Blog 64: Book Covers, Taglines and Blurbs.

If you write and publish books for a living then you probably groaned when you read the title of this blog. It can take many months (6 months minimum) between finishing your book and all of its edits, to it finally being published. Many authors begin writing their next book whilst simultaneously working on the finishing touches for their last book, and by finishing touches, I mean final edits, book covers, taglines and blurbs. It can be a bit of a headache, especially if you’re like me and you’d rather forget your previous work and focus solely on your new book idea instead. However, the title of this blog has been purposefully selected, as many authors and non-authors alike tend to overlook the importance of book covers, taglines and blurbs.

Let’s start from the top, as frustrating as it can be to look at your book and think ‘I have no idea what cover it should have or where to even begin’, getting a good book cover is incredibly important. The ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ may hold true in a lot of cases, but everyone knows that people do judge books by their covers. It can be the difference between someone picking up your book or just passing a glance over it.

If you read a lot of books then you have probably noticed that certain types of book covers tend read more »

Blog 63: 5 Nuggets of Advice for New Spoken Word Performers – Jen Hughes

I’ve been performing my poems for about three years. I started out performing at open mics in local pubs and as part of women’s poetry group Wummin’s Words, before performing at a festival on the Largs coast and in FreshAyr’s poetry events. Around this time, I found a treasure trove of spoken words events in Glasgow, which I couldn’t go to that regularly until I moved there late last year. In 2018, I made it a new year’s resolution to perform at these events more regularly, and I’m now a regular at a long-running spoken word open mic in Glasgow called Words and Music (or Tinhut Tuesdays, as it’s lovingly nicknamed). So, I thought I would share with you some wisdom that I acquired over the many gigs I’ve performed.

  1. Know your set-list

read more »

Blog 62: Why The Blue Curtains Probably Do Reflect Sadness.

I’ve written it before and you’ve probably heard it before, the English teacher exclaiming that the colour of an inanimate object is a clever tool used by the author to convey and deepen an emotion. I mentioned this briefly in Blog 37: On The Importance of Words but I didn’t explain why the author chose blue curtains and why your English teacher was probably right in saying that they did reflect sadness.

In the end it all comes down to psychology and how we associate certain feelings with certain words. There are certain word which we dislike and involuntarily shrink away from, this is called word-aversion, and there are some words which we like and are instantly drawn to. Different experiences and circumstances may affect which words you like and which words you don’t like, for instance I have a friend who hates the word ‘blood’ and seeing ‘blood’ for that matter, yet this word does not affect me. This can be very useful when building characters in a book and it can add an emotional human quality to your characters. read more »

Blog 58: Writing Something For Christmas – Jen Hughes

Image result for christmas readingBelated Happy holidays. Holly, jolly holiday season. It was that time of year again. The Christmas adverts were out, Christmas films were back-to-back on the TV, we had Christmas snow (or, in the case of my hometown, a slippery slick of sugar-coated sheet ice), the same five Christmas songs were on a loop in all the shops, tinsel and fairy lights drenched everywhere, and people shopped like the world was about to end. The more acceptable time of the year to have a Christmas tree is coming to an end, Christmas holidays, Christmas, Christmas and now we’re all stuffed from eating lots of food and socially exhausted from spending time with our family and friends. It’s also the time of year where poor students have been busy cramming for preliminary or end-of-semester exams and pulling all-nighters for essays or other deadlines. If you’re a performer, you’re probably silently relieved that Christmas has finally passed and you’re not now limited to just the festive playlist, which of course had to be about Christmas or you would have appeared as though you had crawled out from under a rock.

I learned this the hard way two years ago. read more »

Blog 55: Artists and Authors.

You might not think that authors are often artists too, but it seems to be true that creative people like to explore lots of different creative avenues even if their efforts are purely for pleasure and never taken seriously. With the recent opening of the British Library’s ‘Harry Potter – A History Of Magic’, I was surprised to stumble across blogs and articles claiming that J.K. Rowling herself has drawn pictures of her characters, though it is unclear as to whether or not any of these drawings are actually on display at the British Library. But if you’re dying to have a look at Rowling’s artwork, you should be able to find her drawings with a quick google search or a visit to her Harry Potter website Pottermore. read more »

Blog 51: What Writing A Novel Looks Like.

