I recently spent time with a group of friends I see roughly four or five times a year and one of them asked me how my writing was going, knowing that I was doing it full-time. Well, I told her. Did I have a daily routine? she asked. Just to sit down and start, I replied. And when would my next book be out? In a few months. Non-fiction, I clarified. My next novel would be published in about a year’s time. Oh, she said with a hint of disappointment and then moved onto conversation with someone else.
That “Oh” gave me pause. Everyone else I’ve ever discussed my writing with (which isn’t too many people as I find it a little self-indulgent and difficult to do justice to when I’m the one talking) has had the exact same response, which is admiration – admiration at the fact that I’ve written and published books. After all, so many people talk about it and never get around to doing it but continue talking about it until anyone hearing them talk about it wants to beat them over the head with their non-existent book.
I also found it a little strange because I’ve always thought of non-fiction as a slightly higher, slightly more respectable calling than fiction (not my non-fiction, though, just the non-fiction of others) because it requires knowing what you are writing about (or it should) whereas in fiction you can just make up any old thing. Still, they both require effort and commitment over a reasonably lengthy period of time. Why would one let alone the lesser other (whichever you happen to think it is) elicit an “Oh”?Continue reading
I had high hopes for this book. A straight-laced woman looking for her artsy, younger, pregnant and unmarried sister after she is reported missing by her landlord. And the longer I read, the more certain I was that the end must be mind-blowing because the build-up took forever. But when it came, I realised that the author had been jerking me around, using every writer’s trick in the book, just to let me down with a mediocre ending, a not particularly complex bad guy and a cliffhanger that, to be honest, I could see coming from a mile away.
Beatrice lives in New York, is successful in an unimportant job and catalogues everything in her life according to Pantone colours (although she really only needs one – beige). She’s engaged to Todd but clearly doesn’t love him – he’s just a safe option. Tess, the missing sister, is a student at an art college in London but she’s been forced to take a sabbatical by her tutor who is also her married lover and doesn’t want his bosses to find out he’s been sexing up students. She’s just weeks away from giving birth when Beatrice receives a call from her mother telling her that her sister has gone missing.Continue reading
Do you ever read your own writing? Not as part of a rewriting and editing process but just for pleasure? In the last five years, I’ve written over half a million words – it may even be closer to a million – in the form of articles, blog posts, book reviews, novels and non-fiction books. And that doesn’t include all the paid writing – tenders, case studies, websites, brochures and other types of marketing copy. I can’t possibly remember it all. So sometimes I go back and read bits and pieces of my own writing.
There are a lot of books out there, I like discovering new ones and I’m not narcissistically self-indulgent so after the rewriting and editing process, I’ve never sat down and read one of my own books from cover to cover. But every now and then I’ll bring up one of my book reviews, articles or blog posts and read it through.Continue reading
Let’s face it – there are so many rules in the English language that no one (not even a trained editor like me) can know them all (that’s why I have lots of reference books to make sure I get it right more often than I get it wrong). But if the rules and the reference books aren’t your thing, there are a few things you can do to cheat your way to better editing.
Minimalise Headings The rules state that certain words in headings shouldn’t be capitalised, such as “a”, “the” and “and” (unless they are the first word in the heading). There are more groups of words that aren’t supposed to take an initial capital. But do you know what they are? More importantly, do you care?
So an easy way to avoid having to figure it out is to use the minimal approach – that is to only use an initial capital on the first word and to leave all others uncapitalised.Continue reading
I love to ask myself questions that I don’t know the answer to and spend time considering them at length, then spend time discussing them at length in a blog post. So, somewhat surprisingly, when I asked myself the question “Should you market your book, yourself or both?” I realised I already knew the answer. Of course, all writers seeking an audience for their work must market both their books and themselves. It’s everything that comes after that realisation that tends to be a lot more difficult.
I’ve previously admitted that I have a problem with marketing myself and I’m not much better at marketing my books, not because I don’t think they’re any good but because a lifetime of reinforcement that humility is more important than confidence when it comes to self-promotion is hard to overcome.
So here’s an exercise in “do as I say, not as I do”. You don’t have to do them all – in fact, you probably shouldn’t, at least not all at once in an effort to avoid overkill. But by selecting the right combination over the right length of time, your marketing efforts may just pay off. Today I’m looking at marketing your book and on Thursday I’ll look at marketing yourself and together those two approaches will hopefully translate into book sales now and in the future.Continue reading
As a writer, I understand very well the concept of writing for free. I do it every day. I write my novels with no expectation of ever being paid for my writing labour. (I hope but I don’t expect.) I write my blog posts and publish them on a freely available blog to educate and entertain people about writing and its offshoots. I sometimes write articles about employment and post them on LinkedIn to support my job title, which lists me as a “Freelance Blogger, Writer and Editor”. I write ads for family members with their own businesses without charging for it. I write blurbs and introductions for other people’s books without receiving a single cent.
I also understand the concept of reading for free – how could I not when I post all that writing mentioned above so people can read it without charge? Plus I read a lot of news websites, particularly The Age online, news.com.au, the New York Times online, the Washington Post online, ABC (Australia) News online, BBC News online, CBC News online and sometimes the Miami Herald online, the LA Times online and the Chicago Tribune online. When I run out of free articles to read each month on the sites that charge for subscriptions, I content myself with browsing headlines and public news websites. (I’d like to be able to afford to subscribe but I’m just a poor writer at the moment.)
But where I draw the line is at free editing. Everybody learns to read and write at school (or at least has the opportunity to) but editing the writing of others is a very specific skill and many, if not most, editors train further in order to do it properly and professionally. Certainly to apply for professional membership of the Institute of Professional Editors here in Australia, you need an eligible qualification. And with the Federal Government trying to restrict fee support for courses less than three years in length and with many educational institutions abolishing their writing and editing courses (including Holmesglen Institute of TAFE where I studied and graduated with an Advanced Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing), those qualifications are becoming harder and harder to come by. So why would anyone ask for or expect an editing service to be provided for free?Continue reading
Just because everybody loves a good listicle (so I hope it qualifies), here’s the A to Z of writing.
A is for Authenticity – you don’t have to know what you’re talking about. Write what you know, write what you don’t know but just make sure you sound like you know what you’re talking about. If you write about the police force and someone actually in the police force reads your book lacking in accuracy or verisimilitude (the ring of truth), then that person won’t hesitate to tell the world. And you’ll just come off as someone who couldn’t be bothered doing a little bit of research.
B is for Brainstorming – it’s one thing to have an idea but to bring it to life with all the little details that give it depth, you’ll have to do a lot of brainstorming. If you want to write about a man who kills his father, great (maybe not for your father, who might wonder why). But it becomes two very different stories depending on whether the son had a happy upbringing or an abusive one. And only brainstorming will get you to the point where the story makes meaningful sense.Continue reading