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

 

 

writing tips

Dinner Party Etiquette for Writers: No-one Cares About Your Novel

Don’t think I haven’t heard it, that glum sigh when someone asks what I do, and I tell them I’m a author. You know why the sigh? Because they think I’m going to bore them for the next forty five minutes with the epic tale of my latest masterpiece, pausing along the way so they can nod and tell me how brilliant I am. Then they’ll blandly say ‘that sounds really interesting,’ and I’ll say ‘well, it’s hard to explain but it’s better when you read it.’

Except I don’t do that, because it’s DIRE and AWFUL and no-one wants to interact with people like that. So normally I make a joke about being poor, and they make a joke about being the next J.K. Rowling (and I don’t go into a long rant about how she’s the exception to the publication rule) and we return to talking about the weather, or accounting, or something that isn’t my work. Easy.

I am a big fan of not talking about your WIPs. Or even outlining your novel. Even when people ask what it’s about, they don’t actually want a four page synopsis. They want an X meets Y approach: ‘Yeah, it’s like Indiana Jones, but set in space.’ ‘Oh, well it’s kind of like Romeo and Juliet, but between McDonalds and Burger King employees.’

I often give the advice to keep your stories close to your chest, especially when they’re in progress. Partly, because I think ideas are precious, partly because I think that energy and passion should be channeled into writing them down instead of talking about them. And partly because I’m doing dinner party guests across the country a massive favour. It’s the equivalent of sitting there and talking about how your kids are the best kids ever for an hour. Except at least when that happens, you give other people the chance to but in and talk about how great their kids are. You can’t do that, unless you’re in a room full of writers.  And you can’t expect other people to know that’s what’s going on, so you’re going on about your epic fight scene (that you haven’t written yet) in chapter thirty four, and the woman next to you can’t exactly jump in and go ‘oh yes, my son Marcus has excellent swordmanship. He beheaded two goblins last week!’

The context doesn’t fit. And here’s some smart thinking- these people may buy your book if you remain that mysterious author who gave them a brief snippet of what you’re working on. If you’ve told them the whole thing, they’re not going to give a crap. Even if it is interesting to them, who buys a book when it’s been narrated to them all evening by someone who isn’t Stephen Fry?

However…yes, I will admit, there are moments when it’s good to talk about your work. What I’m talking about here is sharing your passions, talking about who inspires you, who you want to be like, what you want to achieve.

I don’t really talk about my books when I’m writing them, occasionally give a brief outline, usually about a sentence. But I’ve started talking about my research, the work I’m doing on my MSc, working with writing and body image, and eating disorders. When you’re passionate about something, and you’re learning about it, you want to share it, and suddenly everything becomes relevant. Whilst I’d still say reigning yourself in at dinner parties is important, sharing the seeds that have sent you on your path, the things that have inspired you in your work can often bring great connections and contact with people you never would have met.

So share your passion, your inspiration, your fire…just, don’t give away the ending. Because it may surprise you.

Uncategorized

Workshopping at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

It has been a majorly busy week! I’ve signed on for a further two novels with my publisher, I got to see my new cover design for my soon-to-be-released Christmas novel (Driving Home for Christmas) and I was teaching creative writing workshops for children at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

IMG_3789

There are a few moments in life where you really feel like you’ve ‘Made It’ in the field. Obviously, I just wrote about how there are no big breaks, and what I love about this opportunity, like all of the other really awesome exciting things I have coming up in the next few months, have happened really organically. Sometime last year, after working a few summer festivals near Cheltenham, I enquired about workshops, and got a reply saying that the person I’d emailed wasn’t really in charge of that, and she’d pass it on.

I didn’t think it would go anywhere. And yet this week I was running workshops for four different schools, inside canopies and tents and a Waterstones Hideaway. It felt amazing to be part of something so literary! We created dragons with powers, mystical island settings, animal superheroes and crazy characters! It was so much fun, and it felt brilliant to be in the midst of such creative talent! Plus, Cheltenham is absolutely beautiful.

IMG_3790

Just goes to show, that gradually working your way up, you can get somewhere. So let’s aim big: next year, I’ll be giving a talk, or reading from my book!

I’ll be sharing some awesome news about different lectures I’m giving, residencies I’m taking part in, and workshops I’m running too, but expect there to be an overwhelming amount of details and competitions about Driving Home for Christmas soon enough!

IMG_3792

Uncategorized

Get Creative? Get 50% OFF!

Who doesn’t love a bargain? For this week- we’re doing 50% off our Creative Writing for Wellbeing Workshop on 26th April 2014 in Barnet, North London. A whole day (10am-4pm) which includes all materials, drinks, snacks and a gorgeous lunch! 

We’ll be using creative writing exercises and tasks to work on ideas of containment, history, and learning a little more about ourselves through our stories. Wondering if it’s for you? Do you have some things you’d like to approach creatively? Maybe things that are a little uncomfortable to deal with head on? Feeling down on yourself? Missing someone? Feeling a bit stuck? Maybe there’s nothing going on with you, but you’re looking to get a little creative, or think a bit deeper?

It’s fun, we promise! And at the 50% off price of £32.50, you can’t really lose!

