2014 Roundup

Drawing of trees in snow2014 has been an interesting year. I:

  • signed with an agent who’s now shopping my fiction around
  • wrote a couple of short stories (writing short stories is pretty rare for me)
  • critiqued a bunch of novels and had one of mine critiqued in return
  • gave a workshop on story structure at the local convention which was exceptionally well received (very happy about that!)
  • gave two presentations at a writers day: one on story structure, the other on blogging
  • grew the Fantasy Writers community on G+ to well over 8000 members
  • changed careers thanks to government cutbacks
  • edited half a novel
  • wrote the best part of a non-fiction book on story structure

So what does all that mean for me in 2015? It means:

  • I’ll be writing and editing a lot more in the evenings/at night
  • I’ll hopefully sell my first novel to a major publisher
  • I should have a non-fiction book ready-to-go in the next few months that will help a lot of writers with their stories
  • I still have three fiction novels that are written and need editing
  • I have far too many more books I want to write.

How’d you go this year, and what does that imply for your expectations in 2015?

So, you want to get your book noticed on social media, huh?

Screenshot: A mermaid holding jewellery while half out of the ocean
Screenshot from the Fantasy Writers Community on Google Plus

If you’ve been playing around on social media for a while and you tend to follow a lot of writers like I do, you’ll probably notice your feed filling up with book advertising.

Some of it will be blatant, some less so, but it’s still advertising, and few people want to see it.

So what’s the solution?

Consider this. My favourite social media playground is Google Plus where I run a community called Fantasy Writers. It has almost 8000 members, and it’s growing rapidly.

When I started Fantasy Writers I was trying to build a helpful and supportive community, not an advertising forum, so I banned self-promotion.

Unfortunately, the issue wasn’t so simple. People ignored the rule or found ways around it, and I spent far more time moderating the community than I wanted to.

In response I created a category and called it ‘Self-Promo Saturday’ for members to get their advertising out of their system, usable on Saturdays only.

It worked a charm. The list is clear of promotional stuff most days, while Saturdays see a deluge of it.

But guess what? The self-promotional stuff gets ignored anyway.

Why? Nobody wants to see advertising.

Even the people who advertise don’t bother to look at what everyone else is advertising and support each other.

And there’s the key.

Nobody cares about your book except you, but people do care about their friends, and friends help each other out.

So here’s the secret to promoting your book on social media:

  • comment on other people’s posts
  • interact with people on social media as you would your real life friends
  • share their stuff if you think it’s appropriate
  • crow about your book victories and achievements on occasion, but only if it’s newsworthy (like a new cover or contract).

With a little bit of luck people will care enough about you to promote your book when they see something newsworthy.

In short, show you care about others and they’ll respond in kind.

And like Forest Gump, ‘that’s all I’ve got to say about that’.

Now get on your butt and write something people will want to share because you’re so awesome!

Find out more about Fantasy Writers.

Good things come to those who persevere

Today I’ve got Justin Woolley here with some great advice on an essential skill every writer should develop. Justin puts much of his success in writing and finding a publisher for his debut novel down to that skill.

Over to you Justin…

Head and shoulders shot of Justin Woolley‘Good things come to those who wait’ might be the worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard.

But ok, while you’re waiting for good things to happen I’ll be over here mashing the keyboard like an infinite number of monkeys.

You see, there’s much advice out there on the craft of writing, some of it good, some of it not, but all of it designed to help you master the nuts and bolts of various aspects of process.

This might be novel structure or showing and not telling or developing characters or building rising conflict while cutting adverbs and killing darlings.

While all that is obviously important, I think the single most important skill a new writer can develop is not related to the craft of writing at all, at least not directly, and that skill is perseverance.

I say that because the craft of writing will come if you work at it.

Take the advice you think works for you. Chuck out what doesn’t.

You’ll hone your skills. You’ll find your voice.

But all that will only happen if you’ve got the drive to persevere.

Writing a novel is hard. Damn hard.

You’ve got to turn up, day after day, and you’ve got to get the words down.

Sometimes the cogs spin like a dream and just like all those infinite monkeys you write yourself some Hamlet.

Other days it’s like hitting your face up and down on the keyboard until your eyes are black and your nose is bloody.

That’s where perseverance comes in.

You need to persevere because you need to finish things.

So many people probably have three and a half chapters of a manuscript saved somewhere in the dingy back-waters of an old hard-drive living in a garbage can and barking indecipherable nonsense at passing files.

Unfortunately unfinished work can’t be edited (and writing is rewriting after all) and unfinished work can’t be published.

Finishing the first-draft of a novel is a significant achievement, it’s the first step toward a completed novel and ask anyone who’s done it, it took perseverance.

