Last week, I shared a post on Facebook (dating from March 2016, so it wasn’t new) from the Guardian’s Books Blog by Ros Barber who explained why she doesn’t want to self-publish. It was in response to the many comments she received on her own blog following a post she’d made about the derisory incomes authors earn these days, even those who are traditionally published. She was making the point that we’re not all offered the six-figure advances that many readers think we are. (Heck, we’re not always offered an advance at all these days!)
Enid Blyton … writing
When you wake up on 11th August, raise a toast to Enid Blyton, who was born that day 120 years ago.
I recently re-read her first Famous Five novel, Five On A Treasure Island, which in itself brought back many happy childhood memories.
If you haven’t come across it before, Readly is a fantastic resource for writers. It’s an online magazine store. For £7.99 a month you can access thousands of magazines (and their back issues) and view them on several devices at the same time.
Most of the magazines are the full issues that you might buy at the newsagents. I’ve only come across one that was a ‘scaled down’ or ‘lite’ version, and basically that meant there were no adverts. There are no limits to the number of magazines you can look at/read each month, or store on your device (except any limitations caused by the amount of memory on your device). Downloaded issues are accessible while you have a subscription.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that over 98.276% of all first draft beginnings could be improved dramatically. Okay, I made that up, but whether you’re writing an article, short story or a novel, the beginning has to hook your reader and draw them into your piece. If you don’t do it at the beginning, the reader won’t be bothered to find out what happens next. And don’t forget, the first reader who sees your work is an editor or publisher. So if your writing doesn’t grab them by the scruff of the neck, then it won’t even get the opportunity to do so with any other readers. Here are five ways to strengthen your beginnings:
Something in this photo has not stood the test of time. And I’m not referring to the 13th century castle.
Four years separate the photo on the right from the one of the left. The one of the right was taken last weekend. It’s for an article I’m writing, and it’s a great example of how things can change. Things that you least expect.
‘I don’t want to worry you, but have you seen this website?’ Those were the words from a concerned fellow author who’d found all her books were being offered for free, as PDF downloads, via an unscrupulous website. I searched for my name and found nine of my books listed. My immediate reaction was “Shiver Me Timbers,” or words to that affect. Then I wondered what I should do about it.
In this business of writing, copyright allows us to licence others to reproduce our work in a variety of agreed formats, hopefully for some financial reward. My first book, One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human, published by Hodder & Stoughton, is available in print and ebook format, because that’s what the contract agreed. The only other businesses who can publish my words in these formats are the four foreign publishers who’ve negotiated the right to do so.
Bigger windows? No. I’m not talking about a new Microsoft Operating System. Instead, I’m talking about broadening your window of topicality.
Topicality is important. Write something well in advance, with a topical hook aimed squarely at a publication’s readership and, if the editor likes it, it could be used in that topical-dated issue.
Well, he’s gone and done it again. That top bloke behind the Mistakes Writers Make series of books has just launched his latest in the series: Writing A Non-Fiction Book: A Mistakes Writers Make Guide.
As with all of Alex’s books, this one is written in a clear, no nonsense way, offering practical information in a succinct way. The book is a short read, but it contains plenty of information in each of its three sections: Creating and selling the book idea, agreeing the contract and writing it, then publication and promotion.
We’ve slipped into June and already people are thinking Where’s the year going? Time seems to be flying by and I haven’t done achieved anything yet! It’s not helped by the fact that, here in the northern hemisphere, in a couple of weeks, the nights start drawing in. (The countdown to Christmas has begun!)
I, though, can simply flick back through the pages of my journal for this year to remind myself of what I’ve been doing with my time. That’s because, this year, one of my projects was to journal every day. (Last year’s project was to experience a mindful moment every day and create a ten-second video capturing that moment. (You can see some of them here: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/category/mm/)
Can we write a novel on a smartphone, or edit a short story on a tablet? Simon Whaley connects with four writers who aren’t chained to their desks.
(Writing Magazine – July 2017 issue)
In July 2016, Literature and Latte, the company behind the popular Scrivener writing software, released their iOS version, making the programme available to writers on their iPads and iPhones. At first, I was sceptical. Who writes a novel on their smartphone with its tiny, cumbersome keyboard?
It all changed for me during a delayed hospital appointment. Instead of sitting there, wasting time, I realised I could review the first draft of an article I’d written earlier that day at my desk. Out came my smartphone, and I began editing. When I got home, all those amendments I’d made via my smartphone were reflected on my desktop version. Amazing.
In the business of writing, being productive means making the most efficient use of our time, and this is where writing apps for mobile devices come into their own.
Freedom and Flexibility
For New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison (www.jtellison.com), whose latest standalone thriller, Lie to Me, is published on 5th September, having access to all of her writing on her iPad has revolutionised her writing workflow. Being able to use the same writing software on all of her devices enables her to write everywhere. As a Scrivener fan, she couldn’t wait for last year’s launch of the mobile app.
Last weekend I was in Bewdley, Worcestershire, finding out about the Repair Cafe they have there (for an article). Repair Cafes are a worldwide scheme, originating from one location in Holland in 2008 and exploding into over 1200 locations worldwide today.
The idea is simple: instead of throwing something away when it is broken and buying a brand new replacement, see if you can get it repaired. Their success rate is high. When Bewdley’s Repair Cafe first opened its door a year ago 40 people walked in with broken items and 38 walked with repaired pieces.
It reminded me of a query I once had from a student who was troubled about what to do for the best: keep working on two short stories that she couldn’t sell, or to give up on them and write something new.
I’m in the process of judging a couple of competitions at the moment, and there’s one observation that’s really standing out to me: Entries way under the maximum word count.
All competitions set a maximum word count. Entries that exceed this are disqualified. I’ve seen a few competitions that also have a minimum word count: but not many. I don’t feel comfortable setting a minimum word count, because if you’ve got something to say, and you can say it successfully in far fewer words than the maximum, I don’t believe an entrant should be forced to ‘pad’ just to make it meet a minimum word count threshold.
Wunderlist for Writers
Microsoft, who bought the Wunderkind software company in 2015, has announced that development of their productivity software, Wunderlist, will cease, and the software will be withdrawn at some point in the next few months.
Staff are now focussing on a Microsoft To-Do programme called ‘To-Do’, which is in its infancy, but will be developed further over the coming months.
Okay, so perhaps I’m being a bit flippant with the blog post title, but hear me out. The news over the weekend of the ransomware attacks affecting both public and private sector organisations is a powerful reminder about how important it is to back up our data. How would you feel if you suddenly found you no longer had access to your life’s written work?
As I understand it, this ransomware attack tricks users into downloading some software (often via a link in an email programme) which then locks your data, preventing you from accessing it until you pay a ransom. (And then there may be some uncertainty about whether you’ll regain access, once you’ve paid the ransom.)
Recently, on a Facebook group I’m a member of, a member posted how demoralising she found the constant posts from writers commenting about all the rejections they’d received. With all this negativity being posted, she wondered whether it was worth writing anything and sending it off in the first place.
I could see her point. The facebook group is for writers who write short stories for the women’s magazine market, and so members are forever writing material, submitting it, and then waiting for a reply: hopefully an acceptance, but quite frequently a rejection.