’s gonna end when you move out, so start looking for travel insurance if you’re planning to go abroad somewhere.

Car Insurance: 

Again, I’ll grant you, not unexpected, but
the sheer cost of this one was unexpected. On a multicar policy, my insurance
worked out at a few hundred pounds. On my own? Over a grand. A GRAND. And that was the
cheapest I could get it, by the time I’d added legal cover and courtesy cars.
I’ve ended up deciding to get contents and car
insurance with the same provider, though, because I got a discount on the
second policy. Whoohoo! Discounts!

TV License: 

On the upside, if you cancel it within the
first nine months, you get a refund on the time you don’t use! This is great
for me, since I’ll only want it for about seven months total. Also, sorry to break it to you, but you need one of these even if you’re just watching on demand on your laptop.

Changes to your driving license:

Unexpected in that THERE WASN’T A COST!
Imagine my shock! Quelle bloody surprise! You need to change your address on your
license when you move, but this is free to do. Hallelujah!

Line Rental:

This became the bane of my life within
about eight minutes of browsing around for broadband deals. Broadband, that wasn’t a surprise. That was an obvious thing to throw into the budget. 

But it’s practically
impossible to get broadband without the provider wanting to throw in line
rental as well. And as I’m only in Durham for six months, I don’t want a
twelve-month contract for my broadband. (And no, I can’t just cancel after six
months – a Google search reckons they’ll make you pay the whole twelve months’ worth of
service even if you cancel early. Joy.)
This means I’m going for Now TV as it’s the
only provider I can find with a rolling contract, which isn’t so bad actually.
They’ve got a great package deal with broadband, Now TV – and, of course, line
rental – that works out about £30 a month. Plus the installation charge. Which
is £44. But given that the line rental would be £17.99 a month on it’s own, I
can live with this one. Plus, I get Sky Atlantic. That’s a pretty good deal as far as I’m concerned.

So. Many. Costs.

I’m pretty sure I’ll have forgotten
something, and missed a few things off this list, just as I’m sure I’ll find a
few more costs I didn’t expect to have to pay when renting over the next couple
of months.

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Are there any you think I’ve missed? Let me
know in the comments!

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The Twenty-Something Series: How to rent for the first time – in 13 steps

Renting for the first time is terrifying. If you're confused about where to start, check out this post, where I share a few tips on how I managed to find my dream flat.
I rented at uni. I rented an old Victorian
townhouse-style building with seven other students, and we stayed there for two
years. In first year, two of us went down to the student letting agencies,
picked up brochures, and we booked a few viewings before picking a place. It
was actually really stress-free, given that we were finding a house for eight
people.
But finding a place for just me, for six
months? Not so easy.
I felt like I was going in blind. My mum
helped me out a lot with the whole
thing, but I spent several evenings scrolling Pinterest for advice posts,
although most weren’t applicable to the UK.
And yet – I found what I’d happily consider my dream flat.

Since this series is all about being a
twenty-something, what better to talk about than how to rent for the first
time?

1. Work out what kind of property you want to
look for.

I’m moving a six-hour drive up north, so I
knew I wanted two bedrooms: if my family or friends come to visit, they need
somewhere to stay. I also knew I wanted somewhere furnished. My second
placement, after six months in this new job I’m due to start, is abroad.
Ideally, I didn’t want to have to buy a bunch of furniture and then pay to
store it for three months before paying to ship it to wherever my third
placement is. I knew I wanted a parking space that was off-road, too. (Gotta
think about that car insurance cost.)

 
2. And work out what you don’t want. 

I didn’t mind so much if I ended up with a
house or a flat, but I knew I didn’t really want a mid-terrace house where
parking would be a bitch, a ground-floor flat, so that helped narrow my search.

3. Work out what you can afford.

Let’s say your salary works out, post-tax,
about £1,500 per month. You don’t want to spend £1,000 of that on rent: you
need to pay so many bills (including things like council tax, which I’ll talk
about in another post soon), buy food, petrol… And you probably want to spend
some of that on yourself. Spend some time working out exactly what you can
afford. Get an idea of how much bills might cost you, include things like your
Netflix subscription and phone bill, and estimate what kind of rent you can
afford to pay.

4. Rightmove is a pretty good place to
start.

Of course there’s nothing to stop you going
to estate agencies and collecting brochures and browsing their websites, but
Rightmove was actually really great, since it collects properties from a huge
range of estate agencies. You can filter by location, property type, bedrooms,
price, and things like parking space. I also really liked that you can login
and like properties, so you can go back and view all the properties you’ve
liked.

5. Look at the commuting distance and local
amenities.
 

Google Maps is great at allowing you to put
in your directions between two locations and choosing what time, so I could see
what my commute time would be for the kind of time I’d be leaving for work. I
didn’t want to commute more than about twenty minutes – especially after my
last job ended up with about an hour’s commute each way, which was pretty
exhausting, actually – so that meant I narrowed the area I was looking at.
It’s also worth looking for supermarkets
and shopping centres around the properties you’re looking at. Is there a corner
shop two minutes’ walk down the road? A Tesco a ten-minute drive away? Or do
you have to drive forty minutes out of your way to get to a Sainsbury’s Local
just for bread and milk?
Oh, and take a look at the surrounding area
for the property you’re looking at on Google Street View, just to get an idea.

