Project June

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“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck, interview with Robert van Gelder in April 1947 as quoted in John Steinbeck: A Biography (1994) by Jay Parini

This is the fifth piece in my Project… series (and the title chapter in my next book about writing). For anyone who hasn’t read the first two books in this series or the relevant posts on my blog, here’s a refresher for you:

*Project October is all about intensive writing.
*Project November is all about rewriting, polishing and finalising.
*Project December is all about publishing.
*Project January is all about starting all over again.

So what is Project June? For the purposes of this series, there had to be another Project… piece. I toyed with the idea of Project February, mostly because February comes after January. But I didn’t know what Project February was. I still don’t.

Eventually, I realised that the advice that I wanted to give and the month that went with it was all about the middle. I’d addressed the start, the sprint to the faux finish and the actual finish; the only thing left was the part in between.

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How to Write Your Author Biography

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Harry: “Why don’t you tell me the story of your life.”
Sally: “The story of my life?”
Harry: “We’ve got eighteen hours to kill before we hit New York.”
Sally: “The story of my life isn’t even going to get us out of Chicago. I mean nothing’s happened to me yet. That’s why I’m going to New York.”
Harry: “So something can happen to you?”
Sally: “Yes.”
Harry: “Like what?”
Sally: “Like I’m going to journalism school to become a reporter.”
Harry: “So you can write about things that happen to other people.”
Sally: “That’s one way to look at it.”
When Harry Met Sally

It’s strange but the one thing writers seem to struggle with the most is the subject they know better than anyone else: themselves. Perhaps that’s because writing an author biography is about finding the balance between arrogance and unworthiness (something everybody struggles with, of course, but only writers have to put the results down on paper). Toot your own horn without at least a smidge of self-deprecation and potential readers may write you off as a narcissist. Fail to toot your own horn enough and potential readers may write you off as a nobody who doesn’t have the right to ask them for an hours’ long commitment.

Perhaps it’s also because an author biography tends to be something we dash off at the last minute instead of giving it the thought and attention it really deserves. You’ve spent months, possibly years, polishing a piece of writing and now that it’s being published, you need a few paragraphs that will be appended to the end of it to enlighten readers about the person it came from. But if you feel like “nothing’s happened” to you, then it can be tough no matter how long you spend on it.

There is no foolproof template for writing an author biography but here are a few things that might help get your creative juices flowing about your least favourite topic. Continue reading

Proposing a Collaboration

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Today is my father’s seventieth birthday. He’s fit and healthy but a little bit sad because all his friends keep dying. Last year, it was his cousin, Ray, from a massive heart attack. The year before, it was Steve, the best man from his marriage to my mother and his best friend, and Lindsay, a work colleague and subsequent lifelong friend. This year, he already knows there will be more. These are all people he spent lots of time with over the years.

On Saturday, my sisters, their husbands and children, and I are gathering at Dad’s house for a low-key celebration. I hope he has a wonderful day.

While I’m there, I am planning to propose a collaboration. I’m a little nervous. I don’t do a lot of collaborations. And I don’t know what the response will be. Continue reading

It’s a Fine Line between Pleasure and Pain: Dedicating Your Book

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All writers devote an enormous amount of time, effort and passion towards writing their books. And while finally holding a completed book in your hands is right up there, one of the other most emotional moments usually comes just before the end of the process: deciding on a dedication.

They aren’t compulsory but they appear in almost every book. As a way of showing our loved ones, our peers, our mentors, our inspirations just how much they mean to us. In recognition of a particular period in our lives. As an inside joke. Continue reading

Mistaken Identity: When Something You’ve Written Shares Its Title with an Infinitely More Famous Work

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Hard to believe but this is my 400th post! Where did all that effort come from? A little bit here and a little bit there. Thanks for reading!

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In 2004, I wrote a category romance novel (Harlequin, Mills & Boon, whatever you call them in your region) called Liberty’s Secret. It was the story of a woman named Liberty Freeman who had successfully reinvigorated a serious magazine from low circulation to being the talk of the industry. Now she was asked by the publisher to do the same thing for a publishing company he had just bought with the help of a financial whiz named Quinn O’Connell. Cue pounding hearts, stolen kisses and Liberty’s insistence that she wasn’t interested despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. And her secret was the reason why.

Liberty’s Secret was the last romance book I wrote. By the time I finished writing it, I knew I didn’t want to continue writing romance or be known as a romance writer. So I shelved it. I put it aside, choosing not to publish it, and I have barely thought about it since.

When I started writing Single White Female Writer, I was constantly trying to figure out ways to repurpose all of the many, many things I have written. So when I wrote a blog post about writing sex scenes for fiction and admitted that this wasn’t a strength of mine, I also posted the sex scene I had written for Liberty’s Secret to prove it was true.

Since I posted it, the sex scene from Liberty’s Secret has averaged one view per month. Like I said, it’s not great. And because it’s just that one scene, completely out of context from the rest of the missing novel, that makes sense to me. Also, because it was an example of something I didn’t think I did that well, I didn’t mind that much.

So imagine my surprise when WordPress notified me of the following: “Your stats are booming! Single White Female Writer is getting lots of traffic.” And when I checked to find out why, it was all because of the sex scene from Liberty’s Secret. In one month, my average views from that post had increased significantly. And in just one week, the average views had increased 4,100%!

What the heck was going on? Continue reading

A Story about Designing a Book Cover

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If you’re anything like me, when it finally comes time to design your book cover, you have a rough idea of what you want but none of the skills necessary to accomplish it. I’m lucky because I once worked with someone with a boatload of design and marketing skills and she has been my book cover designer ever since. She’s less lucky because I’m a bit of a control freak (okay, a lot of a control freak).

When I eventually finalised the manuscript for my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing, I contacted her to to ask if she would do the cover for this one as well and she agreed. She had also done the cover for Project December: A Book About Writing, which looked like this:

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Project January

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This is the titular chapter from my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing.

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If you’ve read my book Project December: A Book About Writing or the various Project… blog posts on this blog, then you’ll know Project October is about intensive writing, Project November is about editing and revision, and Project December is about getting your book published. And, of course, I hope it makes sense that Project January is about starting all over again.

The pride and relief at finishing and finally publishing a book is wonderful. But the realisation that all that hard work, all the blood, sweat and tears that it took, all the back and forth, all of the begging for beta readers, all the doubt and belief and doubt again, the realisation that all of it simply rewinds to deposit you back at the beginning again can be hard.

Some people only want to write one book, only have one book in them. If that’s you and you’re okay with it, great. For the rest us who don’t want to be one-book wonders, we’re confronted with an entirely different set of problems from when we began writing our first books. So here are a few things to consider to help get you back on track to another Project October, Project November and Project December. Continue reading