So, that’s all well and good you say, but how do I help myself persevere?

Well I’ve found one of the most beneficial things you can do is set yourself a daily word count goal.

Start with 500 or 1000 words, whatever you think you can accomplish in the time you have factoring in however much punishment your face can withstand.

Be realistic but don’t make it too easy either.

You want to ensure you can meet it every day but also setting a goal of six words is cheating.

Consider this little fact brought to you by the magic mathematics: if you write 500 words a day, in 180 days (six months) you will have written 90,000 words.You need to persevere because you need to finish things.

That dear friends, is a book.

Don’t underestimate the small chunks of time you can find during the day to write either.

Maybe it’s on the train to work or waiting for an appointment.

Perhaps you can only squeeze out 100 words, maybe 50, maybe only 20, but the fact that you spent that time on your writing and not staring at your phone matching coloured pieces of candy is exactly the discipline needed to persevere.

The other key reason you’re going to need perseverance is that once you’ve got that book written (and then rewritten and probably rewritten again a few times) and you finally get it out into the world you’re going to get hit with the sledgehammer of rejection, probably numerous times.

This is where you get to flex those perseverance muscles you’ve built up.

When the rejection hammer smashes your teeth in for the tenth time you head back to the dentist, get patched up and put that book out there again.

This sucks. I get that. I’ve been there.

When you’re hunting for your big break, when you’re desperate to catch that first novel sale, when you’re thinking about giving up or just slapping that sucker up on Amazon yourself, you’ve got to dig deep, take feedback on board and maybe rewrite again.

Ultimately you need to know that persevering here makes you a better writer.

This writing game is a marathon not a sprint.

For some of you my harping on about perseverance may sound a bit preachy, or you be thinking it’s not really a skill, but let me just say this, I had to learn to persevere with writing.

I really do consider it a learned skill and sure, while I obviously developed my craft, I think perseverance is what finally got me my first novel sale.

Perseverance will make your writing output higher, it will make your writing better; it will make your chances of success greater.

At the end of the day perseverance is the trait that turns aspiring authors into published authors.

Justin Woolley has been writing stories since he could first scrawl with a crayon. When he was six years old he wrote his first book, a 300-word pirate epic in unreadable handwriting called ‘The Ghost Ship’. He promptly declared that he was now an author and didn’t need to go to school. Despite being informed that this was, in fact, not the case, he continued to make things up and write them down. 

A Town Called Dust: Justin’s debut novel will be published November 13th, 2014 by Momentum Books.

In his other life Justin has been an engineer, a teacher and at one stage even a magician. His handwriting has not improved. 

You can find Justin’s website at http://www.justinwoolley.net/ or on Twitter: @Woollz.

A Town Called Dust

A Town Called DustStranded in the desert, the last of mankind is kept safe by a large border fence… Until the fence falls.

Squid is a young orphan living under the oppressive rule of his uncle in the outskirts of the Territory. Lynn is a headstrong girl with an influential father who has spent her entire life within the walled city of Alice.

When the border fence is breached, the Territory is invaded by the largest horde of undead ghouls seen in two hundred years. Squid is soon conscripted into the Diggers – the armed forces of the Territory. And after Lynn finds herself at odds with the Territory’s powerful church, she too escapes to join the Diggers.

Together Squid and Lynn form an unlikely friendship as they march to battle against the ghouls. Their journey will take them further than they ever imagined, leading them closer to discovering secrets about themselves, their world, and a conspiracy that may spell the end of the Territory as they know it.

The Dreaded Show vs. Tell – Guest post by CJ Davis

Today I’ve got CJ Davis here to talk about his Show vs Tell learning curve. Although it’s a simple concept, it takes a long time to get your head around it.

CJ Davis profile shotOne of my favorite movies of all time is the Matrix.

With the perfect combination of sci-fi, originality and action, the movie stands head and shoulders above most.

Like Neo, the main character from the Matrix who discovers he’s plugged into a virtual reality simulator, I recently had a similar awakening.

No, this awakening was not nearly as dramatic as finding out your whole life is a lie, and you are in fact facing an almost certain death by an evil robot army.

My awakening was more of the subtle kind, but for those who have gone through a similar enlightenment can attest it’s no small matter.

My editor opened my eyes to the dreaded show vs. tell rule, and my reading and writing experience has not been the same since.

The year was 2013 and the excitement of turning in my first novel to my editor had me giddy.

In my naivety, I was certain she was only going to reply with a few grammatical fixes.

Unfortunately, the email I finally received from her was foretelling of all the hard work I had in front of me.

The main focus of her critique was around the show vs. tell rule.

What the heck is show vs. tell I remember thinking.

