Three Little Writers

One of my biggest recommendations to other writers is to join a writers’ group and I am lucky enough to be a member of Words Out West. We meet on the last Wednesday of every month at Papcastle Village Hall, read some work in progress or a piece inspired by the previous month’s homework, and provide constructive feedback.

Now as you all know my writing has not exactly been fruitful recently and I will not bore you again with the reasons but alongside this I have also missed the past two meetings of Words Out West. So it was something of a mission that I would not, come what may, miss the meeting at the end of May!

It wasn’t the ideal situation, I had no writing prepared and despite repeatedly promising to myself I would get something, anything written, even in my lunch hour or while waiting in the car just before the meeting was due to start, nothing was forthcoming. I am tempted to blame this on the problem of forced creativity- having a deadline rushing towards me seemed to send the muse running!

There is something a little embarrassing about turning up to a writers’ group with nothing to read but I have done it before. The reason I still insisted on going was that after every writing group session I attend I come away feeling and inspired and it is the best thing to kick my lazy writing arse in gear!

And of course there is an additional reason I was pleased to have attended. At May’s meeting we were three little writers, only three! There are a number of causes for this- holidays mainly- but our little group needs a recruitment drive!

Are you a writer based in the Cockermouth area or no someone who is? Get in touch!

I Am No Marketeer

Guest Blog by Rosemary J. Kind

Last time I left you with the question ‘What would I do differently?’ Ah, the benefit of hindsight. I now know I am no marketeer. It is not that I can’t market my book. I can and I do. However, every phone call is nerve racking, every negative response leaves me playing the tragic hero and every success justifies a war dance round the office and a glass of wine. I should perhaps add that the negatives call for a consolatory drink, but I’d hate you to go away with the idea I am an alcoholic!

My book, ‘Lovers Take up Less Space’, is a humorous review of travelling on London Underground. The BBC promptly ran a whole six week series looking at the Underground and naively I thought with this to piggy-back then I couldn’t fail. The BBC showed the serious side of the Tube. It showed the dedicated workers. The true complexity of managing such an impossible infrastructure and instead of providing me with a platform it left me with two thoughts. Firstly, it was the sort of programme watched by geeks and secondly, I felt guilty taking such a light hearted look at something so many other people took so seriously. It was a bit like writing a sit-com based in a crematorium. There were definitely going to be those out there who thought I was being a little irreverent. Is this the best point to tell you about the time I went to the wrong funeral? I should perhaps simply apologise publicly to Elsie’s family for bursting into hysterical laughter at the point I realised I was in the wrong one.

In any case, you can see my problem. There is a time and a place for humour and the BBC programme was neither the time nor the place. I crept away to lick my wounds.

It’s not all bad news. I am selling books. The Evening Standard and Metro may have declined the opportunity to run sections of the book for the edification of their readers, but I have managed to have some pretty decent book reviews in other newspapers and picked up sales on the back of it. I’ve got the book on the shelves of a number of bookshops around London and need to devise a strategy to capitalise on the Olympic rush in the summer. I am finding it always pays to have a book, on your person, available for sale and a pen available for signing and ironically the hard copy has led to a boost in the e-book sales.

Newspaper reviews of a book definitely bring in readers, as long as the reviews are favourable. It is worth being prepared to send a significant number of complimentary copies to reviewers and don’t underestimate the power of the local press. This is no time to be snobbish and think you need to hit the nationals. A good local review, backed up by a local stockist and an internet presence can yield a good volume of sales. However, do research your local press first. Sending a book to a free paper that is almost entirely advertising is not likely to be an investment. Choose papers that do regular book review slots. Their readers will be used to looking out for titles which are worth their while reading.

I’m thinking a stall on Camden Market might be quite good, but I don’t live anywhere near Camden and I think the stalls are probably already taken. I may have to settle for a stall at our village Fun Day, where they are most likely to wonder why I’m trying to sell a book about London while living in North Yorkshire. There really is a time and a place for everything. Now, if only I could get the time and place right at the same time I could make a fortune.

Rosemary J. Kind is the author of ‘Lovers take up less space’ a humorous guide to travelling on the London Underground, it is available through bookshops, Amazon and direct from www.alfiedog.com. She has also written ‘Alfie’s Diary’, ‘Alfie’s Woods’ and ‘Poems for Life’ which are available as e-books. Alfie’s Diary is available on a daily basis at www.alfiedog.me.uk

The Weekend Novelist

Sitting on my bookshelves I have countless books on writing that, despite spending the money buying, I have somehow still not yet got round to reading. With writing guides I always feel there is that balance between reading about how to write and spending the time actually writing, you can read all the books on writing there is but unless you actually get, down to some writing it’s pointless. Besides which, as we all know, there are no hard and fast rules on writing and no one can write the thing for you.

