Tag Archives: writers

The Author Package

In the world we live in today, authors have to be more than just writers.

Readers want to have more than just a name on a book spine.  They want to know more about the person behind the writing.  It’s illustrative of our culture today.  As consumer, readers and viewers, we have access to everything, to everyone.  Even the most elite film stars can’t hide behind billboards anymore – they are papped in the streets, stories told to tabloids about them, and given their say on Twitter.

But consumer-interest isn’t just reserved for film and TV stars any more.  Readers want to know about authors, and the paragraph at the back of the book just doesn’t go dig deep enough!  Readers not only want to know about the author behind the books, they want to communicate with them. And increasing numbers of top authors are bowing to the demand, there are a number of prolific authors who are very candid with their readers.  For example –

Neil Gaiman is an avid tweeter, and a keeps a regularly updated blog.

Maureen Johnson communicates freely and very honestly with her readers and has a beautiful website and blog.

Lauren Kate keeps over 13,000 fans updated on her book tours over Twitter, and a regular and very personal blog with personal photos, annecdotes, and interestingly open polls for tour destinations.

Twitter and blogs are also an increasingly popular way for upcoming authors to advertise their work.  A number of novice authors, self-published authors, and those who have just signed contracts with publishers use social media to make names for themselves, forge fan-bases, and advertise their new work.

Finally there’s the third tier of authors – the almost-there crew, much like myself – who are represented, but don’t have book deals yet.  Here I think social media becomes a bit of an experiment.  You don’t have anything concrete to advertise, but social media instead provides a forum for discussion, self-growth, and the opportunity to trial your work on complete strangers.

Interestingly, the only authors who seem to be shying away from providing the ‘full author package’ are those at the very very top.  Those, whose name alone sells.

John Grisham steers clear of both Twitter and blogging, and Stephen King last posted on his blog in 2009.

Whilst ‘Queen Rowling’  as she’s been called this week DOES have an official Twitter account,  4 of the only 6 messages she’s ever tweeted are variations of the same statement – ‘This is the real me, but you won’t be hearing from me often I’m afraid, as pen and paper are my priority at the moment.’

Also Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer has over 50,000 followers on Twitter, but has only ever tweeted twice!

C-C xx

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Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

I’ve been meaning to get around to this for some time now.  The theme for ‘Elli Writes’  June contest is ‘A New Pair of Boots’ – writing in someone else’s shoes, and whilst I know the idea of the challenge is to force you to write from someone else’s perspective, the contest has inspired me to write a blog post on the subject of characters and perspectives.

For a start, I’ve discovered I write far quicker in the first person.  Maybe that’s just because I’ve spent over half my life journalling.  Or maybe it’s because you dwell less on description in the first person than you do in the third person (or at least I do!).  The first person allows you to focus solely on one character’s thoughts and emotions, whilst the third person is obviously broader.  There’s more to consider,  both character-wise, and also from a lyrical standpoint.  The reason third person writing takes longer, is because sentences written in the third person can normally include more elevated, creative description, and as such, every sentence requires careful thought.  For me, first person writing often becomes a stream of thought.  I don’t know if that means I write better in the first person, or that my writing is lazier in the first person, but that simple initial choice of perspective can completely and utterly change a book.

At the moment I’m writing a novel called ‘Mercury’s Child’, which I’ve now mentioned a couple of times.  It’s my first stab at science fiction, and initially started as a far ‘younger’ project, as compared to my other novels.  The two other ‘children’s’ works I’ve written are teenage fantasy novels.  Teenagers with superpowers.  However, because of the nature of the worlds, the timings of the characters lives, and the necessary naivete of the protagonist, Mercury’s Child is a book about an eleven year-old, and as such I decided to target the book at a younger audience – maybe 11-15 year-olds, as opposed to the 14-19 year-old bracket my other books has been designed primarily for.