I looked it up online, and immediately realized I had an enormous amount of work to do.

What is Show vs. Tell?

“Show, don’t tell is a technique often employed in various kinds of texts to enable the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarization, and description. The goal is not to drown the reader in heavy-handed adjectives, but rather to allow readers to interpret significant details in the text.” – Wikipedia

The show vs. tell rule is a very simple concept to understand, but difficult to do.

The most painful part of developing my craft as an author was learning how to write a scene as a “show.”

It took weeks of going back and forth with my editor on how to effectively do this.

At one point, in the early stages, she even suggested that perhaps I should get a ghost writer.

That was a low point for me.

What was very helpful for me on perfecting my show vs. tell writing abilities was working through exercises.

My editor would send me several “tell” phrases, and I would turn them into “shows”.

A couple examples of this include:

He was coming in, and she did not want him to know she’d been smoking.

She quickly grabbed the magazine, which ironically had a cigarette ad with a tough looking cowboy on the back cover, and desperately fanned the smoke out the window.

He didn’t like the coffee, but drank it to not hurt her feelings.

To avoid any ill will, he resisted the urge to make a bitter face after swallowing the mystery liquid she’d given him. It was supposed to be coffee, but he was sure the pool of water collecting on the street on the way in tasted more like coffee than what he just ingested.

After many hard months, and great coaching from my editor, the show vs. tells in my books had improved dramatically.

There is no question; the scenes are more compelling and engaging.  Here is an example from my novel, Blue Courage:

Before (Tell):

Continuing to dangle upside down from the Allosaurus’s clutching jaws; Rajiv didn’t give up. He continued to aggressively swing his blade trying to get the beast to drop him.  Every swing jostled his body and brought an almost unbearable pain to his ankle. The dinosaur appeared to be patiently waiting for his pesky prey to tire before he finished him off. Rajiv was running out of time, as he increasingly lost a lot of blood.

After (Show):

Rajiv grimaced as he felt the bones in his foot crack. Somewhere beyond the pain, he managed to pull his blade free of its sheath and tried to pierce the soft skin near the mouth of the beast. Blood poured from his wounds into his eyes. With a final shake from the beast, Rajiv’s sword flew from his hand and clattered to the ground.

Practice Makes Perfect

Much like Neo when he returns to the matrix, I see the world differently now.

When I’m reading, I see “tells” everywhere, and it always annoys me.

When I’m writing, I can spend twenty minutes on one paragraph, trying to create the perfect “show.”

Shows are inherently harder to pull off, but a necessary craft to master if you want to be a great writer.

Like almost everything in life, practice makes perfect.  Good luck.

CJ Davis is an American writer who lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and two little girls. By day he is a marketing executive for a software company, and by night he writes novels. His artistic influences include: J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, George Romero, George Lucas, Billy Corgan, Max Brooks, and of course Tolkien, Koontz and King.

 

If you got something out of CJ’s advice on ‘Show vs. Tell’, please check out his book: Blue Courage.

Battle for the Afterlife book coverDeath is just the beginning for Navy SEAL Reese Hawthorne.

After an unlikely encounter with the girl of his dreams during a rescue mission in the drug cartel filled jungles of Mexico, Reese awakens in a futuristic city in the Afterlife.

A formidable, massive wall is the only thing protecting the city from countless ferocious prehistoric beasts, and hoards of ghoulish creatures, known as Lost Souls.

On the eve of a perilous cross-country race across the Afterlife realm between the forces of good and evil, war hangs in the balance on the heals of a loose treaty created hundreds of years ago.

Armed with deadly weapons and their enhanced physical abilities, like strength, vision and quickness–the most gifted warriors, are pitted against each other.

The first side to either destroy their opponents, or reach a distant ancient temple far outside the safety of the city walls, will win an unimaginable power, and change the outcome of humanity.

Reese must do everything he can to stop the forces of evil from winning the race and enslaving every free soul in the Universe.

You can see the trailer at CJ Davis’s Amazon Author Profile (bottom right).

If you like CJ’s advice on Show vs. Tell, you might like Amanda Bridgeman’s advice: How to write a thousand words (or maybe more). 

What’s your Show vs. Tell war story? Let us know in the comment.

I’ll be teaching at Conflux!

A person giving a presentation in an auditoriumYes, you read the title right.

I’ll be teaching  a workshop at Conflux this October.

Why?

Because I’ve been lucky enough to find answers to many the questions I’ve had over the last few years in regard to story, structure and reader expectations, and I’d like to pass some of them on.

I’ve compiled as much of my research as I could into a workshop designed to benefit almost any writer, even those who already know everything (like I thought I did). ;-D

So, what’s this workshop about?

