Bookish day out in Dublin

This time last week, I was in Dublin, having made the journey down to meet my editor and chat face-to-face about the feedback she sent about my book. I know that in this day and age with the internet, such meetings aren’t necessary – you can conduct entire business transactions and editorial relationships without ever actually shaking the other person’s hand, but I do like to meet people where I can and with Dublin just a couple of train rides away, I thought, why not?

img_0523My editor, by the way, is Emma Dunne – former managing editor of New Island – and it was great to get the opportunity to talk things over with her in person.

For me, getting an editor’s feedback is utterly welcomed and embraced – it reminds me of being at school and reading the comments in the margins of your English essay. Maybe I stand alone in this, but I always loved reading what my English teacher had to say about my writing – the good points and the constructive criticism. After all, if we can’t take on board comments designed to help make us better writers, then I really don’t know why you would bother asking someone to review your work.

Perhaps because of this, and because as a journalist and copywriter I know the value of editing your work, I’m really enjoying working with a professional editor, which is the first time I’ve done so with my prose writing. I want those red flags to be held up for me; I want the fact that I’ve created a fair amount of magical portals in my book pointed out because, guess what – I hadn’t even noticed. And yet – it’s clear as crystal to the professional reading the book. (Of course it is – this is why you need an editor!!)

img_0571I was at a writing event on Saturday in Belfast which was put together by Words Ireland. The focus was on how best to sustain your career as a creative writer, with a panel contributing to the discussions (poet Moyra Donaldson, publisher Patsy Horton, children’s author Sheena Wilkinson and author Ian Sansom). I chatted briefly with Sheena afterwards and when I mentioned I was working with an editor on my book, she looked relieved and said she was very glad to hear it. Her reaction, of course, was because so many self-published authors still think they can publish a book without hiring an editor. And, well, they can, practically speaking, but it will just never be as polished and professionally presented as an edited book. That’s just the way it is. I make a point of mentioning the editing process when I speak about my book now, as I want to make it clear that I am not one of those writers who dismiss editors. Yes, they cost money, but if you’re expecting people to buy your book (and you want to give self-published authors a good reputation), then they’re just necessary.

Anyway, I digress.

 

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Unicorns at The Marvel Room at Brown Thomas.

Back to Dublin, and myself and Emma spent a couple of hours chatting about those beta readers, plotlines, scenes that could be cut, and scenes which could be kept. I think we’ve agreed that if the passage the betas loved is given  more of a reason to be there and moves the story on better than it currently does, then it could stay.

 

We also discussed some of the changes I’d already made in the week since I’d received her report, as I’ve tightened up on certain elements of the story and made the rules of my magical kingdom a little more clear.

Reviewers also popped up in the conversation. I’d be interested to find out more about anyone who professionally reviews self-published children’s books, and also, anyone who runs a blog dedicated to this. Self-publishing is gaining a better reputation, I find, but there are still barriers to getting your work in front of people and one of the problems in someone not hiring an editor is that many reviewers understandably aren’t prepared to read a book that hasn’t been professionally produced. We’ll see what happens on that one anyway.

img_0536I also had time to pop into one of the local independent bookstores while I was in the city, and they’ve agreed to stock a few copies of my book, which is great. Another shop up north has agreed the same, so that’s all very positive. I haven’t really been doing the rounds in that regard yet with retailers, but when I find myself in a store and there’s the opportunity to ask, well, I do.🙂

Since getting back home, I’ve been doing rewrites and whatnot, and am keen to get more time for this over Christmas, though I’m trying to fit it in where I can up until then.

Some other good news, is that one of the short stories I submitted to a journal recently has just been accepted for publication in their next issue. It’s based in Wales and they haven’t announced the contributors yet, so I’ll post more details on that soon.

 

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A cosy nook at The Winding Stair bookstore.

All in all, it’s been a busy week or so and it’s set to stay the same, as I want to get the manuscript reworked in time for the New Year. I’ve also finalised my blurb, which I’d been rewriting, so I hope it does its job… (To be honest, I will probably always think I want to change bits of it, but there comes a time when you have to just make a decision and let it go!).

