Tag Archives: writing process

catch up – #WhatImWriting

September is here, the kids have gone back to school and – woo hoo! – #WhatImWriting is back!

After a summer without any of these sorts of writing posts I think a good catch-up post is in order… the problem is, my head is all over the place at the moment. Not in a bad way, but the summer was really full-on with all three boys at home, then the older two went back to school in the middle of last week and before I’d really had time to breathe I was off to York for a (fabulous) weekend at the Festival of Writing. I’m freshly returned from that and my head feels like it’s full to bursting with everything I’ve heard and learnt and with all the conversations I had with so many lovely people. I feel like I haven’t had proper time to think since July!

book spiral

So. This post is likely to be less of a perfectly-honed, shiny gem of a post and more of a roughly-hewn, chunk-out-of-a-limestone-cliff, sort of a thing. But maybe if I write it it will get me closer to working out where I am with my writing and what is next.

Right.

Um.

Ok, I’ll start with my limericks… in fact, wait a sec…. I’ll do this in an organised manner:

1) Limericks

I’ve been writing limericks for my blog for a couple of years, and have been wondering for a while now about publishing some in a book of some sort. I did have some published by Iron Press last year but I’m itching to do something a bit more substantial. Over the last few months a plan has started to take shape and I’ve been working on creating a limerick anthology for kids which I intend to have illustrated and then self-publish.

This summer I’ve been working towards this goal and have snatched every chance I can to write and edit limericks. I’m pleased to say I’ve nearly completed the collection. My plan is (or was) to request some beta readers this autumn and then start seriously looking for an illustrator and hopefully edit and hone and create a book that I can publish next year.

But then I went to the Festival of Writing which, although wonderful and inspiring, was also a bit of a reality check. Because I found myself in a room (multiple rooms in fact) surrounded by clever, talented people who share the same dream I do. Well, not exactly the same dream – I don’t think they’re all avid limerick-writers – but we were all there hoping to get published at some point and not only that, to ensure sales of those future books. I suddenly felt really aware of how stiff the competition was.

This very fact was also made very clear to us by the agents and publishers there. As the very funny (and sweary) David Maybury from Scholastic books said in a seminar (forgive the paraphrasing):

“All you lovely writers sitting there: you’re NOT going to get published. Oh f**k, I had that written down here and then ‘DO NOT SAY THIS’ written above it and now I’ve said it. It’s not true. Honestly. BUT it is really, really hard to get published.”

And he then went on to tell us about how, even if you did get published you might not sell many books and how it was all a gamble and people can get dropped by their publishers for not selling enough and… well… the reality of the marketplace did hit home.

But I then had a very positive one to one meeting with Jennifer Parker from Matador books (a huge boon of the festival is that you get one-on-ones with agents and publishers). Matador are a self-publishing company who I’ve heard good things about. They offer marketing and distribution along side other services and have various freelance illustrators they work with so lots to offer someone like me. They don’t automatically agree to you self-publishing with them so I was pleased to hear they’d be happy to work with me. Jennifer also had an illustrator she thought would fit with my limericks and encouraged me to submit my full set of limericks to them for a quote. If I choose to run with my self-publishing plan, this option clearly has potential.

But… I don’t know. It’s going to be expensive. Hiring an illustrator costs a lot. And the whole ‘crowded marketplace’ thing is really living with me. Do I want to do it this way? Do I want to do it at all? And most of all, do I have it in me to properly promote and market myself? Is it worth the risk and the pressure? I’m suddenly feeling completely unsure.

2) Picture books

I’ve been working on all three of my manuscripts over the summer. Millie Tweed (my first book) is now at a point where I plan on submitting her (her? definitely time to let go of that manuscript – she’s become real!), and Pete and the Aliens (my third book) is very nearly there too. Mr Magic (book no. two) however, has taken a turn for the worse and now needs to be ignored for a few weeks/months before being re-built.

