Writing: Never ending edits

I absolutely get terrified when editing my own works. Absolutely terrified. Not excited as I am when I write. The terror comes from the fact that I know I will be slicing and dicing, in true ‘kill your darlings’ style, and yet, yet, it will still not be perfect enough, flawless. Why? Why must this be such a hard task?!

I know that most writers, myself included love writing. We do. Other people find solace in shopping, in getting pampered, in sitting around by the beach and lounging, etc. the normal stuff you know. Writers find joy in writing. We do it because we love the rush of a new world that captures our imagination: the characters, their flaws, their stories.

We feel elated when we finish our first draft. I still remember the first time I finished my first novel. I think I may have literally done a jumping-giddy-run-on-the-same-spot dance before realizing I was standing in front of med building waiting for my friends to escape their microbiology lab.


But the thing is first draft of anything is always crap. We wouldn’t give it to anyone to read before we have had a chance to run through it and smooth it out somewhat. The real writing happens on the editing table. Which becomes excruciatingly painful to writers starting out, and still quite hard for others who have been through the grill before.

I’m doing a final comb through of ‘Charming Mr Stewart’ before sending it for final edit. Mind you, it has already gone through two rounds of editors. Editing is a job that never finishes, truly. And it’s not just a grammar here and punctuation there. Editing sometimes completely changes the landscape of a story from its first draft. I’m learning to kill my darlings and it’s not easy. If you are writing a piece you want to publish, I guess you have to make sure it’s as good as it can be. So my advice, don’t be in an impatient rush. And the other, DONT BE AFRAID TO DELETE WHAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE, or what is redundant. Cull, cull, cull.

I must do these myself:

– remove adverbs and replace with verbs (i.e. Words ending in  -ly)

– remove the words ‘very’ and ‘that’ and so many filler words,

And many more. I’m learning the art of editing my own work through examples on pinterest. Hey, it’s been helpful!

Two weeks ago I swept through the whole MS (manuscript) and it shed some weight from 100,000 words plus to under 86,000 words.

Today, I’m starting another sweep based on feedback from beta-readers and have a feeling the story will loose some more weight. I’m not worried about the story becoming skinny, I’m just worried I may loose some aspects of the story if I’m not careful. I mustn’t leave a tale full of holes!

Bit of a nail-biting moment. Yikes.

Writing: What you NEED to be a writer.

You want to be a writer do you? You want to enjoy knowing that people are reading your words, imagining the world in their head that you have crafted? You want to know that people love them? You have tons of story ideas floating around in your head that you could write? Good. Very good. 

But. And yes, there is a but. You need to stop coming up with stories. Stop. There’s is no point in coming up with 1 story, 10 stories, or hundreds. No point if you don’t actually sit down and start writing them. In fact, not good enough if you don’t sit down and finish writing them. Key word there – finish. 

What lies ahead once you have finished writing the first draft can only be described as a bed of needles you have to walk over to reach the other side. I’m being blunt. Why? Well, it’s one thing to dream of being a writer, it’s another to actually attempt it. It’s a difficult journey marred with many disappointments, struggles, doubts, anger and frustration. You will want to give up many times along the way. You will continue to doubt your work. Is it good enough? 

Unfortunately, someone else needs to tell us this.
How do you make sure your writing is of industry standard? How do you know it can hook a reader and keep them till the very ‘end’? Before you decide to even attempt to knock on publishers doors, make sure you do this: read the story from start to finish yourself. I don’t mean this as in you edit as you go. Just read it, as if it’s another book and you are an audience. If you can hold your own interest then be sure you may hold other people’s interest too. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you are a God-gifted writer and someone should offer you a deal already. We all make mistakes. Even the polished writers who have been published multiple times. Here is what you need to do.

Get your story assessed by a professional. Find out if the plot is weak, if your characters are convincing, if there are any logical problems in your MS, if you need to go back and write an entire section, or cut out a whole chunk. You need to FIX these before you can think about polishing/editing your work. Grammar, punctuation and spacing are not your first priority. Your priority first of all is to make sure your story translates as best it can on paper. It’s events, it’s interweaving plots, it’s characters and emotions etc. After that, go over your work a few time yourself. You’d be surprised at the number of mistakes you can correct yourself as a writer. Then, I strongly recommend getting an editor onboard. They will help you iron out your MS and make it look presentable. 