6. Spreadsheets are your friend, even if
they seem like a pain in the ass right now.
 

Once you’ve exhausted your property search,
go through all of the ones you like the look of and put them into a
spreadsheet. I listed things like: the price, number of bedrooms, did it have
parking, was it furnished, the commute time, and the estate agent – and,
crucially, a link to the property on Rightmove. This made it easy to look at
and think, ‘Okay, let’s filter and just look at furnished properties with
parking. Which do I like best?’
I also colour-coded the properties and
ranked them using my colour code. (Shut up, I’m not a loser, you are.)

7. Book your viewings. 

The spreadsheet I put together actually
made it really easy to go through and decide which properties I wanted to book
viewings for. For example, if three of my top ten properties were with the same
agency, I tried to book all three of them one after the other. I also booked
the one I liked most first, because, duh. It’s worth booking as many viewings
as you can, in case you end up not liking properties or someone else takes them
first. You can always cancel them!
Also, when you ring the estate agent,
explain what you’re looking for and what your price range is: they might have a
few other properties you missed online available that they think you’d like to
see.

8. Visit the area (and no, I don’t mean
sightseeing).
 

I was heading to Durham for an entire week
with my mum. We went up on the weekend and had a few days in a hotel in Durham
to view properties during the week, starting on the Monday morning. We spent
the weekend driving around the properties, doing the commute from each one,
taking a look at any nearby supermarkets.
Now this is something I probably wouldn’t
have thought to do, but my parents did immediately, and I’m glad they did. The
area is as important to the property as the interior is. I was put off a few
properties I’d liked the look of online after we drove to take a look at the
building and the estate it was on, and ended up cancelling the viewings as soon
as the agencies were open on Monday morning.

9. Don’t forget to consider the practical
things.
 

If you’re on a third-floor flat that needs
to be furnished, is there a lift for you to bring up things like a bed or a
sofa or a dining table? Is there a storage cupboard for a hoover and clothes
airer? Is your designated parking spot near the door or ten minutes down the
street? Do you have a burglar alarm, a smoke alarm, locks on the windows? Is
there a washing machine, or at least plumbing for one? Is there mould anywhere?
Central heating?

10. You’ll know.

The sensible thing to do would have been to
see several properties before telling the agency I’d take one. But I knew.
There was one flat I just loved the look of right from the start. It ticked all
the boxes. It was five minutes away from a retail park, and maybe twenty
minutes from work. It was the first property I’d booked to view.
We got through the door and I was like,
‘Mum, I want this place.’ And she knew too. It was perfect. We’d both fallen
completely in love with the flat, which we told the guy showing us around. He
let us know someone else was viewing it that afternoon, but I was already
decided. We rang the agency as soon as we left to say we were coming to sort
out taking it, and then on the way there I cancelled all my other viewings.
The other smart thing to do would’ve been
to follow the advice I’d seen via Pinterest: check a plug socket, check the
water pressure. But our shower at home is shite, so the water pressure can’t
possibly be worse. And the fridge was running, so the electricity must’ve worked.
So, ya know. I think I was so enamoured by it that I totally forgot to do those
things.
 

11. Picked a place? Get back to the estate
agent.
 

I rang the agency first to let them know I
loved the property and wanted to take it, and they asked when I’d be able to
come in to sort out the paperwork and so on. I was able to go straight in to
see them and it was incredibly straightforward.
Go prepared, with your passport, a recent
bank statement showing your address, and proof of earnings. I took a copy of my
contract for the job I’m due to start as well as a copy of some royalties,
since right now I’m just a self-employed author and not on a salary until the
job starts in September. When you book your viewings, check what the agent
would want you to bring if you do decide to take a property with them.
Also go prepared with enough funds for the
admin fees. My agency wanted it as a cash payment, which meant a quick dash to
the nearest ATM.
After the initial paperwork was sorted, a
third-party company got in touch to sort out my referencing. I filled out a big
form online with my information, including my job and my salary and so on, and
then got in touch with anyone I’d used as a reference to let them know this
company would probably be getting in touch. It was sorted out within three
days, which was shockingly quick.

12. Next step: start researching. 

Oh, yeah. It’s not over yet.
You’ll need a TV license, contents
insurance. You’ll need to change your address on your driving license. You’ll
want internet. Start looking at providers. Actually, Money Supermarket is a
great place to start – it’ll even recommend you which comparison sites to start
with, depending on whether you’re a ‘young professional’ or whatever.
My next post in this series is going to be
all about unexpected costs like I’ve just mentioned, so keep an eye out for
that!

13. Think about moving out. 

I’m living at home, so once I’d secured a
property to rent I started going through all of my drawers and clothes to bin
and donate things I didn’t want or need anymore. My mum and I looked through
the Next summer sale for bedding. I started picking up things like a frying pan
that was on sale, or fridge magnets. If you’re going to need to buy furniture,
get yourself a Pinterest board for Ikea, Argos, and all the rest, even if
you’re not actually buying anything for a couple of weeks yet. You’ll want to
save money where you can.
If there’s anything you can box up, buy, or
move into the property before you actually move out of wherever you are now,
might as well make a head start!

