Story Worms (When You Don’t Have Plot Bunnies to Play With)

Wellington BootsMany writers talk about plot bunnies; when you get one little idea, and then it multiplies and multiplies, and very soon you’re overrun with baby plot bunnies. Sometimes too many ideas coming too quickly. It can be easy to get overwhelmed.

I, on the other hand, don’t get plot bunnies. I get story worms.

Out of the blue, I’ll become aware of one, buried deep in my brain. Sometimes I’ll glimpse its little head poking out, other times just evidence of its presence: holes, worm poo. I know it’s there, but I can’t get to it.

Far from being rapid multipliers like plot bunnies, my story worms need to be charmed out. It’s a gentle process requiring skill, patience, a little luck, and the ability to not care if you look a bit silly doing it.

I’ll do what it takes to get those worms out: worm grunting, worm fiddling, twanging, music, dance, or simply stamping my feet. And when a head finally breaks the surface, I have to grab it, pull it, and hope it comes out intact.

So while some writers are rounding up wayward plot bunnies, I’ll be in my wellies doing a rain dance. Because that’s the great thing about writing; we all have our own special ways of doing it, but it always helps to be a little bit crazy.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: At the Cliff’s Edge

Insecure Writer's Support GroupToday is September’s instalment of Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which sees hundreds of writers and bloggers worldwide post about their insecurities, support others with theirs, and offer up advice for overcoming them. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Every writer knows about blank page syndrome. Those moments before you write your first word, when possibilities are endless. The terrifying unknown and the paralysing fear that you might be about to write the worst thing you’ve ever written. Or the best. Because both outcomes are equally scary.

But there’s another phenomenon, at the other end of things. Facing the ending. As I approach the ending of any story, I slow right down. The words come reluctantly, and my fingers wade across the suddenly treacle-like keyboard. It always happens.

The end of a story holds equal fears to the beginning. Those endless possibilities. Because, as we all know, every ending is also a beginning.

I’m currently stood at the end of, not just my latest book, but my whole series, editing its fourth and final instalment. I’m stood at the cliff’s edge gazing into the abyss of possibilities. It’s scary. But it’s exciting too.

Are you at the beginning? Or the end? Or both? Does the fear affect you?

Meeting my Monster

EditingI like shiny things. I’m always getting distracted by them when I’m meant to be doing something else. And new story ideas are the shiniest things of all.

I’ve always enjoyed first drafts the most. I’m a recent convert to plotting, and I still leave enough wriggle room for my characters to chuck in a few curveballs to surprise me. First drafts are exciting and mysterious, they take you on unexpected adventures. They are, for me, the epitome of creativity.

Editing, on the other hand, is a beast. It’s the monster under my bed. I’ve never enjoyed it. It’s tweaking, and touching up. It’s dabs of paint rather than the sweeping strokes of the first draft. I know plenty of authors who love editing, but for me it’s a chore.

What makes it worse, even more monstrous, is the time between finishing writing and starting editing. It’s commonly given advice to wait before editing your new manuscript, to let it settle, so that you can approach it with a little distance and fresh eyes.

In that time, be it a month, a week, or just a few days, the self doubt creeps in. What if my story is worse than I remember? What if it’s not even salvageable? Or the equally terrifying possibility of it being the best thing ever written. It’s a Schrödinger’s cat.

Of course, once I start editing, it’s never as bad as I feared. And a few chapters in, I even start to enjoy it. It’s just hard to pluck up the courage to start, to face it, to answer those questions.

It’s like hearing a scratching in your closet at night.

Never Write a Blog Post When You’re Hungover

It’s all over. That’s the end of it. I’ve been consumed with this for years, and now it’s done. Just like that.

I’ve finally written ‘The End’ on The Mothers. Well, metaphorically speaking, I haven’t literally written that. But that’s it, the last book in The Paper Duchess series. It’s a weird feeling. A strange mix of triumph, excitement, sadness, and relief. And one seriously huge book hangover.