And this is just the one quarter of your job! 

What’s left are some of the most daunting tasks: query agents/publishers, submit your work, wait biting your nails, then if you find representation or a book deal, it’s a whole other part you have to work with others on – planning, layout, cover page, edits, and marketing.
I don’t mean to discourage anyone who wants to write from actually doing it. I just wanted to tell you, stop talking about writing and write. It’s a whole lot of fun whether you intend to get published or just get your family and friends to read them. 

I leave you with these words…

  

Writing: When not to approach agents and publishers–notes from an amateur writer.

If you’ve found yourself clicking on this post, then I’m safe to assume that you are either someone starting out in writing and dream of being published, or, you are an experienced writer/producer wanting to see how much of a fool I’m making myself in this post and what other silly things I might write beside the title that obviously got you to click.

Well, here’s the thing. I am amongst those who dream of being a writer whose work gets picked up by a publisher/agent. An action that will mean ‘Yes, we made it!’ We have achieved the dream we set out to make reality. Despite self-publishing my debut novel and despite entertaining the notion of self-publishing my second novel, I am still in fact hoping, praying and dreaming that one day I get to sign on the dotted line. As a writer, regardless what stage of that dream you are in, I guarantee that you have dreamed of being ‘picked up’ as it were. I know I have. 
There are certain things you should definitely heed if you are wanting to go down that path, and other things you should definitely consider before you make your decision.

1) Get unbiased opinion on your work:-
this doesn’t mean you give it to a family member of friends, or family members of your friends and asks them to be ‘objective’. I mean, get a genuine stranger to read your work and give you an honest feedback as to the overall story, the strengths and weaknesses, characters, what works, what doesn’t etc. You can find these people in writing groups, or hire a professional.

You need this to truly gauge how strong your work is, or not. All this before you embarrass yourself by sending subpar material to agents and publishers. Don’t even take that chance. 

2) Take the sound suggestions made by the said ‘unbiased’ reader (or readers):
– You don’t need to and should never take every single advice from your readers. If there is a pattern, and obviousness that occurs through the feedbacks, then I suggest you take them on. If however, a suggestion doesn’t settle well with you, then remember that the story at the end of the day is your. Only make the changes that you feel surely add to the overall strength and unity. Otherwise, make wise decisions on which suggestions work for you.

3) Don’t be afraid to re-write:-
Though re-writing is the bane of our existence, unfortunately, you must do it. Don’t rush it, don’t hate the process, just get on with your ego to the side and do what’s best for the story. It’s all about that story. You have to make it be what it could be. Sometime you will find that you only have to rewrite very little, a paragraph here, maybe a chapter there, but other times, you will have to completely re-write a section or the whole story. Don’t be depressed by this. All of us go through it. Just do your job, which is ultimately the coherence and cohesion of your story. 

4) Don’t send it in till you are absolutely proud of it:
– Until you reach such a moment, always know that every work can be continuously improved as time goes. But you must be sure there isn’t much more you can add to the work without the guidance and keen eye of a producing house. Until such moment, keep at it till you can make it as good as you can make it. Then, you are good to go. Send it out and see what comes back. Sometimes it will be nothing, just silence, but you learn. Maybe another time, you might just be in luck.

5) If you go down self-publishing path, don’t rush your trimmings:
– If your story is your main course then think of your cover as your enticing appetizer and your blurb as the entree. The dessert is the pay off of having found out what the book is about. Please pay great attention to both of these sidekicks: cover and blurb. Most often I have seen pretty bad covers on what are great stories, and chances are I wouldn’t have read them if I didn’t know the person. Our readership are pretty much the same and we all inherently judge value based on appearance. There are some cover designers out there who work with indie authors for a small fee. See if you can find them.

6) Don’t let silence take your joy away:-
if you haven’t heard back from publishers or get rejected more times than you can throw a pen at, don’t let it pull you down. Maybe you work isn’t ready, or maybe it’s not a fit with the house you approached. Keep trying and while you do that, keep yourself distracted. How do you do that? Just write that other story you have been meaning to write. Focus on that. It won’t promise that you current one will get picked up but at least you are preoccupied and doing something you enjoy, and at the end of it all, you may even have two stories to pitch rather than the one. 

