Dawn Brookes Publishing

Publishing Topics by author Dawn Brookes

Tag: Authors advice

Writing a Great Book Outline

Writing a Great Book Outline and Writing to Target

I have recently finished my very first debut novel so don’t consider myself an expert on this but I was greatly helped by using a system for writing the book. This system kept me to time and was just what I needed. The system I used I have adapted from one I learned from a course on Udemy called Reverse Engineer Riveting Fiction

The first thing I need to say is that I did veer off but not hugely and you will see what I mean when I explain it.


Obviously before you can develop a plan there needs to be a story in your head. My story evolved but I had the basics of the plot before I started writing.

I had a main character (initially it was 2), sub-characters important to the plot, a scene (set on a cruise ship), a theme – murder mystery (initially thriller but turned out to be cosy as I don’t do graphic), a beginning, a middle and an end (I had two in mind).

Word Count

The next thing was to decide on a rough word count. There is some debate over words needed but in general they are as follows:

Word Counts are not written in stone

Depending on what you read there are different opinions on how long a book should be so I have gathered a few together but they are just guides. Publishers will have minimum and maximum word counts for different books and generally frown on shorter novels and those that are too long.

  • Novel 40,000 words or over (generally 60,000 for mystery, 90,000+ for non-series novel). Some authors and publishers recommend 50,000+ with a maximum of 120,000 but Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix is over 250,000 words!
  • Young Adult 40,000 to 80,000 words
  • Biography & general non-fiction 50,000 to 120,000 words
  • Memoir & self-help 40,000 to 90,000 words
  • Novella 17,500 to 39,999
  • Novellette 7,500 to 17,499
  • Chapter books for children start at 16,000
  • Short story under 7,500
  • Flash fiction 500 to 1,000 words
  • Children’s picture books 400 to 800 words (some of mine are 1,200)

Splitting the Story

Splitting the word count to write the book

In my case I opted for 56,000 words (it has ended up being nearer the 60,000). As this was my first novel and I wanted to keep to time, I decided to aim for the same number of words per chapter using a table system.

The book had to have a beginning, a middle and an end and I wanted tension to build until the climax so this had to be factored in.

The grid or table includes the number of chapters split into one quarter for the beginning, one half for the middle and one quarter for the end. These quarters are then divided into 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and so on, depending on how long the book will be and how many chapters you want to include.

So for example for a 60,000 word book using a 6 grid system 6 x 4 or 24 chapters.

60,000/24 = 2,500 words per chapter (guide only, can be flexible)

There would need to be 6 chapters in section 1, 12 in section 2 and 6 in section 3

In this example there will need to be at least 24 chapters of 2,500 words each split into sections.

I outlined each of the chapters with points that would be included in each, building on the story and adding tension as the story developed. By the halfway stage the tension was building and by three quarters it was higher with no resolution in sight. The final quarter then built on that tension but arrived at resolution.

Writing in this way kept me to time 

I used 56,000 with the 5 grid system 5 x 4 or 20 chapters 

56,000/20 = 2,800 words per chapter.

Writing the outline for each of those chapters helped me meet the target of writing the 2,800 per day. I didn’t stick to 20 chapters and have ended up with over 30 but that didn’t matter. The system helped me write the required number of words per day because I knew what I wanted to include in each of those grids.

Writing at a slower pace or writing more words

If you want to write at a slower pace you can write half the amount per day e.g. 1,400

If you want to write a much higher word count you will want to choose a higher number of grids resulting in more chapters. For example:

9 grid system 9 x 4 = 36

100,000/36 = 2,778 (give or take) words per day or half if you want to write slower


This is a system that has helped me and I hope that it helps you. If you want to learn more about this system check out Reverse Engineer Riveting Fiction by Geoff Shaw where he explains it much better and outlines plot building within the system.

Cosy Mysteries










Writing: Lessons I Learned from Writing My Memoirs – A Case Study

Writing: Lessons I Learned from Writing My Memoirs – A Case Study

Dawn Brookes, British nurse, shares what she’s learned from writing two memoirs
photo of Dawn Brookes

Thinking of writing and self-publishing a memoir? Get off to a flying start by reading this case study by ALLi author member Dawn Brookes, who shares the benefit of her experience gained from her two self-published memoirs containing stories from her early nursing career.


