Take it from the top

I’m going to try and catch you up with my year behind the scenes. Something that has gone in the space of a Blink. However realising how enormous this subject is, I’m going to split it into a few sections and post over a few days.

This is my long promised post of the decisions I’ve made with self-publishing and how it’s all going so far…

The journey so far –

Last January I made the decision that Burning Embers was finally ready. It was a polished as a shiny squeaky thing and in the best shape that I could make it. With my dream of following a traditional publishing route I started to send BE out to agents.

I think it went well. I had a spreadsheet to monitor who I had e-mailed my book baby too, their contact details and what they required in their submission package. I even had a column with an approximate date of response. Generally I had positive feedback from agents and publishing houses that would accept direct submissions. I even accidentally sent it to a few self-publishing companies and received some encouraging results.

In the end however, the answer was no. I was told that Burning Embers was well-written, engaging, had excellent descriptions…but just wasn’t quite right for anyone’s list or didn’t suit their personal tastes. It was discouraging, but important to remember that this is a subjective business. I know that the opening of Burning Embers is tailored more towards literary fiction than a straight YA Fantasy-Romp. I also know that the book really hits its stride after the first six chapters (maybe I shouldn’t be so honest!) However, I also had faith that in the hands of readers who love fantasy, strong-female protagonists and want to be pulled into another world –it could really work.

One of the self-publishing companies did have this to say after requesting opening chapters:

‘Blimey exciting start, its made me think of Game of Thrones, Divergent and a female Uhtred of Bebbanberg all at once, which is a good thing – great imagery and sense of place. I think this would be very popular right now, with the right cover and mega saturation on social media, you will get noticed. I’m sure of that. Keep me posted as to how you get on with other publishers, I would love to work with you on this’ – In the end, this enthusiasm translated into an offer of publication with them for a much discounted fee.

In monetary terms they were willing to remove £500 from their usual price.  I really liked this company and probably would have published with them, however it was at the start of the year and I was determined to exhaust more ‘traditional’ enquiries first.

I also received an evaluation of Burning Embers:

‘The book is very well written and the story is original, exciting and engaging.  

The author creates a rich fantasy world with its own history and mythology. Feia is a sympathetic character and I enjoyed following her story.

I think fans of the fantasy genre will really enjoy this. It combines all the best traits of the fantasy genre but with an original twist. 

 An exciting story set in a rich fantasy world that will really appeal to readers. I can imagine this making an excellent series and, once hooked, I think readers will keep coming back for more.’ 

So what to do next?

I carried on writing.

I started with pieces of flash-fiction for competitions, and I even won a few. As a result of flash-fiction I was published in two additional books last year.

Amongst all the sting of rejection, I started the Poisoned Well a simpler, more linear YA Fantasy which was always going to be shorter than the 120,000 word beast that was Burning Embers.

The plan was to finish Poisoned Well and publish it on Wattpad.

Now Wattpad is amazing. It allows you to post you story in serial. You’re encouraged to post on a regular slot at least once a week and to interact with the community. This in turns generates ‘reads’ for your story and you gain followers. Followers who get excited about your work and are eager for the next instalment. Theoretically this can translate into sales of a book. One ‘success’ story of Wattpad recommends you have  the full text published on Amazon and provide that link to Wattpad, so your impatient readers can skip along and buy your book instead of waiting 30-odd weeks for the next part.

However, as I was sending BE out to agents at the time, I was aware I shouldn’t be publishing it anywhere online! This is where Poisoned Well was dreamt up – something that was specifically geared towards a Wattpad posting schedule. Another hint is to keep chapters at approximately 2000 words each, just enough to keep the story moving, but short enough to keep the reader engaged and hungry for more.

Then summer came around – and life changed. I’ve mentioned it in the occasional post, but over the summer I realised I was expecting a baby. Now among all the preparation for new life and feeling like I had the flu for a few months, I realised that I wanted my book baby project to be done. Signed off, sealed, delivered – fin. Burning Embers had been such a huge part of my life and in order to move on completely I would need to let it go. But it deserved more than staying in my desk drawer and on the computer. Because I’d been feeling so poorly, I’d also stopped writing Poisoned Well – a mere two chapters from the end! SO CLOSE!

So I decided to self-publish. All of the queries that were going to have a response had received one, and I’d exhausted the pool of agents I could harass. I had twittered, blogged, researched and finally it was decision time.

So what to do first?

Well, initially panic. I’d spent years reading articles about self-publishing, marketing, social media…and I immediately lost all confidence that I knew what I was doing and had to go back and re-read everything again!

Self-publishing – there are some big decisions to make. – this is where the next part of the story will continue…

Let me know what you think so far!

Happy Reading Fibi

xxx

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2015

Well Happy New Year!

It’s another one of those, I’m so sorry I fell off the face of the planet posts. I’ve decided to try and set myself achievable goals with my little corner of the internet and would love to post at least once a week. A Monday seems like a good day, but no doubt I’ll be spurred on by something exciting and inspired to keep posting until one day I don’t…and then it’s so much harder to return to. So here is my mini-mission. Post every Monday. Maybe more. But Monday, Monday will be the day.