 

So, that’s what’s been happening with The Book and I. Now, back to work and then, back to book work…🙂

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Fairy tale feedback….

So … since last writing here, feedback has flowed in with regards to the book – both from my editor and from some helpful (and age-appropriate) beta readers. The short version is that all of this feedback has been very positive, but the long version is just that little bit more interesting….

My editor, who edits both children’s and adult’s fiction, was first to deliver her analysis. I’ve always understood the value of hiring an editor, but having now worked directly with one on my own novel, I really understand the value of hiring an editor. It makes my mind boggle as to why anyone would think they don’t need one – and I say this as a journalist, sub-editor/editor, creative writer – you just need an outside professional to look at your work.book-863418_1280

My book is still a bit long, so it definitely needs cutting some more, but this is where the elements of interest begin because, believe it or not, the passages my editor is suggesting could be chopped, are the very same ones my beta readers LOVE.

So, here we have a conundrum. I was reading my editorial report and agreeing with what my editor was saying. Some scenes possibly didn’t move the story along and could be cut (I’ll admit to having indulged myself in some lovely flowery descriptions throughout!), and although I really liked those scenes, I was prepared to axe them. (I don’t mind so much about ‘killing my darlings’, as Stephen King would say.🙂 )

THEN, I met my beta readers, and was quizzing them on what they thought of the story. Did they have any favourite scenes? Did they think any were too long or boring? Their feedback would have been music to my ears up until a few days ago, but hearing how much they loved one rather descriptive scene in particular (which my editor said should definitely go), made alarm bells ring. Do I go with what the readers are telling me, who are, after all, my target audience, or with the professional editor who, let’s face it, knows exactly what she’s talking about??

Granted, my beta readers are but currently two people reading the book and are not representative of the mass populous of children. Also, my editor has her opinion, which is not necessarily the same opinion that another editor may have.

My own thoughts? Well, I want my book to read as well as it can, but I do also love those descriptive scenes myself, and I want to keep my readers happy… (assuming I get any more of them, that is!!). I suggested to the girls that I might be cutting some scenes, including the one they really like, and they looked positively aghast. One in particular was adamant I shouldn’t cut it, as it was her favourite so far. Oh, the irony….

I’ve got a very early start to Dublin tomorrow to meet my editor, so our morning coffee will no doubt include some interesting discussion, as I’m keen to hear her reaction to all this. It certainly threw me, but then, all I was wanting to hear from my betas was that they liked the book – I really hadn’t considered the implications if what they fed back differed vastly from what the editor said.

That ‘small’ dilemma aside … my editor has pointed out more than a few things which I now need to address within my manuscript and this is why I’m so glad I hired her. Despite leaving the book to rest for the past two years, I nevertheless still know the story far too well. I’ve also changed it around quite a bit in various edits since I started writing, and while I thought I’d tied up all those loose ends that referred back to stuff that was no longer in the text, it turns out, some of them slipped through the net.

Interestingly, my first few drafts also included a bit more back story, which I later cut out (for fear of stalling the story). Feedback from my editor however, suggests that some of this information needs re-introduced.mermaid-866581_1280

It’s great to get both a child’s and an adult’s perspective on the story though, as some things the editor is pointing out – such as my main character at times seeming to escape rather easily from certain situations – aren’t registering with the betas at all. They told me they thought the main character found herself in challenging situations and that it wasn’t too easy for her to escape them!

Obviously, an adult – and an editor to boot – will be reading the text more closely than a child who trusts you and just wants to get on with the story, but it’s interesting nonetheless to get these insights. I’m definitely taking on board all my editor has said and do think I need to tighten things up and make various changes. The great thing now however, is that with her feedback on particular points in the book, I now have a much clearer idea of what I need to focus on and why. The mist has lifted….

I’m also delighted that she thinks my writing is very strong and the pace of narrative is very good – though tension could be increased in some places. All of this information is ultimately helping me to create a better book.