Why I Wrote My Nursing Memoirs

I started the first memoir while working full time as a community matron in Derbyshire. Initially I was writing for myself and for future generations who might want to explore family history. I became determined as I remembered the patients from those early days, I wanted their brave stories to be told, and I was remembering the fun and camaraderie of nursing in the 1970s.

Progress was slow going as I had hardly any spare time.

Set Back by Lost Work

In 2014 my computer crashed, and the hard drive was irreparably damaged. I lost the majority of the memoir. At that point, I gave up. Work was too busy and I began to doubt the value of writing it. I had major things going on in my life, as I was about to semi-retire and work part-time. I forgot about the book.

Broken Bones

As published in Alli blog

Hurry Up Nurse – the first instalment

Fate conspired to remind me about the memoir when, following a fall, I broke my foot in three places and ended up in plaster. I was confined to the house and bored out of my brains – when I remembered!

I was able to concentrate on one thing, in one place and I completed the work in seven weeks.

The most challenging part for me was developing patients’ stories without identifying them due to confidentiality.

I had to change things around a bit and mix up details while remaining true to the facts.

Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned

cover of book 2

And the first sequel (More are in the pipeline)

I made a whole load of mistakes in August 2016.

The biggest mistake was not having the manuscript proofread, although I had read it numerous times and   asked a few friends to read it, we were all too wrapped up in the story and missed the numerous grammatical errors.

The next mistake I made was joining the Amazon Advantage programme. I ordered 200 books. The pricing of memoirs is relatively low at £7.99. I had sensibly had the book cover designed by a graphic designer, and the Kindle book formatted and converted by a professional. I published the book on Kindle.

The orders were coming in from Amazon Advantage, but I was posting books to their warehouses all around the UK, wasting time at the post office.

It was costing more money than I was making!

The next major faux pas was when I read the book and noticed an error on the second page. I was learning a harsh lesson. In spite of this, complete strangers were reviewing the book favourably – even on Goodreads it was getting three stars! This encouraged me that the content was at least readable. I found ALLi’s Debbie Young via a blog post, and she kindly agreed to read the book. Debbie was encouraging about the content and gentle with her advice.

I bit the bullet and hired a proofreader which was the best thing I could have done.


I was able to correct the mistakes for the Kindle version, but the print book was more difficult. I had sold about 90 books when I decided it was time to cut my losses and do a reprint.

I realised that the Advantage programme was not right, and I moved the book to Createspace after a few emails to Amazon Advantage.

Change, Change, Change

The beauty of spending decades working in the NHS is that constant change requires flexibility which is vital, and I applied those skills to publishing.

The second memoir flowed better because my writing had improved.


  • I found it easier to mix up events and personalities to protect confidentiality.
  • The whole publishing process was much simpler.
  • I learned how to format books for kindle and epub and for print too, which saved me money.
  • This money was spent on proofing and editing the second memoir.
  • I saved a fortune by using print on demand.

More Memoirs to Follow

With lessons learned and readers requesting more, there is likely to be another memoir or two in the future. I still have around eighty print copies of my first book if anyone wants one – as long as they don’t mention the grammar!

Newspaper cutting

Celebrated as a success story in Derby local paper.

OVER TO YOU If you’ve learned lessons from writing a memoir, do you have top tips to add to Dawn’s list? We’d love to hear them!

As published on Alliance of Independent Authors blog   26/10/2017


7 Habits authors should develop in order to become better writers

7 Habits Authors Need to Develop in order to become better writers


Successful authors are like successful people in all areas of life, they do things in common that contribute very much to their success. So how can we learn from such authors in order to help with our own success? This article will suggest 7 habits authors need to develop in order to become better writers.

We can start by developing good habits. This article outlines 7 good habits that potential authors may find helps them break through writing barriers.


Habit 1: Write about something that brings out your passion

Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, it is important to write about something you are passionate about. Most successful authors have an emotional connection to their content or story. If you write fiction, it might be worth writing from a place of emotional familiarity. A genuine experience will come through in the writing that helps readers to connect with the story. If you are writing in the non-fiction genre, it is important to choose a topic you are passionate or enthusiastic about. A subject that you are knowledgeable about obviously helps and thorough research is required. Authors devote a lot of time to their writing, therefore you should include passion, sentiment and enthusiasm.

Habit 2: Step outside of your comfort zone

You can afford to experiment when you write. This is particularly true of fiction; you can develop characters that are blown up out of all proportion if you want to. The characters can go way beyond what you would do in real life and they can take risks. Your characters can make decisions that we would not have the courage to make in our own lives. After all, it’s not about what we would do, it’s about allowing our imagination to develop a character that enables our readers to take notice.

