Friday, 10 April 2015

Transformations and Thank you's

When I was growing up, I always envisioned writing as a lonely business. Few writers work in a collaboration - notable from my youth were Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. My picture was of a slightly crazy person, living in isolation, churning out novel after novel. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Mort Rainey in the adaptation of Stephen King's Secret Window, Secret Garden sitting squarely in the forefront of my mind.

When I first began writing properly as a hobby, this view was reinforced in my mind. Living in a small community with few writing groups or resources available, I quite easily could have slipped into the stereotypical role. I wrote on my own. I sent my writings to a few friends who I knew wouldn't laugh in my face. I had a view out of a window that was pleasant but by no means spectacular. Coffee was at hand. I was all set to be the lonely writer.

But the world has changed since the 80's and 90's. Being 8,000 miles away from someone no longer prevents you from collaborating, meeting, speaking and bouncing ideas off each other. In the early 2000's I was blissfully unaware of the various communities available on the Internet. My first discovery was WriteWords, a UK-based writing group. I stayed there for a short while, but very quickly real life took over and writing faded gracefully into my background.

Several years later, my studies complete and family well underway, I re-immersed myself in my writing. I wrote a very poor attempt at a novel and joined a group called Scribophile. Another writing group, allowing writers to critique each other's works. However, to get the most out of the website, a premium account was required - something I feel is fundamentally wrong, charging people for offering each other support.

I decided to seek alternative routes and discovered Twitter. At first I was apprehensive, but in mid-2014 I created my account and started building followers. Soon after arriving I discovered the phenomenon that is pitch contests. The thing that drew me into these contests wasn't the opportunity of getting my novel in front of agents. It was the community that was immediately apparent. A group of humble writers, seeking solace in each other's company through online social media.

Months later and I have built up a following of over 1,000 like-minded, and some not-so-like-minded, followers. But true wonder that has transformed and revitalised my writing ambition was the introduction of Critique Partners and Beta-Readers. Through various pitch contests, I met a group of writers who have now contributed considerably to my learning curve in writing. I'm nowhere near perfect, but I'm a damnsight better than I was nine months ago!

The Internet has transformed the solitary writer into a thriving, buzzing (tweeting) community of authors eager seek each other's opinions, offer praise where it's earned and encouragement where it's needed. I can honestly say, that without this community, I would definitely not be writing today - and would not have properly finished my first novel. Well, I'm not quite there, but almost!

So thank you all! And thank you for reading.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Plot changes and Editing

Having very nearly given up on Alex Frost, I decided on one (or two) last hurrah!'s.

#PitchSlam and #NestPitch - two contests that I thought would be a great opportunity to have one last go on getting noticed and before shelving the project. #PitchSlam was the first catalyst, two more were to follow.

The first phase of #PitchSlam is a critique on a 35-word pitch, provided by 6 of the judges of the competition. The feedback was constructive and led me to rethink a few things. This in turn made me realise something, the structure of the book was such that explaining the plot in few words always confused the reader.

I needed change. I liaised with a couple of my Critique Partners who agreed that the changes seemed positive for the manuscript. I was left with a conundrum: do i start improving the script and pull out of the two competitions or leave it as is and try my luck.

I knew the story needed some fixing up, so I decided to press on with changes and pull out of the competitions.

Changes were written and reviewed and, again, feedback was positive. And then catalysts numbered two and three arrived.

I received glowing feedback from a beta-reader in my target audience (9+ year old readers). After all the rejections, critiques, discussions, negative thoughts, the level of response from a reader in my target bracket brought everything in crystal clarity. This is the person whose imagination I am trying to capture. Who i am trying to bring the joy of reading back into their lives - away from computers, iPads, TV and countless other distractions.

And then, moments later, further strong positive feedback from a beta-reader who has just got through my initial revamp - pre-most recent changes.

Spurred on, I decided that I needed to finish the re-write and get some professional help. In steps freelance editor and literary agent Jessica Schmeidler (The Write Shadow).  Jessica will be working with me on an initial manuscript review to help me polish this story until it more than shines. I will post some more info on my experience with the review process and (if I push on) the editing phase too.

Onwards and Upwards!

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Great Publishing Question

Over the past months I have been engaged in querying various agents in the UK and US with my Middle Grade fantasy, Alex Frost and the Dragons of Overearth. Not with much success, I hasten to add. Every author goes through the struggles of finding an agent, some find their match immediately, others can take longer - one fellow I know on twitter took 6 or 7 years. But now he has one!

Unfortunately, I find myself stuck thinking about AFatDoO (great acronym!) whilst it remains unpublished. I have a few queries outstanding, but given the feedback so far I think it unlikely that it will strike a chord with any of them. I am almost set on publishing, even though it's Middle Grade and difficult to crack the market through a publisher, let alone as a self-published author. But I have one last option before the self-publish button gets pushed.

I recently discovered, a website that crowd funds books through pre-orders. You pitch your novel, readers review it and pre-order of they like it. If you get enough pre-orders, the book gets published.

I read through the terms, wrote out a project. Deleted it. Wrote it out again, procrastinated a bit more and then, eventually, hit the submit button. Then changed my mind. I've still got lots to think about, many options and lots of writing to do before this book is ready for publishing. It just takes time!

Thanks for your support (if you give it) and thanks for reading if you don't!