Hey Shorty!

This week I received an exciting piece of news. A short story I entered into a competition made the Short List. As a writer it is the sort of news that sends tingles down your spine and puts a smile on your face.

Rejection is part and parcel of the everyday when you write, it comes with the territory. So when you get a short list or long list placing you can be assured that your story has had an impact – it is a wonderful feeling. Some days writing is thankless and hard, it can feel as if you are wading through treacle. You try your hardest to make your story sing only to have it land flat. Moments that make you fly are so important. They serve as a reminder that sometimes, just sometimes you can hold a tune!

Thankfully I do not have to wait too long for the results.

Happy New Year – Again!

2018 spat me into 2019 before I felt ready! The good news is now I’m ready! So, belated New Year greetings!

I have a plan for 2019, well sort of. I slumped my way towards the end of last year after an action packed Spring, Summer and Autumn. I don’t have a crystal ball but this year is not about puppies or kittens or any other sort of fluffy fur-balls as far as I’m aware. This year is about my writing. Thanks to my wonderful diary courtesy of Charlie at Urban Writers Retreats I can hold myself to account. I shall be either patting myself on the back, or slapping myself around the face, depending on how things are going! I’m happy to report so far no faces have been slapped! 🤣 Happy New Year!

Movin on Up ~ Driving Your Story Forward

    We have all been there haven’t we? You are merrily munching your way through the first few chapters of a book that has sat on your TBR pile for a while and then it hits you…. boredom! Yep, mind numbing ‘I’d rather be anywhere but here’ boredom. Like a beautiful car which has been filled with the wrong fuel, the story splutters and then comes to a grinding halt. I have kicked myself so many times for playing the martyr and plowing through to the bitter end only to kick myself a bit more for even bothering to finish it. On reflection what a lot of these books had in common was simple – a soggy middle. At the beginning I’m intrigued, the writing is good and has me turning the pages with glee and then, somewhere, somehow, the tension is lost and the story becomes like a slow moving stream, no I correct myself more like a stagnant pond! Nothing is moving, the characters are not under any sort of pressure to do anything or see anyone, they are just… well they are just there! I don’t know about you but I don’t want ‘just there’ when I’m reading a novel, I can watch TV for that. I want empathy and commitment, as much from the characters as from myself. Commitment comes from making decisions, if nothing is happening no commitments are being made. All of this equals boredom for me, the reader. Don’t get me wrong I am not proposing that there should be twists and turns on every page but the story does need to move forward. Sadly this vacation I have read two such books.

     Sitting here in the Mallorcan sun (photos to follow), I am struck by how important and methodical the editing process needs to be. I don’t want my books to be considered boring and I definitely don’t want a soggy middle! I am the first to admit I write too many words sometimes. Which is why I need to be strong and robust (like a good cup of coffee) when it comes to editing my own work way before an editor gets sight of it.

    I’m sitting poolside trawling my way through the draft of my next novel and three things strike me:

    – Who the hell wrote this?

    – Oh, that’s rather good 

    – What a load of tosh!

    It’s the ‘what a load of tosh’ that is bothersome. These are the sections where I need to channel a high court judge and become harsh but fair! Sometime the ‘tosh’ can be salvaged, sometime not. If there is a meaningful reason for the words to be there I will play around with them. If, however, they are acting as fillers for the main act then they have to go. No ifs, no buts, they must be crossed through with a red pen never to be seen again.

    I have asked myself the same question over and over today – what would happen if the words weren’t there? If I can not defend them then they have to go !

    I am doing well arguing with myself, although the lure of the pool is proving powerful! One more chapter then time for a swim….

    Hashtags and Other Tales

    These days the humble # is found everywhere. Hashtags are a necessary part of marketing as any fun loving marketeer or PR guru will tell you. Started on Twitter their reach now extends across most media platforms.They can be used for fun, wider social or political issues or just because. Love them or loathe them they are here to stay. For authors, they can be a useful way of reaching a wider audience and potentially connecting with new readers. That is of course if you get it right.