One book I have however recently decided to put to some use is The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray and Bret Norris. As the title suggests it is designed to be a guide for those of us who only have opportunity to write at weekends, and there are a lot of us, full-time jobs and other family and social commitments seem to devour the week! But now I have a book I want to write and unfortunately I know myself well enough to know I need to have some sort of plan in place if I ever want to see it completed.

The Weekend Novelist works like a 52 week plan from plotting to re-writes and this could be exactly what I need. So far I’m on Chapter 3 and already I have a much better idea of where I’m going with my plot and I’m someone who needs that or I’ll get a third of the way through the novel and feel completely lost. I always hear about these amazing writers who start writing and work out the plot as they go along, I thoroughly envy them. For me I need some sort of plan or I feel like I’m rambling on with no real end point to be aiming for.

Now I will admit I am sceptical about whether a novel can be written to a weekly plan but I think it’s worth a try because even if it’s not perfect and it turns out in a year’s time this hasn’t been the best way to write a novel at least I will have written a substantial amount and surely I’ll be able to do something with it.

So here’s to the next 52 weeks (well, technically less now I’m on Chapter 3 but you get the idea). Wish me luck!

When Sparks Fly

A couple of weeks ago I ended up with a writing dilemma I had never experienced before and as a result I was left questioning what on earth I was going to write?

For the past few months I have been researching Amsterdam with a view of setting my novel there. I had wanted to embark on a project that I could learn and research about, something with a strong sense of place and Amsterdam felt like the ideal setting- my sister lives out there and I was soon going to be visiting so I would have ample opportunity to extend my knowledge about the area. The trouble was I didn’t actually have a story in mind, or even a vague idea of characters, but I wasn’t going to let that stand in my way. Sarah Waters when researching likes to get a feel for the people and era and from that she develops a story, and that’s exactly what I was aiming to do, to have something materialize organically from the research. Now in hindsight I can see that was rather optimistic.

The trouble was as I got deeper into the research I was no nearer to a story and the longer this went on the more unsettling it became. I had an awful fear that I was heading blindly into historical facts without any real purpose or sight as to where I was going with it. I was effectively just waiting for a spark of genius that might never happen.

Eventually and out of no where there was a spark, but it wasn’t the one I was hoping for or even anticipated. It was for an entirely different story set in a completely different era and location. What’s more I loved it. The more I thought about it the more the nugget of the idea seemed to grow and have everything I wanted from a plot plus it was a subject I was passionate about and already had some knowledge in. Then there was the dilemma, do I note down this great new idea to pick up another time while I continue with the research or do I abandon the research and go with the new idea?

It is a fact that you can be plodding along with a project quite nicely only to be side-swept by more appealing and seductive ideas and if you constantly fall for these then you’re unfortunately doomed never to complete anything. And that’s what worried me, was I giving up and going for the bright and shiny new idea because it was the easy option? Was it not better to persevere at the research? In short no. Yes I have invested time into the research but what makes a novel is the plot and so far I had nothing on Amsterdam and research is not why I want to be a writer, I want to be a writer to write and having a plot at least allows me to do that.

So that’s it, the research has been put to one side and one day I will more than likely revisit it, maybe then it will be ready to grow into something. Right now I’m actually working on something I’m excited about and that makes the world of difference.

Happy Writing?

The idea that the most creative minds are often afflicted with mental health problems is not a new one and there are numerous examples throughout history- Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gogh and Virginia Woolf to name just a few. It may be that the creative and inquisitive mind is more vulnerable to mental health affliction but can exercising creativity also help improve mood?

The latest issue of Mslexia poses the question: Does writing help keep you sane?

71% of women surveyed said writing made them feel more positive about life

57% said it helped them to reduce their anxiety or stress

42% found it made them feel less depressed

These sort of findings aren’t surprising and further emphasise how valuable and useful writing can be in therapy. For me I always find I feel a lot happier when I’m writing but on the other flip side when I do feel low I feel it incredibly difficult to write at all.

So how does writing effect your mood and do you have to be in a sort of frame of mind to write?

Writing to a Schedule

Recently, in an attempt to take my writing more seriously, I have been trying to stick to something of a writing schedule and, surprisingly for me given I have been known to have the attention span of an dim-witted goldfish, I have stuck to it. I have been spending a couple of hours several evenings during the week and a few hours every weekend shut away in my study. The only problem is I’m not sure if this is actually working.

Finding time to write has always been a problem for me, I have a full-time job and I’m studying towards my AAT, but lack of time is only part of the reason for my previous lack of productivity. When you’re tired and are often kept busy it is all too easy to avoid anything that appears like an unnecessary challenge and, although I love writing, it is a challenge. Having some sort of scheduled time I quickly found helped with this, it was like keeping an appointment, and the vast majority of the time I found I was writing more than ever.

