And here I am back for another live radio interview with CK Webb for WebbWeaver Books on Blogtalk Radio! This time for my new release Craved. So much fun again! 🙂 Thank you, CK Webb, for doing a great job!
Can’t wait to be your guest again for my third book some time next year! 😉
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Writing as a Process
Every writer is unique in the way that they think, plan (and often scheme!) their way from prologue to epilogue; having an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work for you is an important part of maturing and developing as a writer. You need to know exactly what sort of environment and mind set gets your creative juices bubbling and what will make you most productive; all of this comes with time and experience.
For all each writer’s process will be subtly different, you may find a framework such as this one will help, particularly if you get stuck or experience the dreaded block!
Before you start to write you plan. To find your idea draw on your experiences and inspirations; always keep a note book handy as ideas often come to you in the most inconvenient of situations!
When you have your idea, try to get some meat on the bones by brainstorming or free writing; don’t worry about spelling, grammar or anything like that, just plough on and see where your imagination takes you.
Begin to structure the story at this point; think of this as a rough map of where your story will go.
Once you’ve planned there’s only one place you can go next: start writing! This is a true free wring exercise; forget grammar, spelling, punctuation, everything! Just get your ideas down, let it flow and don’t worry if you stray off topic once in a while. You’ll produce multiple drafts before you hit on the perfect story; this is normal so don’t worry. One thing you must do is make writing part of your daily routine; find the time and concentrate!
Revising your work
A popular revision technique is the ARRR approach; this stands for Add, Rearrange, Remove, Replace.
Add. To be considered a novel, your work has to be at least 60,000 words and probably nearer to 100,000; if you’re short of that go back to your notes and see if there’s anything that needs to be fleshed or any detail you’ve missed.
Rearrange. Check the flow; could some of your work be re-ordered to read better?
Remove. Cut any parts which feel superfluous or like information overload.
Replace. Get a second opinion; friends, other writers and editors are a valuable resource to help you in this respect. Get some constructive feedback!
Now is the time to focus on spelling grammar, punctuation and all of the things that you’ve ignored so far! Editing is a detailed process and is best performed by a professional; there’s nothing worse than reading a beautifully produced book with countless errors in it.
This is the final step, but it can be the most arduous and anxiety provoking. Whether you are going down the traditional publishing, or self-publishing route, putting your work out there is a big leap of faith and one which requires guts and a thick skin.
Remember to celebrate though; being a published author and finishing a novel is a huge achievement and no matter how successful your work is you should not lose sight of that.
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I get this question quite often – why did I choose to self-publish my books and what is the difference between traditional and self-publishing?
One of the fundamental differences between traditional and self-publishing is the time taken to get your work to the market. When publishing in the traditional sense, a manuscript can take many years to actually become a finished book. As an author you can expect to have to contact multiple publishing houses before it gains any traction; and what you must remember is that the larger houses are inundated with manuscripts, so you can expect to wait over six months before hearing anything back from any of them.
If you are lucky enough to get picked up by one of the houses you can expect to wait over a year for your book to actually be published; this is certainly the case with fiction, though non-fiction works can be pushed through a little quicker.
When it comes to self-publishing, you the author can have a finished book in as little as six months whether it be hardcover or paperback (or both!); in fact if you go down the eBook route with Amazon’s Kindle store for example, you can slash that timescale to weeks rather than months.
Self-publishing can be more expensive initially, especially if you choose not to go down the eBook route. Often you will have to pay hundreds of pounds upfront depending on the company or companies you choose to use. With traditional publishing you are paid in advance; new authors shouldn’t expect a huge windfall, but more experienced authors with established fan bases can expect six or seven figure paydays.
When publishing traditionally, the publishing house pays for everything, including marketing, distribution and design; they use their vast networks and all of their experience to actively promote your book to get the highest number of sales possible. When you self-publish, all of this is on you.
That said, with self-publishing you retain control over the whole process and, more importantly, you retain complete creative control over your work. Publishing houses have been known to completely destroy and rip up original manuscripts so they end up looking like a completely different book. Publishers often shy away from controversial works, books that they don’t think will “fit” or works which they think won’t meet their sales threshold.
