Category Archives: Self-Publishing

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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Here we go … setting your writing goals

Yay it’s a shiny new year! Don’t spoil it!

I don’t know about you but I love the feel of a new year. I used to see it as a way to start over with new paper, clean diary, new goals but now I see it more as a restoration of the default setting and to make sure I am still on track.

Resolutions are usually broken within a couple of weeks so I prefer to think it terms of setting realistic goals and this can be at any time, but then pushing yourself to achieve. If you see it as a chore you will never succeed. If you  just keep making lists and moving the writing one down further, or pushing deadlines too much, the initial relief you feel will fade and you will still feel like a failure.

I am very driven anyway and I remember spending new year’s with  friend a few years ago and one of the first things I did in the new year was buy a copy of Writers & Artists Yearbook for that year and say — I have to stop getting rejected and I will do what it takes to find me an agent or publisher. At the time I think this was with the infamous Colourblind and I adopted a new approach by being more choosy in the agents I contacted. While I soon learned at the time my writing was not quite there, the agents who did look at it mostly asked to see the rest of it and it was certainly better than my send to all approach as a novice!

When I knew it wasn’t good enough I then set out new goals and took more courses and in my case studied for my MA too. I went back to short stories to learn the craft. I was determined and still am. But an important lesson I learned was that like evolution and indeed ecology, we must adapt to a changing landscape in order to move forward.

At this melancholy time of year we often look back. So look back at some of your earlier writing as this is a wonderful way to see how far you’ve come. We never stop learning.

So here’s some advice for those with manuscripts and the dream  that this will be the year, how much have you worked and reworked that MS? What has the feedback been like? Are you still trying to flog a — no I won’t say it, are you still trying with the same novel you wrote ages ago? There comes a time when you have to move forward with the next one, as I had to do with Colourblind. That isn’t the same as giving up, it’s learning, adapting, taking what you learned from each step and progressing and one day you will come back to that MS with fresh eyes and be able to do it justice. You will see why it was rejected.

I am a lover of lists and I live for the dream, but not just the realisation of it, the ride to get there which is why I say you should celebrate every success along the way, it’s all part of the journey. And we never stop learning.

For me as well as my having to keep telling people about my book (still 99p on Kindle it seems!) and planning the LA trip etc, I am now having to focus on getting the next one submitted and being prepared for rejection because it will come — but let’s hope this is the year I find me an agent.

We need goals, but just don’t set yourself ones that mean flying before you have learned to walk, the oh sod it, let’s just self-publish this anyway approach. You know what I mean, sending it out there when it’s not quite ready. It is a long ride, but if you want it you will get it.

And anyone who missed my Essex twang I was invited onto a Radio Show on New Year’s Eve. Funny as I follow a couple of Essex radio stations on Facebook and that morning it had asked for people to sum up their year in 5 words. I chose: My dream finally came true. And in a short follow-up said why. Apparently it was read out on BBC Radio Essex and I was picked up for the Mike Forrest Show that goes out to 39 local radio stations in the BBC! So that was a great way to end the year. Oh and when you listen, sorry George Clooney! I only meant he is too old to play Gary in the film (since Gary is in this 30s) I’m sure I could find a role for him and no way is he too old, oh George … fine!

Mike Forrest Show 31/12/2013

(about 23 mins in)

Welcome to 2014! 

Come fly with me!

NYE

PS if anyone wants to contribute a piece to CafeLit here is the link: CL

Bridge House are now open for short story submissions: BH

And if you want me to start up Fiction Clinic on the last Friday of the month, I am seeking 500 words that need a little online TLC. |Email them to me

Oh and I have revised my prices on novels and novella work finally on my website but there is still an introductory discount for new clients

Tomorrow I will share a link for a little guest blog post I did!

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To Self-publish or Not to Self-publish …

Today self-publishing opens up a whole new world to the writer. Not only can writers still pay for the services of vanity publishers, but they can publish relatively inexpensively via sites like CreateSpace as well as set up their own small presses as I did with Paws n Claws. They can publish direct to Kindle, Smashwords, for iPhones etc, etc. And this means their work can get out there into the world.

On top of that the stigma that once surrounded self-publishing seems to have been largely dispelled and agents and publishers now have a way of assessing how proactive authors are in self-promotion as well as look at previous sales and whether they have a fan-base already established — testing the water. This will help them sell a book to a publisher.

That said, if the work has that elusive WOW factor we all seek, it makes no difference. They will take you on anyway regardless of social presence or previous sales. But they will look at it if it exists, for sure. And this was a question I asked a couple of agents.

It’s not the same world it used to be for sure. Opportunities exist in ways they never used to and with the right degree of knowledge and some appreciation of  the business models, relative nobodies can achieve great success. But (oh here it is) a HUGE number of people do not. It’s hard work.

I think it’s great this opportunity exists. I really do.

But I do have concerns that knowing this other way is out there can hinder the development of some writers.

Yes I did say that. Yes. I. Did.

Let me explain. Rejection, painful as it is, for me anyway, has been the fuel that drives my desire to be the best, if such a thing is achievable. I seek validation in acceptance from the industry, as hard as that ladder is to climb. I could have chosen to publish my novel at Bridge House relatively cheaply. I could have created an imprint with my own press and done it that way. And I did think about it, many times. I still don’t rule it out in the future. This isn’t about saying that isn’t good enough. No. Don’t misunderstand me. But for me, I am a control freak when it comes to this journey of improvement. This need to  write the perfect story, especially the perfect novel and I know this probably does not exist, or is only in the mind of the believer. But I try anyway.  I strive to get better and better. 

So rejection ignited or added more flames to that fire. In this world of opportunity I still see the agent and the big publisher as the ultimate. I am thrilled to have been signed to Parthian. Thrilled isn’t a strong enough word for it. They are a great publisher with a great reputation and I am still dancing! I hope it does well and I hope I can find me an agent for the next novels.