Initially I decided to write the book in the first person.  Because I find it easier, quicker … and possibly the lazy option 😉  However, the problem with writing about an 11 year-old in the first person, is that you then need to think like I’m an 11 year-old.  Now, I like to think of myself as a bit of a big kid at heart, and I don’t think I have problems empathizing with teenagers, in fact, in a number of ways I probably still lead a rather teenage life.  I live with my (friend’s) parents, drive someone else’s car, and a mortgage and marriage are both things which are still a long way off!  For those reasons I enjoy writing teenage fiction, because in a lot of ways I simply write how I think.

And whilst I was obviously 11 years old at some point, if I’m honest, I don’t really remember it all too well!  I definitely don’t think like an eleven year-old.  And for that reason, I eventually decided to write the book in the third person.  Because, whilst this perspective might require more careful crafting, and doesn’t allow for stream of thought writing, it also doesn’t require a detailed insight into the mind of your protagonist.  It requires some, but not total empathy.

So, I began writing a book for 11 to 15 year-olds in the third person.  And within a few chapters I noticed something else.  I write way too old for that age-group!  As an author, I genuinely think it’s hard to hide your own voice.  Some might argue that’s all part of the craft, and obviously it is to some degree.  You don’t want to write an autobiography, you want to write fiction.  But fiction, as I’ve said before, is also writing about what you know.  Writing about what you understand.  And as Mercury’s Child took shape in the third person, I realised I wasn’t writing a book for 11 to 15 year-olds.  I was writing about an eleven year old girl and her family, for readers in their late teens and adulthood.  And whilst that might seem like a failure for some, for me, I think it just means I know my target audience.  I know where my talents lie.  And rather than try to force a story into a form I think it ought to take, I’d prefer to leave it in its natural form, and see if it works that way.

Because this is the thing I’ve found about walking in someone else’s shoes … it only really works within certain parameters.  The shoes don’t necessarily have to be your own, but they have to be a reasonably good fit!  Whether you’re writing in the third person, or even more specifically in the first person, you need to know your character.  You need to understand your character.  And you need to understand your reader.  And whilst no one wants to read an autobiography where the names have simply been changed to call it fiction  (apart from maybe The Devil Reads Prada!) that doesnt mean people want to read something completely foreign to a writer.  Good writing comes from the heart.  Your heart.  Not someone else’s.  And so you need to understand your own story.  You need to live your own story.

That’s why Mercury’s Child, in my opinion, works best pitched at older children and adults, and in the third person.  Because, whilst I understand my characters and the worlds I’ve created, I best represent those characters and those worlds in the voice of a teenager/adult.  In a voice rather similar to my own.  That isn’t to say adults can’t write for younger children – as is obvious from almost all children’s literature! – I just know where my voice is strongest.

Following on from this idea of knowledge and understanding, I really struggle with the idea, as a female writer, of writing about a male protagonist.  Ok, from a distanced third person perspective, I might be able to do it.  (It’s something J.K. Rowling obviously nailed!).  But it’s not something I would choose, because I understand girls.  I know them, because I am one!  I don’t think I would ever excel at writing from a male first person standpoint, because, quite simply I don’t know how men think!  Men and women are really different creatures, and I don’t think I could ever be confident enough to establish a credible enough male voice.  Even in the third person, I’ve struggled to write male dialogue, and had male friends criticise the realism of my male-on-male conversations, because quite simply, I don’t know how men converse with one another when they’re on their own.

And so for that reason, whilst obviously, as fiction writers, we are always walking in someone else’s shoes, I think those shoes have to be a reasonable fit.  For me, I’d say my current literary fit is a woman’s shoe, aged 15 to 35 years-old in the first person protagonist.  Where the third person is concerned, those requirements are a little bit looser.

What do you guys think?  Can male writers write in a convincing female voice, and vice-versa?  How big are the writing shoes you feel confident filling?  Or am I being too conservative with my writing?  Should I step into less comfortable shoes?

C-C xxx

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The Publishing Trap!

I’ve just been catching up on my Subscription reading, and came across a lovely mention on Trainee Writer.  Thank you Kriss!

Anyway, as regular readers of the blog will know, I’ve recently been trying to step out of my comfort zone by entering writing competitions in genres and styles that I’m not used to.  Whilst this is definitely something I would recommend, my experience has come with one caveat – be careful what you publish!