When writing non-fiction, it may be that for you, it’s time to speak out. Take a view and stand by it, presenting the case with confidence. It doesn’t matter if the view is controversial, in fact you may attract more readers by being controversial. People tend to listen to someone who is clear in their views. You can be brave in your writing and don’t be afraid of criticism.

Habit 3: Plan & Outline

Developing a plan is probably the most important part of writing a book. Planning is essential part of success. You will find it much easier to finish a book if you take the time to plan the story.  at The more planning you do, the more enjoyable and structured the writing procedure will be.

Whether you are self publishing or traditionally publishing, treat your plan as if you were having to write it for a publisher. Include chapter outlines and a brief synopsis of what each chapter will contain. If you are writing fiction include details about the protagonist and what their hopes and dreams are. There will also be an antagonist who seeks to stop the hero/s from achieving their dream.

Habit 4: Write every day (or most days)

There will be times when you are not in the mood, but if you treat writing like any other job you must commit yourself to writing. By all means take a break, sometimes you may want to use your phone or an audio-device to make a change. Many successful authors write every day, including Christmas Day, although this might be a bit extreme, even authors deserve holidays. However you achieve this, it is important that writers write because that is what they do.

Habit 5: Work at it

Being a successful author involves hard work, there are deadlines to meet, promotional commitments and other marketing activities. Some authors are prolific writers and publish many books in a year, others produce one or two but either way it is hard work. An author has to work hard to get noticed among the thousands upon thousands of others out there. Once your name is established it is a bit easier because you have a following but you will still need to work hard to produce more books. No matter what way you look at it, if you dislike hard work, you will not be a successful author.

Habit 6: Perseverance

Almost every successful author has found that their success is due to perseverance and determination. It is not unusual if going down the traditional publishing route to have agents reject work and if this is the case, unless it needs a rewrite, submit it again to someone else. It is a well known fact that J.K Rowling was turned down by numerous publishers before the first Harry Potter novel was picked up by Bloomsbury. There is rarely overnight success in writing but if it happens to you, enjoy the ride. Authors that succeed are those who keep knocking on doors until they do. It’s not easy but don’t ever give up unless your own mother tells you she wouldn’t buy your book! Those who have never failed have never tried.

Habit 7: Keep Writing

When you have finally written your book and have either submitted it for publication, or self published it, move on to the next one. If you’ve done the best you can with your work and it is the best it can be you need to trust that it will draw the readers you hoped for. Regardless of whether your work has been accepted or rejected, keep writing. Once you finish one manuscript, have a short break if you need to and then start on another. If the one you’ve sent is picked up, the agent will be happy that you’ve got something else in the pipeline, and if not you’re well on your way to finishing your next manuscript. If you self publish, once your work has been proofread, edited and published you will follow the same principle of moving on with the next project. You will have the additional burden of marketing which is why some self published authors don’t publish until they have a series ready to market and then they drip feed those books onto the market.



In this post I have discussed 7 habits that authors should develop in order to become better writers. These seven habits will help any would be author to develop good writing habits. This article hasn’t really discussed the marketing aspect of writing a book because that is another subject that every author needs to be aware of whether they are going to be traditionally published or self published. The writing habits discussed in this article are aimed at encouraging writers to develop sustainable practices. Anyone can and probably should write one book but being a writer requires a bit more perseverance, good habits and perhaps a bit of luck.

Dawn Brookes is the author of Hurry up Nurse:  Memoirs of nurse training in the 1970s and Hurry up Nurse 2: London calling, as well as Children’s books and property investment books. For more information about Dawn Brookes visit the website.


How to Publish on Amazon’s KDP Platform

How to Publish on Amazon’s KDP Platform

Are you publishing your own ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle platform?

how to publish on Amazon's kdp platformIf so, then I am sure you are excited about the simplicity of publishing a book in this way but that is only the beginning. The ebook market is huge and is only getting bigger. In some ways these days, it is a little harder to break through int this rapidly growing market, but at the same time, there are all kinds of tools and resources available to you. The industry has changed but we need to remember that we are now building the world’s online library.
You wouldn’t be alone if you do not fully understand what is going on. It is kind of obvious with digital books being published that we have a digital library building up. How to Publish on Amazon’s KDP platform is a simple yet complex process. To put this in perspective, the process is quite easy but there are quite a few things to be taken into account. In the coming years, there will be fewer printed books and more and more digital books so not publishing on the platform could be writer suicide.

eBook Growth

The above should tell you as an aspiring author that you are taking part in the beginning of something, and so, whilst it comes with some caveats, growth in the eBook market represents a bigger opportunity than most people think. I am not one of those people who thinks that print books are dead because for many of us die hard reading fans, we still like the look, feel and smell of physical books. If you look around though at how the next generation are reading you will se that it is usually via a screen or with earphones (audio-books is a new growth area I believe).

