The first draft of anything is shit.

The first draft of anything is shit-Ernest H

This is something I have to constantly tell myself when writing. Why? Because I am a painfully slow, pedantic, crazed perfectionist who can sit and obsess over a single word for hours. I cannot write a paragraph without reading over it at least three times, only then can I move on and write the next one.

I spend ages scanning the Thesaurus, determined to find a better word for almost everything I write. I reread sentences until the words no longer make sense and the sentence sounds like Russian. I read sentences out loud. I read sentences to my husband. I would read sentences to strangers if I didn’t fear being ushered off to a white padded room. I hate the idea that anything I write might be shit, or might not live up to the overly inflated standards I set for myself.

I recall one incident in particular that almost drove me nuts; I had started a new book a week ago. One that had a deadline attached to it. One that needed to find its way onto my agent and publisher’s desk at a certain date and time. But after a solid week of writing I was only 1, 943 words in, because I had probably reread and rewritten those 1, 943 words    1, 943 times. Now you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this is a huge problem, and I may indeed be in trouble if I carry on like this.  But I just can’t seem to help myself.

I’m built to obsess and fiddle. To worry and wake up in the middle of the night because I’ve thought of a better way to start a sentence. But I also know that in the long this is probably going to trip me up. It is going to wear me down and it will certainly drive me mad, not to mention everyone around me.

So to save myself from the inevitability of a straight jacket, I turned to the Internet for help, as one tends to do these days, and found some useful tips to writing your first draft.  They come from various sources and sage’s (but I do have to wonder how many of these wise people are actually authors?)

1.     Don’t edit as you write! This seemed to be the biggest consensus. Some people were even bold enough to suggest that if you aren’t able to articulate your idea properly in the moment, ‘simply put the vague idea in brackets and come back later.’ Brackets I ask you? Of all things holy in this world. (say something witty about the nature of brackets. nb, come back to this later)

2.     Don’t spend forever writing. Another very obvious one that came up often. “Sit, start where you stopped yesterday, and quit when it gets boring. The rest of the day is for the rest of your life.” What life? I thought writing was my life.

3.     “If you think of two different ways of saying something, write them both down and decide on the best one later.” As if! I thought of ten ways to say that better.

4.     “Suspend judgment when writing. Because that freedom opens you to the surprising stuff you never saw coming.” I found this one in a post by Writers Digest who are clearly not writers at all. Because if they were, they would know that it is biologically impossible for a writer to suspect judgment and self-doubt at any stage of their writing process. It just goes against our genetic make-up. A writer without judgment is clearly using strong, happy, mind-altering narcotics. (Can I get some?)

Will I try any of these? Probably not. I might obsess about not trying them though and drive myself a little madder in the process.

Some of this advice was taken directly from http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/12/how-to-write-your-books-first-draft-like-a-professional/

What I’m going to do with my MILLION Dollar book advances?

It’s Monday, so let’s play a fun game called ‘Imaginary Monday’. Today I shall imagine that I’m the next J.K. Rowling. I’m selling books like tasty little hotcakes and everyone is talking about me. And when I say everyone, I just did Ellen last night (she’s not as funny in real life btw) I’m doing so well, and am so hot and famous right now that even Kanye wants to be my friend (I would consider it, but alas, he comes with Kim Kardashian)  My books are number #1 on Amazon and I’m trending on Twitter #BestAuthorInTheWorld. (Step aside Donald Trump- you’re yesterday’s news)

So what is an author like me going to do with my Ba-Zillions of delicious Dollars? Let’s go!

  1. I’ve always fancied myself a private island kinda gal. So I’ve just gone shopping on this website that caters for rich people, like me, http://www.privateislandsonline.com, and bought this sweet, little gem.  I liked its round, distinctive shape, hopefully this will make it visible from space so passing aliens will also know how rich I am and how well I’m doing. (Mmm, perhaps there’s a potential interstellar market for my books too?) Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 11.55.40 AM

2. Unfortunately, this particular island has no residence, so I’m going to have to built. But I just can’t decide between a gorgeous beach house….

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A floating villa….

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And it’s always been a childhood dream to live in a treehouse…

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But man oh man, I do like the idea of being underwater too. Nothing makes you feel more powerful than staring into the eyes of a shark and living to tell the tale.

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BUT WAIT…OH LOOK, my book just sold another 10 million copies (I think I’ll build all 4)

2. But of course I’m going to need a yacht to get around- and why not get the most expensive one. I mean, who would settle for a 100 million Dollar yacht… please. (Now Kanye really wants to be my friend- still a pity about Kim though)

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3. And who doesn’t hate the damn inconvenience of airports, pesky customs officer’s and not to mention the fact that standing in long lines is just bad for your back.  And then, even when you’re traveling Business Class, you still can’t walk around naked. So how about this modest little jet.