One of the main reasons I started a blog was to get feedback on my writing from people who I don’t know personally – feedback like that lovely comment on The Trainee Writer.  However, the main problem nowadays with putting chapters of your work up on the net is not necessarily what you would expect it to be.  I for one thought the only potential problem with posting writing on the internet was plagiarism, however there is another more legal consideration.

Posting something on the internet can count as publishing, full stop.  It might seem temporary, but it is out there for good, the moment you click on that ‘Publish’ button.  And there could be implications on the future of that piece.  For example, almost every competition I’ve entered this month has insisted that the writing I’m submitting has not been previously published ANYWHERE, and that specifically includes the internet.

Whilst this ought not be a problem for book deals, (I presume provided you don’t post too much of a book?) if you are thinking of using a novel or a short story in a competition, I would suggest erring on the side of caution and not posting it online.  With that in mind I just posted my entry to the Grazia competition as, alas, I didn’t win the £1,000 jackpot!

C-C xxx

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Getting Over The Writing Hurdle

I’m constantly thinking up stories.  As in literally every day.  If I’m working on a book, then that story plays out in my head throughout my day.  It’s there in the background, so that whenever I have a solitary moment – working out at the gym, or walking for the bus – the story picks back up in my head, and I carry it on.

If I’m not working on a project at the time, I find my head filling with new ideas.  I’ll toy with an idea for an hour or two, a day maybe … and if it sticks, write it down … if not, I start again.

So the stories are always there … and yet that doesn’t mean they automatically translate onto my computer screen.  Because sometimes I take my stories too far …

This has been my writing hurdle with my current book ‘Mercury’s Child‘.

I spent too much time thinking about the story before I began to write.  And I got too far along the story!

You see, I write books in the same way I read them.  I want to know what happens next.  I invest in my characters, and want to know where they’re going … and so the problem with thinking up too much of a story before you get it down on paper, is that you don’t want to be writing the first part of the story.  You want to be writing the later parts!

With Mercury’s Child I laid all the groundwork in my head, and couldn’t bring myself to write it all down, because I was worried that my impatience to get to the newer parts of the story – they parts I didn’t know yet – would translate into my written word.

And so for months and months I dawdled.  At first I had excuses – it was the end of my ski season in Whistler, and I wanted to make the most of the skiing and socialising.  Then I returned home, and there was the obvious excuse of catching up with friends and family who I hadn’t seen for years.

But now I have no excuse.  I’ve been back home exactly 1 month, and I’m still yet to start work.  I’m spending weekday after weekday waiting for my grown-up friends with their grown-up adult jobs, to leave work and come and play with me, and I’m getting bored.  Now, if I’m really an author, I ought to be using all this spare time productively.  And there are only so many magazine writing competitions I can enter in one month!

So I finally got started.  I’m happy to admit that the first couple of days were a struggle – trying to make sure the start of my book remained as exciting and full of promise as the idea had when I first came up with it, despite my desire to fast-forward through the story until I got to a point where I felt like I was still being creative.

But the reason I’m writing is that I got over my hump!  I got over the writing hurdle, and I’m back in a zone where I feel like I’m using my imagination again.  And once I got the first three chapters of Mercury’s Child down, I could go back over them with fresh eyes, and actually add in new snippets.  New ideas, which made me feel like I was actually using my imagination, and that I was injecting those things that I had been worried would no longer be present in the first parts of my story – excitement and intrigue – properly into it.

Obviously whether I’ve been successful is a subjective judgment, but in just four days, I’ve managed to pen twelve thousand, five hundred words.  The first of my six chapters is on the blog – have a read, and let me know what you think.  And if you want to read more, let me know, and I’ll post another chapter 🙂

So I guess my message today is that everyone has their hurdles, and for every writer, the challenges present themselves in different ways.  But from my experience, the only way you get over a hurdle is by gritting your teeth, and hitting it face on.  At first it might be tough, but once you’ve got something on the page, you’ve created a framework that you can go back and tweak.  And trust me, the tweaking stage is far easier, and far more fun, than the initial ‘laying the framework’ phase – so just get that first part over and done with!