What rejection did was teach me I wasn’t good enough — yet. And yet is the important word. So I did and still do everything I can to be good enough.

My fear with doing it yourself, is side-stepping, or perhaps short-cutting and not learning to be as good as possible. But let me say — for some. Not all. And this is where critique and copy editors are invaluable to process.

If you do self-publish don’t rely on a friend or even a teacher who knows grammar, or even just another writer friend. Do it right. Have someone professionally assess your MS. Then have it copy-edited and proofed before you go to press. If what you produce is well written and good quality, you have the best chance for some good sales.

But it’s more than that. While you expect a flurry of sales from family and friends, it’s going beyond that — way beyond that. And only the truly most loyal of friends will keep buying your books if they didn’t like the first one. It’s about return custom. It’s about correcting what stopped the agents and publishers picking it up. Right? Let me say that again — it’s about correcting what stopped the agents and publishers picking it up.

So make sure you do it right. Some might not agree with me, I speak only as my own work ethic dictates, and hey maybe there is a little touch of delusion thrown in there knowing how tough the industry is — but is that such a bad thing?

Well, that’s me for today. Feel free to comment.

I am currently building up a mini series in the In The Spotlight Series called Spotlight on Crime so have been in conversation with some crime writers. If you want to take part or know someone who does, then please let me know.

Have a great Tuesday y’all!

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Welcome to my madness …

Really good link about publishing …  LINK

 

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Sweet Land of Liberty …

A US flavour for the 4th of July!

I am very much an all or nothing kind of person — I mean if I love it I don’t just love it — I’m obsessed with it! And there are many US things in that list — beginning of course with Mr Manilow! (There she goes again!)

I first visited California at the tender age of 9. Having grown up hugely influenced by US TV shows and films and a dad who worked for Disney, also a film buff who’d travelled around the states extensively, I very much followed in his footsteps — literally! As you’ll see later.

I remember that amazing trip to California in 1978 and I recall how hard it was to adjust after I came home. This whole other exciting place was happening the other side of the world and I wanted to be a part of it. It took me ages to change my watch back to UK time 😦 It’s true of course on holiday we see a different side, there’s money to burn, you eat out, visit theme parks (and they can do them better than us for sure) so it’s not hard to see why I felt that way.

It was however little over a decade before I went back and that time it was to see Barry Manilow — a 2 week trip with the fan club and before you laugh — just remember this is one of the best memories I have — truly. You wouldn’t want to tread on that now, would you?  What a trip and I remember wondering why I’d left it so long to go back. We hired a super stretch limo twice, both times driving to Bel Air where Mr Manilow then presided — and I recall opening a bottle of champers out of the sun roof when Barry’s neighbour, Ringo Starr saluted our decadence and spoke to us! I guess I was being teased by a celebrity life style and one I have to say I don’t actually crave — I love my simple little life —  but it was fun never the less. Maybe the 20-year-old me craved it — a little!

Because I have some great friends in the US — friends my dad met all those years ago when he worked for Disney and travelled around, I went back often after that and stayed with my lovely friend Jan. In fact I am planning a trip to see her next March when I will have a book launch out there too!

While I don’t dream of a house in LA so much now, there is still part of me that does hold onto that dream  (now it’s a second home I crave not a forever home) and it’s now connected with seeing my novel made into a movie — why not? It’s good to dream once in a while.

When I said how I followed in my dad’s footsteps (literally) I meant it because a few years ago, after a break-up and seeking direction in my life, I spent a few months out there. I was based in the San Fernando Valley in Sherman Oaks with Jan but travelled all over the county on the Greyhound bus. This is something my dad did in the 70s and I almost followed the same route. In fact he helped me plan it and since they still did the 5-day Ameripass like Dad had bought all those years before — I hopped on and off and travelled all over. I read a book before I went about a woman’s experience on the Greyhound and I recall how she said (paraphrased) if you’ve ever woken up on a bus, hours spent crammed into a small space, legs and everything hurt and then you look out of the window and watch the sun rise over the Nevada desert — you discover there is a fine line between heaven and hell.  And I felt that exactly. What a trip!

The states is a HUGE place and there is so much variation between states — so much beauty! It really is America the Beautiful for its mountain ranges, forests, lakes, truly breathtaking landscapes as well as the cities and the US we see depicted on film. And yes there are great riches and great poverty side by side but then again, it’s like that most places. It has so much to offer and that trip took me from New York to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, Chicago, St Louis, Texas, Memphis … in fact too many places to list here to possibly to justice to the magnitude of that trip and the wonderful people I met along the way. I have been bowled over the generosity and kindness of just about everyone I met. I get rather angry when people who’ve never been or have been to one part, say derogatory things — plain narrow-mindedness I guess.

After that trip I was happy to come home but needless to say I missed the place and tried to go back every year after that. In fact after Lee died Jan insisted she pay for me to go to be close to her. I think it’s the only time I went when I didn’t have the usual excitement and I remember crying behind Lee’s sunglasses (his favourite designer ones I later lost on the trip!) on the plane because I always hoped the next time I went he’d have been with me. He was crazy about films and had the best home cinema and knew every director and everything in fact there was to know about films. I promised him a trip to Hollywood. I guess he was there with me — in fact I’m sure while I was sleeping it was him who took back his sunglasses — somewhere in the clouds.

Anyhow that was a trip that was just about hanging out — a change of scenery after 10 weeks at a bedside and 6 weeks grieving at Lee’s parents’ house. I didn’t know if I wanted to go — but I am so glad I did. So I guess the US has seen me at my best and at my saddest. And thanks to Jan I feel I have another family over there. Can’t wait to go back.

So why am I telling you all of this — apart from it being Independence Day — well because the US has also had a great influence on my writing and my reading. While many of my short stories have been based here in the UK, certainly all my novels (and I have written 5!) have been set in the US. I don’t really know why, it just feels like home.