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4. Traffic! Rush hour! Taxis! All that time you waste NOT checking your social media platforms because they have that silly little law about not driving while looking at a mobile phone  (tisk)  Solution… ? Self-drive car. Mercedes has this darling little number. Yay! #blessed

Mercedes-Benz F015 - Luxury in Motion

Mercedes-Benz F015 – Luxury in Motion

5. World hunger, poverty, refugees I hear you ask? OF COURSE.. why not, Paramount just bought the movie rights and are turning my book into a trilogy starring hot, young Hollywood actors (the teens are gonna flock)

6. And being an Absolute Addidas Addict, I think I’ll buy myself a whole shop so I can wear a brand new pair of sneakers every day. In fact, I might as well just get Jeremy Scott to design me a whole new wardrobe. (Jeremy, you’ll have to call my rock-star agent if you want to get hold of me xoxo)

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7. Life is so full of mundane and terribly boring little tasks- like renewing your driver’s licence, paying taxes, paying your speeding fines, going to the shops, cooking dinner and all those other snooze-worthy adult things. So why not hire a team of personal assistants, shoppers and chefs to make your day just a little bit easier? Better still, let’s make them all easy on the eye too. (Who doesn’t love a photoshopped James Franco dressed in a Christmas hat, wearing a teeny red speedo and holding a fluffy little kitten)

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6. And most importantly, above all else, entertainment for my birthday party a la Depeche Mode- only the greatest band in the universe. At a mere 1 million dollars for 4 songs at your private bash, I might as well have them for my book launch too. (Yes, I just signed another multi-seven-figure, ten book deal with my publisher)

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So there you have it, my Monday Imaginings. What are you going to spend your first million dollar book advance on?

What’s in a name anyway: Can a title really make or break your book?

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I’m rather bad at coming up with names for my books, so bad in fact, that my publisher renamed two of my three books. I didn’t mind at all, because the worst names they came up with were far better than my best ones. But this got me thinking about names in general. Are book titles really that important?

But apparently they are. Whilst researching this topic I read a few disturbing things, this one in particular shall add to my overall ‘aa’ (author- anxiety). Elv Moody, Publisher at Oxford University Press Children’s Books  says ‘It’s not over-stating the case to say that a title can make or break a book.’  (And here we naive little authors thought it was all about the strength of our story, reliability and lovability of our characters and our unique voice)

So in an industry where we need to worry, and obsess about so many things already, we now have to consider that our titles could make us a bestseller, or plunge our book to the bottom of the sticky-icky slush-pile.

So I decided to investigate names, and this is what I discovered…

Firstly, I hate pretentious wanky titles that endeavor to show me how intellectually superior you are. They imply that when I (mere mortal) read this book, I am going to need to thumb through a dictionary just to understand what you, oh genius master of English words, has written for me, unenlightened barely educated culturally inept underling.

Another hate of mine would be those hipstery-names. They differ ever so slightly from the above in that the authors are not necessarily intellectually superior to their readers, they do however have a bigger Instagram following and wrote the book only to be ironic whilst sipping on Vegan coffee and listening to obscure music on vinyl. Like this pearly little gem of hipsterdom;

Eeeee Eee Eeee”   by Tao Lin”

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https://www.amazon.com/Eeeee-Eee-Eeee-Tao-Lin-ebook/dp/B004CFAZL8?ie=UTF8&keywords=Eeeee%20Eee%20Eeee%3A%20A%20Novel%2C&qid=1462436162&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

This has got to be the most hipster name that has ever been conceived of. I can  imagine the conversation prior to naming the book. “But titles are just too mainstream. Let’s not give it a title at all, let’s just give it sounds….” *author runs his fingers thoughtfully through his beard and then types away on his vintage typewriter.

But in amongst all the horror, I also found some amazing ones. One of my favorite names out there, hands down, is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5899779-pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies

And I guess this proves the point. I would buy this book solely based on its title alone. I’ve come to the conclusion that my preference lies in titles that don’t take themselves too seriously. It makes me feel that the authors don’t either, and that is always the best kind of writer, one who isn’t totally up their own arse.

