Fiction, therapeutic writing

Update: Books, Research and New Projects

Hello all,

It’s been a while since I blogged about any of my goings on – mainly as I’ve been desperately trying to finish a book. Thankfully, that happened!

I’m excited to announce that Goodbye Ruby Tuesday  will be released on the 28th April. You can pre-order it now. There will, as usual, be a blog tour, a (truly) fantastic give away and a really different and creative event to promote the book and raise money for a great cause! The excellent Sara from Huhbub will be arranging all of this for me, so if you are a lovely blogger interested in the blog tour, leave a comment or send me a twitter message (@almichael_).

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday

It’s a book about three childhood friends who are brought together by the death of a rockstar they used to know, and start up an arts centre. It’s a noughties nostalgia-filled jaunt through the creative goings on in north London, with three friends fighting to create something special in memory of their friend.

Research:

My research into the application of creative therapeutic writing in eating disorder recovery starts next week. I’ll be running workshops in London, working with some lovely people in order to research how useful creative writing can be. I really do believe in the power of writing to heal and help arrange thoughts. I’m excited to see what this research discovers.

Future Writing:

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday is the first in a series of three books coming out this year. Each main character gets a book, so I hope you love the girls as much as I do, because there’s a lot more coming from them this year. The second book, Nice Day for a White Wedding will be our over the summer. The third, you’ll have to wait and see, but as I’m sure it’s clear, I’m picking some of my favourite songs as titles this time!

Other:

I’m excited to say I’ll be back at the wonderful Larmertree Festival this year, providing some creative writing for wellness workshops. They’ll be focused on nature and the body, really working to be inspired by the natural environment of the festival. If you’re there this year, stop by and try it out!

 

 

 

 

writing tips

Reading as a Writer and how it can help your work.

I don’t mean that as a writer, you need to read. That’s one of the basic tenets of writing. I read an article this morning that had a list of things NOT to say to an agent or publisher, and ‘I don’t read because I don’t want to steal anyone’s ideas’ is one of them. Not to say it’s not a fair point, I think we all have that worry, but it’s imperative you’re reading. You don’t ask a painter to create for an exhibition when they’ve never even stepped inside a gallery.

But, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the way you read. I’m currently in another of those ‘this is crap, this is so crap’ points in my work in progress (40000 words in, I should have expected it) and every line looks boring, or overdone, or slow. So I thought I’d go back to looking at some of my favourite books, and looking at how they do it. So I started reading as a writer. I looked at where she put the commas, how many times she used ‘said’. What the sentences in between the speech told us. I thought perhaps there was some sort of style or code to this author’s perfection. And what did I find?

Zilch. She uses said a lot. The sentences in between do the same that mine do. It’s not that fast paced, it’s just enjoyable to the reader to go on the journey, because the dialogue is funny. And that’s what I realised- when we write, we are judging our own work as critics of the language. We’re strangling the adverbs and looking at individual lines and worrying, worrying, worrying.

But when I read a good book, all those things become invisible. The ‘said’s cease to exist, because they’re just markers. The description translates directly into a vision of a character, I’m not sitting there wondering why she used a certain word, or commenting on the vocabulary- I’m too busy disappearing into the story!

Which tells me two things:

  1. I’m probably not as crap as I think I am right now, and I just need to buck the hell up.
  2. Some of the best writing is ‘invisible’ to the reader.

So happy morning all, I’m off to write some invisible words on the page now.

writing tips

Writer’s Tips for Getting through The Slump

Two days ago I freaked out. I have an 80000 word book due at the end of September, and as of last night I’ve done 16000 words. I have an essay due. I have some editing. I have a lot of crap to write, and all I could do was clean my house and sit blankly in front of my laptop having an anxiety attack. So then I’d go for a run, or go to the gym. Or clean some more. And then panic some more. Then I’d send a freaked out email to my editor telling her how panicked I was. Then I’d moan at my writer friends.

Did any of this help me write the book? No. (Although both my editor and writer friends made me feel better!)

Deny the slump

So here’s some things I did to deal with The Dreaded Slump:

  • Change your environment! (I went to sit and work in Cinnamon Square, which is one of my favourite places to write)
  • Treat yourself to something delicious (Somehow, cake makes writing easier. I swear it’s scientific)
  • Write for fun- do some random writing tasks, some freewriting, or write from a different character’s perspective for a bit
  • Know that you’ve got through this before, and it always feels like shit sometimes.
  • Know that you are incapable of judging your own work at times like this.
  • DO NOT EDIT. Rush on through like a train- no stopping at pointless stations!
  • Remember you used to do this because you LIKE writing, you like the story you’ve got!
  • Deadlines can be changed, just don’t leave it- make sure you’re still writing.
  • Read something you love, and remind yourself that stories are great!

I’m back on track with the writing now. Am I still panicked about the deadline? About the word count? About not having enough hours in the day? Yes, of course. But I’m enjoying writing again. And I have cake.