Did you ever get the feeling your story wasn’t working? Or not working well enough?

Perhaps you gave it to some beta readers and their reactions didn’t inspire confidence despite the fact they said they liked it?

I’ve had that feeling, and no matter what I changed, people weren’t reacting the way they were supposed to (i.e., by demanding the sequel).

The prose itself was tight, the characters believable, the world intensely real (at least to me), and the story amazing (I might be showing a little bias).

The point is, the story I saw in my head didn’t translate to the page, and I didn’t know how to fix that.

In short, I didn’t have a story that met readers expectations in the ways it was supposed to.

At every level of schooling I ever attended, right through to university, I was told a story needed a beginning, middle and end, but nobody told me what those parts demanded or how to go about identifying problems or areas that weren’t working.

And that’s what I intend to teach in my workshop – the elements of story – the things that nobody else will teach you because most people aren’t even aware they exist.

So if you’ve got the time, come along and take the workshop.

It’s free for Conflux members and ridiculously cheap if you’re not.

You can find more details on the Conflux website: Planning and Structuring a Novel: A Conflux workshop.

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 5, Gratitude – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Today I have the privilege of presenting the final part of Amanda Bridgeman’s guest post on being a successful writer.

I can honestly say it’s wonderful to have Amanda here – her advice on writing is always encouraging, and her understanding of the publishing business is both insightful and grounded in experience.

Gratitude

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairIn my eighteen months of being published, I have met quite a lot of people in the industry and I’m happy to say that most of these people have been awesome.

I’m the kind of person who remembers when someone has done right by me (and there have been a lot), and I also remember when they have done wrong.

I was raised to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, so it’s ingrained into me and in everything I do.

When people support me by retweeting or sharing my posts, I always make sure I say thank you and try to reciprocate with their next promo tweet/post.

I also try to pay it forward and support other authors I may not know.

One trend I’m seeing, particularly on Twitter, is that less and less people are saying thank you, and less and less people are reciprocating when you retweet/repost something of theirs.

Now, I obviously don’t expect a big-name author to say thank you or retweet something, as they tend to have thousands/millions of fans, and that is just not feasible.

BUT, when I see ‘small’ authors who are still trying to climb their way up, who don’t say thank-you or offer support in-kind, well I’m a little disappointed to be honest.

I normally give them a few chances before I decide that my time is best used in supporting someone else who will appreciate it.

So, I guess what I’m saying here is: Don’t ever take anything for granted.

The publishing industry is a small one, so don’t be rude, don’t be selfish, don’t think that you don’t need anyone else’s help.

I guarantee you that being kind and generous, being supportive, and being thankful will get you more places, faster.

If someone is taking the time to retweet/share your book news, they are helping you promote and potentially sell your book, so for god’s sake show your appreciation and say thank you!

And that doesn’t just go for supporting other authors, it applies to everyone in the industry and your readers too. Especially your readers.

Catch the rest of Amanda’s series on the five key elements of being a successful writer:

Aurora Series of covers

Born and raised in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, Amanda was raised her on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC. She studied film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University. Her debut novel Aurora:Darwin was published with Momentum in May 2013; the sequel Aurora: Pegasus was published in December 2013; and Aurora: Meridian will be released on 11 September 2014.

 Where you can find Amanda:

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 4, Understanding – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Today Amanda Bridgeman is back with part 4 of her guest blog series on being a successful writer – understanding!

Understanding 

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairReading a ‘bad’ review of your work can gut you.

All that hard work, all that heart and soul you poured into your story, dismissed within a few strokes of an angry reader’s keyboard.

But you must never respond to these reviews (even if the things they claim in the review are incorrect).

Just stop and think about the last time you read a book and thought ‘that was crap’ or ‘that was boring’ or ‘that wasn’t my cup-of-tea’.

Or what about the latest film you saw? Did you come out of the cinema and post on Twitter/Facebook ‘That ending was rubbish’.

Or did you post while watching a TV show about how unrealistic that car chase scene was? We all do it.

We all spew forth our criticisms about everything in life and generally it’s an easy thing to do because we don’t personally know the people behind what we’re criticising.

When you become a published author and are placed in the public eye, your thoughts on this will change dramatically.

At least, mine did.

When you experience first-hand public criticism, you tend to shift and adapt your own responses to things with this in mind.

I am more mindful now about ‘shooting from the hip’. I try to think about what I’m going to say publicly on Facebook, twitter, etc, before I say it.

Because I know now what it feels like to be on the receiving end, and I also know that once you say something on social media, etc, it is out there forever.

So when you have a reader/reviewer talking about your book and ‘shooting from the hip’, try to be understanding.