Before the Writing Festival I was planning on submitting to publishers and agents but now I’m thinking I’ll try agents as a first port of call. Having heard more about how the publishing industry works, I understand far more now about how incredibly useful an agent could be. The right agent can help you shape your writing career, edit and hone your work and point you in the right direction for future endeavours. Of course they can’t guarantee publication but they make it a lot more likely and a smoother process too. So my aim is to send Millie and maybe Pete out to them soon and see where we go from there. Having spoken to other writers I expect this to be a lengthy process but I have to start somewhere.

3) Novel no. 1

Remember that middle-grade manuscript I was writing? No? Well I hardly do either but I’d love to get back to it! I have 7000 words written and masses of notes. It’s calling to me.

4) Novel no. 2

I wrote 55,000 words of a psychological thriller last year. I’d love to finish it although having been to the festival I’m now even more aware of how crap what I’ve written is!

5) This blog

I love blogging but it takes up a lot of valuable writing time. My toddler has just dropped his nap so that time is now even more limited. Obviously I’m not going to stop blogging completely but I feel like I need to re-think things.
So that’s me now. Not remotely clear headed and, as I warned, this was a bit of a roughly-hewn post! I will attempt to write something clearer for next week. Hopefully a proper post about the Writing Festival – I learnt a lot and would love to share it.

I’m looking forward to reading about how your summers have gone!

Writing Bubble

Oy Yew – an interview with Ana Salote

Oy Yew front cover 300dpi scaled

I was recently given the opportunity to read and review Oy Yew and interview its author Ana Salote. Yes, a free book and an opportunity to find out more about an author’s writing process – naturally, I jumped at the chance!

Oy Yew is a fantasy book (the first in a trilogy) with a classic feel, aimed at children from ‘8 +’. As the back cover tells us:

‘Lay low and grow,’ is the motto of the waifs of Duldred Hall. The only way to escape their life of drudgery is to reach the magical height of 5 thighs 10 oggits. But Master Jeopardine is determined to feed them little and keep them small. When the master’s methods grow more sinister the waifs must face their doubts. What is kept in the Bone Room? Why is Rook’s parlour locked? A new waif arrives and the fight for survival begins. But this child brings another mystery: who is Oy?

A realisation I had early on in the book is that the ‘+’ part of the ‘8+’ readership aim is very true. While I can well imagine younger readers being entranced by it, this is not a book that ‘babies’ the reader and is certainly one that an adult can enjoy. Jeopardine (with his bone obsession – eek!) is a genuinely creepy character and from the first page the reader is firmly on the side of Oy and the other waifs and desperate for them to escape.

As the story progresses and the waifs explore the mystery behind a series of – rather grisly – ‘accidents’ that have befallen their friends, the sense of peril kept me gripped while the sweet, tough, familiar, unusual characters of the waifs drew me in and had me genuinely caring about them. Despite the danger and the darkness in the book, the love and warmth in their relationships and the dashes of humour that run through the story ensure it is neither to heavy nor too scary for its young readership. Ana Salote has created a fantasy world with a dash of magic, a slosh of danger and a bucket-load of hope. I’ll be giving it to my 8 year old son to read soon!

Oy Yew was published  in June 2015 by Mothers Milk Books and is available to buy here. The kindle version is also available here.

And so to the interview!

Hi Ana, congratulations on the publication of Oy Yew!

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

My background is a bit of a mix. My father was a heavyweight boxer from Tonga, my mother was a Derbyshire miner’s daughter. I grew up among strong characters with constant drama. It was a mine of material. I went to a comprehensive school where the teachers were much to be pitied. I left at 16 and went to the university of life as they say, and all the time I was reading, reading, reading. Now I live in Somerset. It’s a beautiful, magical place. I’m drawn to the dusky, the fey and the nether. I’m allergic to jargon, corporations and the ubiquitous ‘should of’.