So I am thrilled that While No One Was Watching, my débuthas such a US flavour — you can’t get a whole lot more USA than John F Kennedy. I have been following various Twitter sites as you may know that are recounting on this day 50 years ago as we edge closer to the 50th anniversary of the assassination and the release of my novel. I wasn’t born when Kennedy was assassinated but it is still a moment that silenced the world then and leaves its echoes still. Why it touched me I don’t quite know but I like to think a part of me is American. When I was regressed for a past life (research for a future novel) I was probably many things but I was (although it sounds like a cliché) a native American. Real or not, cliché or not,I like to think it’s true.

It explains a lot. Including my obsession with Barry Manilow and Jon Bon Jovi and why there’s a stars and stripes bandanna in my sock drawer!

I think  will leave it there — suffice it to say HAPPY 4th of JULY to my US friends (that includes my followers!) and everyone else … enjoy the fireworks wherever you are!

My hero ...

My hero … (no groaning!)

LA Land of Dreams ...

LA Land of Dreams …

Come on over and Like my Author page on Facebook if you haven’t to follow the countdown to my novel and lots of facts about Kennedy! https://www.facebook.com/DebzHobbsWyattAuthor

And follow me on Twitter too for other insights! @DebzHobbsWyatt

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Guest Blog Post by author Kirsty Ferry

Welcome to the Blog fellow writer Kirsty, who I first met when we accepted one of her short stories at Bridge House… and she has now gone on to bigger and better things … welcome and over to you Kirsty …

 

Hello, I’m Kirsty Ferry. I’m from the North East of England and I work at a local University. I fit my writing in around my day job, my family and my Open University course. I’m hoping to achieve a BA Hons in Literature in 2014.

Have you always wanted to be a published writer? 

I would often look at (and still look at, if I’m honest!) books and stories and think, I could do that – I’d had one poem published in the My Weekly and a letter in Just 17 and thought I’d cracked it! I think after that vast amount of success, I sent one story off to a women’s magazine and took serious umbrage when it was rejected. My parents recently discovered that story lying around their house, and my dad gave it to me to see if it was worth resurrecting; I took one look at it and realised why it had been rejected. I then decided to let it die with dignity!

Many years after that foray into publishing, when my son was very young, writing had to be on a back burner, no question about it. It was only when I was made redundant from my full-time job at a High Street Bank that I picked writing back up – my cousin suggested I take a short creative writing course with the Open University, and from that I did two more, longer, creative writing courses with them. Luckily, I found a job, but as it was part-time, I still managed to make time for my courses. I credit the OU with giving me the confidence and skills to take my work to the next level and it was at the end of the first longer course in 2009 that I summoned up the courage to submit a story to the Belsay Hall/English Heritage National Creative Writing Competition. I was overjoyed to learn that David Almond, of Skellig fame, had chosen my story as the winner. I had a fabulous day at Belsay meeting him and got some great feedback and tips. Interestingly, the parts of the story I had reservations about, were the parts David said he found the best. I think I learned from that to ignore my inner editor and just go with the story.

After Belsay, I began submitting to – and being accepted by — various small publishers for anthologies. I entered a similar competition for English Heritage/Whitby Abbey and was chosen as one of the stories for their anthology; I have now had fiction published in magazines such as Peoples Friend and The Weekly News, along with several non-fiction articles in magazines such as Ghost Voices, Vintage Script and It’s Fate. I kept working on my novel, The Memory of Snow, in the background when I was starting to send work out seriously. I’d never particularly wanted to do a novel, but it sprang up from a short story and I found that I couldn’t let it drop until my characters had told their story.

  Do you have an agent?

I don’t have an agent. I sent my manuscript off to a few agents and kept getting the same feedback – the story was great, it was well-written, but they didn’t think they could take a chance on an unknown author. My story is very local to the area where I live as well, so I think they thought it may have been quite a niche market. I can fully understand their reasoning and don’t blame them. However, I did enter the manuscript into several competitions and got short-listed and long-listed in those. The novel was also commended in the Northern Writers Awards and won a competition to be properly proof-read, so I knew it had ‘something’ about it. All the indications were that it needed to be ‘out there’ somehow and if an agent couldn’t help, I would do it myself.

My advice on agents would be to send your work off, but don’t be disheartened as they really can’t accept everyone’s work. Also, ensure you follow submission guidelines to the letter and pitch your book at the right agent for the genre! Nothing will guarantee failure more than poor research and shoddy presentation!

If you get the feeling your manuscript is good from the feedback though, be rational and think ‘How can I progress this myself? Is the best way forward now self-publishing?’ You might find that it is.

Do you belong to a writing group? Crit group? Have you had someone professionally critique your novel before submitting or publishing?

I’ve never really belonged to a writing group, but I did try a local one many years ago. That is a story in itself – I lasted for one meeting. It was dreadful! Great if you want to go along and be told your work is fantastic, but not so great if you want an honest opinion! Recently, though, I have been to a couple of more informal meetings in a small group a writer friend started up, but we haven’t really managed to make a regular thing of it, due to life getting in the way. It’s great when we do get together, though, as she has a lot of experience in the field and gives some good, honest, advice. We don’t get any writing done as we just talk our way through it, but sometimes that’s all you want to do; just to be able to share stuff with people who are happy to listen to you chunter on about writing and come home all fired up to start again. Oh, and we eat cake as well, which is always good.

As I mentioned before, The Memory of Snow won a competition to be proof-read. It was done by Charlie Wilson at The Book Specialist and I would completely recommend her. The turnaround was really quick and she did a fantastic job, also pointing out little edits that she thought might improve it. The only drawback is that services such as proof-reading can work out quite costly – so for my next novel, I’ve called in some beta-readers (e.g. honest friends!) and three or four of those have gone through the manuscript for me. It was interesting, as they all picked up different things, so I got a good, balanced overview of it.