But this is probably my all time fave…. When will Jesus bring back the Pork Chops.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/93453.When_Will_Jesus_Bring_the_Pork_Chops_

I would definitely read that! But what I would not read (despite its supposed brilliance)  is Love in a time of Cholera. After reading that Cholera is “an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated” I just cannot imagine love being vaguely conducive to it. There are no two things more opposite than a massive dose of diarrhea, and love.

Delving into the world of book covers even more, I also discovered these;

  1. worst-book-covers-titles-58 copyI’ll give this title one thing, you know exactly what you’re going to be reading about. But other than that, there are just so many things wrong with it. a; if you do not know how to avoid huge ships- ships that can be seen from miles away- do NOT get into a boat and sail the seas. b; this book was so important that it made it into a second edition, and finally, c; how often do huge ships collide with smaller ones? Enough that someone felt it necessary to write a book about it.

2.  And perhaps some more thought should have gone into these!

worst-book-titles-8worst-book-covers-titles-17worst-book-covers-titles-12worst-book-covers-titles-15

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3. Anything that has the phrase ‘Anally Yours’ in its title should reconsider even existing. (But more on Chuck Tingle later, I have a whole blog post planned just for him) P.s I was unaware of the unicorn’s nautical proclivities.

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4. Not only are these titles questionable, but their subject matter isn’t far behind either.

 

 

5. This author also wrote, “God Loves me, why can’t I get my locker open.”

worst-book-titles-2

 

So in conclusion, I am happy to report that I am not the only author who is bad at coming up with names.

 

Judge it!

I’m so excited to have my two final covers from my publisher, Grand Central Publishing, for the first 2 books in my series ‘The Destination Love’ Series. It’s a fun, romantic comedy series about finding love in surprising- not to mention warm, tropical and exotic– places. (As the covers suggest)

I loved the covers individually, but now that I see them together, I REALLY love them. It’s super exciting to see the series finally coming together after such a lot of hard work and many sleepless nights (months)

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*Jo Watson is a multi-award-winning author of romantic comedies. Her book Burning Moon is coming out in August this year and will be translated into French, German and Italian. Her books have been read over 18 Million times online on Wattpad and she is represented my Erica Spellman of the Trident Media Group. You can pre-order her book here.

http://www.amazon.com/Burning-Moon-Jo-Watson-ebook/dp/B01ARXVTE0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1461057653&sr=8-1

 

My CRAZY path to publishing.

pub deal

The internet. The glorious thing that is the world wide web. That is how my journey to becoming a published author began. It is a journey that is very different to most people’s, it is a journey that many authors frown on too- I have since discovered to my dismay.

They frown and raise eyebrows because I didn’t toil for years and suffer the soul-sucking devastation of doors being slammed in my face and endless rejection. (This seems to be considered a right of passage as an author) Instead, my journey was an almost overnight affair, which let me assure you, comes with its own set of unique challenges.

I had no intention of becoming an author in the first place. In fact, it was the last thing on my mind at that stage of my life. I had a very established career, I ran one company and was a partner in another and mainly worked as a TV scriptwriter and storyliner (the person that makes up the stories for the TV show) But one day, as I sat in front of my computer reading  a mail from a commissioning editor at our big South African network, I got very disillusioned. Let me not go into why I was disillusioned, that is a blog all on its own.

I longed to break out of the confines of my small country on the Southern tip of Africa. I longed for my work to reach a wider, international audience.

So I hit the internet. I Googled, “Write overseas” which yielded a million strange results. I then started Googling “Writing Internationally” and so it went on, until I stumbled on an international book writing contest. The annual So You Think You Can Write by Harlequin, hosted on a writing platform I had never heard about called Wattpad. 

The deadline was 3 weeks away and I was like, Ok… I can write a book. I’ve never written one before, in fact, I’ve never even read a romance novel in my entire life! (True story) I read crime thrillers and non-fiction books on Physics and the universe.

But hey… what the hell, right? So I sat down, got an idea and just started writing, posting all my work on Wattpad as I went. In three weeks I had accumulated 22, 000 reads on Wattpad, and bizarrely, bizarrely, bizarrely, I won the competition along with some other amazing writers. And then the book just took off on Wattpad like a crazy thing. It was totally out of my control and it just seemed to have a life of it’s own.

And then BAM… I was offered a 3 books deal. And BAM again, another publisher offered me a deal and so it escalated so fast that my head spun! I realized that in order to pursue this as a career, I would need to dive in head first. I don’t do things in a half-hearted manner. When I do, I do obsessively. So I closed my companies, bold move, took my savings and started writing books.