Well, I’m sure there are more things I could rattle on about, and I’m sure there is a whole array of things you and I have yet to learn. These are just the few things I’ve gone through myself and thought I’d share, in case there is just one of you who can benefit from these. 
Keep writing those stories chapter at a time and enjoy.
Goodnight.

Writing: Killing your Darlings!

There are advice and then there are advice!

Who has heard of ‘killing your darlings’? I bet many of you have, whether you are in the writing business or film business, or any other business that has used it to essentially say kill the idea/project/scene/dialogue etc.

I’ve heard it on numerous occasions as advice, joke, or have used it myself. It sounds like a dangerous advice, but it is a very sane and useful advice. Especially for those creatives who fall in love with an idea and find it hard to modify/delete/rewrite etc because they are too attached to the project.

I used to be one. Believe me, I used to be one. Not a creative, but I mean, one who was always too attached to the project for its own sake. Ever since I’ve braved the blogging world where publishing is instantaneous, it really doesn’t leave much space for hiding. And when you no longer need to hide, you finally tend to come out from under the rock and see how much moss your creative property has gathered all the time you refused to emerge into the light.

A year ago, I sent my second novel out to get it professionally assessed because I was already looking to send it out to publishers, and for that, I needed to know how it stacked up. Yup, you heard right. My second book has been finished for over a year. Then where is it? What’s happened to it you wonder?

I didn’t kill my darlings! That’s what happened. I got the assessment, and refused to listen to the sage advice. I crawled back under the rock. Then life got in the way and I haven’t really given the book much attention since then because I was caught up in study and blogging and getting back into film.

Now it’s time. Since I published my first book, I’ve crawled back out into the light and I now see what they were advising me to do. Kill all those scenes that weren’t absolutely essential to the story, no matter how much it hurt.

Rule of Thirds was laid out as present/past/present, telling the main character’s story in a non-linear parallel format that juxtaposed past/present. The advice that had hurt the most? Kill all the past! That was hard to bear. Past was interwoven through 3 quarter of the book, it held soul, it held poignancy. I was not ready to murder that which I had created. Hence I refused to work on it for the last year.

Now, I’m back on the wagon, and in the last few days I have effectively killed the darling chapters of the past, and whatever was essential in them for the story, integrated into the present. Am I happy? Yes. I see it clearly now that I separated myself from it for a whole year.

Sometimes for the story’s sake, we have to do what feels harsh. We have to delete that which doesn’t work, or replace it. But whatever you do, do not refuse to kill the extra weight, extra darlings if it’s serving no other purpose than to increase your word count, or repeat the same information.

I’ve killed 3 chapters already.

Writing + Publishing: A DIY mission that seems Impossible

Mission impossible 5, I may as well call it. It’s like training as the hurdle runner for Olympics only not the sporty kind! But the task is the same: sprint as fast as you can, after all, life is no less than a race, and when you come to an obstacle, or a ‘hurdle’ jump over it with as much gusto and strength, forever keeping ahead of others. However, much like in the game, the ‘art’ of clearing one hurdle after another is down to practice, practice and practice. That’s what I feel like at the moment, a hurdler, jumping through, or at least trying to, but more often than not smashing right into the obstacle and staring at it in daze and dismay.

Why do I say this? You’ll see. I got over the hurdle of language initially, and was met with the next hurdle, distraction of a student life. After that was done, some years later, the next hurdle come of holding onto a paying job, which meant writing took a back seat, then when that problem stepped aside on its own, the hurdle became the pursuit of publication. Many hurdles simply stood their grounds during this that I eventually went ‘you know what’ and took matters into my own hands: I walked around the hurdles and self-published like a silly bird.

What ever could be the hurdle now?! Marketing! It’s not simply a hurdle, no. It’s a fire-breathing dragon that’s guarding the literary world like a jealous viper from those of us just wishing and hoping for one chance.

It doesn’t even help that I have already done majority of the hard work and am offering a simple handshake so that the process can organically continue at a faster rate. And once again I am facing a hurdle the size of Mount Everest: how do I get the information out there that novel is in print? That people can buy it for their collection? That I’ll even sign on the inside decently (’cause I totally haven’t been practicing or nothing).