But there you have it: Thirteen steps to
renting your first property. 

It’s terrifying and exciting and totally freaking
weird, but you’ll get there. Ask your parents or friends who’ve already gone
through it for advice, and don’t be afraid to ask questions of estate agents
either.

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Do you have any major tips on how to rent a
property for the first time? Share in the comments!

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The Twenty-Something Series: On adulting and my new job

An update on my new job, and some thoughts on adulting
When I started The Twenty-Something Series
back in April, I kicked things off by talking about how I’d resigned from my job, and I’d have a new job in September.
Well, here’s a little background on the new
job: it’s with one of the big energy companies in the UK, and
the role will be on their IT Graduate Scheme. It’s placement-based, so I’ll be
moving around every few months and I’ll be undertaking different projects in
different areas of the company – which is hella exciting.
I was already really excited about the job
because it’s in an area I really, genuinely
want to work in. (Unlike finance, and my old job.) But at the end of June, they
put on a two-day induction event for the new graduates across all the schemes:
it was brilliant to meet the other new grads, and some of the people I’ll be
working with.
I also – most importantly – got to find out my first placement.
I don’t know if it’s, uh, sensible, for me to talk about exactly
what my first placement will be doing, but it’s so cool and I’m thrilled with
it. Now here’s the bit I’m going to share…
I’m moving to Durham.


DURHAM.
Of all the offices the company has, I’m
starting out in the Durham office. Which is about as far away from my home and
family in South Wales as I could get.
Now, I don’t mind this so much. When I went
to university I was excited to be independent, and since moving back home, I’ve
missed that. And wherever my placement was, I’d had to move away from home.
Plus, the property is so cheap in Durham I actually can’t get over it. So you
know, that’s a huge bonus. I’m actually up in Durham this week looking for somewhere to live.
For those of you not-so-familiar with UK
geography, it’s the best part of six hours to drive up to Durham from
South Wales. The easier option is to fly, actually.
Honestly, I spent pretty much the entire
weekend after finding out I’d be in Durham looking for places to rent and
making a Pinterest board to keep tabs on all the things I might need from Ikea.
That totally counts as adulting, right?
Speaking of adulting, there’s all the other
things to consider that I haven’t had to worry about so much at home: electric bills and
a TV license and grocery shopping… And I know it’s not glamorous or fun and
it’s probably going to prove stressful, but I’m still excited.
I’m also very aware that I’m a hoarder and
that doing the whole ‘capsule wardrobe’ thing to move myself up north for six
months in the winter (#honoraryStark?) is quite probably going to be my biggest
challenge.



I tried to clear out some of my room last week. I managed a shelf in a cupboard and two drawers, but I still own more notebooks than I could possibly ever use.
Back to the job itself: the graduate scheme lasts two years, and
I’m hopeful that I’ll like my time with the company enough to want to stay on. That’s certainly what I’m planning to do. Maybe in Durham, maybe not. 



By comparison – when I started my job in audit last
September, I was looking at it as ‘Okay, get through the next three years, then
you can do something else, or work for another company, or whatever.’ This
time, there’s none of that ‘grit-my-teeth-and-bear-it’.
While I’m here, here’s a little update on
how the whole freelance gig is going. I’m working with a company handling their
social media at the moment and I’m really enjoying it. I worked on one big
project with them that was successful and now I’m doing some more work during
the summer. 



I’m also working on a writing project. I finished a book about two weeks ago and sent it to my agent and I’ve started a new book since. So… there’s progress, and
that’s good. There could be more progress on the writing front, but some
progress is better than none.



And I guess that’s it from me for now. Wish me luck on the flat hunting!

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Writing Wednesdays: How to prioritise your writing projects

How do you prioritise your writing projects? I share a few pieces of advice in this post.
I’ve always tried to be strict with myself
when it comes to how many writing projects I take on at once. I used to be much
better at only working on one – maybe two, at most – stories at once. Since I
started writing fanfic, I’ve usually got at least five stories I can pick up
and put down whenever I feel like working on them.
But I’m still strict with myself in that I only
work on one ‘serious’ project at a time.
(Not that fanfic isn’t serious writing. But
I try to think of my stories in terms of ‘What would I publish?’ – aka ‘serious
work’ – and the other stuff, which is usually fanfic.)
Anyway. Prioritising.
It’s bloody difficult to stay focused on a
single project, especially when you start getting new ideas for new books and
new characters and new plots… So here are my few pieces of advice.

 
First things first: do you have any
deadlines?

If you’re working on something that you’ve
got a deadline for – maybe a deadline from an agent or publisher, or even just
a personal deadline of ‘I want to finish this by the end of the summer’, then
make sure that’s what you put the most effort into. You don’t have to abandon
other writing projects if you don’t want to, but channel most of that writing
enthusiasm into your Deadline Looming Project.

Are you publishing anything online?

If you’re posting a book online and sharing
it with readers that way, try to keep them in mind. That book needs to be a
priority if you want to keep your readers and build your readership up.
Speaking of – you might also like this post
on how to grow your audience when you publish online.

Try to keep in mind which project you’re
most serious about.