Things continued to escalate when I got an agent, Erica Spellman at The Trident Media group (only the best literary agency in the world) I say this not to boast, but to try and paint an adequate picture of how I felt when she emailed me and said, “please call me at your earliest convenience.” I cannot, cannot explain the shock, the sheer slap-through-the-face shock when this happened. I cannot express how nervous I was when I called her and I cannot express the strange, surrealness of the moment when she said she would represent me. A day later- literally- she forwarded me email correspondence that she had had with Grand Central Publishing in which they showed interest in my book.

And BAM… I got a three- book deal. The foreign rights were then sold and it will be translated into German, French and Italian.

My head still spins, I still feel like this is not real. I feel like I got dropped into the big leagues and I don’t even know what sport I am meant to be playing. Other authors have had years of practice leading up to the day they get published. They have had ample ‘warning’, I had nothing. I was thrown in head first with no knowledge of the industry at all. I sound ungrateful, but believe me, I am not. I think I am still in a state of shock and am only now settling into my new career, one which was almost thrust on me by accident.

You might be thinking at this stage that I hardly had to work to get this- that is what a lot of people assume. But let me assure you, that I have never worked so hard in my entire life. I wrote my first book, Burning Moon, in 3 weeks, with almost no sleep. And in the last two years I have subsequently written 7 books.

I have now been ‘playing’ at being a full-time author for just over two years now. I say ‘playing’ because I still don’t know what the F I am doing. My books have been read 18 million times, MILLION, on Wattpad and I sit with an agent and publishing deals and am officially making a good living doing it (Mainly due to the fact that our South African Rand is so shitty, and for every $1 I receive, I get R16) I still feel like if I pinch myself, I am going to wake up from all of this.

It has been the craziest ride of my life, and at age 35 I think I have actually found the thing I am meant to be doing. It took me more than ten years to find it, and I found it accidentally, but I’m doing it now and hope it will continue. I hope my career as an author is not going to be as ‘over-night’ as my path to becoming one was. This is a very real fear I have.

I have no idea what the moral of this story is, I think it is along the lines of ‘just put yourself out there‘ because you never know what will come back. The deadline forced me to write without thinking too hard, and there was no room for procrastinating. Look for writing competitions, I swear by them. It is the one way to assure your work is seen by the right people.

That is the nutshell version, I’ll give more details later on!

Someone pass that woman a razor!

deadline razor

The 15th of March might have been an ordinary day for you. So ordinary in fact that you might not even have noticed the little sucker pass on by.

But I noticed it.  Oh yes, I did.

I noticed it because it was the day my 3rd book was due to my publisher. Perhaps some backstory is needed here; Grand Central Publishing bought 3 of my books recently. Two of which they have read, one they have not. And the 15th March was when I had to hand in this book. And because they had not read it, and they loved the other two, the pressure was on. And I did not handle the pressure in a very ladylike manner, at all. 

In fact, the pressure reduced me to something vaguely resembling a Neanderthal. The first thing to slip was my attire. In my single-minded, obsessive pursuit of this deadline I began forgetting to get dressed in the morning. I rolled out of bed in my pajama’s, rolled out the house, across my little lawn and into my office- still in my pajama’s.

The next thing to disappear was my hair brush. Soon I began walking around looking like Cyndi Lauper’s long -lost love child that had been raised by apes in the Amazon  since being dropped off there in the mid-eighties to avoid scandal. My hair got so big that  it began attracting small items; my glasses, pens and pencils and finally small woodland creatures that decided to use it as a nest.

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And then, as the sleepless, stressful, cuticle-biting, chocolate-binging-eating, energy-drink-consuming days passed, I began to forget to shave. All desire to remove unwanted hair had left me. I had almost forgotten that such hair-removal devices even existed. First, my legs started sprouting hairs and then my armpits exploded forth with an abundant hairy bounty! But the worst part… was that I hadn’t even noticed it!

That’s how little attention I was paying to anything outside of my book (my husband- bless his soul- had probably pretended not to notice). I only became aware of my own hairiness when standing in the checkout queue at my local grocery store. I’d raised my arm to scratch my head (it was probably the small rodents causing it to itch) when I saw a man look at me in horror (more so than usual).

You see, the man had just come face-to-face with my unshaveness. He probably thought I was one of those bra-burning, freegan-feminists that’s into free-bleeding and shooting men in the balls. I vowed right there and then that when I got home I would shave immediately…

Only I didn’t. I forgot again, because whilst driving home I solved a plot issue  and rolled right back into my office and carried on typing in all my glorious hairy-ness!

p.s- I have since shaved. Although I am currently relapsing, as I chase a 1 May deadline.