• TROPICAL •• TASTE •

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Finchley Literary Festival and Competition!

Hello there!

I’m super excited to be involved with the Finchley Literary Festival, happening this May, in a variety of excellent venues around (you guessed it!) Finchley, North London. I’ll be running my typical DumbSaint Creative Writing Workshop for kids in Friern Barnet Community Library on Wednesday 28th May, for two sessions (10.30am-11.15am and 11.30am-12.15pm). No booking needed and it’s FREE!

Come play with the Story Dice, be a Prop Detective, create a superhero, race in the Sixty Second Scribble and loads more great games!

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL ARTY FOLKS!

COMPETITION TIME!

Greenacre Writers, who are presenting the festival, are looking for one creative young person to design a logo for the festival! 

All you have to do is look at the flyers below to get an idea of last years style, then submit your logo idea to andrealmichael@aol.com

The winner will get a copy of this years anthology, a free ticket to the festival, their name plastered all about, and cake and thanks from the Greenacre Writers 😀

 

DETAILS/RULES:

  • You have to be from the borough of Barnet (preferably Finchley!) BUT if you can offer us some sort of tenuous link to Finchley (your favourite pub, for example?!) we might look the other way …. 
  • Adults and children are encouraged to join in, whether you’re a designer, a student or just like to draw!
  • We will be keeping the font used in the below documents, so try and find something that would go well with it!
  • All applications have to include a name, age, a couple of sentences about yourself, and the image in the highest resolution you can offer. 
  • All applications must be received by Sunday 23rd March 

Other than that, happy designing!

Sample images: 

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How to Write More in 2014

 

So, who made a new years resolution to write more? Are you working on new projects, or you just want to get yourself back in the habit? I’ve jumped into 2014 with the realisation that I have about three months (thought I’m desperately begging my publisher otherwise!) to finish the next novel. Now, considering I had absolutely NOTHING, I almost freaked out. And then I got writing. So maybe a little pressure is a good thing!

Here’s a couple of ideas me and some friends are working on to increase our writing this year:

Writing in a different environment. I work from home, and as much as I love it, things can get a bit samey. Some writers will tell you routine is key, and I’m not going to argue with them. But a different environment to shake it up can really get your writing going! Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, suggests going to a cafe to write. Make sure there’s comfy seats, it’s not crazy busy, and you’re actually hungry! Plus, if you’re taking up a table for a while, make sure you tip well! I went to Drink Shop Do in Kings Cross, which is my favourite London cafe so far. I went in knowing I wanted to write, and came out knowing my characters and rough plot! Inject some life into your writing routine! Plus, treating yourself to a decent snack never hurt the senses, did it?

Writing Together. My friend (and writer and blogger and publisher extraordinaire) Sara Veal and I have decided to have writing dates. We take turns picking a venue, sit together, write for a while, break and have a chat, write for a while, and so on. Probably until I drink wine and end up too drunk to write! Hemmingway, I am not. 

Talk About It… This is what I absolutely love about having friends in the same field. I can chat to my friend Louise Davidson (scriptwriter and drama genius) about what I’m up to, and she’ll get it! I got a text the other day saying she fixed a plot twist and felt like a genius. And I got it! Those little fiddly bits of writing, where you can spend hours trying to sort something really simple, can drive you mad and it’s great to have some support!

But Also Be About It… This doesn’t mean everyone wants to hear the whole plot of your novel. In fact, I’d avoid doing that. Firstly, because if you’re taking up a whole conversation with a play by play, no-one’s going to appreciate your company, and no-one’s going to buy your book! Also, it tends to make it a bit dry when you come to write it. So, share your enthusiasm, your progress, you irritations, but this is your story. If you’re not going to write it, there’s no point talking about it. Get to it!

Stationary- I don’t know about you, but buying a new notebook for a project really gets me excited! It took me forty five minutes in Paperchase to choose the right one the other day. #writerproblems

Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself- Not to get all business-speak on you, but the problem with most excellent writers is that they don’t have a product. Talk the talk, blog, get excited, make contacts, look up publishers…but you need something to show them! Don’t make promises on what you think you can do- just do it! Lock yourself down and get going!

Read! I know a lot of writers who don’t read whilst they’re writing a book, incase it distracts them from their story. To each their own, but if you’re not reading fiction, then you should at least be looking at blogs, newspapers and just keeping engaged with the world. If we’re retreating into our own minds for sufficient periods of time, it’s good to get back into the world every now and then. Ideas come from within, but inspiration comes from the external world. The more you see, read and experience,the more you’re likely to get ideas!

Trust your process– You might not write every day. You might write when you feel like it. Some days may bring pages, others may have one great idea. If you know how and when you work best, trust that it works for you! We all work differently, and as they say, comparison is the thief of joy! Trust that you do this because you enjoy it, so make it enjoyable for you!