How to Publish on Amazon’s KDP Platform

Account Set up

Like with everything in life it is easy to publish an ebook once you know how. You first need an Amazon Kindle Self Publishing account before you can start uploading your first title. The account can be opened using your current Amazon buyer’s email and password and takes a few minutes to set up. The longest bit of the account set-up is completing the online tax form but the instructions are clear enough, even for someone like me.

Files (formatting & conversion)

Once the account is set up, it is not quite as simple as uploading your book as a file, because you do need to ensure that the ebook is adequately formatted or it can look terrible on the screen. If you look at what most other authors do, you will realise that the formatting is not that difficult once you have learned the skill. I don’t have the time here to go through formatting in detail but may do so in the future as I format my own. If you don’t want to do it yourself then you can outsource the task through an outsourcing platform such as Fiverr.
For Amazon the file (once formatted) needs to be converted Mobi format and for other platforms it needs to be in ePub. There is free software that will do the conversion for you from a word document. Once you have converted the file to Mobi you need to save it to your computer and it can then be uploaded to the KDP platform through your account.

Tables & Photos

Tables do not convert well to eBook and so they have to be saved as JPEG images and then re-inserted into the word document before converting the file.
If you include images in your book, make sure that you reduce the size before publishing or you will lose out on royalties due to the costs of the download. 72 dpi is adequate for eBooks but not for print books which need to be minimum of 300 dpi, so you will need different image files for both if going to print. All of this is best done in photoshop and you can buy photoshop elements for reasonable costs if it is something you will be doing a lot of.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t use the handles in word to resize images.

Don’t skip editing & proofreading

You will also need to ensure that your book is professionally proofread and has a professional cover design. These are all things worth paying for and most of these services can be outsourced. I made a big mistake with my first book and had loads printed, thinking the book was good to go. I immediately noticed grammatical errors and then paid for a proof reader who was worth every penny I spent. I had to discard more books than I care to remember! Don’t make the same mistake.

Book description

The one thing that people read in detail is the book description and I have learned many lessons over the past year about writing a good sales copy. The description needs to be captivating and it needs to stand out. The problem with the KDP platform is that if you just enter the text straight into the description box it looks quite boring and doesn’t stand out. Spaces and headers are not taken into account unless you use HTML which is allowed. I have learned some basic HTML for writing better book descriptions and a sheet is available here.


The most important part of the process when uploading a book is choosing the right keywords. Keywords are everything in terms of getting the book to show up on the right page and to improve your ranking. You will need to research keywords for your book that are high traffic generating but low competition which is not always easy. There is not enough time to go into this here but I will produce an article or video in the near future.


Once you get your book and cover uploaded, it is time to hit publish and start the marketing. Many people say you should get your family and friends to buy as many books as possible so that the market pays attention. However, do not focus on this too much as it can actually skew your books ranking. For instance, if your friends and family do not normally buy in that genre then the books that come up in the ‘also read’ or ‘also bought’ sections of Amazon will list books that are totally different to yours and yours will be listed alongside these which makes it hard for Amazon to categorise it properly. You do need as many reviews as possible though so you will need to weigh up the pros & cons.


What you need to do is market your book in a variety of ways. Promotion on social media is a must. Do you have your accounts grown yet? If not, it’s okay because you can grow them at the same time you are publishing. Make sure that you have an Amazon author page set up and a separate Facebook page for your writing. You need to set up separate author pages on UK and USA Amazon.
You also might want to pay attention to Amazon Marketing Services. They let you run two different types of ads:
  • Sponsored Product
  • Product Display
They are cost per click ads. You set up your own ad and once it is setup it is submitted it for approval. It will then show up on your ad campaign dashboard as part of your KDP account, which is below your sales dashboard. You can see how many impressions your ads get and how many clicks. Currently this is mainly for the US market although there is a UK platform but this is not linked to KDP at present and therefore you can only promote paperbacks limiting the ads to Headline Search and Product Display ads which most people say are not as effective as Sponsored Product ads.
You do only pay for the clicks, and you set beforehand how much you pay per click and how much you wish to spend each day. The dashboard also shows you your sales based on clicks. There are also free book promotions and a ton of advertising sites you can use after launching your book.