Are you working on something you hope to
get published? Are you working on a few books that you’d never let see the
light of day but are only doing because they’re fun to write? Figure out which
one you’re most serious about.

Are you almost finished with any of them?

If you’ve got a book you’re working on that’s
close to being finished – finish it! Give it one last push and get through to
the end. There’s always a danger that if you step back so close to the end and
start something new, you’ll never finish it. Tie off any loose ends before
picking up new ones.

It can help, if you’re working on several
projects at once, to set yourself deadlines. That might be ‘Get to 30k words on
Project One by the end of the week’ or it might be ‘Finish Project One by end
of July and finish Project Two by end of August.’ But giving yourself some kind
of structure can be really helpful in keeping you on track and motivated.
If you’re someone who doesn’t want to work
on more than one book at a time but is always getting new ideas: get a
notebook. Get a dedicated notebook for all those story ideas so you can jot
them down so they’re ready to come back to when you’re ready. Plus, it makes sure you don’t forget any of those
fantastic ideas – and that you don’t start working on them and then running
away with them, the project you had been working on completely forgotten.
Moving on from that, I’d say it’s a good
idea to make notes on whatever you’re working on. Whether that’s using tools
online or a notebook, just make sure you keep notes.
For the project I’ve just started on I
started a new notebook and made more extensive notes on my characters. I’m also
keeping track of what happens in each chapter, so I can track the plot better.
Previously, my notes have been a lot less structured, but I’ve still kept
notes. They’re invaluable. You can never keep enough notes, especially when you’re
juggling a few books at once.
Something I like to do every so often is
take stock of where I am on whatever projects I’ve got in the pipeline. Word
counts, how much more I think I’ve got to go, any editing. Again: jot it all
down in a notebook. It’ll help you sort things out if you can see them all on
paper.
Do you struggle to prioritise your
projects? What are some things you do to make sure you keep track of your
stories? Share in the comments below!

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Social Media for Writers: How to use scheduling tools to boost your social media presence

Scheduling tools are a blogger's best friend. In this post, I share a few of my favourites for different social media platforms, and explain why you should use them.
When you’re trying to blog and maintain a
social media presence but you’re also juggling full-time studies or a job – or both,
even – it can be hard to find the time. This is where scheduling tools become
your best friend.

 First, I’ll talk about what tools are
available.

Most blogging platforms – if not all – have
an option to schedule the post. You create a new post but instead of uploading
it there and then, you just find the option to schedule instead.
YouTube also allows you to schedule in
advance – the option comes up when you go to upload a new video. Click where it
says ‘Public’ on the upload and choose ‘Schedule’ instead. If you’re having
trouble working it out, there are tons of guides on Google that will walk you
through step-by-step.
Twitter isn’t quite so schedule-friendly,
and neither is Instagram. You need to use a third-party program. My favourites
are:
  • Hootsuite
    the free version gives you all you need. I did pay
    for more features for a few months but found I didn’t really need any of them. You
    can add several platforms – including Facebook and Twitter, and there’s a
    link-shortener built in. The only thing I’ll say is that the times for
    scheduling are every five minutes. (More on this later.)
  • Dlvr.it
    with the free version, you’re limited to something
    like ten posts at a time, and two platforms. I do really like it though, because
    you can set up your schedule in one tab, and then you just add content to your
    queue, which means that whenever you schedule new content you just add that
    content and don’t have to choose a time to post it. It’ll use your set schedule
    automatically.
  • TweetDeck
    obviously only works for Twitter, but ticks all
    the boxes. User-friendly, lets you schedule at any time you want, and you can
    also use TweetDeck to keep tabs on a particular hashtag, or just your timeline
    and mentions.
  • Bettr
    app, for use with Instagram. You can only
    schedule posts up to three days in advance and only one post per day in the
    free version, but I like it.
  • Later
    also an app for Instagram. Now this lets you schedule
    more than one post per day and more than three days in advance, even free – but
    it doesn’t post to Instagram automatically as Bettr does. Instead the app sends
    you a notification, and you have to click through to say ‘yes post this on my
    Instagram,’ and ‘yes, allow this app to post on Instagram’. It’s okay, but to
    be honest the drafts in Instagram are a better way of doing it. Speaking of
    which…
  • Save
    as drafts –
    not so much a tool as a feature on basically
    everything. I only really use this for Instagram, though. I’ll upload photos,
    edit them, create a caption – and then go back out and save as a draft to post
    another time.


Now when I mentioned that Hootsuite only
lets you post at five minute intervals, I’ll explain why this is something I
don’t like as much about it.
If you’re posting at 10.28am, it looks more
like you’ve actually posted it than a post at 10.30am, which looks more
automated and scheduled. Now this really isn’t a big deal, but if all of your
Tweets go out at 10.30am, 4.00pm, and 6.45pm, every day, and that’s all you
post, it starts to give you away. At the very least, change up which times you
post every day.

The next part of this post is going to
address exactly why you should be using scheduling tools, and how they will
help to boost your social media presence.