When I tell people that I’m an author and that I write YA fiction, I am often met with looks of wonder and awe. Most people seem to think that writing a book is an amazing feat, something that ordinary people just cannot do. It is flattering to say the least, and as much as it does take a certain type of person with a good imagination and determination, a lot of it actually just comes down to hard work and perseverance. These looks of wonder and awe are often followed by questions about my work and life. Questions which I struggle to answer adequately on the spot, so here is a picture instead.

This is a conservative picture of what my work and life looks like when I’m working on a novel. I say conservative because this picture is minus the caffeine, sleepless hours, hundreds of binned crumpled notes, dozens of typed draft versions, culling of characters, the rewrites, and the final edit. This picture is just part of what it takes for me to write a story, a story I’m not sure anyone is going to read or like at the end of the day, and as for sales, well, I hope so!

People often ask me how do I write a book and what is it like? read more »

Blog 50: So I Guess I’m A Blogger? – Jen Hughes.

I wonder how I should start this… Hello, I guess? I am on a quest to find out the meaning of the blog. What is it to blog? What does it mean? Is it just talking fluff about yourself or is there some deeper meaning?

But “who are you?” I hear you ask. And “what are you doing on the Diary Of A Young Writer?” My name is Jen Hughes. I’m not your conventional blogger, and the more you read of me, the more you’ll know why. I hope to be a novelist, create and write some great films and TV shows- maybe the odd Doctor Who episode or series- and make poetry cool again. I say ‘I hope’ because I’ve only ever completed one novel, forgotten how to write scripts and, well, there are already people out there making poetry ‘cool’.  I just want to be one of those people.

I wrote a whole big memoir piece about my writer’s mind, so I won’t go into that again. I’m also going to study English Literature and Film at university, so I expect to have some anecdotes to share with you whether you want to hear them or not. But that wasn’t where my days of talking fluff about myself began.


I was in first year at secondary school. I was becoming a teenager faster than you could even say the word. Instead of being the kind of teenager who had a social life, I spent most of my time writing. At this stage it was ideas for teen romance novels, Young Adult fiction, terrible song lyrics and lots and lots of diary entries and lists. The lists weren’t part of my actual writing, but more an opportunity to dream about my future, write down my notions and feelings. I didn’t see the significance of them at the time, and especially after I realised I didn’t have the drive to realise the goals I wrote down.


I’m in my final year at school and dating some man I met on a dating site. He suggests that I start a blog, as that’s what writers do right? Maybe he noticed the fact that I was hitting a major bout of creative block. My brain went from a hive of buzzing bees to a void over the course of a couple of months. I did attempt a ‘Facts About Me’ post, which I knew wouldn’t do anything because I didn’t feel it was serious writing. It wasn’t that fun to read and I felt pretentious even considering posting it (not that I knew where to post it on), so I dropped the notion and got on with my studies.


I’d been knocked out of my work schedule by a horrible chest infection and have spent the past three weeks trying to shake it off, without much progress. I’ve had a website set up on WordPress since June last year, and I was posting a weekly stream of flash fictions and the odd poem. I was also managing to have some of my works, such as short stories, published on online magazines and journals. Sadly, combining ill health with a six-day work schedule meant that I had no time or energy to even think creatively, let alone write another flash fiction. I needed to apologise to the (very few) people who actively followed my work and give them an idea of my plight.

Thus, my first somewhat readable blog post was born – Down With The Sickness. I thought it was hilariously appropriate to use a heavy metal song by Disturbed as my title. Not just because of the title summing up my life at that point, but sometimes the vocals sounded like my actual coughs. (Yep my chest infection was that bad.) Besides, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry, right?

But I didn’t catch the blogging bug until I wrote a reflective piece about being a teenager – 11 Life Lessons from my Thirteen Year Old self. I mentioned earlier that I wrote lists when I was younger and didn’t really think much of them, but I looked at this one that I’d totally forgotten I’d written, and thought ‘Gosh, she has some points.”  I wanted to keep it as relatable as possible. We’ve all been teenagers at one point. I also wanted to structure it in headers for each lesson, to make it easier to read. After all, the more relatable it is, the more people want to read it, right?