With self-publishing you retain complete control over the design, market position and content of your work. And that is the main reason why I chose to go self-publishing way with my debut adult novel Twisted and the sequel to it – Craved. Of course, luckily I can afford it too. Currently I’m working on the third book in the trilogy, which I also plan to self-publish some time next year.
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Tips for Writing New Adult Fiction
New adult fiction is a genre of writing which is growing in popularity; this is in no small part due to its ability to catapult its authors from indie darlings who got their break through word of mouth, to mainstream success stories.
If you’re thinking “hold on isn’t new adult fiction just about vampires, werewolves and dystopian futures?” you’d be wrong; new adult fiction is all about issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices.It’s fast paced and lots of fun; and if you get it right as a self-publisher you could be the next big thing. Here are some tips to making it in the new adult fiction genre.
In new adult fiction the main characters are all 18 – 25; they are young enough to have no responsibilities, but older enough to have sex! Anyone outside of this age range is relegated to the supporting cast; the quirky Grandma, the workplace mentor, the father figure Professor-type etc.
As most of the new adult fiction fan base is female, it’s best not to describe your heroine in too much detail; feel free to go into every intimate detail about their love interest and their washboard abs and rippling biceps, but leave your heroine as a blank canvass. This will allow the reader to fill in the gaps and consciously or sub-consciously imagine themselves in that role. Keep descriptions brief and abstract; a mention of hair colour here, a body hang up there, etc.
One thing you must do is make her likeable; she’s an aspiring actress or frustrated blogger or journalist. She likes sex, but she isn’t crude or slutty about it.
New adult fiction has an edge to it and successful authors aren’t afraid to tackle the big issues like domestic violence, sexual deviance, marital “issues” and date-rape. Yes there is always an element of fantasy to the interpretation of these issues, but new adult fiction authors have certainly proved themselves to be willing to give these stories a happy and empowering ending for women everywhere.
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We had the pleasure of speaking with Lola Smirnova, author of the books titled Twisted and Craved. Twisted is reviewed on our blog already. The review for Craved will be up soon. In the meantime, here is what Lola has to share:
What inspired you to start writing?
I had a story to tell that maybe could help to change peoples’ often ignorant attitude towards problems of the sex industry, victims of which usually are young inexperienced women. I wanted the reader to realize that those working girls are humans… They dream, love or suffer the same way as anyone’s girlfriend, sister or daughter.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and bred in Ukraine. By the end of 90’s, due to the difficult economical situation there, I started travelling around the world in the search of a better life. For the last decade I’ve been living in South Africa, where four years ago I started writing full time.
Tell us about your books.
Twisted series is about three sisters from the post-Soviet Ukraine, who together with their family as well as the rest of the country, struggle in its corrupt and faulty economy and decide to go to Europe to work in the sex trade. In the second book the girls end up working in South Africa.
It took me 3 years to write and self-publish my debut novel Twisted, which was released in January 2014. A year and a half later in July 2015 I released the sequel to Twisted – Craved – which is the second book in the trilogy. Currently I’m working on the third book.
How easy/difficult was it to pen down your thoughts in your books?
Most of the times not easy at all, considering that English is not my native language.
Which is the best part of writing a story?
The writing process is some kind of escape for me. I create a world where I can be anyone or experience anything… You know, my job is actually to dream or fantasize. For example, on Monday I can live a life of a modern day’s woman that can perfectly manage her kids, career and a twenty years old marriage, when by Thursday, I dive into a life of a vulnerable teenager who discovers all thrills and downs of her first love.
Describe a perfect writing day for you.
I wake up in the morning, make myself a cup of coffee and start writing. Words, thoughts, ideas are pouring out of me like there is no tomorrow.
There is no distraction, nothing around me – just my imagination and a laptop.
I have a quick bite in the noon time and carry on writing in the same flowing and effortless way…
Then late afternoon comes and I go for a run with my dog, come back, have a dinner and make myself comfortable on the couch with some riveting read for the evening.
What message would you like to share with your readers?
