Who am I?

I am a writing and publishing guru. What I dont know about the market just isn't worth knowing. So what if I'm unpublished? I choose to give other writers the gift of my wisdom and experience* that the other 500,000 writing blogs out there fail to give.
* No actual experience

Friday, April 29, 2011

The antidote is inspiration

After having been chained to the monitor for hours to complete work related stuff, writing some more was as enticing as a dental procedure combined with a waxing.  Even if it’s fun stuff like fiction or my don’t-go-there non fiction piece.

The procrastination switch gets hit, and it's lights out for inspiration.

But when I dragged myself back to the lap-top, instead of hitting the WIP, I trawled around writing sites, just to see what was going on. I can kill a few hours dead that way.

Then I happened on something that rang bells. A smile spread across my face as I drank the words in. It was THE best written piece on POV I have ever read. It made a wonderful point by showing, rather than telling. It resonated with me, because while my strength is with voice (or so I’ve been told), I absolutely suck at description. I’m not a visual thinker. I’m quite unobservant, and tend to omit descriptions of place/ setting from my pieces, which means that my writing suffers from this. But the info on this blog was just what I needed: descriptions coloured through a point of view. Obvious to some, I guess. I always felt that descriptions of place were something that you’d read in a third person omniscient piece, but of course that’s not the case!

Read this piece, it’s fantastic- had to share 

It has inspired me, and I have been re-charged since having read it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

You know you’re procrastinating when....

The upcoming royal wedding starts to look interesting, even though you only bothered to notice the bride’s name about a week ago

You suddenly notice some that your leather handbag needs polishing, and offer to do the kids’ school shoes, too.

You wonder if it’s worthwhile to catalogue your extensive book collection

You revisit favourite blogs that you checked about 10 minutes earlier – just to see if somebody responded to the comment you left

You write a "thank you for the thank you" email

You make pointless lists to post on your own blog.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When your narrative is out of date

The piece of writing advice one hears constantly is “write what you know/ are interested in”. The other point that always springs up is “know your market”. Experience has shown that these useful hints can be incompatible.

I’ve recently finished a short MG story told from the POV of the family cat. I’ve been interested in how our companion animals perceive us and negotiate the human world for a long time, so this clearly fits the “write what you’re interested in” school of thought. 

To summarise:  Jack’s human gets married and he acquires two unwanted housemates: his new stepmother’s (step-human’s?) cat and a hyperactive puppy. The animals can understand human-talk, and communicate with one another, but cannot speak to the humans. The story describes the upheaval associated with step-siblings and parental re-partnering, and their journey (literally, they get lost and have to find their way home) towards acceptance. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s close to the stage of query/ submission.

Now for the research part of my tale: I came across a tip-sheet on a writers’ association web-page said the following about writing for the children’s market:

What’s not hot? The ‘granny topics’ - anything with talking animals, old-fashioned language or heavy topics.

Great! It looks like two strikes there already – talking animals dealing with parental re-partnering. (Granny topics? Humph! My children are under 10, I’m nowhere near being a granny).

So, do I query and submit and risk looking completely out of touch/ too slack to have researched the market, or shelve the project, roll up my sleeves, and get stuck into the next one?

Opinions, please!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Give up or toughen up.

Yesterday I received a rejection letter from a publishing house that still sends them out. Did I like it? Hell no. Did it devastate me? Of course not.  

My disappointment was that they didn’t ask for the full manuscript. The house had been open to unsolicited pieces for a few weeks in January, and asked for synopses and the first few chapters. I powered through and wrote a 7000 word MG piece. I had thought that the work had been enticing enough for them to at least consider the full. I was wrong.

So now the choice I face is: give up or toughen up.

I choose to go on. I choose to revise the piece, and select another publishing house it may be suitable for.

Put it this way: every week, millions of people play the lottery. Some spend more than they can afford on the hope of striking it rich. They know the odds are crap, but the chance is there.
I figure that even if the odds of my work getting selected are poor, they’re still higher than scoring the jackpot. And I can tip the odds in my favour by choosing to improve my work. And the only way to do that is by toughening up and not letting the disappointment of rejection get to me.

In fact, I wrote about a thousand words last night. I lifted my target from 500 words per day to 1000.