C-C xx

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Back on the Wagon!

So I’m back writing a novel again 🙂

I came up with the premise of Mercury’s Child some time back, but have had various excuses for not properly starting it … up until now!  I moved back to the UK almost a month ago, and still haven’t got the green light to start my new job, so I figure I should be making use of my time by writing.  I’ve recently written a couple of competition entries, however due to the rules, I can’t ‘publish’ them until I know whether I’ve won or not.  However THIS I can ‘publish’ … it’s the first chapter of Mercury’s Child, hot off the press ….

I’ll post it as a separate blog post so that it’s easier to find in later months, but for now, let me give you a brief outline of the book.

Mercury’s Child is a science fiction novel.  The main character, Halley MacFadden is just eleven years old, however I think the book will still remain in the young adult genre, like most of my books – though possibly the younger end – 13-15 as opposed to the 16+ age group that Flicker and TDN were written for.

I don’t want to reveal too much at this point, so all I will say is sit back, have a read, and let me know what you think!

Cheers,

C-C xx

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The Writing Game

The more I get to grips with WordPress and the world of the writer blogger, the more exciting stuff I find.

So first of all, last night I discovered The 3-Day Novel Contest.  Now, to be honest, I’m not sure how long any novel I wrote in three days would be … I have an awful tendency to read and re-read stuff until I think it’s word-perfect, which could make for a rather short three day project, but I do really like the idea.

I’ve also found a lot of Flash Fiction on the web, which is another concept I didn’t know a great deal about until very recently.  I guess the post I wrote yesterday ‘The Time I Dated a Vampire’ could be classed as flash fiction, as it’s an 850 word snippet of what you imagine to be a far bigger story?  On my unemployed hunt for writing competitions, I DID discover two flash fiction competitions – the Unbound Press Flash Fiction Competition,  (entries have to be less than 500 words), and the Lightship Flash Fiction Competition (entries have to be less than 600 words) if anyone’s interested.

My little foray into Writing Prompts yesterday opened my eyes to a whole web of such prompts – which I think is pretty cool and exciting 🙂 I feel a bit like I’m back in English class at school.

And my most recent find is this blog post HERE.  In the post on Indigo Spider, the anonymous blogger introduced me to two new writing ideas I hadn’t come across before.

1) Picture prompts – what a brilliant idea!  Especially when you’re feeling a bit ‘blocked’.  You could literally do a random image search on google, and make yourself write a fictional piece based on whatever random picture the search churns up!

2) Chain writing!  I LOVE this idea, especially as I’m beginning to understand what a great community of fellow writers there are on WordPress.  Why not take part in a big game together?!  Do you remember that game we played as children, where you folded a piece of paper in four, and then passed it around a circle.  The first person drew the head, then the next person drew the arms, then the third person drew the legs, and then the last person drew the feet, and then you unravelled the paper to see the finished result.

How about doing that with writing?  A group of writers agree to play.  Each writes the first 500 words of a story, any story, and then all the writers switch stories, and continue someone else’s story for another 500 word.  And so  on …..

This is definitely a game that my inner child would enjoy playing!

In fact, if anyone fancies it, we could schedule one big group writing session???

Post a comment below if you fancy joining in, and if we get enough writers interested …. (I’m thinking more than 4 to make the stories a decent length), then we can designate some deadlines for each section of the story!

C-C xx

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The Time I Dated A Vampire (Writing Prompt)

Following on from my post ‘I’m Bored’ I decided to spend an hour writing a response to Maria Kelly’s Writing Prompt ‘Twilight – Re-Vamped’.  Let me know what you think, write your own response and share the link, or give me another writing task!

C-C xx

The Prompt – ‘Write a strong female character in a vampire situation.’


The Time I Dated A Vampire

 

“So you’re telling me you’re dead?’  I frowned up at my new boyfriend.  We’d been seeing each other just two months when he decided to drop that particular bombshell on me.