Suffice to say I’m still training to become a sufficient hurdler in life, and so far, life has the upper hand. Let’s see how I can possibly get around this wall. I was never strong at marketing.

At the moment, my marketing strategy for my printed novel has only been through FB, almost hijacking family and friends to become a sales rep at their work or outer circle, and approaching a book exchange to see if they are willing to keep a tiny section in their store.

I guess the truth of the matter is that nowadays an author mustn’t just be the writer of the book but the marketing strategist and sales rep. The sales rep part is okay, and is expected I guess. I mean if you can’t talk people into buying your book then who better? But this marketing strategist and implementer is a whole new ball game especially for a self-publisher.

See what’s wrong with that last paragraph? It’s a whole DIY situation in there: you write, you publish, and you sell. And this situation has suddenly come about over the last few years. You can’t blame a writer for not knowing the ‘publishing’ business as much because till just about a handful of years ago, this avenue was monopolized by big print/publishing houses only. Till now, that monopoly stays somewhat. I mean I was approaching couple of smaller distributor just a day or so ago and what reply do I get? ‘Sorry, we only distribute in house books, but good luck.’

So it’s a scary world out there. Having to learn on the go how to market&sell your books without the expertise and guidance of those who have been doing it for decades if not century.

I wish I could kidnap a publisher and pick their brain! Lol. Not that anyone walks around with ‘I’m a publisher’ written across their forehead, probably for the same reason I want to have a chat to them.

Ah well, DIY it is.

So how about I plug my book write now?! As good an opportunity as any.

So if any of you are in Australia and would like to support me by buying a hard copy of my novel, In Strange Company, then please drop me a word in the comments section. Or if you’d rather approach me privately then write to papermashed@outlook.com.

Price:
$15.95 plus $3.00 P&H — Total: $18.95

For international postage, please enquire as I will have to find out myself. All I know is NZ is about $10 P&H whereas USA is $15.50ish.

Also, it might help you to decide if I mention that I’m aiming to write/produce/direct a cross cultural feature film focusing on third world countries and their need to educate women and children, or any male afflicted, against abuse of all kinds. It’s a cause worth talking about. The money raised by the sale of the books will go towards funding this film.

Thank you very much, and have a wonderful weekend ahead.

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Tips and Anecdotes on becoming an Author

At present, after couple of months since the release of my first novel and a total of 3 interviews with radio/newspaper, I feel I can say I am semi-successful. So with that in mind, I think it’s suffice to say I have learned a few things along the way. Thus, this is going to be one of those posts where I reveal to you a secret to success! You ready?! Are you sure you want to do this?! Or do I need to break out the famous Jack Nicholson dialogue about being able to handle the truth?

Here they are! (In no specific order because I am typing on an iPhone and writing whatever comes to mind first.)

1) Write what grabs your interest! – seriously, you don’t know how important this is. I tried writing a book in a genre I wasn’t very savvy with a while back. I got writing because I thought ‘who doesn’t like a murder mystery?’ But what I hadn’t accounted for were these: my age!, my experience in the language, my limited forensic knowledge, the fact that I hadn’t had much practice, and the fact that I myself was going to lose interest in the topic very soon. Why did I mention age? Well, I was 12 at the time, trying to write in English which I was still learning, and all those crime shows hadn’t aired yet for me to collate enough knowledge to make the plot believable, and I wasn’t a big crime reader. Pretty soon, actually 50 pages-in kind of soon, I lost interest in the topic. I literally threw the project in the bin and am to this day slightly embarrassed that I ever thought I could do it. In my later tries I found myself finishing a project, and getting faster and faster with each. That’s because I was writing what I liked, and I had a bit more age and practice under the belt. Don’t give up hope, but it is almost all about the timing.

2) Draft and Edit several times: this one doesn’t really need much explaining. What we write initially is only the blueprint of the story, and drafting is actually building the story into one strong, attractive building one edit/draft at a time. Please do edit as much as you can, but I do recommend you try to hire the services of an actual editor. I know this from experience because we as writers are too close to our own work that we accidentally miss few mistakes; they may not be grave mistakes, but even little ones such as ‘to’ instead of ‘too’ can feel like an eyesore to the alert reader.