They don’t know you personally, they just, very honestly, didn’t like your book. And again, that’s the life of a writer.

Not everyone will like your book, just the same way that you won’t like everything that you read.

Aurora Meridian cover artIt is fundamental that you understand and accept this.

It is also fundamental that you don’t focus on the negative too much. You must focus your efforts on those that DO love your work.

After all, these are the people you write for, and these are the people who will champion your book.

You need to understand your market, you need to understand the industry, and most importantly you need to understand that not everyone will like your book.

Some authors don’t read any of their reviews – good or bad, but most, just like me, can’t help themselves.

We like to see what people loved about our books, and yes, if you’re serious about being a writer, you will also be interested to see what people didn’t like about your books, as it can be a useful tool in improving your writing.

I read an article on Stephen King once where he said (talking about beta readers), if one person says they don’t like something about your book, then that’s just their opinion.

But if five people say the same thing – you need to fix it. What your beta readers may have missed, the general public might not, and that may just help you with your next book.

Join Amanda tomorrow for the last part in her series: Gratitude.

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 3, Discipline– Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman graces us again today with the third instalment of her five key elements to being a successful writer. Today she talks about discipline.

Discipline

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairBooks don’t write themselves.

They take a hell of a lot of time (and blood, sweat and tears), so stop procrastinating and get to it!

The best analogy here is with athletes.

The most successful athletes are those that are incredibly disciplined and spend every waking moment doing everything they can to make themselves a better athlete (they train for hours, they watch what they eat, they ensure they get enough sleep, etc, etc).

You must be disciplined and set time aside to write, or to promote, or to learn.

If you don’t then you will never achieve your goals.

Aurora Meridian cover artPersistence pays when it comes to writing, and the only way to get something done is to get something done!

So set yourself a deadline and stick to it.

The most successful writers out there (aside from having a mass of talent), are hard workers.

They are disciplined, they are dedicated, and they dare to dream.

Part 4 tomorrow: Understanding.

Catch up on Amanda’s very first guest blog post here: How to write a thousand words (or maybe more).

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 2, Willingness – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman is back with some more fantastic advice on the key elements of being a successful writer, and today (as usual) she’s spot-on. It all comes back to the fact that you’ve got to be open and eager to achieve things. Here’s how Amanda puts it:

Willingness

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairBe eager to learn and continue to learn.

Be willing to listen to the advice of your editor, your publisher, your marketing people.

Be willing to attend conferences and talks and listen to what the ‘pros’ have to say, and also what the ‘fans’ have to say.

Be willing to take classes to hone your skills.

Be willing to read across genres and read often.

Be willing to spend time keeping your finger on the pulse of popular culture (Film, TV, music, etc).

Be willing to keep your eye on what is happening in the real world.

Assume that you know nothing (Jon Snow) and strive to learn more.

You must always be willing to improve yourself and your writing, and every step of the way you must be professional while you do it.

Part 3 tomorrow – Discipline

Aurora Series of covers

Miss yesterday’s post? Find out about what Amanda has to say about having Patience.

Five Key Elements of a Successful Writer, Part 1, Patience – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairWhen I saw a tweet from Amanda (pure luck with the timing as I’m rarely on Twitter) asking if people would be happy to host her on a blog tour, I jumped at the chance. Amanda’s a fantastic writer with some great insights into the publishing industry (not to mention a lovely person), so I was keen to host her here.

I asked her to  share some of her experience into her writing career, and randomly picked ‘the darkest hour’ as a topic.

Well, she knocked the topic out of the arena, across three States and into a pretty neat little Territory called the ACT, almost punching it into orbit on the way.

This is part one, on the subject of… [drum roll]… needing patience as a writer!

When I asked Chris what he would like me to write about for this blog, he suggested discussing my darkest hour.

I thought about this, and decided to discuss the ways in which you can help avoid experiencing that darkest hour.

Aurora Meridian cover artThe one thing I have learnt about being a published writer is that it is a constant roller coaster of a ride and it will continue that way until you decide to pull the plug.

I’ve never been much of a roller coaster fan, but I’m slowly getting used to it.

You will have your awesome ‘up’ days, and you will have your depressing ‘down’ days.

But that’s the life of a writer – you either accept it or you don’t.

There are ways to minimise the impact, though, by preparing yourself and managing your expectations.

So here is the first of five aspects I think every writer must strive to embrace in order to ward off your darkest days.

Patience

If you want to be published, you must realise and accept that it takes time.

A lot of time.

Firstly you must write that book, then you must whip that book into shape, then you need to ship it around to all the different players, then you need to wait for responses, then you need to negotiate contacts, then you need to go through several rounds of editing, then you need to market and sell your book.