As for my betas, well, I met them at the halfway point of reading – they’ve had exams and starting a new school to contend with recently – but I’m extremely heartened that they simply like the story so far. AND – they’re keen to keep reading it to the end and will let me know what they think of that.

They like the main character and identify with her. They think the story is ‘very creative’, ‘exciting’ and ‘mysterious’, and said it reminds them of Enid Blyton (not the same, they reassured me – but similar with regards to all the magical characters and going to strange places. I like this reference, as Enid Blyton was my favourite author growing up!)

They also said the chapters ended with cliff-hangers and made them want to read on. Oh, and let’s not forget – they like those flowery descriptions….

colorful-1312799_1280I may just have hit it lucky with these betas. Others of the same age may not like the descriptions, but it’s definitely food for thought. They’re also both 11 years old and have just started secondary school, so it’s great they like the book and think it’s ok for their age-group and isn’t too childish. My editor also thankfully agrees the writing style is age-appropriate. (It’s pitched at 8-11/12 year-olds).

I’ve already started making lots of fresh notes on the changes I want to make and the things I need to work on, but it’s exciting. I’m in the final stages of getting my book to a publishable format and Christmas will most definitely be filled with rewriting….

Of course, there’s a lot more to come after that, in terms of formatting etc. etc., but we’ll deal with all that when we come to it. In the meantime, the cover is almost signed off (that pesky blurb is nearly pinned down) and it all seems to be coming together….

 

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Cover stories and scribblings…

In the days leading up to the reveal of my first-draft book cover, I’ll admit, I was starting to worry a little about what would happen if I didn’t like what was proffered. Of course, I’d just feed that back to the designer and get him to come up with something else, but if he didn’t quite ‘get’ what I wanted from the start, then it had the potential to be a tricky sort of a business…

monkey-1757972_1280Anyway, I needn’t have worried at all. On a morning during the week, I opened my inbox to discover two pretty cool book covers waiting for my approval from Andrew at Design for Writers. I scrolled down quickly for my first viewing and immediately breathed a sigh of relief, which fairly quickly turned to excitement, as I realised my book had become a physical thing. (Well, you know what I mean – it was now something other than words on a page – it had a ‘face’ which will soon be shown to the world).

The way Design for Writers works is to mock up two initial designs for the writer, who then selects the one they prefer to take forward into development. While I was initially taken by both of the designs, I quite quickly felt a better connection with the second cover, which to me, will hopefully appeal more to both boys and girls, and conjures up a different sort of magical landscape/ambience than the first. It combines various elements of what my story is about, and does, I think, get across the idea of an otherworldly adventure, with hidden surprises and suspense along the way…

I’m so tempted to share it with you right now but… I’m going to be patient a while longer, and wait until the final tweaks are done. It was important of course, to go back to assess the cover more critically – as a reader or book buyer might – after the initial approval of the design, and I did go back to Andrew with a few suggestions, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks with these slight alterations. There are always things you’ll spot upon closer examination, and little tweaks and refinements will ultimately create something that you’re much more satisfied with. fairy-tales-671406_1280

Exciting cover news aside, I also managed to write a short story in the two weeks since I was last blogging, and have submitted this to a journal. (It’s good to have deadlines like that to work to and you never know – perhaps they’ll publish it.) I also enjoyed a very atmospheric reading in Ballycastle with Bernie McGill and Martina Devlin – two of the female writers included in the newly launched anthology The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland. Meanwhile, this coming week, I’m also planning to attend a three-hour poetry workshop, so we’ll see what comes of that.

Behind the scenes, I’m also working away on developing some sort of strategy on marketing my book when it comes out; making a list of possible reviewers and the like and just thinking of everything I need to put in place before it comes out. I’m also heading down to Dublin at the end of the month to meet my book editor, with a meeting scheduled before that to get some feedback from a few young girls who have been reading my manuscript… So, there’s a lot going on in and around the official working week, but it’s all taking shape and it’s all really rather exciting…

PS Have you self-published and if so, do you have any tips or advice you’d like to share about the process? Or do you know any good children’s book reviewers who might be worth checking out when it comes closer to publication day…? Feel free to contribute in the comments section below – all advice/input is much appreciated!