Did you have your book accepted by a traditional publisher or choose self-publishing?

I chose self publishing as it seemed to be the best option for me. The book seemed to have had such positive things happen to it, that I felt it wanted to be read. I just decided I would put it on kindle, and if it sold a handful of copies, it would sell a handful of copies. It was better than it lingering on my hard drive for evermore.

What was the editing process like and how long did it take? Did you work with an editor?

The editing process was fine. I actually like editing, as all the words are there, the hard work is finished and editing is where you can really see the story taking shape. I’m really fortunate in that over the years I have met a lot of lovely people, both authors and people in the industry, who could give me advice on the process – one friend helped me with the formatting, one friend helped with the cover design, another one suggested ways of marketing it … I found a web link on uploading to kindle and followed the instructions. That worked beautifully and then I uploaded it onto FeedARead, which is a POD (print on demand) publisher, so paperbacks were produced as well. FeedARead distribute the book onto Amazon for you as well as selling it on their own site, but they do charge for that service. I have used Createspace for my non-fiction article collection, History and Mystery; Northern Hauntings Explored, which is owned by Amazon, and it is really easy to use. It also puts books on Amazon for you automatically and free of charge, so that is who I will be using for my next book, Refuge.

How much marketing have you had to do and how have book sales been?

I’ve done a fair bit of marketing. I’m not a pushy sort of person so it was a bit scary, stepping into the marketing world! I set up a website, www.rosethornpress.co.uk and posted links to the book and the website via social-networking. I also approached local magazines and tourist attractions who I thought would be interested in it, with it being local to the area; on the back of that, I have had some great reviews in the magazines and the Vindolanda Trust on Hadrian’s Wall have been selling the book at both their museum sites. I’ve also had postcards printed and I designed posters on Publisher and asked local coffee shops to display bits and pieces of marketing material for me.

We also visit the actual location of the book quite frequently – the story is centred on the site of the Brocolitia Mithraic Temple and Coventina’s Well on Hadrian’s Wall, and Ant, the chap who runs the coffee van at the Temple car park, has been great. He has taken loads of postcards and given them to tourists and to B&Bs in the area. I’ve also chatted to people at the site as well, and I know friends have done a fair bit of recommending for me too. One friend went for a trip to Hadrian’s Wall to visit the location, and she managed to sell a copy to a French couple she met at the visitor centre further along the road! I did a press release for the newsletter at work as well, and got lots of emails from colleagues I’d never met saying how much they’d enjoyed it. Memory of Snow is also the ‘recommended read’ for the March Book Club at work, so I’ve been invited along there to chat about it.

From what I understand, many new authors have to do a lot of their own marketing anyway, as small publishers just don’t have the budget. I guess if I have to do it, I’m best off taking charge of my own destiny and doing it my way. That way, it fits in with the other commitments in my life. Book sales have been pretty steady. I’ve sold some each month since publishing it. I’ll never be a millionaire, but it has sold many more than the original five or six I anticipated.

So Kirsty, tell us all about the novel …

The book is a paranormal, YA novel. It is called The Memory of Snow and is set on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. The book weaves fact and fiction together and lots of people ask me which parts are factual and which parts I have made up…but I’m not revealing that here! Living North magazine described it as a ‘haunting debut novel’ so what better way can I put it? Here’s the Amazon link and the blurb…it’s available on Kindle and in paperback. It’s also available on Smashwords and via my website, where you can see some photographs of the fabulous locations.

 

AMAZON

Three eras.
Three young women.
Three Guardians, separated by centuries.

Aemelia: the Christian daughter of a Roman Commandant.
Meggie: accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.
Liv: a twenty-first century teenager, intent on finding information for a project.

When horrors from the past threaten her, Liv discovers she is a Guardian of the mystical Coventina’s Well. She must work with the spirits who linger there, and use their combined power to banish evil from the sacred spring.

Set amongst the wild landscape of Northumberland, the Guardians must confront both the tragic past and the potential future in order to help each other survive.

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/170061

www.rosethornpress.co.uk

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations.  Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

Work in progress … hmmm. I am hoping to release my next novel within the next couple of months. It is called Refuge and is a tale of vampires and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. It’s another YA paranormal novel. I hope the readers of Snow aren’t disappointed. A few have asked for a sequel but they will have to read this one instead as I don’t feel Snow can be extended! I’m also working on a collaborative novel with six writer friends, based on some Victorian photographs. That will hopefully be done to first draft stage very soon and then we can get started on the edits. I am also writing my third novel, but as usual, I have no idea where the story is going or how it will end until my characters tell me. It’s an interesting journey! It is slightly different, well, quite different, to my previous books and probably owes more to Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart than modern YA fiction. I don’t know. As I say, we will have to see how it progresses. I was trying to fight against the characters and reached a sticking point. I decided to let them have their way and it’s flowing much better now!

I’m also working on my Open University course as well and have another year and a half of study. I find that academic writing and fiction don’t always go together, so academia may to have to have the upper hand for the next few months to get me through the course. I’ll keep doing fiction on the side though, whenever I can. I’m also going to be a judge for the next Paws ‘n’ Claws book! It was great fun last time and I’m very much looking forward to the next one. There are some talented children out there.

In ten years I have no idea! I’d like us all to be happy and healthy and I’d like to have a few more books out there and a few more published stories and articles. Fingers crossed! I’m also hoping to be invited back to our town library and do some more talks. I did one at Christmas in relation to the Dickens 2012 celebrations and chatted about my haunted workplace. They said I could come back and read some of my fiction at another event, so that will be fantastic.