I think we all go on a bit of a journey to becoming writers – whether we leap out of the womb with pen in hand, or discover our dormant writing gene in middle age while deep-sea diving. What’s your journey been?

I was born at home otherwise I might have scribed my own name tag. When I was too small to hold a broadsheet I used to spread it on the floor to read. I read whatever I could get: oldBrer Rabbits, my grandad’s JT Edsons, my mother’s Catherine Cooksons. I ate most of Bolsover library like a caterpillar on speed. I kept journals from my late teens onwards and wrote stories and poems. I wrote my first novel in my 30s. It was a middle grade timeslip. My daughter loved it. Then came Tree Talk, an environmental parable written from the viewpoint of a tree. I self-pubbed before e-books. My teenage son photo-shopped the cover (yes, I know it shows) but I stand by the writing. Oy Yew is my third novel and the first to be traditionally published.

I loved Oy Yew and thought you created an intricate magical world – what inspired you to write it? How long did it take you to get from the idea to a finished book?

I think some things are intrinsically magical. Acorns, seahorses, teapots and owls are magical. Carrots, house flies, coffee pots and pigeons are not. Chimneys are on my magical list. Chimneys seeded the central mystery of Oy Yew. My sweep, Alas Ringworm, quickly introduced himself. I knew that he was scared of something. I began writing to find out what it was. The character of Oy is based on a real person: a shy, sensitive character with a voice you strain to hear. It’s difficult to get to know someone like that. Others force their worlds down your throat. I’m more interested in the inner worlds of the shy. What qualities are they hiding?

Another thing that fascinates me is nature and nurture. At the start of the book Oy is all nature. He recalls no human interactions. His only connection with the people he observes has been through empathy. I took the unformed Oy and dropped him into the middle of a life-threatening mystery. I waited to see what inner qualities would emerge to help him deal with it.

The first draft took 2 years. The submissions round ran into years mainly because each positive response put things on hold while they considered and asked for rewrites etc. From first words to publisher’s acceptance was more than 5 years.

I was glad to find out that it’s the first book in a trilogy – how are you getting on with the next books in the ‘Waifs of Duldred’ series?

Things have speeded up greatly with the next two books set for release at yearly intervals. Book two needs final edits. Book 3 is at second draft stage so I’m on track to deliver in December.

What’s your writing process? Do your characters evolve and surprise you? (was the marvellous Jeopardine always that horrid?)

I’m a pantster. I kick off with a trigger then I run with the scenes that excite me, the delicious ones, the ones I long to put words to. I end up with a lot of islets formed in play. Plot ideas form as I write. Characters deepen. I begin to drag and drop into sequence. A shape emerges.

The characters evolve quickly once I know what drives them. Jeopardine started with a name and a strong visual. His parents formed him in a Larkinesque way, so he wishes for success in the manner of a predatory, bone-fixated hawk. It doesn’t make him less horrid; it does make him more interesting. My publisher sees him as a young Daniel Day-Lewis; she’s a little bit in love with him.

What’s your editing process? How many drafts did you write?

    • Draft 1 – Jumbled pools of inspiration with varying degrees of polish, loosely linked.
    • Draft 2 –  Big cut and paste job.
    • Draft 3 – Interrogation. Is it necessary? Authentic? Rhythmic? Varied in pace and mood?
    • Draft 4 – How does it read? Does it flow? Does the brain catch on anything? Does it satisfy?
    • Draft 5 – Disengaged continuity check and proof reading.

One of the things I liked about Oy Yew was its ‘classic’ feel – did this make it easier or harder to find a publisher?

Harder. Commercial is the mantra. The big publishers are looking for mass appeal hence the slew of celebrity names attached to books. The voice of Oy Yew is unlike the current high-selling titles. The big presses were complimentary but unwilling to take a risk. There are some fantastic small presses out there who tend to be more adventurous. Thank you Mother’s Milk Books.

How have things been going since publication? Have you been doing a lot of promotional work?