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Publishing and promotion…

As a writer in today’s digital world, you’re expected to do a certain amount of self-promotion to connect with readers and to gain new ones. Getting the balance right in this is crucial – do it too much, or in an overtly aggressive or ‘salesy’ way, and you risk alienating people – promote too little, and you can simply sink into the ether with no-one giving you a backward glance. Sure, there’s always another writer to keep people entertained…

img_0278As a soon-to-be indie author, I know that promotion and marketing and just connecting with potential readers is important if I want to get my book into the hands of, well, anybody. Add to the mix that it’s a book for children and we have a double conundrum – I’ve got to connect with both parents and kids, as the parents will no doubt be making the purchasing decision, but the kids will have to want to read it (or be intrigued to give it a go anyway).

It’s all trial and error and I’m already planning how I’ll go about getting my story ‘out there’, so this week’s launch of Lagan Online’s 12NOW project was perfectly timed. You can read more about this at the link above, but essentially, this is what Lagan Online is all about:

“Central to Lagan Online is the aim of nurturing new talent to build careers in a new environment. Lagan Online is committed to being a leading voice in the area of Reading Development and new writing on the island of Ireland.”

Formerly known as Lagan Press, which published physical books, the rebranded Lagan Online is instead, now channelling its energies into supporting and promoting up-and-coming writers without the publishing element. A controversial decision for some… a few other local publishers have already taken to social media to express their disappointment and regret at this decision. As an indie author about to benefit from this promotion however, I’m really just seeing the silver lining.12now-collage

Over the next 12 months, Lagan Online will support and promote reading and writing by supporting and promoting six poets and prose writers, myself included, sharing our stories and poems with various reading groups in Northern Ireland. For the past few years, the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry has been running Reading Rooms, which exposes people of all ages and backgrounds to new writing. The idea is to nurture readers – to introduce the pleasures and joy of reading to new audiences and to dig deeper into what they’re reading, discussing themes and so on. This is what the 12NOW (New Original Writers) will be exposed to, as our work will subsequently be read and discussed by these groups.

I’ve been chosen as one of the prose writers for 12NOW, so a selection of my short stories will be circulated to the Reading Rooms groups and I’ll have the opportunity to visit a few of them to hear feedback on the writing. (Which is a little BIT SCARY! I do hope they like them, or at least, that they don’t HATE them…) With there being a children’s reading group as well, I’m also hoping that along with the short story for kids that I’ve written, my children’s novel will also have the chance to be put before some young eyes. As I’m intending to publish it next spring, the timing couldn’t be better.

I’m still a big fan of traditional publishers and if I was ever picked up by one then I’m pretty sure I’d sign on the dotted line with great delight. However, in the meantime, I’m enjoying the process of getting my first novel out there by myself – and of course, with the help of a team of other independent businesses, which will ensure that it’s the best it can be.fullsizerender-4

I’m planning to meet with my editor in Dublin before Christmas to discuss her feedback on the manuscript, and my cover designer is working away on the design as we speak, so I hope to see how that’s shaping up at the start of November. I like that I’m guiding the cover art and that I’ll be able to give feedback on this to make it the way I want. I know that with some publishers, you really have to take what you’re given in that regard, so I’m enjoying being in control of how my book is created, from start to finish.

Self-publishing is like any big project you take on – it’s both exciting and scary – but I think the learning gained throughout the process is/will be invaluable. Running my own business helps in some way as well, as I’m better able to get my head around the practicalities of marketing and so on, though it’s always harder to promote your own work than other people’s…

This is where Lagan Online is going to come in so perfectly, as it’s always good to know you have someone in your camp supporting your work. Having a respected publisher promote your work is invaluable, whether they’re actually publishing anymore or not. Of course, I’ll be writing other stories throughout the year and I want to get submitting to journals and the like again, as I haven’t done quite so much of that in 2016. Being part of something like 12NOW will therefore help ‘keep me at it’, as they say, and will make sure that my work-life and creative-life is better balanced…

 

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Autumn inspirations

With autumn comes, for me, an added compulsion to write. There’s just something about the season that’s infinitely more appealing and inspiring to me than the mugginess of summer. I like the coolness, the dark evenings, the subtle shift in ambience.