The most obvious reason is as I mentioned
at the start of this post: they help you maintain a presence even when you’re
too busy to post.
They also make your life a hell of a lot
easier. For instance, I schedule Writing Wednesday posts for 10am on a
Wednesday morning. This is way easier than sitting at my computer waiting for
it to turn 10am and then hitting ‘upload’. If you have a blog series, it’ll
help you be consistent.
In the same vein, you can schedule things
like vlogs and blog posts for months in advance. If you’ve got a free weekend
and manage to knock out ten blog posts, you can set them up as scheduled posts
over the next few months there and then. Which means you’re not at risk of forgetting
to post them, and you know you don’t have to worry about content for a while.
Scheduling Tweets is also a really great
way to share content on your blog – especially older content. ‘Check out this
post I wrote on X’, you can say. Or even if it’s as simple as, ‘Are you
following my blog? This week’s post will be about X. Follow me here.’
It also just keeps you on people’s
timelines. If you only Tweet when you can, and that turns out to be about three
times a month, you’re not really going to build your audience. But if you’re
sharing, say, three to five Tweets a day – maybe a Facebook post twice a week,
one blog post per week, and an Instagram every couple of days – it’s going to
keep people paying attention to you.
Which, really, is what you want, right?
Pinterest is actually one of my favourite
platforms for social media advice. There are tons of infographics on what the
best times are to post on various platforms, and how many times per day you
should post. (A quick search on Pinterest of ‘social media’ will probably yield
half a dozen of these infographics, at least!)

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Do you use scheduling tools? Do you have a
favourite I didn’t talk about? Share in the comments below!

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Writing Wednesdays: 7 quick fixes for writers’ block

If you're stuck with writing and facing the dreaded writers' block, here are a few quick fixes to get you back to the keyboard.
Some people don’t seem to ‘believe’ in
writers’ block – as you might’ve guessed from previous posts where I’ve talked
about that very topic, though, I’m not one of them. Writers’ block sucks.
I talked before about how you can tackle
it, but today I want to just offer up some quick fixes. On a deadline? Or maybe
you just really want to write but you’re kinda clogged up in terms of
inspiration? Whatever’s eating at you, hopefully something on this list will
help you out.

1. Soundtracks.

The really emotive kind. Think ‘He’s a Pirate’ from Pirates of the Caribbean, or ‘Light of the Seven’ from S6E10 Game
of Thrones (man, it gets me every time), or ‘Buckbeak’s Flight’ from Prisoner
of Azkaban. Anything John Williams is usually a good bet, actually. You can
find great soundtracks on YouTube or Spotify.

2. Iconic scenes.

I mean, this is pretty much the same as
above: browse YouTube for a couple of scenes that always get you. Maybe it’s
Dumbledore’s death and when everyone raises their wands to burn away the Dark
Mark, or maybe it’s an epic fight scene, or your favourite kiss (Emma Swan and
Hook’s first kiss in Neverland, anyone?). If you know there’s something specific you’re struggling with, try to find a great scene with that kind of vibe or situation.

3. If you’ve got a little more time: try a
book, or a movie.

Maybe one you’ve already seen, or maybe
not. Whether it inspires you, or you just lose yourself in it and feel kind of
refreshed afterwards – you’ll probably get something out of it.

4. Writing prompts.

So I’m not saying find a writing prompt and
go with it and create a new story, or anything like that. I mean, sure, if you
want to do that, go for it. But here, I’m talking about browsing writing
prompts (Google, or even look around Tumblr or Pinterest).
Maybe something with resonate with you
because it would really fit with your story where it is. Or, just picture how
your characters might respond in the situation the prompt offers up. Similarly,
you can search around AO3 in your favourite fandom/ship and take a look at some
of the AUs. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration there.

5. Try fancasting your characters.

Who would play your character in a movie?
Compile yourself a little list – complete with photos – and maybe after that
you’ll feel a bit more motivated to work with your characters again.

6. Got an idea for a scene but it doesn’t
come next in the story?

Write it anyway. Maybe you’ll use it, maybe
you won’t. The worst bit about beating writers’ block is trying to overcome it
in the first place. Once you’ve written something, you won’t feel so daunted or
disheartened.

7. Reread what you’ve already got.

The last couple of chapters, or your
favourite scene so far, or right from the start. Something will hit you –
whether it’s something you want to build on or something you want to fix. Or
maybe you’ll just read through to the end and find a couple more paragraphs
worm their way out of you. Hey, at least you’ve written something. Progress is
progress!

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Well, there you go! Seven quick fixes for
writers’ block! What works best for you when you’re trying to beat writers’
block?