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

Just keep at it. David Almond told me that you shouldn’t write for the market; you should write what you want to write. If it’s good enough, the market will realise it wants it. But don’t be afraid to self-publish in the meantime. It’s perfectly above board and nothing like the vanity presses of old. You can do it very cheaply and have the satisfaction of seeing your work out there, being enjoyed, while you work on your next bestseller. I would advise subscribing to something like Writing Magazine or Writers Forum as well. They are very useful and the first one in particular has markets, calls for submission and competitions in every issue.

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it …

Something random? I have an unhealthy obsession with campervans. I love the idea of just pulling up somewhere, having a coffee, having a snack, having a nap, writing a bit and driving off again! I don’t possess a campervan. When I make a heap of money, I keep telling my husband I am going to buy a genuine old VW campervan!

Finally: can we post an extract of your novel?

Why certainly. I’m not sure which bit to give you, though. I dare hardly admit it, but the bits I enjoyed writing the most were the darkest bits. It’s sometimes scary what my mind translates onto the page. I think, therefore, that I will put a short extract up of one of my favourite bits, relating to one of my favourite characters in the book. I hope you enjoy it …

 

“Nicholson’s eyes flickered over Meggie again, but decided this one was different. He wanted to see the fear in her eyes as he pressed the staff against her thigh. He wanted to see her thin little face crumple and her lips tremble as he carried out the test.

‘Men, I am about to test the witch. You Sir,’ he nodded at John. ‘Reveal the witch’s face to me. Her body must be tested, but her face must be visible. I must see whether she moves her lips in a chant or a spell to produce the blood which might prove her to be human.’

John ripped the dress down from Meggie’s face. He held the fabric away from her, so her body was revealed and her face was free. Meggie gasped for air and opened her eyes. She was looking straight at Nicholson; to his great delight he saw her confusion turn into fear as she registered the point he held up to her eye level. This would be a joy. He curled the edges of his mouth into a sneer and held her gaze.

Mesmerised by his eyes and frozen by terror, Meggie did not see the swift move as he stabbed the staff into her thigh. She felt the cold wooden edge pushing against her skin. Her eyes opened wide and her mouth formed a silent ‘o’ as she realised she could not feel the pin stabbing her. She looked down, seeing no blood running out of her body.

‘She is a witch!’ screeched Nicholson. ‘She does not bleed. Look! She has failed the pricking. She bears a witch mark. We have heard foul curses stream out of her mouth in this pagan temple. I declare this woman to be a witch; a child of the Devil. Take her away! Deal with her as appropriate!’”

Copyright Kirsty Ferry extract reproduced with the permission of the author.

 

Fantastic, thanks Kirsty for being so open and honest about the process. I reviewed Kirsty’s debut on Amazon recently and would thoroughly recommend it. It goes to show there are ways of getting your work out there and I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Kirsty all the very best with her writing and lots of future successes.

Oh and we hope she also gets her campervan. Could this be the quirk we all remember her for when she has her best seller? Arriving at TV studios for interviews by chauffeur-driven campervan?

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Your journey to find WOW

I am one of you.

I am also trying to get that validation, that publishing deal, the realisation of the dream.

But why is it so difficult? 

We all get better the more we write and as time goes on and we start to have some success we start to believe. But we have to work so hard. Most of us are on about our 4th/5th novel really honing the craft by the time someone might give us a break. We work and work and work and still we’re not getting there. What we have to realise is how we are one of so many all bustling in a highly competitive market place. It’s not just about being good these days, it’s about standing out and parting someone’s lips into a big fat WOW. And because there is an element of subjectivity and what is wow to one person isn’t to another, it only takes one. Doesn’t matter if you have a ton of rejections, all you need is one yes … right?

But it’s easier said than done.

So many will give up at that point, but what if that break is just around the corner?

If you want it, you won’t give up.

I see a lot of manuscripts, some great, some not so great but most have the potential to be great — we are all somewhere along that continuum of development. But there are few short cuts. While self-publishing might well be seen as one way to get the work out there and I am not dissing that in any way, it can be demoralising when you sell 20 copies after months of shouting about it. Or you sell it to everyone in the world you know and it even gives you a high rating on Amazon for a while, but then you struggle to repeat that success with book number 2. Why?

Well, sadly there are too many self-published books that did not benefit from a good editor, or even if they were edited, the writer maybe wasn’t quite there yet and perhaps the book was rejected by the mainstream publishers and possibly agents, for good reason. If the first book fails to wow maybe you’re not quite there,  so can you reasonably expect your readers to buy the next one?

It’s a toughie, one I wrestle with as well, do I self-publish? I have a press for a start, but I think, like many of you, we all seek validation.

I want to tell you about someone I met who did secure an agent. The agent did try to sell his novels but without success in a  really crowded market place. By this time he was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen, and I have heard many stories of people who get the agent but nothing happens after that. So he decided to self-publish by setting up his own press and moved into the eBook market. He now has over 350 downloads a day and makes about £80K a year. He has a following and writes in a popular genre. So it can happen. I might ask him to be a guest on my Blog to share some of how he did it for those that will find this interesting. But firstly I’d say to have this success you need to be a good writer. (Or you should be, sometimes books have ‘unexpected’ phenomenal success, not saying what, coughs into hankie … fifty shades of hmmm.)  By this writer, I’m telling you about, securing an agent this to me says he must write pretty well. But selling his books and maintaining books sales must be the greatest validation (in most cases, coughs again at thought of certain book). And you have to market yourself and keep going.

But these successes are few and far between, but at least the opportunity is there.

I thought I would also talk about some of the online crit sites. I won’t name any specifically, but I have to say one thing — these can be great but some of them work so you only receive a crit if you crit for other people (fair enough, right?) however, and this is not true  for all, if you ever fall into this (as I know many who have) you not only find a lot of very badly written material (not all, I must stress! I know some will be fantastic!), but you also have  to think about who is critting you. I know some people who showed me crits for the same piece, some giving completely differing and sometimes wrong advice (by this I mean, why not slip into another character’s head mid scene … no!) Or grammar rules being given that are blatantly wrong … some things you can put down to subjectivity sure, but how much of this advice is heeded and is it not hindering? All I’d say, like anything is act with caution.