All of this can take years. And even then, when you finally release your book, it is highly unlikely that it will be an overnight sensation – rocketing up the charts.

You need patience to bring your book to publication, then you need patience while you build up your readership.

There is a phenomenal amount of books out there, so it can take time to reach readers. So be realistic with your expectations. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Serious writers are in this for the long haul, and patience is their most prized possession. Don’t believe me? Check out these blogs by Peter M Ball:

Born and raised in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, Amanda hails from fishing and farming stock. The youngest of four children, her three brothers raised her on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC. She studied film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University (BA Communication Studies) in Perth, Western Australia, which has been her home ever since, aside from a nineteen month stint in London (England). Her debut novel Aurora:Darwin was published with Momentum in May 2013; the sequel Aurora: Pegasus was published in December 2013; and Aurora: Meridian will be released on 11 September 2014.

Part 2… “Willingness”

Things I wish I knew about Dealing With Rejection when I started writing

Dealing with rejectionRejection’s never fun, and although I’ve copped a fair amount of it I still suffer from that moment of disbelief whenever another story gets returned.

Either something didn’t resonate (which is rarely the writers fault – you can’t please everyone), or the story in your head got lost in translation – which is your fault. You’re the translator, after all.

You’d be surprised at how frequently people see something you didn’t intend, or more likely, how rarely they do.

Regardless of the reason, rejection gets easier, but I doubt anyone would ever say it’s a ‘woohoo’ moment (even if you’re involved in some sort of competition to get you submitting – the more rejections, the more proactive you’re being as a writer, after all).

It’s hard not to be precious about our writing, but you can reduce the angst by writing more stories and sending out. That way you’re not pinning your hopes on one – you’ll have dozens out there carrying your dreams of publication.

Don’t consider trunking a story until it’s had at least fifteen or twenty rejections either, and probably not even then. You cared enough to write it, so there’s always going to be something magic there.

Put the story away for a while if you need to – you’ll see it with fresh eyes when you return to it.

In the mean time, write more stories and keep sending them out. Sooner or later, you’ll hit a mark. Lots of marks, hopefully.

Here’s some more great advice on Dealing with Rejection:

“Expect rejection, and when the rejection letter comes, put on your thick skin and send your story out again. Then sit down and feel the pain, and because your baby has been sent out again, feel the hope. Keep writing.” Cora Foerstner

“Rejection is part of the process and your work will not be right for everyone, no matter how good it is. Keep multiple queries or submissions going out, so you don’t have all your eggs (and hopes) in one basket.” Maer Wilson

“When I experience rejection, I consider that all the big authors have five star and one star reviews, so we should expect it too. And, when it’s your baby…remember, it will be a big and strapping young thing one day that can handle itself.” James Steven Clark

“That first rejection might hurt. Even the second. But by the thirtieth, or one-hundredth, it’s like water off a duck’s back. Doesn’t bother you so much. Trust that this will happen and don’t let the fear of rejection stop you.” Vanessa MacLellan

“Before sending off a submission, always know where you’ll be sending that story next should it get rejected. Having a back-up plan before you receive a rejection will soften the blow.” Zena Shapter

“You most likely won’t win the book lottery. Margaret Mitchell, John Scalzi, and others who have managed the almost impossible, partially got lucky, but they had the book that made it possible for them to get lucky. So if you’re getting lots of rejection letters, look to reworking your book, or abandon it and move on.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

Using critiques to improve your writing

Using critiques to improve your writingI’ve probably mentioned I’m participating in a novel critique group this year.

Every month someone in the group puts their novel up for critique, and the rest of us pull it apart with a view to improvement.

It’s all about critical analysis, but its the passion you need to look for – what people love or… really don’t love.

Unfortunately, every comment that’s not adoration stings a little.

In fact, the more effort someone’s put into a book, the bigger the sting they’ll feel.

Still, feedback’s just feedback – impressions based on what other people would do if it were theirs, and that’s the attitude you need to take into it.

The problem is, it’s easy to get lost in the detail or take things personally. It is your baby, after all.

Once you get over the initial disbelief that everyone else doesn’t love it as much as you do (believe it or not that happens occasionally), you’ll begin to discover some value in what’s said.

Hopefully you’ll see lots of value.

Even so, all of it will all be given with bias due to personal tastes and perspectives, so take a step back and ask yourself a few questions about where you want to take your story and what you want to achieve with it.

If you can do that, you’ll be in a better position to assess the responses.

There are a lot of specific questions you could ask yourself, but only one that’s important at this stage:

“What impression did my story make?”

Seriously. Everything hinges off that question. Specifics can wait.

How people react after reading your novel is the truest test of its worth.

