writing tips

Balance and Control in Publication

It’s the first thing anyone an author will say when you ask why they’re self publishing:

I’m in control of my book, every element of it.

Now, that can sound controlling, paranoid or just like a hell of a lot of work. When you think about the things outside of writing a book, that are just as important, like the editing, the promotion, the cover, the blurb, the reviews, the pricing and the long term plan for a book, it can seem daunting.

I’ve never thought I’d be able to do my books justice. I struggle as it is to write and work and study.

But there is something terrifying about leaving your book at the mercy of others, letting the cover, the angle, the promotion and the pricing be decided by someone else, whether they’re a specialist or it’s the market that determines how it’s seen.

The truth is, your book is never going to be more important to anyone than you. For you, it’s a piece of yourself, a piece of your truth, whether it’s a silly story or a saga you spent years perfecting – it’s yours. And the idea that it might been seen in a way you don’t want it to be, can be painful.

However, at some point, you have to give up the control any way. The minute those words are released into the world, the minute someone picks it up and starts the first sentence, you have no control. The control you had as a writer is done the minute the final draft is finished. The control you have as a publicist is to ensure your book is defined correctly, that the cover isn’t misleading and that you keep the conversation going.

This summer, I’m running workshops at Larmertree Festival in Wiltshire. This will be my sixth year with them, and along with my writing for wellbeing, I’m going to be running a ‘Writing for Publication’ class. This will be focussing on defining your work, branding and owning that branding. Deciding who you’re writing for and what you want to say. But as a dear friend and excellent writer said recently, “I want to work with writers who love what they’re writing.” So publication can’t always be the main goal. It’s got to be a labour of love, to an extent.

That’s how I feel about my latest book, Goodbye Ruby Tuesday. It will be released on Friday, and then I’ll have to let it go, out into the ether to make its own destiny, create it’s own history. Perhaps, it will achieve greatness, or perhaps it will sink into the depths of thousands of other books being released this week, month or year – ignored and destined to sit sweetly on an Amazon page. And after it’s out there, all I can do is talk about it, tweet about it, and wish my baby well. There’s a grief and anxiety in that, like not fully preparing your child before they go off to uni.

But most of all, I’m excited to introduce you to Ruby. This is my favourite story, and I’m so glad I get to write two more books in the series, and hang around my fictional friends a while longer!

Keep an eye out on twitter over the next few weeks using the hashtags #goodbyerubytuesday and #houseoncamdensquare and stay tuned for news of a London launch next month!

And to all the writers out there: how much control do you want over your book?

 

Goodbye Ruby Tuesday

 

 

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Prince Charming- is perfect just a little boring?

After seeing the latest reincarnation of Cinderella last week (very pretty, not so much with any interesting backstory added, which was what I was hoping for) it’s made me wonder: Why must we beautify our princes?

This isn’t a post about masculinity or any of that crap, it’s literally the fact that a very handsome, and very (usually) talented actor Richard Madden (The One True King of the North) was stripped of any rough edges or…dare I say it…personality. We often have a whinge about the feminist issues surrounding princesses and fairytales, and when I work with kids I think it’s my responsibility to make sure the main character is something more than just beautiful. She’s kind, or she’s clever, or she’s determined. But why aren’t we doing this for our princes?

Teeth whitened, eyes brightened...personality dulled.
Teeth whitened, eyes brightened…personality dulled.
Here, rugged and not perfect but certainly more interesting.
Here, rugged and not perfect but certainly more interesting.

Charming (Or Kit, as he’s actually given a name) exists as the answer to Cinders’ problems. Sure, he’s got a little drama going on with his dad wanting him to marry a princess instead of a commoner, but really, we all know the old dude’s gonna cave in, in the face of True Wuv.

I know it’s a fairytale, and that the love story is really just the icing on the cake, and I know I was probably not the main audience for this (considering the alarming number of Disney store toys that this movie has created) BUT where is the drama? Even in Enchanted, a delightful cinderella-esque story, the Prince started out as a little bit of a smug ass who had no idea what his kingdom was really like. And we liked him for that because he GREW and CHANGED as a person by the end.

Maybe it’s because Prince Charming doesn’t interest me. Don’t get me wrong, Richard Madden interests me A LOT. But where was he in this? They shaved and shined, and whitened and brightened so much that it was like a living doll version of a human. No flaws, no details, no strangeness.