So, it was an added bonus that this autumn kicked off with a few special literary events, as the new Seamus Heaney Homeplace Centre opened its doors in Bellaghy. What better way to be inspired than visiting the home of one of our finest-ever poets and immersing oneself in both his words and those of other great writers? img_0157

Last weekend was filled with more than a few poems from the past with the launch of All Through the Night: Night Poems & Lullabies – an anthology edited by Marie Heaney – with Michael Longley and Marie herself reading from the book, along with Gerarld Dawe. Bronagh Gallagher also sang some of her songs, before putting one of the lullabies to music.

There was also Bach to Broagh, which saw Christian Poltera play on a 300-year-old Stradivarius cello, with Fiona Shaw reading Heaney’s poems in between. There was also a heck of a lot more, but these are the gems I managed to take in anyway.

Today, there’ll be Beethoven’s Opus 132 to enjoy in the atmospheric settings of St Mary’s and St Tida’s Churches in Bellaghy – the former church being where Heaney is buried. Both Heaney and TS Eliot were inspired by Beethoven’s music and we’ll hear The Play Way being read, while Eliot’s Four Quartets will also be put to music.

What could be more enchanting and inspirational than that…?fullsizerender-3

Poetry inspires all of my writing – the prose, the poems – and I think that not to read poetry, or indeed, not to read fiction as a poet, would leave my literary life just that little bit bleaker.

It’s just a few weeks until my novel will be in the hands of my editor and I know that once I get that back, there’ll be lots more to do with the manuscript. So, in the meantime, I’m thinking that some new poetry or a short story or two might just be what’s needed in the interim. My cover design for the book is also pending – all details have been sent to the designer so hopefully I’ll see how that’s taking shape soon. There’s lots to do – and lots more to be inspired by…

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Cover credentials

They say don’t judge a book by a cover but let’s face it, we all do. A cool cover is what stops us in our tracks in a bookstore. It entices us to pick up one book over another and, even if we don’t end up buying that particular novel, we’ve still been seduced in some way by its appearance. (The Bone Clocks cover certainly caught my attention!)

bone clocks

So – just how do you go about creating a good cover for your book and what are the vital ingredients? Well, I’m a writer but I’m also an avid book-buyer so, while I’m in no way a professional in this area, I do have some inkling of what might work and what might not.

I also know that a boring, dull cover won’t make much of an impression on kids, so when you’re thinking of a younger age-group, you’ve got to be spot on with the design. Thankfully, my cover designer is going through a fairly in-depth process with me at the minute to uncover the essential ingredients of my own book, so hopefully it will represent the story as I imagine.

Yes – work has begun on the cover of my book! I’ve spent the past week answering a number of questions about the story, the characters, the writing, covers I like and covers I don’t like which are already out there, and much more.

I’ve taken my time over it and have only the book blurb for the back cover left to upload, which I’ve decided to copy in below if anyone feels like giving feedback on it. I’d be interested to hear what you think and what it conveys to you!

library-425730_1280For me, a professionally designed book cover is of great importance. As a soon to be independently published author I want my novel to have the look of one that’s been traditionally published as much as possible. It should look just as good in its design as any other book, otherwise why would anyone want to buy it?

I write because I love it and self-publishing is a way of getting my stories out into the world just as anyone else in the creative industries is wont to do with their work. However, when you put something up for sale, it becomes a product and that requires investment in how that product looks, to ensure that whoever buys it will get something worth buying. My years of writing, the editing process and the professional cover design are all part of this. I want to create something that I’m happy to sell to people and that I would want to buy myself as a reader.