If your critiquers didn’t like it, consider that a reasonable parallel with your intended readers. Translation: poor sales.

You’ll need to weigh their reactions against what you know about the individual critiquers of course, particularly if they’re not in your target audience.

For example, romance writers may not appreciate your military SF novel,  but they may know more about developing characters that readers will care about than you do.

In that regard, the greatest thing you can do (from a commercial perspective) is impress readers from other genres.

Everyone’s perspective is valuable, particularly if you concentrate on emotional responses instead of critical analysis.

If you give your novel to ten people and none of them love your story, then it’s probably not working  as well as you need it to.

On the flip side, if they’re emailing you for weeks and months afterward with ideas or are demanding to read the sequel, then you know something’s resonated with them.

That’s the magic you’re looking for!

That’s what sells books, and that’s what you need.

Whatever else you do, keep the things that people love and try to figure out why those things resonated with them (if it’s not obvious).

Conversely, consider ways of improving everything they didn’t like – their critical responses will help with this.

You may even come to the conclusion that some of the things you love have to go or be completely reworked.

A good knowledge of story structure and getting readers to care about what happens to your characters helps here.

How you use the knowledge is the hard part, but it can only come after you assess their reactions.

Write another novel if you need more time to gain perspective. It can only help.

Things I wish I knew about Short Stories when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about short stories when I started writing.There are a lot of great things about short stories – they’re fast to write (at least in comparison to novels), there’s plenty of markets for them, and they allow you to practice and hone your craft while you learn to deal with the realities of the publishing world.

I often use them to explore my larger worlds with fresh characters, and consequently there’s been more than one occasion where a character from short story has made it into a novel.

That said, short stories take a long time to master (if that’s even possible), and even experienced writers who’ve got dozens, perhaps hundreds of shorts published, still learn with each new story they produce.

My advice: Always have at least one or two short stories on the go. That’s something I neglected for a long time.

Here’s some more great advice:

“In a short story, every word counts and every scene should do triple duty.  You’ve no time to waste.” Vanessa MacLellan

“Do not start with a dry explanation of the story’s context.” Mary Jeddore Blakney

“Short stories for a writer are like sketches are for an artist. There is only room to explore your main subject. Every line counts, so make the best of them.” Kelly Martin

“Don’t try to turn a short story into a novel.” Vruta Gupte

“Short stories are a great way to get feedback from readers.  With minimal investment, you can see which of your stories readers like the best – and then, the most popular stories can be used for your next novel.” Drew Briney

“A short is kind of like a poignant snapshot of a much deeper story. So don’t get too bogged down trying to tell the WHOLE story. DO tell enough to draw the reader in and make it an interesting story within the larger story.” Dana Masting

“The few words of a short story can be far more powerful than a novel if done right. Often this takes more out of you to do this, and will leave you more drained than a novel can after it is finished.” Andrea Jensen

“You can still earn money writing short stories.” Vruta Gupte

“Writing a short story is a style all of its own.” Chantelle Griffin

“Writing shorts stories help sell your bigger novels. Gives new readers a small taste of your projects to garner interest. Not everything you write has to be the Great American Novel.” Chris Mentzer

“I wish I’d known to not be embarrassed or distressed because I suck at writing short stories. My natural story length is the novel, and I don’t have to follow the “conventional wisdom” that you have to break in with short stories, and then sell the novel.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

“I’ve never written a short story, but just about every scene I’ve written has a beginning, middle, and end…” Mark Mercieca

Things I wish I knew about Point of View when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about Point of View when I started writing.Point of View is one of those things that often takes a long time to get your head around (no pun intended), but once you do you can’t ‘not see it’ when writers ‘break’ the rules.

I recently re-read a book I’d loved as a teenager – a book that sold in the millions and even spawned a movie.

By today’s standards it’s was atrocious in terms of POV, which just goes to show how subjective we all are as readers.

More to the point, what’s acceptable today may not be acceptable in the decades to come.

While I’d encourage people to stick with a single POV per scene, it’s really only a guideline. Do whatever works for you and your readers.