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Social Media for Writers: The difference between Pages, Profiles and Groups on Facebook

What do you use on Facebook to promote yourself as a writer? In this post, I explain the difference between profiles, pages, and groups, and my preference.
Early on in this series I talked about
Facebook in social networks to start using, and I mentioned Groups and Pages in
my post on how to promote yourself using Facebook. Something I wanted to talk
about in this post is the difference between a profile, a Page, and a Group,
since I know this is something a few writers have trouble with if they’re not
too familiar with Facebook.
I’ll start with a profile, since this is
probably what people are most familiar with. Your profile is your account. When
you log in on Facebook, that’s your profile. You add friends, post things on
your Wall, like things on your timeline and comment your friends’ profiles in
memes.
I know some writers use their profile to
promote themselves as a writer, but I’ll be honest: this is never something
that appealed to me. My profile is for me and my friends and it’s private. I
don’t want to add a bunch of strangers who like my books so they can see photo
records of my life since 2009 and find out all about my friends and things. I’d
just like to keep it private. Personal and private.
This is why I have a Facebook Page to
promote myself as a writer.
Now Pages are totally free to create and
offer a lot more in terms of the ability to promote yourself. There are plenty
of guides on Google if you’re not sure exactly how to create a page (but it’s
via the little ‘Pages’ flag icon on the left hand sidebar) and they’re super
easy to put together. It’s similar to a profile in that you add a profile photo
and header image, and there’s a Wall for people to post on, and you can share
photos and create albums.
The difference is that people will Like
your page. They’ll see all your updates and posts but you won’t be following
them to see any of their updates. Which, if you’re accumulating a pretty hefty
following – even about fifty people you only ‘know’ because they read your books
would start to become difficult to see clogging up your timeline.
Pages are also great because they offer
private messaging, and you can respond to someone as your Page, rather than
with your personal profile. Plus you can create events – like if you’re hosting
a book signing, or a book launch party, or a webchat. You can also easily add
links to your website (or blog!) and contact info, if you want to.
If you search for a company on Facebook,
you’ll probably find their Page. You won’t find an individual’s profile. It
might be an idea to take a look at a couple of author Pages or even just a
company’s Page to get an idea.
Next up is Groups. Now these are different
AGAIN because Groups tend to be for your personal account – but you can be in a
Group with people you don’t know and communicate with them, but you don’t have
to Friend them – so your account will still stay private outside of whatever
you post in the Group.
There are Private Groups, where you have to
request permission to join (and an admin of the Group will grant you
permission), or open Groups, that anybody can join. If you set up a Group, you’re
automatically an admin. You can add other admins, too. Admins can alter the
Group settings – and as I mentioned, give people access if it’s a private
Group.
I joined up with some Wattpad writers for a
big collaborative project called The Cheaters Club, and we have a private Group
to talk about the project amongst ourselves. We also have a separate private
group for fans and readers.
The difference with Groups and Pages are
that Groups tend to be more collaborative. There tends to be more communication
going on and more interaction between people. On a Page, they’re interacting
with you. In a Group, readers will also interact with each other more.
On a Page, the first thing you’ll see are
posts made by the Page. Your posts. Then you can click to view posts made by
everyone, so whatever other people have posted on your Wall will show up too.
On a Group, however, posts will normally
just show in chronological order, regardless of who posted them. (Although
there’s usually a pinned post tagged at the top of the page, that will stick
there.)
I’ve gotta be honest here: when it comes to
using Facebook to promote yourself, I think a Page is the way to go. It’s got
enough distance from your profile that you’re not sharing all your personal and
private information, and it’s more straightforward than a Group, and much
easier to manage. Plus, Groups are more limited. Yeah, you can add photos and
events and all the rest – but they’re not as easy to navigate, and it can take
a while to get into the swing of a Group and feel part of it.

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What do you think? Do you have a preference
when it comes to promoting yourself on Facebook? Let me know in the comments!

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Writing Wednesdays: How to deal with someone else’s edits to your novel

It's hard to share your work - harder still when someone is critiquing and editing it. How do you deal with someone else's edits to your novel? I share a few pieces of advice in this post.
Last week I talked about who should edit
your book, and I’ve talked a few times before about editing your book. This isn’t
going to be a how-to-edit guide again though. Today, I wanted to talk about how
to deal with someone else’s edits to your novel.
Sharing your work is difficult enough.
(Although definitely worth it – check out this post on why you should be publishing
your book online!)
You’ve poured so much of yourself into this
book. So much time and hard work and passion and the thought of someone else
reading it can be utterly terrifying. And that’s just someone reading it –
never mind them going over it with a critical eye, picking out plot holes or
telling you to cut things or saying you need to do more work on a certain character.
Again: this isn’t going to be a
how-to-edit. I’m not going to tell you why you can’t afford to be sentimental
about things or why you can or anything else.
I’m going to tell you that whoever edited
your novel is trying to help.
And they might say some things you don’t
want to hear, but they’re not doing it to tear your confidence to shreds. They’re
not saying it to be mean or because your book is awful or because you’re a
crappy writer. They’re saying these things and making these edits because they
want your book to be the best it can be.
Your book is full of potential. Even a
second draft can still be pretty rough and need some work. Your editor is just
trying to show you all of that potential and help you get to it.
And yeah, I’m gonna say it: you can get too
attached to your book. You can get too sentimental about some parts of it and
too protective of it. I mean, it’s only natural. But also, you know your story
inside out, and that means it’s easy for you to miss something in your novel.
Case in point: Elle, the main character of
my first novel The Kissing Booth, is not Caucasian. I always pictured her with
dark skin. It was mentioned in the first draft, but whole chapters got cut in
editing, and somewhere along the line, any mention of Elle’s skin colour was
cut, too. Not intentionally, though. It just would’ve been part of a whole
scene. But because I knew my character so well I was absolutely certain it had to
be in there somewhere, so I never noticed while I was going over edits that it
wasn’t explicitly mentioned anymore.
You need someone else to look at your book.
Something might make total sense to you because you’re the writer, the creator,
but it may never be clear in the actual book. You need a fresh pair of eyes.
And like I said: they’re just trying to
help.
Another thing I want you to remember is
that you’re the writer and it’s your story and if you don’t want to make a
change, you don’t have to.
If your editor says ‘Cut this whole
character,’ ask them why. (They’ll probably tell you, but you can ask for
further explanation/input.) It’s your story so you don’t have to take it in a
direction you don’t like.
On that note: they’re only giving their
opinion. It may well be a professional opinion, and they may make an extremely
valid point that will make your story a whole lot better, but it’s still just
their opinion. A different editor or person or reader might not see it that
way.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to
writing, right?
Possibly the most important thing I’m going
to say is that your editor should be someone you can talk to. I know in
traditional publishing you don’t necessarily get a choice, but you still need
to talk to them. You’re both invested in making this book the best it can be.
You both want to work hard at this and you both love the book. So if they
suggest something you’re just not feeling, or don’t agree with, just talk to
them about it.
For example: in my current WIP, my agent
said that two of the character’s storylines were too similar. She made a couple
of suggestions but I wasn’t really feeling them. When inspiration struck and I
figured out what to do, I asked her if she thought that made more sense and
would solve the problem. It’s a conversation. Not somebody dictating to you.
It’s your book. Remember that. And they
really are trying to help.