From my jumble of ideas, a cover will soon emerge and I’m excited to see how it takes shape over the next few weeks and what the end result will look like…

Book blurb

‘It’s the tale of a girl, just a little too thin.

When she went to the beach one sparkling spring day,

She picked up a pebble

…and it whisked her away.’

 Summoned to the Fairy Realm by the curious Pebble People, Felicity is faced with not one, but two adventurous quests in a world which mirrors her own but is full of hidden magic. Can she stop the mysterious pebble thieves before it’s too late and will she solve the Rhyming Riddler’s puzzles before she’s trapped in Fairyland forever?

With witches, goblins, fairies and all sorts of tricks and enchantments to contend with, Felicity’s most startling discovery, however, is yet to come…

 

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Storybook timeline…

So, since my last post I’ve now got a much more definite timeline for my children’s novel, which is making everything seem just that little bit more real now… Thanks to NI editor, Averill Buchanan, I now have a very good copy-editor in Dublin booked for November 1, with a timeline in place for each part of the editing process for the book. The first stage will definitely be completed before Christmas and then I’ll likely spend the Christmas holidays revising the manuscript one last time before the final copy-edit in the New Year.

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Reading my poem at the Blackberry Path Art Studios recently

Once I get the manuscript back from that edit, I’ll then revise it again, get the proofreading done and hey presto – CreateSpace here I come! (Gulp).

 

Aside from this, I’ve also got my cover designer booked, so work on that will kick off later this month, and is set to be completed in October. At the moment I have vague notions of what I want this to look like but honestly, nothing concrete, so I’m very interested to see what they come up with. Of course, I really want to love it and I have to feel it represents the story the way I want it to, so I’m feeling both excited and a little nervous about this! The great thing is, from next month I’ll be able to start sharing the cover design, which is almost as good as having the book itself (but not quite…)

Long story, short – the aim is still to have a springtime publication date (once everything’s done I still have formatting to contend with…), so all is on track! My beta readers are still reading away, so hopefully I’ll get some feedback from them soon but in the meantime, all systems are in place as much as they can be. (I feel too organised and I suspect this probably won’t last…)book-1169437_1280

Next weekend, I’ll be attending a day-long sci-fi/fantasy writing event at Ballyeamon Barn, near Cushendall, when author Jo Zebedee will be sharing her self-publishing experience and also her traditional publishing experience, as well as chatting about all things writing. I’m looking forward to this, and to meeting some other writers who so far, I only know through social media. Also hoping to pick up some advice on the SP front, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Short stories and poetry are a little on hold at the moment, but I’m editing away at a few stories and ideas are bubbling for more, so I’m planning to get started on something new there soon. Lots to get on with! I’ll keep you posted!

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Snippets…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the writing front, both with book things and poetry. In the past few days I enjoyed reading some of my own poems (in my first poetry slam!), along with a Seamus Heaney one, at an event in Bellaghy which celebrated 50 years of Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist collection, and also his work in general. Held at Bellaghy Bawn and organised by the Poetry House, the day-long event brought together poets and artists, musicians and chefs, with something for everyone to enjoy.

Bellaghy reading

Reading ‘Blackberry Picking’ by Seamus Heaney at Bellaghy Bawn .

 

Earlier in the week, I was also delighted to discover that one of my poems had been selected in the Fourth Annual Bangor Poetry Competition. It’s now hanging (handwritten and framed) in Blackberry Path Art Studios in Bangor, after I dropped it off yesterday morning, and will be exhibited there for two weeks following the official launch event this Friday evening. All of the poems will be subjected to a public vote to decide the winner, who will then read their work at the upcoming Aspects Festival.

As for the manuscript… my self-publishing journey has definitely begun, as I did yet more editing of the book over the past couple of weeks (I have no idea what number I’m on in edits at this stage… I just know it’s been enough that I’ve lost count!) and I found myself some beta readers, including a few ‘age-appropriate’ ones. (Gulp). So, we’ll see what the kids have to say about it all – and I know they’ll be honest (as kids always are!) and won’t spare my feelings, so fingers are firmly crossed…elf-478330_1280

I delayed emailing about copy-editing and cover design in the interim, as I wanted to get the beta readers sorted first, but did make contact with a few people before the weekend, as I know that most of these guys are unlikely to just be able to take you on as soon as you email them. You need to assume it could be a few months and indeed, the editor won’t be free until November and the cover designer October, so that’s why we plan ahead!