3) Send to publishers/agents or self-publish: this is entirely up to you. I know while growing up, all I could ever dream about was to get it published the traditional way through a publishing house. Kind of felt like there was some prestige involved; something that made you feel like you had achieved. I did the publisher/agent circuit, but as a previously unpublished author, both these parties are slightly reluctant to take new clients on. If we can get our foot stuck in their doorway, then great! If not, keep going. With eBook publishing something that is available to you as an author to provide you with a fairly cost-efficient way of self-publishing, why wouldn’t you give it a go? You never know who might find it and the rest is history. HOWEVER, in saying that, do not let yourself slack off and publish sub-par material that could do with few more edits or drafts. It’s all about respecting our readership, I guess.

4) Cover page and blurb are a must: This is a no brainer, right? Yup! These two elements are probably what gets you across the line in terms of whether a reader will buy/read your book or not. Make sure these are the best they can be. I should know. I tend to judge a book on both these aspects! If one or the other doesn’t work, isn’t the best it could be, I will immediately judge the quality of the book inside, as do most of us. BAD! These two are your marketing sentries! Make them as fit for the job as you can. Personally, for In Strange Company, I spent a total of couple of weeks just to hone the blurb that I had taken few months to think about, then I got people’s opinion on a few different drafts. After all this, I took the best elements out of each and formed a new one. As for the cover of the book, I think it took a bit of researching the look I wanted for the art work, then actually painting it, and then taking that art work into a layout that worked for the book. All in all, there was a hell of a lot of time spent on these two elements. Why? Because, they are IMPORTANT. I’ve since had a whole lot of comment on the quality of the cover page. That’s what you want. So spend some time developing the ‘look’ of the story.

5) Get reviewed: I’m slowly working on this. This is a tricky field. You can’t obviously force people to do a review of your work after reading it. Some will be generous and would gladly oblige. But other times, we are literally just holding our breath. The first review I got saw me jumping up and down for a few minutes. It was exciting to know that not only had someone bought a copy of the book but finished it as well, and left me a review to tell me how they found it. I can’t give you much advise on this other than to ask people who have read it to review. Or there are also reviewing sites out there where you can submit your work for them to review. It is almost like sending your book out to publisher/agent and waiting to hear either an acceptance or a rejection. But all we can do is try, right?

6) Get yourself out there anyway you can (Ps: please avoid doing anything dangerous. When I said anyway, I mean within a safe limit.): Radio, newspaper, local notice boards, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and whatnot. Nowadays there isn’t a single person who isn’t hooked up to at least one of these ‘worlds’. Use them to your advantage. Keep sending messages out there that you have a wonderful book out there that people should be getting their hands on etc. Contact your local newspapers and radio stations. They are not that scary and usually welcome a chance to talk to a local about such things. They are always looking for a story, so why not give them something new they can write about? That’s how I got myself on two different radio stations, and newspapers. Self-advertising at this stage is your new best friend, especially if you are self-published (but don’t tell you current human best-friend that). Use this friend to get yourself recognised within your local community first. If you can’t market yourself to your locals, you will no doubt find marketing yourself to others a lot more harder. Once you break the local market, then it’s all a little easier to approach the bigger fish.

7) Don’t be shy, and if you are, learn how to act: I’m chucking this one in just for fun. Really, I mean what I say though. I’m a little shy, which is quite odd because within my own circles, I’m a very confident young woman. I don’t know where this shyness comes from – actually I do know. I am always worried how I am perceived etc. So I’ve begun to think ‘confident’ when I’m approaching media for a little help. I mean, why will they want to promote someone who can’t even speak a word without going red, right? So yeah, pretend you are confident. You’ll be surprised how much strength and confidence it really does lend you.

I think that’s all for now. If I think of anything more, I’ll post it. I may have written things you have read many a times, but like my previous post on advice, this is a good one, so take the ones that suit you and discard the rest.

A person is a writer when they have penned an ocean with their words – an ocean that is able to suspend a reader’s reality as salt to the sea. An author however, goes beyond the duty of writing itself, to tell the tale of the seas!

-Eva Acharya

‘Write what you know’ – why it is a poor advice

Pieces of advice are all well and good if they are well meaning, some however, we should take with a grain of salt and make our own informed decision.

