The Detachment of Writers

“I begin to see that writers are liable to become callous.”

I read this quote yesterday in I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith (which I’m loving, by the way) and had one of those ‘so true’ moments. I’m not sure if writing makes you look at the world in a different way or if looking at the world in a different way makes you write. But I do know that I’ve always had a kind of detached ‘outside looking in’ feeling. I often see the more intense parts of my own life as though I’m watching a scene in a movie- standing on the sidelines and judging my conversations and movements. And those of other people, of course. It often means my words and actions are the result of calculations as to the probable result, rather than impulse. Perhaps writers really are just shy actors. 

As a child, though, I thought this was the case for everyone. So I saw an element of acting in most people’s reactions. I rarely saw emotions like anger as being wholly genuine. So I wasn’t very sympathetic. I’m still not, even though I now understand that most people don’t experience life as I do. 

But I’m betting that most writers understand this kind of detachment. That we’re aware that when someone is angry with us, or flirting with us, or upset about something, a part of our mind is not really present. It’s outside, analysing. And later, while we’re writing, we know what hand gestures someone uses, what their body language should look like when expressing a particular emotion. We just know people. 

Please tell me this isn’t just me? 

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Cover Reveal! 

I’m thrilled to be able to reveal the front cover for Victoria’s Victorian Victory! 

 So pretty, isn’t it? I love how it looks like a classic Victorian children’s story, which is exactly the feel I was going for in the book itself. And it makes clear what to expect- don’t read this if you only like paranormal, or dystopian. Do read it if you love old books about real life, such as Little Women or Lark Rise to Candleford. 

And if you have daughters who would benefit from a positive example of working hard and forging a career, even in a male dominated area, then this is the ideal book! 
Victoria’s Victorian Victory will be available to preorder within the next few days. And don’t forget you can sign up to my newsletter to get all the latest updates. Just fill in your name and email address on my contact page. 

Ten Reasons You Should Be Writing Short Stories


 For a long time I wasn’t interested in short stories. I just wanted to get my future bestseller finished and published. I accomplished the finished bit. The published bit proved harder than I was expecting. I lost some of my motivation and work on my second novel stagnated. I wondered if I could write at all. So did my family, though they tried not to show it. Then I read Ray Bradbury’s advice on writing a short story every week. I tried it and things started to happen. Here’s ten reasons why it helped me and will help you too…

     1. You’ll Learn Fast

 The second half of that Ray Bradbury quote is that it’s not possible to write 52 bad ones in a row. It’s true. If you write three short stories and go back to the first one you will see a multitude of faults you didn’t see before. You learn really fast. Some stories will be better than others and some will be rubbish. But some will be brilliant. 

      2. You’ll Have A Good Author Bio

When I was querying agents for my novel, I avoided ones that asked for a resumè. Why? Because I didn’t have one. Not one solitary published item. Now I actually have something to write for these. Granted, it’s still not that much and some are pretty obscure. But it proves I write to a publishable standard and that I take my writing seriously. 

      3. It Will Boost Your Confidence

Remember I said I wondered if I could write at all? Not any more. I know I can write. Not everything I write is good, but that’s a completely different thing to not being able to write at all. When I started sending out short stories the second response I got (we don’t talk about the first) was an email informing me I’d been shortlisted in a competition. I cried. It was the first time I felt really validated as a writer and it didn’t matter one jot that I didn’t win. The main thing was I could have done, because someone really liked my work. 

      
       4. You’ll Use Fewer Words

Short stories teach you to say what you want in a few words. If you’re entering competitions, they nearly always have a word count limit. Often, it will be under 2000 words. If you’re a writer who likes lots of description that will have to go. Good, you don’t need it. You’ll learn how to keep the story moving. Try flash fiction too. Some contests are set at exactly 100 words. That means every unnecessary word will have to be painstakingly weeded out, which is great practice. 

      5. You’ll Edit Your Work Better

 It’s easier to edit 2000 words than 80,000. If you’re writing a story a week you’ll probably get it done within two days. That gives you four or five days to polish it to perfection before you send it off. And if I story doesn’t get accepted, polish it again before you send it elsewhere. By the time you come to edit that novel of yours you’ll know exactly what you’re doing. 

      6. You’ll Create Twists With Impact

 In a short story you have to make a big impression in few words. Often you can do this by having either a shocking or amusing twist at the end. A gasp or a laugh from your reader is what’s going to make them remember your story. Increasingly, multiple twists are in demand within novels too. So let short stories teach you how it’s done and find out what works and what doesn’t.