Go on, keep sending them rejection letters. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Critique Partner (Critter)

A critter can be a great procrastination buster. If there’s somebody who’s prepared to read your work and provide an honest evaluation of its merits and short-falls, then it makes sense to get a copy of your draft over to them pronto. This means actually getting a draft completed at to a stage where you don’t think your words will make you look like a complete moron.

I personally don’t wish to waste anybody’s time by sending a half-baked piece for their consideration. I would only ask somebody to critique my work after I’ve done the hard yards, which means that I’ve picked out grammatical flaws and redundancies; I’m not asking for an unpaid editor. 

My point is, if you find a good critter, don’t let them go to waste. So – get going and write! If you don’t send them anything for months, they might start to feel unloved and unwanted. Either that, or assume you’ve been squashed by a meteor or come down with a severe case of smallpox.

The other benefit of a critter partner is that you get to read their work, too. No, it’s not hard work! Thinking about whether or not the piece “works” (and why it’s working or not) can get you thinking about your own work in a new light. Does this passage advance the story or not? Is this character credible, and if not, why not?

This sort of arrangement can challenge your thinking in a way that a course might. and it's not as expensive! What do others think?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why bother?

Publishers’ websites make grim reading for aspiring authors. Those who accept unsolicited manuscripts tell the frank truth: they receive thousands every year, and may only publish one or two. Those are not great odds and even the most optimistic unpublished author cannot read that without their lips tightening.

Times are tough: one major publisher no longer sends rejection letters. I guess they’re streamlining their processes, and figure that not emailing 5000 form letters saying “thanks but no thanks” can free-up a staff member’s valuable time. It sends a clear message to those of us in the slush pile. And it’s not a nice one.

It’s food for procrastinators, and probably the crux of “not writing”. Why bother to waste valuable time developing engaging characters and plots with unpredictable turns? Why re-re-read a sentence to see that it flows well, and makes a clear (or ambiguous) point? Why agonise over whether that witticism is funny or lame? Why mull over the best sequence to deliver events? Why get into line with thousands of others, all of whom could probably write better than I ever could, and wait for months to hear....nuffin?

Why waste time writing when I could be earning a better salary?  

Well, here’s some of the reasons; I figure even if I’m doomed to be unpublished forever, those hours haven’t wasted:
1.    I love being on a “roll”, when the words flow and the answer to a conundrum suddenly appears, and the path is clear, all the way to the finish line!
2.    It beats doing housework.
3.    I’m giving my brain such a work-out, I’ve probably staved-off dementia for a few years- thereby giving me more time in my life to – um – write.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Was it Douglas Adams who said "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go whizzing by."

I guess that aspiring writers don't have that luxury. As pointed-out in the previous entry, competitions do not allow the option of a missed deadline. Well, if they do, I certainly haven't found out. Not had the guts to test them.

My goal is to enter competitions. OK, my goal is to win one - or at least to get short-listed. I figure that it looks good on the bio. So most of my creative output has been directed towards competition entry.

The pattern usually goes like this:
1. Find out about a comp., and think "Hmmm, interesting. The deadline's months away. I'll prioritise other comps above it."
2. Two weeks before deadline: "Oooh, deadline's approaching ... better start thinking about it".
3. Ten days before deadline: "OMG. Panic time. The cupboard's bare. I have nothing to write. About anything in general and that topic in particular. I can't enter this competition. It's too hard/ not enough time/ I have nothing that fits."
4. Nine days to go. Stop dead in tracks: "Hey - what about......" Smiles. I think I've got something!
5. Next few days: Write like crazy. Waaay over the word limit. Tears hair. Maybe I wont...
6. Five days to go: Edit. Cut out lots of words/ scenes/ passages. Swap a few adjectives or metaphors for a single well chosen word.
7. Four days to go "This is crap. It stinks. How can I tell my beautifully developed story wtih only xxxx words?"
8. Three days to go. "Slash and burn. This character can go. Character y can take over role"
9. Two days to go. "This is my final edit. I swear, I won't tinker with anything, anything at all."
10. On the day: "Ok, I'll tweak this. Now, email and be damned! Press SEND. Try to forget about it.
11. Following day: Hey - here's another comp. When's the deadline again?