But what has emerged is how much work is out there and what you have to compete with; some great, a lot not so great … but we are all on a journey, we are all seeking WOW.

And no matter what your route, all I can say (stuck record syndrome) is keep going and keep growing and keep glowing … you will get there.

Heed advice wisely.

And …

Above all …

BELIEVE

All it takes is One Voice

 

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Guest post by the lovely Alison Wells …

I’d like to introduce a prolific and successful writer, Alison Wells, to my Blog. I first came across her work when we published one of her short stories in the Bridge House Voices of Angels collection. So over to Alison …

Who are you?

I’m a psychology and communications studies graduate and worked in HR and as a technical writer but gave up work to look after my four children who range in age from eleven to four. Writing is a huge part of my life and I commit as much time as possible to it. Housewife with a Half-Life is my first novel and I’ve released it both on ebook and in paperback under a pen name A.B. Wells.

Your writing background?

I wrote a couple of novels when my first two boys were tiny. Then I moved to short stories. I’ve been published in many anthologies including Voices of Angels with your own Bridge House, Irish literary Magazine Crannóg and the UK National Flash Fiction Day’s Jawbreakers. I’ve been shortlisted in prizes such as the Bridport and the Hennessy Award for New Irish Writing and just won a fiction prize in The New Big Book of Hope (for Kolcatha Street children). I began Housewife with a Half-Life during the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word writing challenge. I’ve also completed a literary novel and a short story collection.

Why did you opt for self-publishing?

While I’m submitting my literary work traditionally and looking for an agent, I’ve also been very inspired by many indie writers I got to know online. I did submit Housewife with a Half-Life traditionally at first. It had good feedback but publishers weren’t sure where it would fit with their lists. Speaking to an editor and other writing professionals we decided that it might be a good contender for self-publishing as it’s more a genre work than my other writing.Publishing is in a huge state of flux right now and I was interested to learn about self-publishing, to try to connect directly with my readers (I already have a very established blog) and I liked the freedom of being able to get my work out there. The skills and attention to detail I’m learning through self-publishing can be applied to traditional publishing as well.

I had plenty of contacts who had self-published so I didn’t even consider going to a self-publishing company. I was able to get all the advice I needed from writer friends online.

Was it costly?

I wanted to make my product just as good as a traditionally published book. I engaged both a professional editor, Sarah Franklin and a professional designer (Andrew Brown of Design4Writers). I also had writing friends to help proof and proof and proof again! The editing was essential but the cover has also attracted a lot of positive attention. I would never have been able to design it myself. I also engaged the services of a book tweeting service for marketing. Other costs included ordering proof copies of the paperback. I also ordered a large consignment of physical copies of the book with which I have stocked my local bookshops and sold direct, this was a large outlay which I need to recoup.

How did you find the process?

I followed Catherine Ryan Howard’s book Self-Printed as a step by step guide and I went with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing for the ebook and CreateSpace for the print on demand paperback. (And my husband helped with any formatting glitches!) However both KDP and CreateSpace are extremely user-friendly. I also published on Smashwords, following their formatting style guide. The formatting itself did not take too long (a few hours for the initial uploads) although the proofing of those uploads took some time and in the case of the paperback I had to wait 2 weeks for the proof copy to arrive (from US.)

On deciding the price of my book I compared to what was there already and making the book good value while being cognizant of having to cover my costs & make something of a profit. The paperback retails at £8.21 on Amazon but I’ve played around with the ebook price. The ideal price is $2.99 (to qualify for Amazon’s higher royalties) but I’ve put my book on sale for 99c (77p) now to generate interest, particularly since it’s my first book.

Marketing wise I was lucky that a local bookshop offered to host a launch & stock the book so I sold about 40 books on the night. I’ve also been featured in the beach reads in the Irish Independent. Online I’ve been experimenting with Kindle free days. I had many hundreds of downloads but I still have lots of work to do in making my book visible among the many available. One method is to release more than one book so there will a sequel to Housewife with a Half-Life as well as some other offerings.

 So tell us about your book?

Housewife with a Half-Life by A.B. Wells has been described as “charming and enchanting with a dash of science” as well as ‘fantastic, funny and pure comedy.” It tells the story of housewife and mother of twin boys Susan Strong who has to travel parallel universes to retrieve aspects of herself, and save people’s memories from the evil memory bankers. Assisted by her endearing spaceman guide Fairly Dave & she dodges dangerous hoovers & fridges and defeats adversaries to save the universe. Part Eat, Pray, Love, part Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it’s an original, heartwarming, lively read that should appeal widely.

You can pick up Housewife with a Half-Life for Kindle/Kindle App for the summer sale price of

77p on Amazon UK LINK

or 99c on Amazon.com LINK 

or on paperback LINK

Order a signed copy or read about writing and self-publishing as a busy mother on www.alisonwells.com. Or you can visit www.abwells.com or like A.B. Wells on Facebook www.facebook.com/abwellswriter . I would also love to connect with readers and writers on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alisonwells

What are your long-term hopes?

I’m doing a final revision of my literary book The Book of Remembered Possibilities before sending it to agents and am on the look out for a publisher for my short story collection. I’m on a first draft of another book The Exhibit of Held Breaths and when that draft is done I’ll think about my next self-published project the sequel to Housewife which is The Meaning of Life is Monday. In the meantime I hope in the near future to self-publish some short stories. So in short I’m able at this stage of my career to explore both publishing avenues and I’m hoping they can feed into each other.