My current leading lady in my WIP is someone who studied English Literature and then fairytales. She knows they’re false, that they’re stories to teach and amuse, but it’s changed the way she looks at love. No, she doesn’t want the fairytale necessarily, but everything else in the real world looks a lot less dramatic. A lot more plodding. But flaws make us who we are!

This is a lesson I’ve got to take into my own writing, as often my female leads are in a time of transition, and their male counterparts have already had their issues and now (mostly) have their shit together. Is that fair? No, but you try writing two neurosis-filled characters into a love story. You’d spend most of the time with them being awkward and apologising at each other. So I hereby declare, I’m going to allow my leading men to be dicks sometimes. Because that’s real life. And we still love people when they’re idiots.

Let’s try appreciating some flaws, Hollywood. Because that’s where all the interesting stuff is.

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A Type Exclusive: An interview with our new reporter Tabitha Riley

 

Tabby is a new writer for our little online paper, and she’ll be continuing her very popular column, Miss Twisted Thinks. Tabby, thanks for joining us today. 

 

How did you get into writing?

Well, I’d always wanted to be a writer. I studied in Brighton, writing for the student newspaper. Then I got an internship, then another, and I ended up at the Guardian…well, since then I’ve been working freelance, working on my blog, and now I’m here.

 

Tell us more about your blog, Miss Twisted Thinks.

Well, it’s a mixture of confusion and rage, really. A mixture of reviews, thoughts on feminism, and, well…cake.

 

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

Well, I spend a lot of time hanging out with my housemate, Rhi, and my best friend Chandra. Chandra’s into trying out cocktail bars in London, and Rhi’s more about old man pubs. Once a month, we make sure we have a Nothing Day, where we completely disconnect, and just veg out on the sofa, watching boxsets and drinking wine. It’s fabulous.

 

How are you finding the transition from freelance to The Type?

Well, everyone’s been very supportive. My editor is really good at identifying all the problems in my work and seems to enjoy throwing them in my face. (I’m also very good at identifying your excellent work- Ed.) But I’m having a great time.

 

Any big plans over the summer?

Well, I’m heading up to my mother’s wedding in an Essex Manor House over the summer. It should be…quite the affair. Especially seeing as she’s marrying a guy who was two years above me at school. 

 

Sounds interesting! Thanks for answering our questions, Tabby, and welcome to The Type team!

 

If you like the sound of Tabby, why not find out more about her in The Last Word?

 

 

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On Developing a Thick Skin: The Writer’s Task

 

You’ve slogged away at a book, you’ve received a publishing deal, or have put the effort into self publishing. You’ve written blog posts, updates, tweeted, talked everyone’s ears off about it, and you want people to buy it.

 

But what about when people do actually read it? What about when they review it? I hadn’t really thought about this part up until now, so focused on trying to drum up interest, secure reviewers and bloggers, that I didn’t think about what would happen when I get my first (inevitable) bad review.

 

How can you respond to the idea that someone doesn’t like what you’ve made? Well, in an ideal, rational world you understand that not everyone likes the same things, and you try to ignore it and remain proud of your work. But much as the internet has given us so much, reviews are fast and thick and from everyone. You don’t have to wait for the papers to give you a write up, instead you’re almost overhearing the conversations people are having about your work. 

 

Having looked at other author’s responses to bad reviews, seeing how they’ve almost felt personally attacked, and then had to shake it off, and try and continue, is powerful and admirable. I’m really nervous that a bad review will knock me down from what I’m writing now.

 

Writers (like all artists) are a strange mix of ego and self-doubt. We want to forge forward, secure in the knowledge that we’re making something we like, that has had some good response. That we are justified in doing what we’re doing. But half of us knows that we’re terrible, we’re no good, nothing we create will stand up to judgement, and what’s the bloody point anyway?

 

In these times, it’s good to remember two things: 

 

You’re doing this for you. You wrote your book for you. The process, the outcome, all of that was to make you feel something. Or simply because it was something you needed to do.

 

Also, Fifty Shades of Gray and Twilight are bestsellers. So bollocks to all of it, really.