This is no rush job though… there’s still lots to be done and, all being well, I’m aiming for publication in spring 2017. However, we’ll see what happens. No-one knows how long the editing process will take and if it’s going to be done, then it’s going to be done right.

News as I have it…🙂

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Stepping into the unknown…

Back in February 2013, when I started this blog, I was also a good way into writing/editing a children’s book. I can’t actually remember when exactly I began writing it, but the year 2011 keeps popping into my head. So, I spent a couple of years writing and editing said book. The editing, of course, far outweighed the initial writing but if you write, then you’ll know this is the way of it!books-20167_1280

After the umpteenth edit (and having left it to rest several times) I finally sent it out to a few agents and publishers – those who would accept unsolicited manuscripts anyway. I waited to hear back from them and got replies from all but two as far as my memory serves. (I blogged about some of this process so when I get around – very soon I hope – to categorising my blog posts, these will hopefully be easily found!)

The good news was that rather than just a ‘no’ (and I did get a no from all of them), some publishers were kind enough to offer their feedback, which is a little bit like gold dust and a definite softening of the blow. I was told by one of the bigger publishers that I had a ‘great talent’ and ‘a brilliant ability to weave a story’. Another said they could see the potential in my writing and liked the charm of the concept of my story. Yet another added that there was much to like in my manuscript (they called it ‘an interesting work’!), but that it wasn’t quite right for them.

I tell you all this not to gloat – I assure you not – but to give an overview of the journey this manuscript has taken to date. It’s also been viewed by a few traditionally published authors in Northern Ireland that I very much respect, who all also gave me positive feedback on the writing, as well as being edited on and off by myself (still!) since I submitted it way back when (it seems an absolute age…)

Anyway, I’ve spent years working as a journalist and in the past two years, also as a copywriter, after establishing my own business, which has impacted upon my creative writing. (Ever set up and tried to maintain a business? Well, it’s a whole lot of work and that work NEVER stops. But it’s a great thing to be earning a living as a writer as your own boss, after years spent training, and working for other people. However, I digress.)

When I set up my copywriting business (the link to my website is here if you’re interested – no worries if you’re not), I also the very SAME month, got news from the Arts Council NI that I’d received a grant to write a collection of short stories and poetry. This was brilliant news (someone wanted to pay me to write short stories and poetry!), though it totally knocked the children’s manuscript on the head for the next year. And then the year after that, as again – building a business at the same time.

It can sometimes be difficult to switch into fiction writing mode after a day’s constant copywriting (and emailing!!) and this past year I’ve definitely put managing my business ahead of my creative writing work. I’ve still written the odd short story and poem, along with dabbling with another manuscript, but the work output just hasn’t been the same. Nor has the blogging, though I think I’ll keep up with posting fortnightly, or even monthly going into the future as, if it gives me more time to write fiction, then so much the better.

To the present then. I can’t remember how I discovered Catherine Ryan Howard (her blog is here and well, it’s brilliant, so do check it out), but I think it was probably by chance as I was Googling something. I then heard her speak at a self-publishing event in Belfast a couple of years ago (can you see where this is going now…?) and was really impressed by how she spoke and how down to earth and well, sensible, she was. She didn’t beat about the bush (as her blog readers will know) when it came to talking about the realities of self-publishing (SP), and she laid it all out there using examples from her own experience, about what you could expect. It made me think very differently about SP and I realised that, done properly, this could be something to consider.IMG_20160814_164807

Fast forward to now and I’m finally at the stage of – you’ve guessed it – thinking of self-publishing my children’s novel. I recently started re-reading some of Catherine’s blog posts about SP but then remembered she’d compiled all this info in a book, so I hopped over to Amazon to buy what is hitherto going to become known as my SP bible. Self-publishers-to-be – if you don’t have this book in your life, I recommend you get it pronto. It will save you trawling the internet for info which Catherine has collated in one very easy to read volume, it’s self-published, so will give you an idea of what YOUR book might look like, and it’s very handy to turn to when you’re at your computer, rather than flicking between multiple web pages and getting confused.