Overall I would say to others that the self-publishing route is not an easy one. More than anything you have to really believe in your book because you’ll have to read it over and over to get it right and you’ll have to stand by it once it’s available for purchase. Having read Housewife with a Half-life over and over it still moves me. There is a lot of support that a publisher can give to establish an author, provide editing services etc. Self-publishing offers freedom but everything is down to you, the quality, the marketing, technical issues – all time-consuming if it’s to be done right. Be very wary of self-publishing outfits who will claim to do the work for you for a price, many overcharge for what can be done at little cost. The publishing industry is changing fast and there are new challenges both in self-publishing & trying to get published traditionally. The main advice whatever route you take is to make sure to keep producing material and to the highest standard. Work hard and whether self-publishing or not, do whatever possible to build up a relationship with your audience.

Thanks so much Alison for some great information and I wish you all the very best with all your books. I have ordered my copy and I hope some of my followers will do the same!

Happy Wednesday all! And thanks Alison 🙂

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Why Feedback Matters

I will try to keep it short n sweet this morning as lots to do (I’ll probably fail though!) but I thought I  would talk about the importance of editing and critiquing, as the title says — why feedback matters. Oh not again you say! I have come across a number of writers who don’t buy into paying for editing or critiquing. Well, you don’t have to pay for it, there are many ways to get feedback. All I will say is that working as a lone ranger and not showing your work to someone for an objective opinion, can mean you don’t see even the small things. By small things I mean what I talked about yesterday. It’s easy to make beginner errors or have beginner weaknesses and without someone to point them out, you may get so used to writing that way, it becomes a hard habit to break (a song title me thinks?). Of course it is your choice but are you always the best judge of your work?

Get feedback whenever you can … but trust the opinion.

One of the things that scares people is exposure, laying it bare, their words, the ones they’ve slaved over (to coin another cliché) being mauled over like a carcass. Although as a veggie I really don’t do that — honest! But I think the problem is also one of objective versus subjective that can scare us. This is why friends and family are not always the best for this. Even avid readers do not always make the best critiquers. First of all what do they read?  Do they know or like your genre? And second how much do they know about writing? How helpful can they be? It’s one thing to say ‘this doesn’t work’ but a good critter (cute and furry like me! Less of the furry!) will offer advice about how to improve. As I say, it’s not so much about right and wrong, but good and better or bad and better whatever the case  may be. They count, every opinion counts, but get the right ones. Can a new writer tell the good from the bad advice? I’m not sure I could.

Working at it professionally (being a critter that is) I always try to be as objective as I can. It matters not what the genre or style, you have to stay true to that, but good writing is good writing and bad writing is bad writing. This applies across the board (keep them clichés coming Debz!). I have talked before about how something like critiquing is difficult to audit. In essence anyone can set up like I did. I like to think the fact I have an MA in Creative Writing, a publishing history and work as a small press means I have credentials potential clients will look at when deciding whether to work with me. But, anyone can set up to do this.  And so how is it audited? For me the huge number of returning clients and those that went on to win competitions or get published is as good a measure as anything. But I know myself, in the past, I had an agent suggest more dialogue was needed, while another looking at the same whole MS wanted less dialogue. Then it has to be your call. It’s impossible to be completely objective, but certainly the more I work with writers, the more I see the same weaknesses time and time again and I believe another critiquer would pick up on the same things.

Loosely this was tested for me in the past when clients admitted to sending the same stories to other people and how similar the reports were. One said it was so similar it was eerie but I was less blunt and more encouraging in the way I said the same thing, so they stuck with me. That’s not to say I wasn’t honest and I am sparing with my sugar coating, but I certainly hope to encourage and not destroy! I dare say it can go the other way too and some would prefer someone else. That’s the way it should be. I encourage people to seek other opinions. But I am sure the advice I give is going to be of the same nature as others in my position.

This was tested recently, when on recommendation, I submitted samples and had to do a test for the UK’s leading Literacy Consultancy.  I generated one of my in-depth reports, very similar to the ones I do with clients, on a piece they had already critiqued. This was an interesting experience and the only way to go if you want uniformity and sound advice from all your readers in an agency. I passed and was delighted to find we had indeed picked up on all the same weaknesses. There are bound to be slight differences but overall the conclusions should be consistent. This result was not only a great validation, but also means I will be doing some work for them as well 🙂

It does matter who looks at your work and I highly recommend agencies that work like this one — for professionalism, for consistency and they also have access to publisher and agents.  There are many smaller agencies and people like me, prices vary. There are online crit sites and writing groups. I guess it depends on how intimately you want someone to analyse your words and also what you can afford. There are also a lot of writing books out there. But one thing I will say, I know a number of authors who have told me they’ve read many of these books but when I’ve come to look at their work, it doesn’t show. So perhaps it’s harder to see it in our own work.

Just make sure your trust the person who works with you.

Now I must work. A special treat for you tomorrow from a successful published author telling us about self-publishing, the lovely Alison Wells.

Be inspired today

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It’s all in the arc …

Arc not Ark

Following on from the fab guest post yesterday — if you didn’t see it, please have a read, I thought I would ponder for a few moments on the story arc. And I will talk about how this applies to non-fiction as well, in reference to memoir.

I have  talked about the story arc a few times, but one of the key weaknesses I see in novels and shorts I critique professionally, is lack of a real narrative drive or focus, something both propelling and compelling the reader on. And it all comes down to two key things: motivation of the characters, i.e. what’s at stake? And lack of direction or goal: what question forms the key focus of your story and therefore will be answered at the climax?

Think of the plot as a set of barriers standing in the way of achieving the protagonist’s goal – physical, mental, organic (as in your antagonists) and the story as how your protagonist overcomes: this is the real essence of story-telling. And it matters not what genre you write in, and even in non-fiction it also needs to be there to create a story and not just a series of unrelated anecdotes.

When you know this, you already have a basic shape. In a novel, even your lesser characters will have their own arcs (character arcs are a slightly different thing and I will talk about these another time as well) but you need to have a key theme or question and those of your supporting characters will also explore — they will augment the main theme.