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I wish you all a creative and inspiring 2014! Please do follow my twitter @almichael and my facebook Author Page to keep up to date with the release of my ‘snarky chick lit’ novel The Last Word being published by Carina UK in the coming months! You’ll be hearing more about it soon! 

Plus, be aware of my East London Literary Festival Words With Edge

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How to Plan a Book Launch Party

(Without losing your mind and sense of perspective)

Is there a better reason to write a book than to get to have a big party and celebrate? Well, maybe that the story needed to be told, that you’re a committed writer or a thousand other important reasons. But the idea of a book launch, and the level of legitimacy that offered, really got me through the last face-dragging, eye-rolling, teeth-grinding round of editing.

alotisnotaword

 

But if you’re a new author, or being published by a small press, or self-published, how do you do it? I’ve read articles, surfed the web for ideas, called on all my writer and artist friends, and it’s hard to get a set idea. Especially once family get involved.

I’ve gleaned a few tips from other authors who seem to have the right idea so here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Make it a damned good party!

You’re there to celebrate an achievement, having created something. Now, the ‘Book as Baby’ analogy has been done to death, and I won’t go into detail likening inspiration to conception, or editing to childbirth (or the desperate hunt of the singleton with low self-esteem to the writer looking for her perfect publisher husband) but it’s something you’ve created. You worked hard. You made something. Finishing a book (and being pleased with it) is a big enough deal. Getting it out into the world for people to read is a bigger deal. So party on! Food, drink, music.

 

2. Make it about you.

It should be something you enjoy. I had the option between a fun pub environment with a band and spoken word artists, and a gallery event with canapes. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re both fun, but take into account your book’s concepts, and what makes you comfortable. I’d much rather be joking about how many glasses of wine my main character drinks than making awkward speeches in a white room. Also, I tend to spill stuff. Plus, there’s things like cost, location, guests to consider. If you’re the kind of author who can eat a salmon-dill crostini without dropping it down your cleavage, then go have a grown-up party!

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3. Don’t Make it All About You

Yes, your friends love you, your family are proud of you, and they will probably do everything they can to help you sell books and celebrate. But they do not want to spend an evening listening to you recounting what made the story arc come to life in chapter sixteen, and how many times you changed the main character’s surname. No matter how much wine you ply them with. Give them a few guest speakers, some music, some entertainment of some sort that isn’t you. Now obviously, you’re going to need to do a reading, but hours of you reading segments of the book is probably not going to sell it. Unless you have a voice like David Attenborough or Stephen Fry.

 

4. Publicise!

Facebook, twitter, flyers, posters, invites. All the basics. Word of mouth, friends of friends. Book groups, writing groups, people in ‘the biz’. Even more importantly, people desperate for a bit of local news, like local radio stations and magazines/local newspapers. Maybe even your old schools/clubs etc. If you live in a suburb of a big city like me, it’s surprising how much they need news. Otherwise it’s all letters from angry people, and articles on changing the paving. Go on, invite them to a party, send them a press release with an invitation and see what happens!

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5. It’s Not Just a Party

By this I mean that if you are a young female author like myself, then sometimes your family get very confused about having a big party in this time of life that is not a wedding. So do as I do, and don’t let yourself get drawn into it. Keep it simple: snacks, drinks, entertainment, sales. It’s a celebration, but it’s also business. If you feel yourself getting too drawn in to colour schemes, floral arrangements and seating charts, go outside and slap yourself in the face. Or do as I do, and desperately scour the internet for people who will tell me how to do this correctly.

 

6. Sell

I’ve read various reports on sales at book launches. Some say it’s just a party and not really good at selling your books, and others have claimed they’re invaluable starters to a brilliant sales target. You need to remember why you’re there. 1) to celebrate your achievement with people who support you, 2) to sell books and get the word out about them. Ideally, get someone else to be in charge of sales (I have bribed friends with wine and everlasting gratitude) and be that person who can talk to everyone. Answer questions, get to know people, be available- don’t ramble on about it for ages, but a chance to chat and actually explain what the book means to you is probably invaluable.

 

7. Merchandise/Neat Touches

I decided to copy an idea found online and print my own bookmarks to put inside the books. These will say thanks for supporting the book, offer more info, website, future possibilities to support etc. It’s a cute way to stay in touch with your readers, give them a little something extra, and publicise. I’m also tempted by tote bags, badges and all manner of other ridiculous things, but I’m a merchandise whore. I also want to make book cupcakes.

Book-Club-Cupcakes

Do what you feel

I haven’t had my launch yet, these are just some thoughts I’ve had whilst planning it. I find a lot of American authors have had great ideas, but some of them aren’t always applicable in the UK. This is definitely a list in progress, and I’ll keep you guys informed as the publication for Wine Dark, Sea Blue looms nearer. In the meantime, you can see my author’s profile over on the Stairwell Books Website. Fun Fun.

Any recommendations or launch night horror stories?