We launched at Lowdham book festival near Nottingham. I have other events lined up for August and September in Lincoln, Nottingham and the wonderful Melton Bookshop. Promotion is hard and time-consuming. Scattergun promotion isn’t very productive. There are readers of all ages out there who enjoy crossover fiction, who immersed themselves in Harry Potter, His Dark Materials and Titus Groan, and are looking for their next read. All I want to do is wave to them and say ‘try this’.

Do you have any advice for those of us at an earlier stage of the writing process?

Beliefs are a placebo effect that shapes reality. If you want to be really creative stop taking the pills.

What hopes and plans do you have for your future as a writer?

I’ve been marinating an adult novel for a long time. I want to celebrate the Northern matriarchs I grew up with. I know the title of the book, the characters and the setting. I’m not yet sure of the arc. I wanted to serve my apprenticeship as a writer before attempting this as it means so much to me. I want to do justice to their lives.

Thanks Ana! I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy and your adult novel (when the time comes) too. Good luck with all your writing and marketing.

Thanks to Teika Bellamy at Mothers Milk Books for my copy of Oy Yew and the interview opportunity.

Linking up with #The prompt at Mumturnedmom – this week it’s “to read… ”

mumturnedmom


MamaMummyMum

ten reasons for writers to blog – #whatImwriting

Being a writer who also blogs is a bit like being on a seesaw – one week you’re high in the air, working away on your manuscript while the blog crash-lands on the floor, the next week – wheeee! – up goes the blog while – THUMP – the writing hits the ground.

sky

I often struggle to find the balance and have even wondered, given that my desire to write creatively is never in doubt, if I should quit the blog to focus on my novel and picture books. Juggling blogging with motherhood, work and household stuff means progress on my books is achingly slow so imagine how much more I’d get written if I wasn’t constantly sidetracked?!

I can understand why a published author would have a blog – they can be great marketing tools and a way of engaging with readers. It’s almost expected these days. But I’m barely published – what about writers at an earlier stage of their writing career? Is blogging not just using up our valuable time?

Well, I’ve been thinking about it and my answer is no. Here’s why:

Ten reasons for writers to blog:

1) The community – I’ve put this first because it’s so important to me. Being a writer can be a lonely business but in the blogging world you can find many like-minded souls. I particularly love our #WhatImWriting linky group. This lovely bunch all cheer each others’ successes, support each other in bad times and assure us, through it all, that we’re not alone. This kind of support is priceless for writers.

2) The satisfaction of publishing – Ok it’s ‘just’ on your own blog, but it’s still getting your work out there. Each post is a little piece of writing that you created, refined and published yourself. It’s an achievement.

3) The ‘instant hit’ of comments – you write something, post it on your blog and (hopefully) people say nice things about it. This is a real boost and much better than keeping everything hidden in the dustiest corner of your hard-drive (been there, done that).

4) Learning from other bloggers – writing a blog – unless you’re completely insular about it – means reading other people’s blogs too and there’s so much out there to learn! You experience many different writing styles, ideas and forms of expression and glean masses of information on just about everything you’ve ever thought of. Spend enough time in the blogosphere and you start to pick it up via osmosis (kind of).

5) Motivation to improve your writing – the thing with unpublished, un-submitted work is that there’s never really the motivation to polish and refine it. It’s more likely to remain a rough draft. Putting something on your blog though, makes you more likely to look at it again with a more critical eye and before you know it you’ve polished your rough-hewn stone into a gem.

6) Practicing your craft – You’ve got the motivation, now you need the practice. The best – the ONLY – way to become a better writer is to write. Admittedly this could be a reason not to blog (but rather spend time on your manuscript) but you still learn masses about writing through blogging.