As Richard Bach once said: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
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How to Avoid the Slush Pile
Today’s guest post was brought to you by Lola Smirnova
One of the hardest things to take as a writer is that you often rarely get to find out the reasons why your work has ended up in the slush pile; frustrating though it is, what I’ll try to do in this piece is lift the lid a little on the publishing world and give you some helpful pointers to avoid the dreaded slush pile!
If you’re serious about getting published these practical tips will help you to improve your manuscript in several areas; it’s these little things that can tip the balance in your favour when you’re operating in a fiercely competitive market like writing.
Proper formatting is absolutely essential
It might seem picky, but it’s true; proper formatting is a must. Publishers read so many manuscripts so you must ensure that yours is easy on the eye to read and not a painful, eye twitching experience for the reader.
Some publishers will state what their formatting preference is and if they do it’s essential that you stick to these rigidly; if you don’t you may get rejected on this basis. If no preferences are stated stick to the standard format: double spaced, 12pt, 1” to 1.25” margins on all sides and page numbers.
Typos and grammar
Do you best to get these right; to be honest, they aren’t necessarily something that would pass or fail a manuscript, but this definitely falls into the category of “don’t annoy the publisher unnecessarily”. Make it easy for them to read your work and to like you!
Clichés harm your credibility as a writer; plain and simple. They give the publisher the impression that you have limited vocabulary and imagination so avoid trotting these tired old descriptions and metaphors out. A really good rule of thumb is that you should only use a cliché if one of your characters is being directly quoted. Don’t shortcut characterisation or emotion by using these; think of a better way!
Use ambiguity carefully
This can be really difficult to get right; you need to constantly remind yourself that the reader doesn’t know your characters, your story and your message as well as you (yet, hopefully!). Something which seems obvious to you may not the reader and they don’t have your insight into the character or story. All areas of ambiguity should be answered at some point; they should make sense by the end of the story.
Avoid grand gestures, or at least use them sparingly
It’s always tempting to use sweeping statements and elaborate metaphors under the guise of being poetic and dramatic, but in truth they can damage a passage by coming across as grandiose or pretentious. You should avoid overly melodramatic prose as it can come across as vague and, worse, like you’re showing off your vocabulary. You don’t want to be the “author that ate a thesaurus”. By including unique and precise details, you can remedy the use of such sweeping, grand statements and metaphors however.
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How to Find a Literary Agent!
You’d think it would be a nice straightforward process, but to be honest it’s a little like finding a wife or husband; it’s important that you as individuals gel and understand each other. It’s for this reason that you must do the searching yourself and make it a thorough process.
Do I really need an Agent in 2015?
That’s a valid question given that there are many avenues available down the self-publishing route, but just bear in mind that around 80% of the books that the big New York publishing houses go on to produce are sold to them by agents. Agents know their clients and markets inside out and can achieve much more in a shorter space of time than an aspiring author with “no name” can. They will negotiate, protect your rights, ensure you are paid and save you a lot of time, money and effort.
That said it does depend on what you are selling; if you are going for one of the major publishing houses then you clearly need an agent, however if you are going for a more niche market you may not need one, or even struggle to find one willing to deal with you.
PublishersMarketPlace.com is a really good resource as you can search their many listed publishers by category, niche, genre or keyword; you should be able to find some good matches. You might also want to consider the following sites:
Making the Right Choice
There are a couple of sure-fire signs that you’ve chosen the right agent:
Their enthusiasm. Do they share your passion for your work? Do you get the feeling that they believe in you and your work? Your agent has to really get where you’re coming from and understand the specifics of your work to be able to sell if effectively and passionately to publishing houses.
Their track record. You should find out what their sales track record is like; this is a rough and ready way to know whether you’ve found the real deal or not. Look at their client list and the publishers which they have recently made sales with; you’re looking for good numbers, but also the types of genre, author and publishing house. These should closely match your own work; if you find that they do then you may be on to a winner with that particular agent.
That said, it can sometimes be beneficial to get an agent who is up and coming; they may be more likely to spend time on you if they have fewer clients, but are ambitious.
