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The Importance of Habit

WritingLast month I didn’t write anything new. May came in off the back of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and it was a month of editing, plotting, book releases, and marketing. I wrote nothing new.

June came, and I duly sat down to write, to create, and I found myself empty.

Getting words out of me was like torture, it hurt, and I found myself stopping after just a couple of paragraphs, too frustrated and exhausted to continue. It felt like it might actually kill me. Slowly. One unwritten word by another.

I needed to rediscover the fire, the passion, the creativity that had, evidently, buried itself so deep inside me that I couldn’t find even a hint of it. After taking advice from my peers, I turned back to a tactic I’ve used before. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself, but, sometimes, you need someone else to tell you. It’s not always so simple to take your own advice.

I began reading what I’d already written during April, from the beginning, gently editing as I went. That’s where my mojo was. Not in the air, in the clouds, not in words I hadn’t even thought of yet, it was in the solidity of what was already penned. It took just two chapters. And then I was ready to go. The story came flowing.

So, that’s my lesson learnt. I can’t take a month off. I need to write, every day, even if it’s something that will never come to anything. Creativity can dry up, albeit temporarily, but it’s far better to keep it burning.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

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What the People Want

Insecure Writer's Support GroupSomething I’ve been thinking about a lot, is writing to market. This is when an author either picks up on a current popular trend, or predicts an upcoming trend, and specifically writes for that market, to, hopefully, hit upon a bestseller by simply writing what the people want.

Among authors, it’s actually something of a controversial issue with accusations of writers ‘selling out’, or not being true to their craft. Honestly, I feel conflicted myself. So often, the act of writing books, of creating worlds and characters, of giving flesh to your dreams, so often, that feels completely at odds with the actual business side of selling books. The marketing, the numbers, the accounts. I know many writers for whom, once their hobby became their income source, they lost all joy for the act of writing.

Creativity and business seem to be uncomfortable bedfellows.

But, at the end of the day, it is a business, and it has to be run as a business if it’s going to succeed. Last year, I published a collection of short stories set in a post-apocalyptic world. I largely wrote it just to get it out of my head, where it was like a niggling thorn in my brain. And then I didn’t think much more about it. Until it started selling. And it sells well, and regularly. And my business brain said “You need to take advantage of this.”

So, yes, I’m now writing to market. A full-length post apocalyptic book I’d never intended to write. It’s a different thing for me; both the specific genre (although it’s not that far from dystopian fiction), and writing to market. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all turns out (especially as the story and characters seem to be insistent about taking it in an interesting new direction!)

Do you write to market?

This post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

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You Don’t Need Socks to Write!

You Don't Need Socks to WriteOne morning, I was desperately trying to get my five year old to do his homework, and he, as usual, was coming up with every excuse he could think of, ending with “I need my socks on.”

“You don’t need socks to write!” I replied, chalking it down as yet another one of those sentences I never imagined I’d ever have to say to another human being. But it got me thinking, and, actually, it’s very good writing advice.

Some people wait for the perfect conditions to write. Whether that be an active muse, a quiet house, a private space, the right weather, the moon in their star sign, whatever their particulars are. I’ve done it myself. Put off writing because I didn’t feel right, or the house was noisy, or the table was messy.

The truth is, as with most things, there is no perfect time, and if you sit around waiting for this magical moment, you’ll never write a word. Sometimes, you just need to sit down (or perch somewhere, or stand, or whatever) and get some words out of you. They may not be perfect words, they may not be any good at all, but the more that come, the better they will get. Who was it who said you can’t edit a blank page?

So don’t fret over the particulars; don’t worry if the sun isn’t right, or your chair is a little uncomfortable, or your coffee is a little cold, just write. Get some words out. Wonderful, imperfect, foolish, misspelt words. And remember: you don’t need socks to write.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

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Hey, 2018! I’m Coming For You!

Insecure Writer's Support GroupSo, here we are, just a few days into 2018. A new year. A new start. A fresh start. A new chapter. An empty book. The first step of a journey. Whichever tired old metaphor you’d like to use. Because they are tired and overused, but that’s just because they’re true.

Even if you try to avoid all the hype over resolutions, all the motivational quotes pasted onto images of sunrises and rainbows and people climbing mountains to look at sunrises and rainbows, it’s hard not to get caught up in that overall feeling of hope. Of hoping for this year to be better, bigger, brighter. For you to go places, to take yourself places. Because, believe me, those places aren’t coming to you.

Despite the sarcasm, I feel it too. That fresh chance to do things right. To put the mistakes of last year behind me, and push forward, bolder and wiser. I’m even planning things. Me! Planning! Little Miss make-it-up-as-you-go-along. And I have big plans, exciting plans, secret plans.

Despite my determination to make 2018 fabulously wonderfully brilliantly excellent, I can’t help but wonder if I felt like this at the beginning of 2017. If I sat here and thought “This is going to be my year”, just like I am now. I also wonder if I thought that in January 2016. But it doesn’t stop me thinking it now. There’s only one way 2018 will be fabulously wonderfully brilliantly excellent, and that’s if I strive to make it so. It’s down to me. Just me. Little ol’ me. So, you’d better get out of my way, because I’m coming through.

(Hopefully.)

What do you have planned for 2018?