Are you ready to start your publishing career? If you are, then you need to start getting that book ready. This article on how to publish on Amazon’s KDP platform should help you get started. As you do, plan out all of your first steps for advertising at the same time so that you are ready to make the right moves.
Dawn Brookes is author of:
Hurry up Nurse
Hurry up Nurse 2
Buy to let: 7 steps to successful investing
Property Investment: how to fund your retirement with a buy to let property pension.

Marketing Books & Good News re. Local Library

Marketing Books

Great News – I will be library stock!

Not me exactly, but my work. I was delighted to hear from my local library this week that they were happy to purchase stock of my memoir Hurry up Nurse. I have to say that since publishing the kindle version last August, followed by the paperback in September I have been on a very steep learning curve. I don’t know quite what I imagined would happen when I published the book – immediate best seller……………? I soon learned I knew nothing about marketing books.

Marketing – a new lesson

Suffice it to say that I hadn’t anticipated the amount of work that goes into marketing a book once it’s published. It is definitely like learning to drive – it all starts after you pass your test! Many reading this I am sure will relate to this, particularly if you have begun a self publishing journey. After the initial flurry of sales from friends and family died down, it was learn, learn, learn. I think my poor Facebook friends must have got sick to death of the sight of my book cover and I hope that they have forgiven me for going into overdrive! I know this article is about being stocked in a library but I just wanted to write down all of the ploys for marketing books I have had to learn along the way.

Social Media – What’s that?

First of all there was social media! What? I need to create a separate Facebook page, twitter account, Pinterest, Google +, YouTube, blog, website! Are you kidding me? The reality is – yes to most of these but it doesn’t have to happen all in one day. I think the first priority for me was to create a separate FB page and then to resist the temptation and stop bombarding my normal account friends with posts about my books! I am almost there, I promise. Twitter I just cannot fall in love with so have not gone there – never say never though! YouTube has been an easier journey for me because I love teaching and training, I did always want to be an actress! Blogging is relatively new but again, because I like sharing knowledge I am starting to enjoy it!. Building a website – not an easy task but I have managed to build one for publishing and one for property investment. Having a website and getting traffic to it are two different things but that is a blog post for another day. As you can see marketing books is not easy.

Anyway, back to the main theme, this has been a good week for me, as I said, Derby Libraries have agreed to stock my book and I did have an order yesterday from Gardners for normal and large print versions so they have been true to their word. They have also kindly arranged a ‘meet the author’ session in one of my local libraries for later this month.

Contacting a Library

I started by going into my local library, I initially gave one of the staff a copy which they said would be sent to acquisitions – I think that is short for charity bag or bin as it disappeared! Next, I went into the library on a quiet day and asked for the name of the librarian who was responsible for purchasing books and she kindly gave me a contact email address. I wasn’t sure I would get very far, as, like many libraries around the country the county libraries are strapped for cash and some have been facing closures. I sent off a nice email introducing myself and my books and asked for a meeting. I explained that although self-published, the books were of a high standard (following a correction to a faux pas made early on) and would be happy to show examples. I heard nothing for a month and so decided to try again and I resent the message but added a little bit of personal understanding about the difficulties libraries were undergoing – I meant every word because I love libraries. I even offered to donate my books for free as stock. I am not sure whether it was this email or the start of the new tax year that brought a response but I am delighted that it did! They have ordered 6 normal print and 3 large print books and I couldn’t be more pleased about the extra exposure this will bring to my work.

A Great Week

I have had a really good week which makes up for all the plodding I have been doing over the past six months. I had a lovely email from an American reviewer today encouraging me in my work and saying that she had no doubt I could be a Best Seller! Wow, what a confidence booster that was. Whilst this article is about marketing books and being stocked in local libraries, I am still not totally comfortable with marketing but this week has been good. I am also learning more about outsourcing but again, that is a subject for another day.

I couldn’t end without a bit of marketing could I so the book can be purchased on my website or on Amazon.

To buy on Amazon click on the images:

Kindle Version

Paperback Version 

Nursing biography