 

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Regardless of my own personal fear, reviews are welcome (and necessary!) if you want to get a review copy from netgalley- click HERE and if you want to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk, then go ahead. It’s released in ONE WEEK!

 

 

 

 

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My Mum Might Read This…and Other Issues With Writing a Sex Scene

In theory, I have no problem writing sex scenes. The first story I wrote that got any recognition was about a girl having sex with a guy she just met, in a disabled toilet, at her aunt’s funeral. I am not squeamish. But that’s literary fiction. That’s when sex serves a purpose, to show the breaking down of walls, or the attempted escape from reality. Sometimes it’s symbolic of trying to feel alive. I can write sex scenes when they’re symbolic.

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But when I first started writing The Last Word, I had to consider what level I wanted to write at, in terms of sexuality. I’ve read a lot of really explicit stuff, and I’ve read things that fade to black. I tried for somewhere in between. The truth is, sex is weird. It’s a lot of strange mechanics and actions that are difficult to write about, because you have to imbue some sort of passion and emotion. If you’re just writing ‘then her hand goes here’, that gets to the point, but doesn’t make the reader care. Some of the best sex scenes I’ve read come from really old novels, where the build up is the most important thing. And I think that’s true of chick lit too- sex is the pay-off for many chapters’ worth of sexual tension. If you write a book where your love interests are at it before they’ve even interacted at all, well, I’m not really interested. 

 

I suppose that’s a female thing, that we want sex to mean something. That’s a generalisation, but in terms of readers of chick lit, I’d say it’s a safe assumption. Sex should be passionate and engaging and emotional. I couldn’t resist it in this book, that it should become symbolic again. All of my female characters seem to have trust issues, and sex is a form of trust. Letting someone in, being vulnerable, all that character development comes from sex scenes. Plus, I think we have a duty as writers to show what sex is really like. I remember as a teenager watching that Britney Spears movie, Crossroads, when they fade to a sunset after she kisses this topless guy, and thinking: this is clearly not what a first time is like. Doesn’t mean there can’t be love or passion, but awkward and uncomfortable are two big contenders there. And it can be funny, and strange and you can sound different to how you do normally.

 

One of my biggest peeves with Fifty Shades of Gray (of which I have bazillions) was that Christian Gray went from being all stiff upper lip, very ‘proper’ dialogue, to all ‘yeah baby’ in the bedroom. Your characters are still your characters in the sack. Don’t revert to stereotypes just because they’re boinking. Which is clearly not the biggest problem with that book, but was something that jumped out at me.

 

So, I did have trouble, writing the first few sex scenes, and as I got more confident in them,  I explored different situations. Some of them worked, and some of them had to go. One in particular involved such an awful play on words and a reference to oral sex that I actually shouted ‘oh gross’ when I read it through in edits, and scratched it through in red pen five times.

 

Who are your favourite writers who deal with sex scenes, what do you expect from them, and how do you find writing them?

 

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GUEST POST: TERRI NIXON- The Tale of the Happy Hybrid

Today I’ve got another Carina Writer doing a guest post for my blog!

 

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Hi, and thanks for welcoming me to your blog, Andi  

 

I’m here to talk a little bit about the publishing route I’ve been lucky enough to be able to choose; that of the Hybrid Author. I write both for myself and for publishers – as long as they’ll have me! – and the sense of achievement is already phenomenal, after less than a year. Not in terms of sales, I hasten to add, because it’s a long, slow process getting the word ‘out there,’ and I’m working full-time as well, so probably don’t spend as much time promoting as I should; writing time is precious enough! But I’m learning as I go, and picking up tips all the time. 

So, having been already signed by a publisher, why did I then choose to put my own work out? Impatient? Control-Freak? Cocky? 

 

I can promise you, it was none of the above. The simple thing is, I wrote a book in 2010 that won a contest in 2012, and was utterly unlike anything I’ve ever written before. It won me a publishing contract with Piatkus, people liked it, and in 2013 it was nominated for an award. I was thrilled. Still am. And very, very proud. That was Maid of Oaklands Manor (formerly Saturday’s Child.)

 

However, the work I’d done up to that point remains my true love; I’d been writing and re-writing The Dust of Ancients since the early noughties, created a whole new interpretation of the history of the Cornish moors, placed my characters within it and watched them grow.