I’m currently very inspired and fizzy with excitement. Over the Christmas vacation I managed to write the best part of 10,000 new words for my manuscript. Not only are the words down, ordered, typed up and edited, but they’re half-decent too. I feel that I found my balance on the past two weeks. That precarious tipping point between allowing everything to flow, imagination to roam and strange little phrases to trickle onto the page; but tempered with control.

No more for me, (well currently) the mental splurge of patterns; the equivalent of randomly throwing paint at a canvas. But also, no more persistent concern and over thinking. Writing phases for me come and go and I’m currently content. My secret for now is to write with pen on paper. Get it all out. No editing, not really. The internal voice is difficult to silence, but with pen and paper I’m able to hush it. After all, I can go back and re-write the ink. It’s what I’ll be doing tonight. I’ve tackled another fresh chapter and don’t feel satisfied by the first draft. So I’ll read it and start again on a new page from where it stops working for me.

The second stage is the type up in a separate document for the chapter. I have to admit that I’ve fallen in love with my new PC and keyboard. I skim through the full manuscript, have a quick tidy up and fall back in with the overall tone. Then it’s a new, exciting chapter. The handwritten page is an excellent guide and sometimes I end up typing it verbatim. Other times I run off and expand by filling in ideas or cut out repeating images. In the end, there’s a shiny new chapter. It’s printed, added to the main manuscript and read by someone else.

I feel very fizzy. All is well. The journey continues.

How do you get your writing mojo together? Do you have any tips?

Wishing everyone a very happy new year and a wonderful festive season!

Speak now! – Or this will be a very silent story…

I have been informed that I’m quite good at writing dialogue. This was news to me, as I hate it. I never would have expected that detesting something would lead me to be good at it, but there we go. So why or rather how, has this happened?

When writing Chapters of Manuscript 1 – I’ve decided to name it this for the time being, as it’s getting rather confusing referring to other WIP’s and manuscripts. Anyway, when writing Manuscript numero uno, I would know that a dialogue heavy chapter would be coming up. Events had happened, results were due to come and discussions needed to be had. This would fill me with absolute dread. I started elongating the previous chapters so that I wouldn’t need to get to that particular hurdle. I’d rather write around and around in metaphorical circles than attempt the dreaded speech. Some of those sentences were okay, but most have been cut now.

But I couldn’t put it off any longer; I’m referring now to a particular chapter near the start of the story where a long and fairly complicated exchange took place – and it had to be written. Chapter named, headed…time to start the words. Excellent. I wrote several very very very long introductory paragraphs leading up to the impending conversation (my new cunning plan, have a long introduction and really ‘set the scene’ of the chapter – genius!) Or so I though, for about a week – until I realised that should actually just get on with it!

Facing my fear.

The benefit of disliking dialogue so much is that it somewhat improves my dialogue. It’s not exactly sparse, but the characters say what needs to be said in-character but concise.  That’s quite accurate to how people speak though, right? Unless telling a story or anecdote with added frills of hilarity, we don’t tend to go on and on and on to make our point. Unless there is reason, or character quirk.  For example

“Would you mind getting some milk from the shop? It’s on your way home and we ran out yesterday,” said Sam.

This is all very interesting; it reveals a lot of information. It sets a bit of character. But would you ask your flatmate to get the milk like this? Would you not just say:

“Can you grab some milk?” Sam asked.

The other information, although lovely, can be cut out. It’s all just bumph. Whoever Sam is addressing, will, I assume, know where the shop is.  The fact that they run out yesterday? Wouldn’t they know that to? Also, what does the reader really gain from those tidbits. If the local of the corner shop on the way home from work, is important – then surely it deserves more than just an aside in a random conversation?

Let’s say that Sam was talking to Steph and the location of the shop is in some way, vital. The reader MUST know this. Well then, Steph should probably be visit the shop on her way home from work. The reader will remember that more.

That is my advice on writing for the month. I know I’m not particularly qualified to preach but I thought I’d share some of my own processes.

What I also learnt from facing my phobia of dialogue, was that I need to let myself breathe. If I have to write the dialogue – I really should just do it. If it’s awful, fine – I’ll re-write it. I might have to take hours and hours when editing to get written, what actually needs to be written, and the way I want it. But you can’t edit something that isn’t on the page. Sometimes you just need to put something down, so that you can carry on and not lose momentum. The first draft shouldn’t be perfect. Well, aim for perfection but accept that sometimes you won’t be 100% satisfied with every  word that you drop, with pain staking care onto the page.

To recap then…

1 Get on with it.

2 You can’t improve on something that doesn’t exist

3 Remember to breath, first drafts are imperfect and they should be

4 Dialogue is evil – but it can improve over time

What do you think? Does anyone else have any hints or suggestion for writing dialogue?