Clarityphoto on Instagram (http://instagram.com/p/Yzdp-uscL6/)
Clarityphoto on Instagram
(http://instagram.com/p/Yzdp-uscL6/)

You may be someone who dabbles in writing, and have spent quite some time practicing your craft and longing for some inside guides and tips etc. and for that reason, you stalk many a writers/bloggers/agents/publishers on what extra you could do, how you could go about getting the attention you crave. Here is one advice you are implored not to follow: write what you know. You and I both know what that mean. It’s asking us to only write what we have experienced, what we definitely know.

Yes! That’s a legitimate advice you have already come across/or may come across in your endeavour to tackle the writing giants, or knock on some doors for well-meaning questions and queries. Please, whatever you do, DO NOT listen to that particular advice. In my opinion, and that of many others, it is an absolutely silly thing to say to a writer. It may have its merit when tackling unforgiving topics, but you shouldn’t heed it 100% but instead file it away for later use when that advice might come in handy for a story that requires you to gain some perspective/experience.

Nikki Giovanni once said: “Writers don’t write from experience, though many are resistant to admit that they don’t. I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.”

Now, think about it. I mean seriously. If I were to take that advice like an antidote to solving this problem then I’d be doomed as a writer before I even have a chance to make it in the industry. Truth be told, I wouldn’t even have a book published – because face it, all the things that happens in In Strange Company, has never happened to me. By this rule (if it were such) then I wouldn’t have the authority to portray a snowy world when I haven’t even seen snow falling in reality let alone what happened to characters on that terrain.

I’ve always had issue with this particular advice because I’ve come across it so many times, that it infuriates me to no end. I mean, I’ve always taken this advice to hint at your actual experience, so by this rule I’m inclined to assume that all espionage/crime/sorcery/gangster writers of such genre (among a long list other genre) would have had to commit said treason/crime/sorcery/violent act etc. to permit them to write about it.

I don’t know about you, but that makes this particular advice either really silly and shallow, or very, very dangerous. I dabble in writing different genres in my stories/shorts/poems – some are violent in nature, like A Kiss Goodnight, some are about death like Full Circle, some are bipolar like Colour of a Lullaby (Blue Lullaby). I mean, of all the things I’ve written, either on my notebook or blog, about 90% of that hasn’t happened in my life, so by this theory, I shouldn’t have written any of this, or whatever I have written is of very poor quality. Because the next part of that advice goes something like this: you write what you know because you will write it better than what you don’t know.

Agreed to a certain degree, but really, it is modern times with easy access to information at our fingertips – research! You don’t know something, or are hazy on the details, research. And I don’t mean just find one article etc. on whatever you are researching. Find more than a handful of sources that corroborate the information you want to use, and make sure those sources are legitimate. Then after that, go for it, write you story. Because at the end the day, it is your story and you know better than another on how you want to write, and what you want to write.

Please do refrain from acting out, hurting people, doing anything silly you shouldn’t, or risk your life for the story just because someone who is ‘in’ the industry told you to stick to what you know.

Like Giovanni, write what you want to write – the only difference is, make sure the ‘facts’ you present are real. That’s all. So go forth and write. No one can tell you how to write you story – they may give technical advice on grammar and punctuation and such – but you determine the flow.

Write what you don’t know and see what you learn.

Image courtesy of Claire Ryan, Clarity Photo

 

The Screaming House

For once, I’m stuck for a title for a post. But alas, ‘The Screaming House’ sounds apt for my rumbling thoughts about to follow.

I was just flicking through a reference/how-to book I own just earlier today and couldn’t help but chuckle as something caught my eye: “They’ll mortgage their homes for a chance to meet with an editor”, “The burning desire to create a literary masterpiece must rank high with other forms of madness.” (in The Everything Guide to Writing a Novel, by Joyce & Jill Lavene).

It must have been the first how-to book I ever bought years ago in my mad quest to become a published author. I don’t believe I’ve looked at the pages of that book for over 6 years. But back then, anything to do with writing, or anything that suggested it would help improve my writing, or help me tackle the scary notion of approaching publishers had me saving my meagre earnings (as a student) and buy any book within my budget that caught my fancy. I used to come home with at least one reference book per week.

Looking back, I can’t help but laugh. How-to books and self-improvement books were on the top on my list and priority back then because I was madly chasing my own tail trying to better myself or my writing. Today, that drive isn’t so much in buying every self-help and guide books, but rather just practicing the craft as much as possible.