 

Go HERE to book tickets, and put the code FACEBOOK50 in the promo code box! It’s a season of renewal- the seasons are changing, the world is waking up- why not join it?

Image

Uncategorized

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

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

 

Image

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 

 

Uncategorized

Writing for Wellbeing Workshop- this April!

 This workshop will use fun techniques to improve confidence, self esteem, and help us access our memories and stories! You don’t have to be a writer, you just have to be open to it!

 

When: Saturday 26th April – 10am-4pm

Where: The Amber Lounge, Underhill Stadium, Barnet, EN5 2DN

Cost: £65 – includes all handouts and writing tools, plus tea/coffee, snacks and a delicious lunch!

Where can I book? 

Right here!

As we like to keep this very intimate, we have very limited places, so please book early. If we don’t have space this time, please email and we’ll book you on the next!

Image

Uncategorized

Words With Edge Festival!

Litfest poster

 

It’s finally happening!

At: Red Door Studios, Masterman Road (rear of 120 high street south) East Ham, E63RW

Sat 24th: Opening, feat Newham Music Hub, Poetry Society’s Slambassadors (Rhythm of Men, Megan Beech, Naga MC) and Dizraeli. 7pm Free entry

Sat 25th/Sun 26th: 11am-5pm  Workshops, performances from Early Doors Collective, Myths of the Near Future, Four Thirty Three Magazine, Hollie Mcnish (performance and poetry workshop), Arachne Press, Stairwell Books, Atlantic Books, Kids storytelling with Clare Murphy, Writing for wellness with Me! Scriptwriting, both beginners and people who want feedback, with Louise Davidson.

Tues 28th- Literary Pub Quiz, £3 entry, 7pm start

Weds 29th – Cake Club. Theme: stories. Bake about stories! Free entry if you bring cake, £2 entry if you just want to eat!

Thurs 30th- Theatre ThursdayThe Woodhouse Players perform The Book Club of Little Whitterington and Joz Norris in his one-man comedy ‘Awkward Prophet’free entry!

Fri 31st- Open mic from local authors and artists, followed by End of Festival (and end of my residency!) party! All welcome! Free! 7pm

 

For more info:

facebook.com/wordswithedge

@wordswithedge

 

11889563384_9d471693a2_h

Uncategorized

Andi Says RELAX

 

 

When people ask me what my main strength is, I don’t tend to say writing. I tend to say enthusiasm. I am like a child. Give me a task and I’ll see an adventure. On the right day, I may even jump up and down and clap my hands. I love what I do. I love writing, teaching, reading, editing and helping people learn to harness their gift. But goddamn, it’s exhausting sometimes.

Creative Entrepreneurship teaches us that, as artists, we are likely to get our wages from a variety of income streams. The more strings to your bow, the more you can make. Now, I’m not saying a 9-5 isn’t exhausting, but this whole multiple income streams business makes me look like I’m vibrating on a different frequency. You have to be able to switch between projects pretty quickly, as well as travelling, planning, executing, arranging and looking out for new opportunities whilst making sure you don’t lose the ones you already have. Plus there’s social media, which can’t be ignored. What’s the point of doing all this work if no-one knows about it?

polar bear

I wasn’t this exhausted when I worked a PAYE job, and worked for myself part time. And I got up at 5am most days.

This is the question: Should we do many things, and do them well enough, or do a few and do them brilliantly?

When you split your income stream, you split your focus. If you have to teach to make more money immediately, then the novel gets put on the backburner in order to plan a lesson. Do we end up prioritising away the whole reason for this lifestyle?

When your job splits down into five or six different jobs, and then you consider the average tasks that come with being a human- paying bills, grocery shopping, socialising, doing laundry, going to the bank….how do we ever get stuff done?

I think I’ve found the answer. Or rather, I’ve known the answer all along, I’m just incapable of sticking to it:

CALM THE HELL DOWN.

Frazzled, exhausted minds do not do good work. Unless you’re Hemingway. Or Kerouac.

If we are our own boss, we need to treat ourselves nicely. We need to know when to switch off the laptop, put down the pen, turn off the phone, and STOP WORRYING. We need to sleep well, eat good food, exercise. Spend time thinking about things that aren’t work. Stop thinking that we’re not going to survive if we don’t do it ALL RIGHT NOW. Make plans with friends and stick to them, prioritise them over the chance to make a little more money.

976

 

I’m terrible at this. I’m an overachiever, right until I burn out and spend weeks feeling ill and depressed. And then obviously it’s so much harder to get back to work with that attitude. Balance. That is what we need, and what I’ve been searching for. We all know the basics: Eat well, exercise, work, learn, socialise, have fun, create, sleep.