    Having cast my eye over today’s trending offerings everything from #internationalbeerday to #FlashbackFriday is filling my twitter feed.So how as a rooky can you even come close to ‘trending’ or at the very least expand your audience? Here’s one thing I’ve learned about expanding your audience which I wanted to share with you. You need to know who the top influencers are in your field.Now, this is where it gets a bit sciencey so bear with me. Top influencers are those tweeters who have received the most impressions for a hashtag from their own tweets and the number of retweets they get. So how do you find them? Ah well… The easiest but also most expensive way is to pay someone to do it for you. Just type into Google ‘top influencers twitter’ and you will be presented with a wealth of companies offering you bespoke services. Or you could do what I did and do it the cheap way! Take a look a company called Klout who offer a free service. Klout allows you to share content and link you social media accounts to see how influential and engaging you have been on social media. Using a fancy algorithm it then spits out your score of influence from 1 – 100. I got 49 so obviously I am not as engaging as I like to think and still have some way to go! What I really like about this app is it allows you to identify the top experts (influencers) in your field who you can choose to follow.You can also monitor how you’re doing via your ‘Klout Score’ which changes dependant on the aforesaid fancy algorithm. It’s a great way of expanding your audience and increasing your online presence.Until recently I had no idea such things existed but as all good indies know it takes a lot of hard graft to raise your wee small hand in the maddening crowd. Simples yes? I hope you too have found this small journey into the unknown helpful 🙂

    #It’sthesmallthings #EnjoyLife #AmWriting #NeverGiveUp #FridayThoughts

    Picking the Perfect Book Title…. A Stress Most Horrid….

    I am at the stage where my second book is ready for editing (thank goodness for that I hear my long suffering family cry). I am clipping and chopping with gay abandon! But… and this is a very big hole in the motorway kind of but… until today I was not convinced I had the right title!! I thought I did, but the more I read, the more it made me wonder is it right??

    Many sleepless nights tossing and turning, I battled  with myself. The conversations always seemed to go a bit like this….

    Me 1: ” It’s a good title, go with it”

    Me 2: ” Yea but I’ve just read something that makes me think maybe I need to re think, does it say what I think it says?”

    Me 1: ” Derrr yes it does, go back to sleep you fool”

    I always came back to – does my chosen title have the  ability to convey the contents of the book? The more I read, the more tied in knots I got. With my debut novel it was never an issue. I always knew  All Tomorrow’s Parties was exactly the right title. No doubts could creep in, there were no cracks, period.

    Book two has been a different animal all together and, I know exactly why. Reading advice on ‘what makes a perfect book title’ is not bad per say, but, reading too much conflicting advice is. This is sadly where I lost 2 weeks of my much needed beauty sleep. I would read an article that would say ‘do it this way’. Then the next day I would read another saying ‘do it that way’. I was blissful in my ignorance with All Tomorrow’s Parties. Choosing the perfect title was not even on my radar. My confidence at finishing my debut novel, held my rose tinteds firmly in place.

    I have come a long way over the last year. Some of the advice I’ve received has been stellar.I have stored it away, much like a squirrel, digging it up when needed. Some of the advice however, should be buried and forgotten. All it does is confuse me! The conclusion I reached today was to make up my own mind! Of course, think seriously. View it from as many angles as you can and give it the attention it deserves. I believe most writers do this anyway. The title is a part of you, just like the contents.

    PullingOutHair

     

    So it is with much excite e mont and merriliciousness that I can announce I have made a final decizione! Fanfare please and a drum roll too… why not? There will be no more gnashing of teeth or tearing of hair. I am to stick with my original title and let it sing its beautiful song. My advice to you?  Ignore advice that confuses you and keeps you awake doubting yourself. It is your creation, the title is a beautiful part of your creative baby. Some will find your baby beautiful, others will think its ugly, no matter. All that matters is that you love it with all your heart.

    So I hear you cry – what is this title that has caused you so much angst?

    Ah, well…. that would be telling wouldn’t it?

    With a twinkle in my eye I am finally ready for a good nights sleep!

     

    zzz

    Never Give Up…. Dealing with Rejection

    Never ever give up…..