However, the Lavenes’ aren’t far off in their assumption that the drive to achieve this one goal is so bad that it does sometimes affect the decisions we make. Frankly speaking, I could be working at a lab, in a white coat and pipetting fluids and solutions, and helping while earning a salary – but I am not, even though I have a degree in Science. Why not? Good question. ‘Cause I am mad, that’s why. I am chasing that dream of recognition in the writing field, which has been my passion since I was in my early adolescence, that perhaps, if I did own a house, I may be very tempted, very tempted indeed, to mortgage it to make something of myself, not so much in the sense of ‘meeting’ an editor, but in the sense that I could finance mass printing, marketing and distribution of my novels and poems etc. Perhaps a reason why most artists and writers are rich in all else but monies – the Universe’s way of making sure we don’t destroy everything that does mean something to us I suppose.  Or else, we would all be tempted to sell the roof over our head for something so intangible as getting published when the guarantee of success is never made.

It certainly is a madness! Alas, we can always dream, and keep going. Who knows what’s around the bend? Believe it or not, this post wasn’t meant to discourage but rather tell you that you are special. Not everyone can do what you do, what we do. Not everyone can live with the uncertainty of everyday like we do. Of slowly going crazy inside because even if you and I wanted to, we cannot forsake the company of our dreams. It seems impossible. And perhaps it is that impossible which motivates us to try that much harder and that much more selflessly.

So go forth and dream. Big things are always made of these, and what is creativity if not a little madness in you and me?

Ghost Writer

Do you believe in ghosts? The body-less spirits once belonging to someone who has passed away, and those who are still lingering in our mortal world? Do you believe in the paranormal at all? The bogeyman under the bed? The pesky poltergeist? Mermaids or mermen? Or even Yeti and Bigfoot? Or Mick Wazowski from Monsters Inc.?

Well, unfortunately for you, this isn’t that kind of post. Not at all!

This post belongs to the category of the living. The silent ones that live among us in our great cities, and small towns, and countryside. These ghosts ladies and gentlemen are living persons. Ones whom you can touch and pinch and will go ‘Ow’, and probably take great offense at your action. These are people who silently stand at the periphery of the writing world, lingering as if mere spirits. Some may notice them, some may not.

I know what ‘ghost’ writing is all about, but for those of you who have a vague idea, here is how Wikipedia puts it: a ghost writer is a ‘writer who writes books, articles, stories, reports or other texts that are officially credited to another person’.

So basically, ghost writers are doing all the hard work, writing down the words someone else will take credit for. Now I take an issue with this. Grave issue! How is it fair that someone does all the work and someone else gets the credit and all the glory associated with it?

Personally, I admire writers who give up their skills and erase away their name to tell someone else’s story, in someone else’s voice. It takes a lot of guts and a mountain high self-esteem to be able to simply say ‘Heck, I’ll do the job, and do it well all for the story’.

Given todays world and how tough it is becoming to survive on the backs of our ability to string words, I don’t blame these brave souls for taking on the task of doing a story justice, even if it is while stifling their own rise in the hierarchy of the writing industry. Sometimes it is the price of bread on the table. Simple.

So just take a moment to soak this knowledge into your pores. There are books out there that are ‘written’ by famous authors, or even some by unknowns or emerging authors, but are penned by someone else entirely, someone who may or may not ever get acknowledged for the work they have done.

(Image: Darling Harbour, Sydney- Dusk)

Be Savvy, NOT Shabby: publishing tips

One thing writers love doing is write stories. Stories that are beautiful, stories that are heart-wrenching or laugh-out-loud, stories that are about love, or courage, or defeating personal demons, or reaching a life-long goal. Whatever it is, the writing is done with one purpose, and one purpose only – and that is to have it published and reach millions and billions, and if feasible, trillions of readers world-wide. That sounds like the stuff of dreams – the trillion part.

Here is what you as a reader may not know entirely, but suspect regardless: writers imagine, much to their shame, that the stories they chisel at for months and in some cases years, get picked up by an established publishing house and distributed to the millions, billions or trillion audience/readers world-wide.