A basic story arc should not, in my opinion, be formulaic, but more prescriptive. If your story isn’t quite working, if you find it’s not driving the reader on as it should, refer back to an arc and ask yourself if you are building the tension, through a series of inciting incidents towards a defined climactic scene. Are you introducing enough barriers to the fulfilment of this goal,  and after the climax make sure you have the cooling off scene, the homecoming that ties up most (not necessarily all) of the loose ends in a satisfying but not clichéd ending.

Non-fiction generally uses a more empirical language. For many years I wrote in science speak …

The results clearly indicate a shift in control bias. This is further supported by the evidence of Waal & Wall (2001: pp 101-103) who show the effects on temperature in ice boxes and a 10% degradation of cps values across all sample groups … 

This is made up but see the type of language used. It’s far more ‘reportative’ as in telling in succinct and precise language. In fiction you can be far more loose and wordy and creative, although succinctness and brevity is also important. Over-wordy, over-clunky fiction, for the sake of it, for me takes you away from story, and should be handled with care. Writers often like to show off; but here’s my feeling on this (a slight digression I know) … if you overuse ‘cleverness’ – i.e. don’t say it in 5 words, say it in 50, you will lose some of the gems — they will be buried and the reader needs to mine them! Use them sparingly and in just the right place, you’re using a winning passing shot that can not go unnoticed!  See what I did there, a little metaphorical language here and there can work. I hope!

In fiction I like to be right in the  character’s head and I like immediacy, past perfect tenses, the he had thought, he had wondered … these tend to slow it, like he began to walk … while genre and style might lend itself to this in some cases, I usually find shifting to  he thought, he wondered and he walked, are much more direct. And I really dislike hindsight in fiction unless used as a one-off narrative device to teaser the reader on. The little did he know moments. It weakens narrative.

BUT … now some of these things you will use in memoir. You often write memoirs in reflection and with hindsight, but the best memoir will do exactly what a novel will do and use the same combination of narrative drivers, devices … get into the head of the character. But you have more leeway for reflection and hindsight and you are reporting fact. But still use showing if you really want to engage your reader. Writing memories as scenes, as you might in a novel or flashback, as I showed Amanda Green when we worked on her memoir, made it far more visual and engaged the reader more.

But because of the use of so many texts, emails, journal entries and scenes, in her case it felt fragmented initially. For us the trick was to retain enough of this at moments of high stress, when her mental health was an issue, as a way of showing the mood swings and the ’emotional chaos’ for want of a better expression, so the writing became the metaphor, but it also needed compelling narrative to comment on and bring these fragments into a story, with a shape, or it was very hard to read.

But I did say no little did I know moments. But you can in memoir say things like of course at the time I thought all that was normal. I thought I was behaving like any teenager. But I wasn’t. Was I?  I think this is more compelling because the reader knew when they bought the book and read the prologue this is a journey of someone who was diagnosed with a mental illness. And in fact Amanda pivots part 1 around the meetings with the psychiatrist, using flashbacks, to show the diagnosis from the outset, more or less. So I think here reflection is key to exploring theme.

In fiction I always think it’s better to show the action as it happens. That’s not to say you don’t have novels that start at the end, you know your protagonist is in jail for murdering his wife … and now the story goes back to show how it came about … but you would still then just show it. No need for the commentary or reflection.

I also showed Amanda how to take the truth, as it happened, but tell it in a way that really built the tension, as you would in a novel. This is in essence what creative non-fiction does. It loses the empirical speak, although it will use some of that in these narrative sections that comment on and bring the pieces into some kind of logical order, but it uses far more emotion and is structured so there is no reporting, showing the scenes and ending on moments of drama to tease the reader on. It is not distorting fact, merely using a narrative that engages the reader the most. And this we did work on in Amanda’s memoir, so it’s not just telling the story … it’s really bringing it to life. And as I said yesterday, parts that did not add to the story, or explore the theme (in this case her journey into mental health issues and her journey back to finding herself) we cut. Hard when it’s someone’s life … but necessary for story, in exactly the same way in fiction we cut superfluous scenes that do not develop character, move plot or explore theme.

 

Right now I need to write … but I will leave you with a story arc … use it against your own work and see if you have the right arc. Every story ever told, those that play around with chronology, go backwards, use parallel universes, every film, play, opera … all use this basic form … but of course with variations and most stories use some form of three act structure.

Hope it’s been helpful.

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Doing what makes you happy

I’ll keep it short and sweet this morning – by the way thanks for the feedback on Fiction Clinic! And I will be having those guest posts soon as well, all in hand.

Anyone else who’s self-published and wants to be a guest inbox me and I’ll send you some questions!

For the first time in a long time this past month or so has been slow with work. I did branch out and managed to get some copy editing from a self-publishing company. I have a couple of novels due but they’ve been delayed. So I am free to work on my publishing things and of course the next big edit of my novel. But it can be tough being self-employed. The work usually comes, I focus on what I need and it pops into my inbox … oh the power of The Secret.

But it can be disconcerting not knowing if you’ll have enough to eat next month. But I chose this life. And besides I could do with losing a few pounds … strike that more than a few pounds!

It really is about being happy and no I don’t like just surviving but it’s the writer’s life and it’s how it is. The day job paid well, I was doing a responsible job but I was as unhappy as hell. Now I am so happy and I have a great life, albeit sometimes I think I sit here all day and miss some human company, and I miss having spare money.

But would I really change it and go back to what I had … not on your Nellie … whoever Nellie is! I had an auntie Nellie!

Some might call it crazy; some might call it downright insane working for so little for the dream … but I say if I can do it and still manage to live, there is no better way. I never worked so hard,for so little, but I love it.

Although a few more editing jobs/critiquing jobs this month would help!

Are you doing what you love?

Live the dream …

 

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Filed under Editing, Fiction Clinic, freelancing, Living the dream, making money from writing, Self-Publishing, Writing