Communication style. You’re looking for an agent who is timely and courteous in their responses, i.e. they are professional; you should be treated like a business partner and they should be open and transparent in everything they are doing for you. A good agent will give you feedback about any rejections as well as acceptances and will often make suggestions regarding the marketing and positioning of your work to make it more appealing.
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Marketing Your Books
There’s no doubt that for a writer, writing can be the easy bit, but what do you do when it comes to marketing? Coming up with a marketing plan is a really good idea and to do this you need to have a good think about your audience; where they hang out, what keywords they search for, which books have they already bought, etc.
Here are some practical tips which you may want to include in your marketing plan.
1. Have a book with you at all times. You never know who you’ll bump into and it’s a great idea to have a book to hand so you can show them. If you are going to networking events or launches this is a particularly good idea.
2. Press releases. Write and send press releases to local radio and television stations. Also submit these to online press release aggregators to increase your online exposure. The credibility which comes with being mentioned by mainstream media is invaluable.
3. Blog and guest blog. In this day and age if you don’t have a blog and you don’t guest blog on similar niche sites you really are well behind the eight ball. Smart marketers are doing this and you need to too.
4. Reviews. Ask friends to review your work online. This builds your credibility, but it also improves your visibility on sites like Amazon. You can also pay professional reviewer to look at your work, ask for peer reviews from other authors, or send your work to well-known critics for their opinion.
5. Free talks. Look at your target market and offer to give free talks. These could be in libraries, community centres or local book clubs for adults, or if your books are for children they could be in schools and nurseries. Always take plenty of copies with you!
6. Flyers. Post flyers advertising your book in areas where your target market hang out. Think hard about where you see your target market in day to day life and market your book in those areas.
7. Freebies. Offer a free chapter online or with Amazon; this can entice a reader and get them so involved in the story that they just have to buy the rest of the book.
8. Personalised copies. Why not autograph some of your copies and label them as such. Autographed copies have a perceived higher value and as such can help to generate more sales for you.
9. Kindle. We’ve talked about Amazon a little already and it’s absolutely key that you get an electronic version of your work available on Kindle. The cost of production is minimal and Amazon is such a sales machine that it will constantly promote and upsell a popular piece of work.
10. Advertising. If you have the budget it’s a good idea to invest in paid advertising; just make sure that you have picked an advertising source which is relevant to your niche. Writers’ magazines are a good place to start, as are niche websites. Remember your demographic and you won’t go far wrong with this.
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Christmas Gifts for Writers / Tips by Lola Smirnova
Christmas festivities are well and truly under way – trees are up, cards are written and presents are wrapped, however if you still have some gifts to buy then read on… especially if you know a writer! I’m delighted to be joined in my Book Corner today by Lola, who shares her Christmas Gift Tips for Writers!
If you’re stuck on what to get the writer in your life this Christmas I think this list will help; these unique gifts are sure to bring a smile to any author’s face!
Writing can be a tough, thankless task so gifts which are witty or offer a little motivation during the hard times are idea.
Mugs and Coffee. There are all manner of mugs which have comedic messages written on them for writers; pick one of these up and why not team it with some heavy duty, high caffeine coffee for those tricky, tiresome moments when the brain just stops working!
I’m Writing: KEEP OUT! A sign for your writing space is a great buy as it has a humorous element, but also a practical application in that you can use it for time and space when you need it most.
Writing Software. For writers who write every day, the risk of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is very real, so you can give your loved ones a welcome break from this by investing in a voice typing software. Dragon Naturally Speaking is one of the market leaders and even has an App for writing on the go! Dragon speaking and writing software Carpal tunnel syndrome is a serious health risk for writers who write every day. I say one of the best gifts for writers is Dragon Naturally Speaking – it converts your writer’s spoken words to text. This reduces the amount of typing your writer has to do, which relieves the strain on thumbs, wrists, and arm muscles. It’s probably number one on my list of “best gifts for writers” (Baby, are you reading this?!).
Tickets Please! Tickets to a writers’ conference is a super-special gift to buy; the writer in your life will be able to get away and network with like-minded individuals. Often they happen in far flung places, but there are always more local events too depending on your budget.
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