      7. You’ll Get Used To Sending Your Work Out

 All writers need feedback. But let’s admit it, it’s a terrifying thing to open yourself up to. Your writing is a little piece of you and what if no one likes it? If you just write for pleasure it’s okay to give in to these feelings. But if you ever want to be published then you have to get over it. So send lots of stuff out there. If it’s rejected then send it somewhere else. A short story is a much smaller piece of you than a novel. It will be easier to get over. If you have to ditch a couple in the end it’s only a week’s work as opposed to a year’s. Maybe you’ll even find it’s not so bad as you thought. Just kidding. But it’s something all writers have to live with. Even really famous ones. Have you seen the pictures online of J K Rowling’s rejection letters when she sent out work under a pseudonym? That’s the reality of writing. But it doesn’t mean you’re rubbish. 

      8. It Can Be A Great Motivation

 Results come faster. You’ll stay motivated. One ‘yes’ can fuel your writing for weeks, even months. After a few weeks, you’ll have several stories you can be sending out simultaneously. Your heart will thump every time you open your emails. Personally, I’m addicted to the rush and feel very flat if I have nothing out on submission. It’s a bit like fishing. It might be ages before you catch something, maybe you never will, but the possibility is there so you stay put, with your bait in the water, and you wait. And the more rods you have out, the more chance of success you have. 

      9. Others Will Take Your Writing Seriously 

 All writers hate one question: ‘have you published your book yet?’ Many non-writers think writing a book and publishing a book are the same. I’ve had people ask me where they can buy my book before I’ve even finished the first draft. Now I can say airily that I’m concentrating on short stories at the moment and they can read them on etc… Suddenly you get a lot more respect as a writer. Perhaps your family members will even leave you alone to write sometimes too. 

      10. You’ll Take Your Writing Seriously

 With the increased confidence of having a few things published, realising you might actually be quite good at this, you’ll also have an increased feeling of responsibility. Writing is what you do, so you’ll have to do it. You want people to find your stories? Get out there on social media and publicise them. Cut out some of that TV time and write instead. You’re a writer now. So write. 

Dealing with Doubt


I believe all writers struggle with doubt at times. We spend months, maybe even years, crafting something from our own minds and then, when it’s as near our original vision as we think we can get, we have a choice. 

Send it out into the world or not? 

Most writers will, eventually, decide to send it out. For us the creative process is incomplete without sharing our work. So we do so. We send our short story to magazines, our novel to agents and publishers.

Then there’s an agonisingly long wait…

Sometimes the wait is up to six months. And it’s natural that in that time we start to doubt ourselves. Are we just delusional scribblers? 
I thought the doubt would go away once I had a few publishing credits under my belt. 

Nope. 

Just because my last piece was well received is no guarantee the next one will be. I worry about every single thing I write. 

Last week, when the final edits of my book were done and it was too late to change anything, I was convinced I’d made a major error. Even though I was perfectly certain and happy when I sent it off. 

This week I’ve been getting subscribers for my newsletter by telling everyone how great it’s going to be. Now people are taking me at my word I feel sure it will be terrible. 
There’s not a lot you can do about this kind of doubt. I try to reason it away. Tell myself that I also thought no one would follow me on Instagram, that I couldn’t do Twitter, that this blog would never get any traffic. That was all wrong. It does help to remember those things. But the doubt persists. The only way to permanently resolve it is to find out if it’s true or not. And you can only do that if you keep going in spite of it. 

At the end of the day, doubt is better than regret. And if you let doubt that you’re good enough stop you, well, you’ll never know if you could have done it. 

My Writing Year

 
This time last year I hadn’t had anything published at all. Diddly squat. In one year I’ve been published in five online platforms, been shortlisted in one competition and commended in another, and got my first book publishing contract. So what changed? 

 

 In short, I set up an Instagram account focusing on my writing. Possibly not for the right reasons! I’d read that it was hard to get an agent or publisher if you didn’t have a social media network. And since Instagram was the only social media site I used in my personal life, I started with that as being less intimidating. I was totally unprepared for the instant warm welcome I got in the bookstagram/writing community. A year later I have almost 1,400 followers found the courage to start this blog and join Twitter and Goodreads. But that wasn’t the most important thing. 

 The most important thing is that the Instagram writing community forced me to take my writing seriously. I was identifying myself there as a writer. So I had to write. I was a bit stuck on my WIP so I wrote some short stories instead. And, since various magazines occasionally liked my Instagram photo’s, I had somewhere to submit to. Not everyone said yes. But a good percentage did. And that gave me more courage. The courage to start sending my previously completed manuscript out again. 

 I’d stopped doing this. I’d spent a year trying to get an agent or publisher for it and failed. I’d mentally filed it away as a failure. But now I knew I could write publishable material. And Instagram had also made me aware of a publishing option that hadn’t really registered before-Small Presses. 