I used to think the busier I LOOKED, the more successful I was. This isn’t true. You think you’re juggling balls and spinning plates like a pro, when actually you look like a run-down jittery maniac running on coffee and determination. No-one approves of that person, because their work is destroying them. That’s not smart.

never wear socks to the beach - working holiday rules IWH

So, next week I will be on holiday. Problem being I’ve already agreed to do a proofread on a client’s novel and set myself the task of polishing up one of my novels for perusal by an interested publisher. So I’ve pretty much just agreed to sit doing two weeks worth of work in 5 days. Why did I do that? Because I looked at them and thought ‘Ooh, those days are free!’ THAT IS THE WAY THEY’RE MEANT TO STAY. My holiday is usually for reading and writing, but in a non-uniformed, enjoyable and open way. No goals, just fun. And I’m not saying I won’t be sitting there with a cocktail in hand whilst I do it, but the lesson has yet to be learnt.

We need time to ourselves, to heal and reboot and relax. So I hope you can learn from my mistakes!

 

Uncategorized

What the Bloody Hell Am I Writing About? (and other questions from a self-loathing writer)

 

Writing a synopsis is a bitch. Anyone who has had to write one will know this. You’ve written an entire book. Finally, you’ve finished something that doesn’t send you into the corner of your writing room, rocking back and forth in disgust and fear, and now you’ve got to explain what you wrote?

Well, how the bloody hell should I know what I wrote? I just wrote it! Sure, I had themes and ideas and concepts. But none of these turned out exactly the way I thought they would, and as each of my ideas developed and matured, so did my characters and what they meant. And sure, maybe I had a ‘message’ to begin with, but after you’ve edited 60,000 words a good few times, you start to think maybe you had no message, no idea, no clue as to what you were saying, and the characters themselves did all the hard work.

So what does this mean for my work? 

Well, I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty damn good with spin. You want me to write for advertising, to make something sound amazing. I’m there for you, my friend. You want an outraged letter focused on the school system? I gotcha with the outrage. But selling my own stuff? Oh jeez, well, I just couldn’t! It would be far too much like boasting. And that’s not English at all.

But, we are Creative Entrepreneurs (or trying to be) after all, and selling yourself (no, not like that) is all part of the game. So, sure, if I was to sum up my writing, it’s usually very easy, and I’ve defined it this way many times before:

I write about drugs, love, sex and death. Not always in that order.’

It’s snappy, isn’t it? Except my debut novel Wine Dark, Sea Blue is not just about that. It’s about family connections, and being a different person for your friends and family until you don’t know who the ‘real’ you is at all. It’s about being scared of attraction, of not believing you’re worthy of love. Of being haunted by memories and nostalgia until you’re convinced all you can do is follow in the footsteps of your family, no matter how many mistakes they’ve made. It’s about trusting your friends, believing in strangers and eventually, letting the past go. It’s about things not being perfect or even being fair, but about finding snippets of happiness where you can.

Sounds intense, right? Alternately, it’s about ‘one-night friendships’, how happiness can be chemical, ecstasy and clubbing till the early hours, Camden pubs and Hampstead Heath on Sunday morning. It’s about boys with blue eyes, and best friends who break your heart. It’s about how that person you first loved never really leaves and that terrible moment when you realise that your parents might be flawed people after all. It’s about graduating in a recession, about trying to make art in a world with no funding, when your family think you should get a ‘real’ job. It’s interning for no money, slaving for no reward, and rewarding yourself with a bottle of wine and a joint.

It’s about family and friends, happiness and chaos, drugs and love and sex and death and everything that makes us who we are.

So only one question remains:

How the fuck do I turn that into a synopsis? How do I sell what I created, with the intense complexities of what I think it’s about, versus what it may actually be about? This is where I used to get irritated during English lessons, and in lectures. Someone writes something, and then we sit around talking about his or her intentions, coming up with themes in the book that may never have even been there. We apply a critical view, some theory to how to interpret a text, when really, the author might have just thought it was a good story.

Or, more likely, was cowering in fear in the corner, wondering why anyone agreed to publish them, because they had no message and nothing to say.

I did a terrible thing last week. I read an article where some writer guy said something along the lines of ‘I don’t understand people who get writer’s block. If you’re a writer, get on with it. I have no time for people who sit around and bitch about it.’ (I’m paraphrasing)

My first thought was ‘what a dickhead’. My second was ‘hmm, well, he’s published, maybe he’s got a point. It is better to get on with it rather than be a self-loathing cliche’ and then the next day I did a horrible thing: I said the same thing. To a group of writers and artists. And I felt like a tool.

Because it’s hard, putting your work out there. It’s akin to giving birth and then walking around wondering if someone’s going to walk up to you and say ‘boy, that’s one ugly baby you made there!’ No-one does that with babies. Because they’re people. But they do with books. Especially now that the internet means we can publish our every scathing thought with no regard for what the creator might be feeling.

So there’s my little worry. Encapsulating something big and wondrous that you’re proud of, but simultaneously almost ashamed of, and defining it as something. Something that exists, in the world.

The only thing I can do is turn to the people I trust, and ask what they think I meant. Whether they’re writers, readers, editors or friends- they’ll see the message in the text. Because just as we look down at our newborn baby with the huge ears or crooked nose, we still can’t see anything other than our own egos. But our friends, well, they’ll see the ears and the nose, but still find the beauty somewhere.

 

Note: Also, an advantage of creating a book over a baby is the ability to edit. And that a book isn’t likely to inherit your father’s crazy eyebrows. Win.