There was only one major problem- what I was writing was utter drivel! The biggest problem is right now I’m not working on a project as such, not in a writing sense anyway, so I was splitting up my writing time between research and what I called ‘writing something new’. The idea being I was keeping my hand in writing something.

I’m still not sure what is causing my inability to write anything of any quality right now. Maybe I’m a little out of practice, or maybe putting creativity on a schedule just does not work for me. Yes, the schedule has been positive in some senses, I actually feel I’m achieving something, but maybe, for me anyway, trying to write something new is not something I can pinpoint down into a set diarised event.

So do you have a writing schedule?

I’m crazy. I’m mad. I’m a Self-published author.

Guest Blog by Rosemary J. Kind

 

If you went into hospital and the person on the reception desk, having checked you in, then put on a porter’s cap and wheeled you to your operation, removed their porter’s cap and put a white coat on, scrubbed up and told you they were your surgeon for the day, you wouldn’t stay long enough to find out who the anaesthetist was. However, when you set out to self-publish a book that is exactly what we authors are doing. We can employ specialists to do the work for us and if we are self-publishing just to see our book in print and not doing it to earn money that is most definitely the best route, but what happens when you want to earn your keep through writing?

Most of the books I have written do not sit neatly in a standard genre. I’m not famous. I don’t have connections in the industry and I haven’t got publishing houses beating my door down, contract in hand. On the upside, I do have more determination to succeed than is strictly sensible and enough people telling me they love what I write to stop me from giving up.

I started with the easy option of e-publishing. I did my own editing and friends proof read for me. I put together an acceptable layout. E-publishing formatting is less demanding than for the printed form. I sent out my press releases for the e-book, but when you start getting enquiries of where people can buy the paper copy you start wanting to deliver what your public wants. That’s when I started getting quotes for printing. I put a business plan together which told me how many books I would need to sell, at which levels of discount, in order to break even. I factored in a significant number of review copies and the postage to send them out. It was only going to work if I did every step myself.

It isn’t a small project and certainly not for the faint hearted. Most Sundays’ find me giving myself a pep-talk about what I need to do in the coming week and much of that work is outside my comfort zone. I don’t want this to be a one-off venture so I looked at the best way to set myself up. I decided that in the long term I wanted to publish work for other authors so I started by setting up a company, Alfie Dog Limited and buying a web address www.alfiedog.com . I then realised if I was going to be a company I needed letterheads, logos, compliment slip and all sorts of records of my activities, so I frittered several happy hours designing my ‘brand’ and behind the scenes systems. I made a loan to the company that was enough to see my initial business plan through and opened a company bank account. Apart from making it easier to take on other authors, the company structure provided me with a better vehicle for tax purposes.

With the company out of the way, I began to prepare for publication. I was fortunate enough to place the winning bid in the ‘Authors for Japan’ auction for a professional book cover design and am delighted with the result. The cover for ‘Lovers take up less space’ is exactly what I wanted and has had a lot of favourable responses. The two most important things for publication are the cover and the ISBN number. You must have an ISBN to be stocked in bookshops and taken seriously by anyone.

Of course, layout of the book, content and print quality are all important factors too. I lost sleep worrying about my margins. I don’t mean if I was making money, I mean the distance from the printed words to the edge of the page and leaving enough on the inner edge for binding. Thanks to an article in Writing Magazine I reconsidered the font size and learnt how to put section headers on the tops of pages. I read up on what went on the copyright page, or ‘title verso’ as I learnt it was called.

I had a last minute panic when I realised the spine wasn’t in the right place on the book cover for the width the book made when printed, but fortunately was able to sort that out with the designer and get the cover reformatted before sending it to the printers.

I had the courage to order 1,000 copies. I can get a reprint with a three week turnaround. Ominously, on Friday 13th January, a week and a half ahead of schedule, ‘Lovers take up less space – an alphabet guide to the Tube’ arrived on a pallet from the printers. I spent ten minutes jumping up and down with excitement, rang my Mum, rang my husband and then came down to earth with a bump. Printing is only the beginning of the process. Now I had to sell them and before that I needed to move a quarter of a tonne of books from outside the front door!

I’ll come back in a few weeks to tell you how the marketing is going. I’m already in a number of bookshops and sales are going well, but I’ll save that for another time. In the meantime, what would I do differently? Not very much so far. I might have a matt cover instead of a glossy one, but otherwise it’s going rather well and my ‘smiling dog’ imprint most definitely has something to smile about.

Biography note

Rosemary J. Kind is the author of ‘Lovers take up less space’ a humorous guide to travelling on the London Underground, it is available through bookshops, Amazon and direct from www.alfiedog.com. She has also written ‘Alfie’s Diary’, ‘Alfie’s Woods’ and ‘Poems for Life’ which are available as e-books. Alfie’s Diary is available on a daily basis at www.alfiedog.me.uk

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