How could I let all that go, and simply follow that rather shady path that had suddenly opened up in front of me? I say ‘shady,’ not because of any hint of wrong-doing, but because I had no notion of where it would lead or what I might stumble over. There was the niggling fear I would be suddenly dropped mid-series (which I was!) and the question of whether I really wanted to be *that* kind of a writer for evermore.

 

My agent has expressed cautious approval of The Dust of Ancients, but says it’s too niche and  prefers to represent me for my historical/romance/drama work, which is absolutely fine by me, because she has just secured me a 2-book deal with Carina (pause to run around the room squealing, yet again!) I am happy to continue writing that kind of book, and have written a second in that series and begun the third … but in the meantime my poor first love had been wilting for want of light. 

So, I opened up the folder, looked over the MS again to see if any of it was salvageable, and decided to let the rest of the world be the judge. So far the light I have given it is like the lowest setting of a three-touch lamp, but that’s got to be better than the total dark of a Word folder, don’tcha think? The bonus, using that analogy, is that the fourth touch can never plunge it back into darkness; the book is on sale, it’s undoubtedly mine, from first word to last, and no-one is going to come along and beat me to it.

 

The biggest plus, of course, is that I can put it out in paperback. I doubt any of my historical dramas will be physical books, sad as it is to acknowledge that. I love the way my self-pubbed book looks, love the way it feels, love the way I can physically pass it over to people who ask about it, instead of giving them a link they’ll probably lose before they get home. The cover is stunning, and the cover for book 2 even more so and I can’t wait to share it! (The Lightning and the Blade is due out in June.)

Running parallel with all that excitement is the knowledge that my WW1 drama (currently titled: Lady of No Man’s Land) will be released by Carina, hopefully in July. So it’s a double-whammy of publication this summer … better get that promotion muscle flexing, eh?

 

 

 

 

Author Website: www.terri-nixon.co.uk 

Follow me on Twitter: @TerriNixon

Author Facebook: www.facebook.com/terri.authorpage 

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00DI8R8K6 

 

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Guest Post from author Rebecca Raisin!

Really excited to be featuring news from Rebecca Raisin’s next novella Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Cafe today, and I’m certainly eagerly awaiting its publication on 20th March!

Welcome back to the warmth, cupcakes and hot chocolate of The Gingerbread Café – your home away from home.

Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Cafe

Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café  – the second novella in The Gingerbread Café series –. Released March 20th by Carina UK. 

Chocolate…the most irresistible temptation?

The Gingerbread Café is all a buzz! This Easter, Lily and the rest of the town of Ashford, Connecticut are planning a truly decadent Chocolate Festival. Cooking up a storm, CeeCee and Lily are not just baking a batch of their sinfully delicious chocolate-dipped gingerbread men, but an excess of chocolate truffles, squidgy, cinnamony hot cross buns and melt in your mouth chocolate eggs. The Gingerbread Café staff have definitely enjoyed the tasting process!

Add in Damon’s cute-as-a-button seven year old daughter, Charlie, up for a visit and Lily’s perfect Easter may just be around the corner. Until her ex-husband Joel turns up demanding twenty thousand dollars… Suddenly the future of the Gingerbread Café is not so clear…and Lily finds herself eating far more of The Gingerbread Café’s treats than her skinny jeans allow…

Can Lily concoct a brilliant plan to save her beloved café, convince Damon she has no feelings for Joel and still throw a Chocolate Festival the town will be talking about for years? There’s only one way to find out…

Welcome back to the warmth, cupcakes and hot chocolate of The Gingerbread Café – your home away from home

This is the second novella in The Gingerbread Café series

Christmas at the Gingerbread Café

Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café

Coming Christmas 2014 look out for the next romantic instalment!

Goodreads:

http://bit.ly/1i69MYZ

Find the novella here:

Amazon US http://amzn.to/OFCjw3

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1fKsW7z

iTunes https://itun.es/au/RXigX.l

KOBO http://bit.ly/1dZoayZ

Google play http://bit.ly/1gPMtlb

Find Rebecca here: 

https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRaisinAuthor

http://rebeccaraisin.wordpress.com

www.twitter.com/jaxandwillsmum

http://www.pinterest.com/rebeccaraisin/chocolate-dreams-at-the-gingerbread-cafe/