    Picture the scene….You have written what you believe is your masterpiece, you have honed it and polished it to within an inch of its life. You have drafted and edited and edited again. It is as good as it’s ever going to be. Now you release your baby out into the world to stand perilously on its own. If you have gone down the traditional publishing route, the following may sound all too familiar;

    It begins, the slow trickle or torrent (depending on how many you have sent out) of ‘thanks but no thanks’ letters. You will be in good company, there are lots of famously good authors whose books have received the same response. The question is – can you handle it? Are you prepared for dealing with rejection because the law of averages dictates this will probably be the case. Self doubt starts to creep in… should you give up? Are you a terrible writer? I’ll say it three times …. No no no. Never give up – ever. I read somewhere that the only difference between an amateur writer and a professional is that one of them never gave up!  I think there is a lot of truth in that. The fact that you even got around to sending out the letters in the first place shows that you have grit and determination, keep going. I have been pondering whether or not to go down the traditional route and still haven’t fully made up my mind. The publishing world is finally evolving and hybrid authors are finding a voice too.You can of course self publish, which I and many many other authors have done but this also comes with its own challenges –  you have to market, promote and be available to do all of the leg work a traditional publisher would do, however,this is a topic for another day. So let’s hypothesis – you have sent out the letters and now you feel as if you will crash and burn because the responses you received were, let’s say not what you were expecting. So, how do you deal with it? We have already established that giving up is not an option, so what do you do? For me I’ve narrowed it down to five simple bits of advice to reflect on:

    1.  Do not torture yourself. You write because it is your passion, because every bone in your body is screaming for you to write. Nothing has changed, I’ll say it again… Nothing has changed. Keep writing.
    2. Regard every piece of criticism as a gift. Whether or not you agree with it is something you will need to reflect on however, if someone has given you specific direction on characters or plot or anything for that matter (as long as it’s not personal or deliberately mean spirited) then they have done it to try to be helpful. They want you to do well. Take time to reflect on their comments and act accordingly, btw – that doesn’t mean throwing your toys out of the pram!
    3.  Make sure you fit the submission criteria. I know  it’s simple but so often overlooked.Check the website, if it clearly states ‘ no romantic fiction’ and that is what your book is then don’t send it! Follow the guidelines to the letter!! Do your homework, check out current authors with that publisher. This is not a one way street, you need to decide firstly if they are right for YOU.
    4. Do not take it personally. Yes it’s your baby, yes it’s the love of your life but just think. Do you enjoy every book you read?No, so why should a publisher? Your book may be incredibly well written and powerful but, as with all art, it is a creative entity which is completely subjective. Work on the things that are within your control, make your book the best it can possibly be.Not everyone will ‘get it’ and that’s OK. Just because it is not one persons cup of tea doesn’t mean it isn’t right for someone else. Whatever happens, happens. Pick yourself up and try again.
    5. Do not dwell, move on. A thick skin comes with the job. If you do not have one you will need to build one. As sure as night follows day rejection will come in one form or another. Nobody likes getting rejected, it hurts. It’s OK to acknowledge it hurts but do not dwell on it. I like to – acknowledge – reflect – change ( if necessary) – move on. You may not need to change or tweek your work and that’s fine too, but you do need to move on.

    Remember – have courage, stand tall and keep writing

    To help keep you motivated, below is a snap shot….. I shall leave you to ponder:

    • Rudyard Kipling was told he did not know how to use the English language.
    • George Orwells Animal Farm was rejected because TS Elliot thought it needed ‘more pigs.’
    • Stephen Kings ‘Carrie’ was rejected over 20 times.
    • Louisa May Allcott was told she should stick to teaching.
    • 31 publishers in a row turned down James Patterson
    • Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times that she decided to self published Peter Rabbit. Sales currently stand at over 45 million.
    • 16 agents and 12 publishers turned down A Time to Kill by John Grisham.

     

    Rejected so many times she self published.
    Rejected so many times she self published.
    Louisa May Alcott told to 'Stick to teaching.'
    Louisa May Alcott told to ‘Stick to teaching.’
    Rejected over 30 times...
    Rejected over 30 times…
    TS Elliot rejected - 'not enough pigs'
    TS Elliot rejected – ‘not enough pigs’
    Rejected by agents and publishers.
    Rejected by agents and publishers.