I wanted to write this blog post straight away, while all the emotion was still raw and genuine, rather than a synthetic version of it. But I won’t post it until tomorrow. I’ve learnt my lesson about sending messages while drunk or hungover.

It is sad to say goodbye to the characters, to the world they inhabit. It may not have been an overly happy world, but they all found their own happiness within it and, importantly, they fought to keep hold of that happiness. Some of them even died for it.

As a cruel, vindictive author, I’ve enjoyed making them suffer. I’ve enjoyed taking things away from them, and crushing their dreams. Not because I enjoy watching them fall apart, but because I enjoy watching them get back up from it. It is somewhat God-like. But I gave some boys some uniforms, and gave them a little power, and things just got a bit out of control.

But you can decide for yourself, when the series concludes with The Mothers, coming this autumn.

The Mothers Coming 2017

Got Goals? Still Not There… But Almost!

Big Goals BloghopToday’s post is going to be similar to last month’s. Again, I had really hoped to be saying that The Mothers was finished. But no. It is nearly though, really, really nearly! Just a handful of chapters left to go.

The trouble is, my writing time is entirely dependent on two young boys. If they won’t go to sleep, or they wake up early, or need my attention, that’s it. My laptop has to wait. And they’re not always generous when dishing out writing time.

But, that’s my life, and I’m so lucky to have them. I love them both to bits, but I do wish they’d let me write more!

Saying that, I am determined to finish it this month, and I’m hoping, fingers crossed, for a late September launch. We’ll see how it goes…

Join the Got Goals? Bloghop here.

5 Ways to Market your Book that Don’t Feel Dirty

BooksI know a lot of writers that are scared of marketing their book, worried about annoying people, or coming across as rude. I know others that are confused by it, and don’t know where to start. I even know writers who refuse to do any marketing because they believe it to be evil in all of its forms.

I’ve thought all of these things myself, at one time or another. Somehow, marketing feels completely at odds with the creative act of writing a book. It feels like marketing it – thinking of the book as a product, thinking of yourself as a brand – somehow sullies it, turns it from a labour of love into something dirty, something to be hard sold to unwilling consumers.

I made the decision to complete a book marketing course, and it was the best decision I made. I was able to completely change my mindset. Because I learnt to market books properly without turning beloved readers into faceless customers.

But if you’re still uncomfortable with the concept, there are some ways to get your work out there that barely feel like marketing at all.

  1. Put yourself out there. Get yourself a presence online. Join social networks. Go to local literary festivals and conventions. Talk to people, make friends and connections. Just be your wonderful self.
  2. Start a conversation. Talk about what interests you, what you’re reading, the movies you like, music, fashion, gardening. Ask people questions, be interested in them. And when they ask what you do, tell them you’re an author. And when they ask what you’ve written, tell them. They’re asking because they’re already interested, there’s no need to hard sell.
  3. Club together. Submit your book to a group promotion. These are always happening, so find one for your genre (or a mixed genre promotion), and the platform you use (BookFunnel, Instafreebie, Kindle Unlimited, Amazon countdown deal), and join in. There are lots of Facebook groups set up solely to organise group promos. When you promote the promo, you’re not saying “Buy my book! Buy my book!”, you’re simply saying “Hey, check out all these great books, why not grab a few?”
  4. Pay it forward. If you find it hard to push your own book, why not push someone else’s? Share other authors’ posts, and many will share yours too. Or reach out to them and organise a swap. Just bear in mind point No 2 above; don’t turn your social media page into a stream of book promos.
  5. Remember that you’re a reader too. Book marketing 101 is to know your ideal reader, and to be where they are. There are genre reading groups on the social networks. Join in. Chat about the books you love too. ALWAYS check the group’s rules on self promo before posting a link to your own book. Or, if you feel uncomfortable pushing your own work, just make friends, and tell them about your book when they ask.