Here’s some more advice you might like to consider:

“Point of view is the best way to get in a characters mind.”
Era Metko

“Be sure to stay within one point of view until a scene change.” Glendon Perkins

“Stick to one per scene. No head-hopping!” Robin Lythgoe

“Understand POVs.  Read the definitions of First, Second, Third, Omniscient, etc.  Realise head hopping is OKAY if that is what you intend.  Don’t let people tell you you can’t do it, because they think it’s wrong.  It’s not wrong, it’s just not their choice.” Vanessa MacLellan

“I wish I’d known that after two books in a trilogy written in first-person, my third book would have to be written from multiple POV. I probably would have done it the same way, but I would have thought a lot harder about the choice.” Blanca Florido

“As a reader I get confused when an author changes viewpoints (head hops) in the same scene unless something else makes it obvious.” Mark Mercieca

“Use whatever POV works best for you and your story – no matter what everybody else says.” Victoria Adams

“I tend to define my narrator as a character. This helps focus my story by limiting what can be told through the narrator’s understanding of events as opposed to my author’s perspective. I attribute motive to a narrator as well, colouring the story with their agenda. Sometimes what they omit or change is as informative as what they relate.” Kelly Martin

“Nothing can break a reader’s attention quicker than a change in the point of view. Tread very carefully when adding more than one, and make sure it is necessary for the story. No amount of revision will smooth out a piece of writing when a point of view is in the wrong place.” Chantelle Griffin

“I would recommend staying with the same POV throughout your novel, except you might slip into an omniscient viewpoint if no POV character is present in the scene, and perhaps if it’s in first person and that character dies.” Mark Mercieca

“Play with POVs, especially on the first draft, but even when editing. You could discover a new perspective that brings light in an otherwise horribly confusing chapter.” Era Metko

“POV is most effective when the narrator shares the “voice” of the POV character (regardless of whether you’re writing first person, third person, whatever). This makes for a more interesting narration and can help to orient the reader when switching POVs (your hitman probably narrates in short, terse sentences with the occasional swear; your sassy teen probably narrates with slang).” Madison Dusome

“As a story progresses it should become clear “Why” the narrator is interested in telling the particular story. If the reader can’t figure out “Why” the narrator cares about the story, then it is going to be more difficult for the reader to care about the story.” Kelly Martin

Everything I wish I knew about First drafts when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about first drafts when I started writing.Unlike me, I’m sure most writers never have any trouble finishing a first draft. Okay, maybe a couple do.

I like to tinker, play, and revise to distraction. In fact, I sat on the opening three chapters of my first novel for about a hundred years.

Years, anyway. Quite a few of them.

Which brings me to today’s subject. First drafts. How do you go about writing them? What’s your best advice to a newbie on the subject?

I’ve found the best way for me is to rush through them – write every day until they’re done, and then take a break. NaNoWriMo is perfect for this.

So my advice: Get it on the page – it doesn’t matter how good or bad it is. You can fix it later.

Here’s some more great advice you might like to consider:

“Your first draft is your plan or outline. It’s much easier to take your ideas and characters out for a spin in the virtual world of an outline rather than manage hundreds of pages of a rough manuscript that may end up going nowhere.” Luke Mercieca

“Bad news is, it will suck because you’re not perfect. Good news is, you can make it better. Even better news is, that means you don’t have to worry about what you write. The first draft is for yourself and yourself only.” Era Metko

“The first draft of a manuscript lies in the midst of a great journey. What you do next will make all the difference.” Chantelle Griffin

“A large part of what goes into a first draft will not appear
in the finished work.” Giulio Zambon

“You will see things that need to change, how a different structure would enhance a scene or a chapter. Take notes, move on, and make those changes in revision.” Gerri Lynn Baxter

“Chapters 1, 2 & 3 are about to become Chapters 2, 3, 1 & 4. Oh yeah and you need to tear out most of them and re-write, because they’re bad.” Charles Murray

“In the middle of the draft, if it gets hard or boring or you feel like it’s the worst thing anyone’s ever written, that’s completely normal. Keep on writing anyway.” Kyra Halland

“You might end up rewriting 90 per cent of it, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid of it.” L.K. Evans 

“Writing is like making a jigsaw puzzle without an image of the finished work, and the first draft is like working on the edges of the puzzle and on the parts you can easily recognise. Expecting to be able to write a first draft from the beginning to end is like attempting to solve a puzzle from top-left to bottom-right.” Giulio Zambon

“You’ll discover so much more about your world, characters, plot than you had planned.  And that’s okay.  Don’t try to force it into a box, even if you do have an outline.” Vanessa Maclellan

“Don’t get distracted by little details that you think you should fix – keep the momentum going and save your edits for later.” Drew Briney

“You can get port in goon-bags.” JW Arlock

“First Drafts are first drafts. It may only be a very small step on a very long journey especially if your intension is to write a series and its the first book. The first draft may be an experiment to see if the plot works or even an expedition to discover both the plot and the characters, and after a analysing it you might find yourself transplanting these elements into a decent story structure…” Mark Mercieca

“Don’t waste time trying to polish up a first draft.” Giulio Zambon

“You’ll get bogged down somewhere around the middle. Don’t give up. Push through, and finish it.” Keith Keffer

And there you have it. I think the general consensus is ‘just write it and worry about making it great later’.

What’s your advice?

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