Again, a few of these liked my Instagram pictures. Through them I became aware of more. And I realised that a publishing contract didn’t need to be with a big company offering a massive advance. Eventually, my Instagram networking connected me with Rainy Day Reads. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

What Not To Do When Starting A Newsletter


 It seems to me there’s a lot of hidden pitfalls to planning an author newsletter. I’m signed up to a number myself and I’ve seen it done both rightly and wrongly. I’ve been studying them quite a bit in order to start my own. Here’s what I’ve learnt: 

 First is the problem of getting people to sign up for it. 
 I’ve seen posts on Instagram or Twitter which say simply ‘sign up for my newsletter.’ My usual reaction is ‘why?’ Unless it’s a well known author, or we are already a fan or a friend, there are too many author newsletters out there too sign up for them all. So we only sign up for those that appear to offer us something we want. Many author newsletters therefore hold out the lure of ‘free stuff.’ This works, providing you’re offering something worthwhile. 

 Once someone has signed up and got their free item, though, we need them to stay signed up and keep reading. That means producing consistent, quality and enjoyable content. Simple, right? 

 I’ve seen this done wrong too. Having signed up for an authors newsletter, lured by their free ebook, I’ve frequently forgotten all about them in the massively long gap between doing so and actually hearing from them. So my advice would be make a schedule and stick to it. 

 Then there’s the quality. My first newsletter from one person contained little other than apologies for all the typos in the free ebook. Even though the author assured us they were all fixed, I never bothered to download it. Some authors switch from writing from their point of view to their character’s, and then back again. They haven’t decided how they want to write their newsletter. So I would say, make sure your content is completely ready before you put it out there. In many cases, you have just one chance to hook your reader. 

 Finally, make it fun. A newsletter that’s one big sell soon gets boring, even irritating. Write about things that will appeal to your target audience. Make it interesting and interactive. Make it have a common theme as well. 

 And finally make sure you deliver what you promised you would. A newsletter that discusses how to build an author platform is great, unless you promised us true crime. 

 So, how am I going to do all this? 
 My newsletter will come out on the first of every month, starting in December. Because my books are set in Victorian times, that will be the general theme. There will be free Victorian recipes, craft projects and more. There will also be interesting Victorian trivia, columns and interviews. You’ll get reviews, excerpts, competitions and cover reveals. I’ll spend November building a list and crafting excellent, polished content. 

 If this sounds like something you’d enjoy (and I hope it does) you can sign up on my contact page. 

Email addresses will be treated entirely confidentially and only used for this purpose. 

How Not To Market Your Book On Twitter


 Since joining Twitter I’ve become aware of an increasingly irritating trend among some writers. I get why they do it and I sympathise. But I think they should stop. 
What happens is, usually, a fellow writer will follow your Twitter account. I like to follow back where possible. So I’ll click the follow button and think no more about it. If I like the writer’s tweets and they like mine then we’ll become virtual friends. But at this point only a very initial connection has been made and I still don’t know anything much about them or their work. Nor am I all that interested yet. 
Which is why I don’t like it when I get a message or a tweet from them saying something like: ‘thanks for the follow. To show my appreciation here’s a free ebook.’ (I’m not talking about general Twitter advertising here, but messages that are specifically addressed to me or you as a person.) 
Now, I believe these writers think they’re doing something nice. I don’t find it nice though, and I never use the provided link. Why? 
 Firstly, I feel used. This writer clearly just followed me so I would follow them back and they could send their free ebook. No doubt in the hope that I’ll review it and buy more.  And there was me thinking they’d connected with me because they liked my tweets, or even my writing. 
 Secondly, I don’t see why I should. Following someone on Twitter is such a transient connection. I know what these writers are thinking, what’s not to love about a free book? They aren’t asking for money. But they forget that they’re asking for a lot of time. And time’s precious. I’m not going to invest my time in reading their book if they don’t give me a reason to do so. Yes, it’s free. But what’s it about? Why will I like it? What sort of reviews does it get? Am I not supposed to care just because it’s free? I hate to tell them but there’s an enormous number of free ebooks out there. I need a reason to pick theirs. 
Third, too many writers are doing the same. When you get several free ebook links sent to you per day they lose their impact and become very annoying. Simple as that. I even had someone send me one via a Pinterest message the other day. No. Pinterest is for pinning photos. Go away. 
 Lastly, we are all trying to publicise our writing. I can understand why writers tend to target other writers. We all like to support each other. And most of us also read a lot. But don’t forget that most writers are taking some precious time out of their day to connect with fans on social media. They probably won’t have time to stop and read a full length book. They may make time if you become their friend. But not before they even know if they like your tweets. 
 One tweet I’ve seen a couple of times says that writers have to stop behaving like used care salespeople. I do so agree. Take the time to make a friend/fan of someone before you send them a free ebook. 
Do you agree? Or has this method worked well for you? 

Does everyone love getting links to free books and I’m just a grumpy cow? 
I’d love to hear some other perspectives. 
If for some reason you still feel inclined to follow me on Twitter you can at @abiwriting!