I’ll admit, there had been signs that something wasn’t quite right.  The cultural references for a start…  I mean, surely everyone watched Rainbow and Wackaday when they were kids?  But I guess if you were one hundred years-old in the eighties, children’s television wouldn’t have been so much of a priority.

And I did notice how cold he seemed whenever we shared a bed … but some people are just cold, right?

But I guess that’s the distinction.  Some people are cold.  All the living dead are freezing!

‘Well yes,’ Thom nods awkwardly.

‘You’re dead!

‘I think you’re missing the point … I’m trying to explain here.’

‘Well, no Thom, not really, because I’m pretty sure you’re telling me that you’ve already died.  That you’re a walking corpse!  That you’ve roamed this earth for hundreds of years without aging … ’

‘Yes, but …’

‘No Thom, no buts!  This is well and truly fucked up!’

‘But … but we can work around it …’

I stared up at him in disbelief.  ‘Work around it?  How exactly does one ‘work around’ the fact that their boyfriend is dead?!  I’m pretty sure the normal way of ‘working around’ it would be grief counselling … though given the current circumstances, I don’t think that would really work!’

‘Amy, I just think you’re over-reacting a little bit!’

‘Over-reacting!’ I almost shrieked.  ‘I’m sorry, but how exactly was I meant to take this news?’

‘Well, all the other girls ….’

I shook my head, angry blood boiling beneath my skin.  Only my skin.

‘Now is not the time to fill me in on how many human partners you’ve had!’

‘But …’

‘But what Thom?  How well did all these hundreds of previous relationships go for you?  I’d put a fairly large bet on the fact that none of them ended up well! Let me guess … they all died Thom?  They all got really wrinkly and old, while you remained young and hot … or should I say cold … and then they died!  So go on then  Thom … what you could possibly have to offer me?’

Thom frowned at me, no longer clueless and instead, getting increasingly pissed off with me.  ‘Offer you?  Amy, I’m the same person I was yesterday!’

And the decade before that, and the century before that …  I remember thinking!

He continued ‘Can you really say you didn’t at least have some suspicion?  It’s not really like I’m telling you out of the blue!’

Pissed off wasn’t the right tone to take with me at that point.  I mean, for god’s sake, the man had just told me he was a corpse!

‘Oh, I’m sorry Thom … I forgot that was meant to be top of my boyfriend check-list … up there with ‘does he seem to be a nice guy?’ … ‘Does he look like he could be a member of the walking dead?’

‘Could you please stop calling me that?  I’m a vampire!’

‘Oh yes of course.  Please draw attention away from the fact that you’re dead, and focus on your blood-sucking pastime instead!’

It seemed fighting pissed off with more pissed off actually worked, because suddenly Thom began to back down.

‘Amy, please, just calm down for a second.  It’s not as black and white as it seems.  Please just let me explain my lifestyle to you …’

I gritted my teeth.  ‘Look, Thom … I understand it can’t be as simplistic as the movies make out … but really, please elaborate on how you see this working?  Because from my perspective it seems like you’re asking me to give up the future I’ve always imagined – having children, growing old with the person I love – just so that you can masquerade as a ‘normal person ‘and get a bit of affection along the way.  Thom, I’m sorry, but it’s not fair on me! And that’s not even touching upon the whole blood drinking thing!’

‘So, what?  That’s it then?  I open my heart to you … and you’re dumping me for being honest?’  If he’d been able to cry, I’m pretty sure there would have been tears in his eyes at this point.

‘No Thom, I’m not dumping you for being honest.  I’m dumping you for lying to me in the first place!  You knew how much I’d been messed around in the past.  How important honesty was to me … How adamant I was that I wouldn’t get close to another guy again unless I trusted him totally.  And you took that trust and threw it in my face!  I’m sorry, but ‘not mentioning you’re a vampire’ isn’t an omission.  It’s lying about the fact that you’re human!  And of all the lies to found a relationship on, that’s pretty much the worst one going.’

And that was the time I dumped a vampire.

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