Now, there is nothing wrong with that ‘grand’ vision of books selling out of shelves, flying as they would if we were in Harry Potter world. There is however, one tinny-tiny flaw in that plan. The part that really should be telling you that books don’t sell themselves. I know, I know, you’re probably saying, ‘Hang on, Harry Potter pretty much sells itself’ as your defensive argument. Fail. You fail as a defence attorney on this one. Harry Potter sells itself now, but when it first started, I’m sure J.K. Rowling had to tackle many strategies with Bloomsbury to get the first of Harry Potters on their magic brooms and out the bookstore.

UNFORTUNATELY folks, that world isn’t real. I’m sorry. If it were, I wouldn’t be writing this but watching my books sprout wings and fly out. Hmm…

Back to the point. Books, in all honesty don’t sell themselves. It’s the person that does the selling, the one who convinces potential readers (aka. you) to part with their mullahs and walk home with a book they may or may not read. You, as a writer, will never know.

SO, how do you sell your book?

Below are some things you will need if you are to sell your book.

As a writer, you will fit either 1, 2, or 3 category:

1) A ton of money so you can pay for your own editing, formatting, printing, and advertising. In which case, go forth and do it!

2) Really attract the attention of a publisher/agent who will do the leg work for you and you simply reap partial rewards.

(Many of you will fit the next category I suspect)

3) You must get over that small thing called shyness and do your own marketing, and publishing. But how do you market a book on a shoe string budget?

Well, take it from me, since I fit this category. It is not the easiest thing to do. The writing was easy compared to what awaits you after you release your book.

Confession #1: Your book will just sit there and look pretty if you do not beat that drum of yours and announce its existence. Tell the world what awaits them.

Be SAVVY how you go about this. Don’t simply let your family and friends know that you’ve published a book (finally) regardless of format (print or eBook).They can’t be the only audience you target!

Confession #2: Not all of your family and friends will buy your book in all honesty. Why should they simply because they know you?! You need to treat them the same way you would treat any other potential buyer, with respect. Don’t force them to buy it. That is SHABBY! NOT COOL.

Here are 10 of the most simple ways you can start marketing and promoting your own book, one small step at a time. Take your writerly hat off, and put on your sales hat:

1) You could let your social network or blogging community know about your recent publication. You never know who may be reading them.

2) Contact your local newspapers and tell them what you have achieved and kindly ask if they would like to write a piece on you. (You will be surprised how often they say yes, and the reach of these medium is so much more than you can do alone.)

3) Hand out flyers or sample chapters to the public for free. Every body loves free stuff. And hey, if your writing is really made of metal and enjoyable, your work will sell itself. The public will go out and buy your whole work.

4) Contact your local radio station(s) if you can with the same respectful approach. You may never know when they invite you in for an interview.

5) Visit book forums and plug your work, or approach book reviewers. There are plenty online at the moment. Request a review. You’ll find that most times reviews really push up your sales. Remember, any publicity is GOOD publicity – but do try to avoid the bad route. Approach only forums and reviewers who are honest and respectful.

6) This is probably the most obvious one. Make sure your book is in the correct industrial format, and that it has been edited to the best it can be.

7) Choose your TITLE wisely. I can’t stress this point enough. Your first point of impact for potential readers is the title of your work. It has to be attention grabbing or memorable. An example of a great title at work is ‘Ps. I love you’. What Celia Ahern has done here is given her work a unique title that is thought provoking and gives a hint to what the story might be without revealing anything at all. These kind of titles are hard to do, but when you have a perfect title, it is wondrous how well they work.

8) Have a great ‘blurb’ written for the book that succinctly entices the reader without bordering on clichéd.

9) Cover page – make sure it is clear, concise and relates to your story. You do not want a confused looking cover page that makes people put down the book in bewilderment.

and last but not least

10) Make sure you have spent as much time as necessary to fulfil 6, 7, 8, and 9. These, before anything else are what will sell your work. If these are sub-standard, then your work may be devalued unnecessarily.

Be savvy how you approach your marketing and have strategies in place. This way, you will look professional and confident. Two things that are sometimes the biggest motivator of sales. But most of all, do your homework. No one else will do them for you unfortunately. And there is always a sense of pride and joy when you are out there talking and promoting your work amongst the public.

Good luck with all your ventures. And if there are any other tips and tricks you’ve learnt on your own journey, share them with others and myself here. I’d love to know. Happy marketing!