So I hope that I can add to Diary of A Young Writer with my own experiences and learning processes. And who knows, maybe someone out there can benefit from them.


 Jen Hughes will be a regular contributor to Diary of A Writer’s Blog. She is a young writer from Ayrshire, Scotland who has been writing since she was seven. Her work has been published on a variety of online journals and magazines such as the McStorytellers, Minus Paper, Oletangy Review and Pulp Metal Magazine to name a few.

If you’re liking what you see so far, you can find more of her work in the links in the article/down below and on her website (Her website is full of original short stories, poems and flash fictions.) You can also follow her on Twitter (@dearoctopus4) or Tumblr  or give her a like on Facebook (Dear octopus writing).



Blog 49: Four Twitter Micro-Stories

I’ve written several micro-stories for Twitter, but inevitably tweets are drowned and lost in the thousands of tweets posted every second, which on average is actually 6,000 tweets per second. So I thought I would share my Twitter micro-stories for you here, just in case you missed them. Writing a micro-story for Twitter is no small feat if you ever want to try it yourself, you have 140 characters to play around with and that includes all your spaces and punctuation too. Here are four of my micro-story tweets and I shall explain my thoughts and ideas behind the writing for these pieces.

For this micro-story I was actually daydreaming about characters, more specifically creating characters and how our ancestors gifted certain circumstances and natural objects to human-like deities. read more »

Blog 46: An Interview With Young Writers’ Short Story Competition, 2017 Winner, Holly Kybett Smith.

  1. I loved “Laboratory Angel” and the exploration of science ethics in your ideas. Science is obviously something that interests you. Do you have a science background at all?

To be honest, I don’t. I’ve got GCSEs in physics, chemistry and biology but that’s about as far as my background certifiably extends. My interest in science – biology especially – has always had a strong influence over my writing, though. A lot of what I read is science fiction, and when I was studying biology at school I had a very enthusiastic teacher; she taught my class way more than what was on the syllabus and all of it with this crazy-excited gleam in her eyes. These days I think any background I have in science can be classed as hobby-work. I like reading and learning about it when I have the time.

  1. What are your thoughts on AI and the growing trend for creating intelligent robots?

I love this question. The whole concept of AI – specifically robots mimicking human cognitive functions – seemed like absolute fiction when I was growing up, and it astounds me to think that that wasn’t even very long ago, considering how far scientists have come since then. Personally I’m both excited by the prospect and terrified. While I would love to see where we could go with these sorts of technologies, I’m worried about how we as humans will play it. I don’t want things turning out the way they did in Laboratory Angel, for example! read more »

Blog 35: Ten Tips On Writing A Short Story.

Outlet Publishing and their team have kindly asked me to help judge their short story competition, and even though I haven’t written a short story myself, yet, and I’m certainly no expert. I am an avid reader and I have been through the writing and publication process, so I do feel in my humble opinion that I have a basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Over the past two months I have read dozens of entries written by young, hopeful candidates. Some have been very good, others not so, but as the entries have been piling up around me I have noticed similarities and reoccurring patterns. The same mistakes have been cropping up again and again, and there appears to be a preference towards particular genres and themes. The latter is neither strictly bad nor good, but the former is most definitely bad. With this in mind, I am going to share with you some insight into what I feel short story competition judges are looking for, and hopefully help you and your short stories shoot to the top of the winning pile.


Tip Number 1: Read The Rules.

This may seem obvious, but make sure you read the competition’s specifications, rules and guidelines. I don’t know if it was because candidates couldn’t be bothered to read the rules or if they simply misread them, but a couple of the short story submissions I have recently received didn’t sit within the required word count. Judges may be able to forgive a word count that falls 10% above or below the maximum and minimum requirement, but if your story is more than 10% above or below then don’t submit it. Also, some competitions state a specific age range or country of residence, so make sure you read everything carefully before submitting your work.

Tip Number 2: Quality Over Quantity. read more »