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Is there anything you struggle with
particularly when it comes to someone else editing your novel? I’d love to hear
in the comments or via Twitter!

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Writing Wednesdays: Who should edit your book?

Editing usually requires more than one person. Question is - who should edit your novel? Sharing your work is terrifying, especially when you're expecting feedback. I share my advice in this post.
Editing is a tricky process, and I’ve
posted about it a few times already, but there’s usually more than one person
involved in the editing process. Question is – who should edit your book?
When you’re traditionally published, you
have an in-house editor at the publishing house who takes care of you. They’ll
work closely with you on your book. You’ll also be given a copyeditor – their
job is to go through your book and make sure it’s formatted properly, crossing
all the Ts, etc.
If you have a literary agent, they might
sometimes help you edit your novel. This isn’t always the case and each agent
is different. My agent helps me to edit my work before it’s sent off to
anybody.
Of course, if you’re looking for some kind
of professional input before traditional publishing is on the cards, you have
the option of hiring an editor. This isn’t something I’ve ever done or really
know much about, but I know it is something that’s there if you want to look
into it more.
Now this blog series is targeted at
writers, but I always imagine it to be targeted more at unpublished writers, or
young writers who are just starting out. So I’m guessing the first half of this
post maybe hasn’t been of so much use to you. Don’t worry – the rest of the
post will be.
Have you posted your story online? (If not,
I highly recommend this post about why you should.) But if you are – ask for
feedback!
Honestly, it’s that easy. At the end of
each chapter you post (and maybe at the beginning, too), drop a note to your
readers and ask them to give you feedback. Welcome constructive criticism, ask
them for any input they might have towards edits you could make. (Structural?
Was there a subplot you forgot about? A character that could be more developed?
Does your sentence structure need work?)
If you know any other writers, it can’t
hurt to ask!
I’ve regularly received requests from
writers on Wattpad asking me to read their work and help them edit. I’m not in
a position to do so (because of time commitments and my own projects that need
work). But I know plenty of writers would be happy to help.
You might be lucky enough to strike up a
relationship with another writer who’s also looking for a second opinion of
their work (in terms of edits, not just ‘Can’t wait for the next chapter!’), so
you could maybe do a little trade, of one edit for another. There’s no harm in
asking, anyway.
Another option – maybe the most obvious,
but possibly also the most daunting – is to ask a friend to read it.
If you’ve got a friend who likes writing,
or at least likes reading the kind of genre you write, ask them if they’d mind
taking a look over your work and giving you some feedback. If they’re not a
reader – or maybe really not into the genre you write – then it might be best
to ask someone else, even if they’re your best friend. Otherwise they might
just drag themselves half-heartedly through your book and tell you ‘yeah, it’s
great, they liked it,’ and that’s really not much use to you by way of feedback
for editing.
Look, if you’ve got a choice when it comes
to the person you ask to edit your book, remember: you want someone who you can
trust, and particularly who you can trust to give you an honest opinion, and
not just say ‘sure, it was good’.
Whoever edits your book, you want to remember
that it’s just their opinion, and it might sting, but at least consider what
they have to say.
I think that whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to edit your novel yourself first. Once it’s finished, go back through it. Make changes, make notes, tidy up loose ends, look for typos and inconsistencies. That way, when you ask someone else to take a look, they’re at least seeing a more polished version than your first draft.

Before I sign off this post for the
week, here are the other posts up so far where I’ve talked about editing:

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I’m going to talk
more next week about how to deal with someone else’s edits to your novel – but
until then, share in the comments: I’d love to know who you ask to edit your
work. Do you ask anyone at all? Or maybe you prefer to just deal with it
yourself? Let 
me know!