7) It’s the perfect procrastination tool – all writers need something to procrastinate about, right? Blogging is perfect… I just need to get this chapter written… PING… oh, new blog comment, I’ll just check that… and then reply… oh and that sidebar really needs tinkering with… I’ll just check my blog stats while I’m here…

8) It’s the perfect ANTI-procrastination tool - When you’re focussing on a novel you’re often working to a deadline far off into the future and unless you’re very good at self-motivation you can get a bit lost sometimes. A successful blog however, needs regular, focussed attention. If you look at your stats you get the sense you should post at least once a week and quite possibly more often. So you get focussed. You write to a deadline. It’s great anti-procrastination writing practice.

9) Understanding your readers – Ok your blog readers aren’t necessarily your potential novel readers but a) they might be and b) they’re still an audience. Listen to them and find out what they respond to. Blogging is a type of market research and you don’t have to be a big-shot author to make use of this.

10) Confidence – Before I started blogging I never dared show my stories or poetry to anyone. I was too scared they’d hate it. Then I finally published a poem on my blog and got positive feedback. So I published another and another and before I knew it I’d plucked up the courage to submit some work to a few publishers. I got some rejections, sure, but I also got an acceptance! Without a blog I think it would have taken me years to pluck up the confidence to make any submissions at all.

 
Well I think that’s quite enough confidence-building, motivational, procrastinatory, anti-procrastinatory, satisfying writing practice for one evening – I’m off to bed.

Let me know if you can think of any more additions to the list!

Writing Bubble

what I’m writing – week thirty-three

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week thirty-three of ‘What I’m Writing’! Thanks for sharing your posts with us over at Muddled Manuscript last week – I loved finding out how you were all getting on. I haven’t got much writing done this week but I did manage to put together April’s #WhatImWriting roundup post in which you’ll find links to loads of fab posts that were shared last month. Pop over and take a look!

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is my co-host Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through.

We also have a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ so you’ll need an invitation to join and I send these out to all linkers. That said, we’ve had a few issues with people’s invitations going AWOL (I think they’re being eaten by the big mail cruncher in the sky) so if you’d like to join and haven’t received one just leave me a comment – thanks!

We welcome linkers old and new and if you’d like to join in there are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you – I look forward to reading your posts!

Writing Bubble

 

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what I’m writing – week twenty-nine

typewriter butterflies badgeWelcome to week twenty-nine of ‘What I’m Writing’ – we’re back after our easter break and raring to go! I have to admit to not getting a lot written over the past couple of weeks but I’ve had lots of fun in the sunshine with my kids and (of course) have devoured a lot of chocolate so it’s been time well spent, regardless!

If you’re new here you might be wondering what #WhatImWriting is all about. You can find all the details here but the short version is my co-host Chrissie and I are both writers who love blogging about our writing processes and reading about those of others. Our linky is for all you fellow writers, poets, bloggers etc. out there to share posts about what you’re writing (and all your hopes and fears, triumphs and tears) with a group of people who understand what you’re going through. My February Round-up should give you a flavour of what we’ve all been up to recently.

We also have a private group on Facebook that all linkers are welcome to join. It’s somewhere we can share work and have a chat about all things writerly (and whatever else we fancy really). It’s a ‘secret group’ so you’ll need an invitation to join and I send these out to all linkers. That said, we’ve had a few issues with people’s invitations going AWOL (I think they’re being eaten by the big mail cruncher in the sky) so if you’d like to join and haven’t received one just leave me a comment – thanks!

We welcome linkers old and new and if you’d like to join in there are just a few suggestions for taking part:

  • Link up any post (old or new) that is to do with writing/blogging etc. 
  • Please either use our badge on the post (copy and paste the HTML code below) or link to whichever one of our blogs is hosting that week. We will share your post on Twitter in return.
  • Read and comment on as many other posts in the linky as you can. What I’m Writing has developed a lovely, supportive community and we’d love you to join in :)
  • If you’d like to tweet your post feel free to use the hashtag #WhatImWriting. If you tweet us a link to your post @writingbubble or @rantybeast then we will RT.

Over to you!

Writing Bubble

 

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