This post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

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Closing the Book on 2017

I love looking back over the past year, especially if I can be pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve achieved! (More often than not it’s regret over another year that failed to meet its potential.) But this year, I really feel like I’ve had a shift. I really feel like I’ve stopped thinking like a hobbyist, and started thinking like a business woman. My mindset has totally changed.

So, let’s see what I have achieved this year.

The VisionaryFebruary saw the release of The Visionary, book 3 of The Paper Duchess Series, which was quickly followed by a March release of After: A Post Apocalyptic Story Collection (which has turned out to be unexpectedly popular!)

It was a bit crazy doing two book releases in such quick succession, and I feel like I’ve learnt an important lesson from that. It did not go as smoothly as I’d hoped, but that lesson has led on to exciting plans for 2018.

Edge-LitFast forward to July, and I was at Edge-Lit literary convention. While I was there, I attended a workshop on running literary events, and this sparked a whole heap of ideas I plan to implement next year. It also prompted me to approach the organiser of Edge-Lit with a workshop pitch.

The MothersOctober saw the release of The Mothers, the 4th and final book in The Paper Duchess series. I had officially completed an entire series of books which was quite monumental.

Again, I’ve learnt a lot of lessons through the two years I’ve been writing and publishing the series (which you can read about here), and it’s already making the writing of my next series so much easier in a lot of ways. You see; mistakes are never just mistakes if you learn from them. And lessons are valuable, and something to cherish.

NaNoWriMo 2017 Winner BadgeNovember proved to be a ridiculously busy month. I decided to give NaNoWriMo another shot. This was my 7th year doing it, and I had 3 wins and 3 horrendous losses under my belt. I hadn’t come anywhere close to completing it since having children.

But I felt determined this year. I spent all of October planning, and I put my success down to that. I stormed in at just over 51,000 words by the end of the month. And a very nearly completed novel draft (which is now completed).

Sledge-LitNovember also brought around Sledge-Lit, the Christmas edition of Edge-Lit literary convention. Remember that workshop pitch? This was my first ever time as a guest author, and my first ever time on a discussion panel. I also ran a very successful worldbuilding workshop which I’ve had amazing feedback from. You can read more about my Sledge-Lit experience here.

The Paper Duchess Series Box SetAs if that wasn’t enough for one month, I also put together and released The Paper Duchess Complete Series Box Set. This was not nearly as easy as I’d anticipated, and I spent days fiddling around with the coding and the format to get everything working properly.

But, I did it, and people can now get the entire series in just one file. Phew! What a year!

2017 has also seen a lot more going on, both on and off stage: promos, newsletters, giveaways, author takeovers, secret plans, upping my social media game, bettering book delivery, having a short story accepted for an anthology, and I could go on forever. It’s been so busy. And December isn’t going to let up either.

December has already seen the completion of my next book’s first draft, The Smudger, which was mostly done in NaNoWriMo. As long as editing stays on track, I’ll be sending it out to my beta readers before Christmas. And that means I can spend the festive period with my feet up (at least, as much as a mum can!)

I’ll see you in the new year to talk about my plans for 2018 (the non-secret ones, at least!)

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

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How to Turn a NaNoWriMo Loss into a Long-Term Win

NaNoWriMo Participant 2017So here we are in November, and a whole load of overly optimistic (or overly crazy) writers around the world are heads down writing like mad for NaNoWriMo. Chances are you know lots of people doing it, but if you don’t know what it is, National Novel Writing Month challenges you to write a 50k word novel in just 30 days. Yes, you have to be a little bit crazy to try it.

I’ve been that crazy six times already. But I’ve only hit that magical 50k three times (since having children, I’ve not managed to come anywhere close!)

As many people as you know doing NaNoWriMo, you’ll probably know just as many who decry it as a joke. An event that promotes terrible writing (by encouraging quantity of words over quality). And they’re right. It is more than likely that your NaNo novel will be terrible. As all first drafts usually are (especially when written in a caffeine-fuelled blur of just 30 days). But what does that matter? Your first draft never sees the light of day.

Many, probably most, NaNo novels will never find their way through to publication, and are destined to languish on hard drives, abandoned and forgotten. But there is light at the end of the literary tunnel here. Let me tell you about one of my NaNo stories.

In 2011, I hit NaNoWriMo with a story called The Bottle Stopper. It was about a little girl, eight years old, living in the care of her abusive uncle. She was blind, because he had blinded her. She worked in the back of his apothecary shop, bottling his ‘miracle medicine’, which was, in actual fact, nothing more than river water and a sprig of lavender. I won that year, penned 50k words. 50k awful words. 50k words that sat on my hard drive for years.

In October 2015, I published The Bottle Stopper. It certainly wasn’t the 2011 version, nor was it any of the other three versions that had followed. It’s still about a girl, but she’s 17 now, and she can see perfectly well. The abusive uncle is still there, and she still bottles his medicine. Beyond that, it bears very little relation to the original.

But that idea, those characters, and that conflict carried through to the book as it is today. It may have taken another four years, but that book was finished, and published. It also contained a whole supporting cast of characters rescued from other unfinished books (some of which were written for NaNo). The Bottle Stopper is the first book of The Paper Duchess quadrilogy.

So what I’m saying is this: a good idea never dies. Even if your NaNo novel is utter trash, the ideas are salvageable. The characters can be resurrected. And the story can still be played out. Some day. And my terrible NaNo novel evolved into an entire series. So a loss at NaNo doesn’t need to be a loss forever. It can, in time, become a great big win.

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis post was written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.