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Social Media for Writers: 5 ways to make the most of your social media presence

In this post, I share five easy ways that you can use to make the most of your social media presence and promote yourself as a writer.
When I started this series earlier this
year, I pictured my target audience as writers who just don’t know how to
approach using social media as a tool to promote themselves.
I’ve already talked in previous posts about
several social networks that you can use to promote yourself and your books,
and how to use each one, but in this post I want to talk about making the most
of social media in a broader sense.
I guess this post will be a kind of ‘tips
and tricks’ one. You might not be able to apply each point to every social
network, but they’ll certainly be applicable to most.
So, here it is.

1. Use images.

Yes, this again. Tweets with images get
more interactions and shares than those without. I noticed my blog readership
increase once I added images to posts, and I know that when I’m reading
something online, I’m more likely to save it to my Pinterest to look at again
if it’s got an image.
As for how to make these images, I’m
recommending Canva. There are tons of free stock photos you can download, or
you can use your own photos, but Canva is great for sizing and adding text.
And while I’m talking about images, I’m
going to include your profile photo in this. Your account is more likely to be
discarded by a potential follower (and reader!) as spam or fake if you don’t
have a profile photo.

2. Link everything.

Inviting people to buy your book? Give them
a link to where to buy it. Asking people to follow your blog? Give them a link
to it. Telling people about an interview you did on someone else’s blog? Give
them a link to it.
If you’d adding a link in a blog post,
hyperlink it. (This is where some of the text in the post itself is the link.
For example: Check out this post I wrote on how to promote your books on
Twitter. There’s a hyperlink on ‘this post’.) If you’re not sure how to do this
on your blogging platform, answers are an easy Google search away.
You can also use link shorteners to tidy up
your links. Again, if you just Google ‘link shrinker/link shortener/similar
wording’ you’ll be offered a choice. Pick one you like, copy and paste the link
you want to shrink, and they’ll shrink it for you.

3. Make friends and network.

Now I know this can be daunting and quite
difficult; I’m going to have more posts later this summer on how to network on
various social media channels. But here’s a brief note on it.
Connect with other authors (especially
those in your genre) and book bloggers. Make a few people you know in
publishing, or some book news feeds, things like that. Share their content and
respond to things they post. You don’t have to like every Tweet they post, or
anything, but take some time to look through for things you want to share and
respond to.
You can also find groups on Facebook to
join, of other writers. It might take you a while of blindly clicking on
Facebook search results before you find one you like the look of, but you’ve
got nothing to lose by requesting to join and connecting with other people in
the group.
This is how you can build up your little
network. Writers are always keen to support each other, in my experience – especially
in the YA field. Someone gets a book deal, and the replies/comments are filled
with congratulations messages and people sharing it.
Yes, you want to build your profile to
promote yourself – but that doesn’t mean you have to be selfish in what you
post. Speaking of which…

4. There’s a thing called the 30:70 rule.

This is basically a ‘rule’ that says you
should share 30% of your own content and 70% of other people’s content.
Now I’m not going to sit here and say obey
this rule religiously, but take it into account. If you’re only ever posting ‘Go
buy my book! Go read my book!’ then your followers are going to start to get
sick of it. But if you’re posting that kind of thing once a week, and the rest
of the week you’re sharing other bookish/writing-related content, people are
going to stay interested in what you share.
This isn’t quite so possible on a blog, I’m
aware, or Instagram, but it’s definitely something to bear in mind on Twitter.

5. Post regularly.

If your aim is to build your following, it’s
no good just sharing something once in a blue moon. When you’re starting out,
you want to provide people with content to prove you’re worth following and
worth wanting to know. I’m not saying you need to sit at your computer
compulsively retweeting every new Tweet on your feed, commenting on every new
post in a Facebook group, repinning everything remotely related to writing on
your Pinterest – but stay active.
There are tons of infographics on Pinterest
on how many times to post each day on each different social network, and there’s
no hard and fast rule to stick to. But a starting point might be five Tweets
every day and one blog post a week. It’s totally up to you what you decide to
do, but staying active will help build your audience.
(I mean, if you find someone who posted
some great content, but only posted once a month, and hasn’t been active in a
year, are you likely to follow them? The chances are no, you’re not. If it’s
content you’re interested in, you’ll find someone who’s sharing it regularly –
and now.)
This is where I’m also going to say it’s
important to make use of scheduling and automation tools. I love If This Then
That (which is, as all my favourite tools are, free) so every time I upload a
new blog post, it’s shared on all my social media. That’s what, four updates
across all my profiles for one click of ‘upload’. So worth it.
And scheduling tools like Hootsuite and
Tweetdeck (again, free!) are really handy, especially if there’s some news you
want to share. New chapter uploaded? Schedule a Tweet for the next day – ‘Did
you see yesterday’s new chapter?’, one for the next day – ‘Check out this week’s
latest upload!’, and one for the day before you’re due to upload your next
chapter – ‘New chapter tomorrow! Catch up on the story so far.’


And there you have it. Five ways to make
the most of your social media presence.

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I’ll go into some of these things more in
depth in separate posts – things like scheduling, creating images, and
networking in particular – but if there’s something I mentioned you’d like to
learn more about, please let me know in the comments, or send me a Tweet @Reekles!

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