I read it across two nights and afterwards, my head was swimming with information. However, despite the immense job that self-publishing is (and yes, it takes a lot of hard work to do it properly – and some money too!), it’s spurred me on to really consider SP my own story. I’m either a glutton for punishment, or I could just be someone who’s always dreamed of being a published author, know I’m a fairly good fiction writer (you have to think so to consider SP or publishing in general!) and am willing to invest the time and money into the project to create a book I can be proud of.

This means hiring an editor and a cover designer (read Catherine’s book or blog for her advice on this. You will either laugh or cry but hopefully, you’ll see the sense). I’ve written full-time for the past 10 years and I write short stories, poetry and manuscripts but… when it comes to editing your own book, you cannot do it yourself. You’re just too close to it and, given that it’s been about two years since I read my children’s manuscript in full, once I started reading it again this week (too many edits over the years to count and I’m still not done!), it was as if I’d never looked away from it. I.e. I know it too well.

When I heard Catherine speak in Belfast, I knew I couldn’t afford to SP as I couldn’t afford an editor or cover designer at the time. I think I’m now at the place that I can, so this week, I’ll be emailing people for quotes. Both exciting and scary! I will also be going through Catherine’s book: Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing – with a much finer toothcomb, as I prepare to navigate the world of SP and try to get my book to a publishable form.

Even sharing this news here on my blog feels a little bit too much like commitment (does my book really need to be published…?), but the answer to that is for me, yes, I think it does, and you don’t have to buy it or read it when it comes out (though it would be pretty cool if you did). Perhaps by this time next year, I’ll be posting pictures of me with my SP children’s novel, but if you’re interested in seeing how (or if!) I reach that point, then stick around and you’ll find out here.

In the meantime, I’m also going to be looking at updating this blog a little bit – using Catherine’s book of course (and no, I’m not getting commission from her – it’s just really good and is step-by-step advice). So, wish me luck and sure – we’ll see how it goes…

Have you SP and if so, what have your experiences been?

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A changing wind

Sometimes, you just have to read a really good book (or three) to make you want to pick up your pen and get to work. Yes, great books can also have the opposite effect, where you think the writing is so good there isn’t much point attempting anything yourself, but usually, reading something I love inspires me to get back to the notebooks.

After all – we should acknowledge our own style and story as being unique and stop comparing ourselves to others. Whatever you write needs you and you alone to write it.

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Anyway, I’ve now finished the Fillory trilogy (the books that is – the TV series continues), and it has blown some more wind into my writerly sails. It has reignited my desire to finish the story I’ve been working on since last year and which has been set aside for lengthy periods since then (it could well have been finished long ago). However, I’m not too worried about that, as I’ve written shorter stories and poetry in between and am a firm believer that you need to be in the right frame of mind to write particular tales. I’ve also realised that I find it much easier to write in the winter, when the days are short, the evenings long and chilly, and the fire warm at my feet. I’m by no means a ‘sun person’; I think I just find the atmosphere towards the year’s end more inspirational to my story-telling! (Which is perhaps reflective of the kind of stories I write…)

Anyway, having moved on to a very different type of book for my next read – an Arab novel which is very firmly set in reality – if I want to meander through a more fantastical type of landscape, then at this moment in time, I’ll need to conjure it up myself. And that’s quite ok – it’s like I’ve just been doused with inspiration and I’m ready to let the ideas flow from my head into the pen. I’ve been reminded of what we can achieve with our words and I’m back on form again. And – maybe it’s because our Northern Irish summers sometimes resemble winter, but the mood right now seems just about right…

Now – where’s that notebook…

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