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

Advertisements

Rejection

Today I am writing an antithesis to the daily prompt: One-Way.

There was once a time that I believed that writing a story was a one-way experience. I would write the story, share it and it would be accepted. Job done. This has changed, I don’t think as a writer I can exist within my own little bubble. What I am so, so looking forward to, is seeing fan-fiction or fan art of the worlds I create. It might never happen, but I want my readers to fall in love with the words and be inspired to make something of their own, or express that passion. Wouldn’t that be amazing? I love reading comments on my blog and interacting with followers, it’s just the best, and I’m no longer in this one-way world.

Yesterday I spoke about how I’ve been reaching out in author and reader communities to seek advice, make connections and work on making Burning Embers a success. One of the people I’ve been catching up and exchanging ideas with is the lovely Alison Ingleby and I’m delighted to announce that her novel is launched today!

Alison has been so forthcoming with help and advice, she’s just been one of those rare lovely people who has been selfless with her experience.

Now for all of the exciting details about Alison’s new book: Expendables.

Book 1 of The Wall Series

Expendables-dual-on-shelf-1000-wide-compressor

Two societies.

A London divided.

A history lost.

Aleesha is an Outsider. If the government find her they’ll kill her. She survives each day by looking out for herself. And trusting no one.

Trey is an Insider. He never knew what the Outside was like until he finds himself hunted by his own people for an unknown crime he didn’t commit.

Drawn together by forces outside of their control, Aleesha and Trey must learn to work together. It’s not just their lives that are at stake. It’s their country’s future.

Set in a disturbingly realistic vision of a future London, this fast-paced dystopian thriller will appeal to fans of The Hunger GamesDivergent and The Maze Runner.

Expendables is currently on Amazon UK and US and it’s a novel I highly recommend. I might even be adding my own review in the next few days…

Alison has kindly provided a free novelette (Outsider) that’s a prequel to the main series and a nice introduction to a few of the characters. This is available here: BookHip.com/BQADSS

Outsider new edition ebook cover small.jpg

 

Let me know what you think! I think the covers look particularly badass…

Happy Reading, and remember to leave a comment or a review so that other people can find amazing YA fiction.

Fibi xx

 

Exciting News!

I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet again, I have been writing – honest! The Poisoned Well is so nearly ready, I can almost taste it! So close… *mutters and carries on typing and editing like a fiend*

However, earlier in the year I was so excited to win a prize for a piece of Flash Fiction! A Prize for Everyone has been selected for a small anthology and is going into print – sqeeeeee!!!

The anthology is available for pre-order until the 21st of August – ONLY. If you would like a copy of wonderful short fiction, with proceeds going to a good cause then please do follow through to Third-Word and make sure you place an order.

A House of Music & Other Stories is available to pre-order online from our website, for a month only, until 21st August!

A collection of eighty-word works from published, aspiring and casual writers from around the world, including the award-winning authors Joan Byrne, Sam Palmer, K S Dearsley and Hannah Froggatt.

This anthology showcases sparks of imagination from the fantastical to the obscure, celebrating the spice of flash fiction.

Sold in support of the homeless, each copy sold online subsidises the printing of 3 copies for the homeless (or homeless organisations) to sell.

There seems to be a veritable list of authors included in the anthology, and I am so proud to be included among them.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Fibi xx

 

Edit out the habits: How to Improve Work

There are certainly a few recurring ‘snags’ as it were in the cloth of my carefully constructed words. By editing and work-shopping I’ve been lucky to identify the trends in my work that make it less accessible to the reader. If you have to work hard to read something, then you’re more inclined to give up part-way though. For my rambling thoughts on what puts me off reading a story, there is a post here: Scared of Reading – actually funny story. I started writing this blog post and it originally turned into that one. So I decided to split it into two complete and hopefully coherent articles! Fingers are crossed.

But here are the trends that I learnt to look out for in my work.

  1. Passive verbs passive verbs.

My characters had many limbs that did things for them, but instead I needed to just write, that the characters –did-the-thing- much simpler, much clearer. So for example: Her hand reached out toward the glowing embers. – Passive. What would be better is: She reached toward the glowing embers. – Active. It’s just easier to imagine what the protagonist is doing.

  1. Did uh…did that just happen?

A lot tends to happen to my heroine as she goes about her journey. But I was informed, and then realised that although she reacts physically to the things around her and says things, the reader was being cut out of her thoughts. This was causing a second problem in that my reader felt disconnected from her and therefore my storytelling was less effective. The manuscript I’m working on, was supposed to have a close-third person narration, but too often it was just narration and I wasn’t as close in the third-person as I thought I was. Cue thoughts and responses! It sounds very juvenile but I listed a number of responses such as:

‘She was surprised’, ‘shocked, Sarah turned,’ ‘torn between’, ‘relieved’ etc and then used them as a prompt sheet to include things more in my writing. The result has so far been successful and feedback very positive. Hooray!

  1. Too many wonderful, amazing, blue, sparkling adjectives.

Description is a beautiful thing. However, going through everything with a cut-happy pixie on my shoulder I realised something else that I’d been previously told. I have a tendency to repeat myself. With repetition and a build-up of adjectives, some of the writing was getting lost in itself. Cut, cut, cut! And the work made more impact. I kept the best phrases and descriptions or reworked the ones I really loved and couldn’t bring myself to part with.

  1. For a moment she was a little afraid.

In a final bid to avoid unnecessary repetition in the manuscript I did a ctrl-f word search for a few phrases such as ‘For a moment’ and ‘a little’. I’ll tell you something, I use those tags far too often! I think within 30,000 words I ended up deleting them over 50 times. They didn’t add anything to the story, the plot, the description. They were filler! All they did was water down the writing and stop the protagonist committing to any particular emotion. If she was ‘A little afraid’ why is she just not afraid? If ‘she paused for a moment,’ why doesn’t she just ‘pause.’ Cut!

Everyone has different version of these phrases that they fall back on. My nemesis as I’ve started to refer to them. They’re things I don’t even remember writing! Maybe I don’t, maybe they just appear… That must be it. Those and spelling/grammar errors.

It may be worth going through any work under editing and seeing if you can find one or two and then doing a word search to find out just how many times they sneak in, pesky little things. I definitely go through additional phases of ‘word of the day’ that will sneak in over and again in a chapter if I took a shine to a certain sound when the chapter was in construction. Thank goodness for editing!

The best thing about recognising (the latest) failing of you work, is that when you go on to write new things, you are aware of them and so you make them less often. This does open up the path to making shiny new mistakes, but I like to believe that by slowly eliminating bad habits and trends I’m improving every time I do a thorough edit.

I’m sure there is even evidence to support this as whenever I write I feel it’s better than what I was able to write 6 months ago. I still need to edit the draft, but the process is less painful. I know what I’m looking for, what needs to be edited for clarity what is actually my style. Maybe I still use too many adjectives- but that is because I like long and rambling description. That is a choice, it’s not just the adjectives sneaking in a little.

What are the writing habits you have learnt to look out for? Let me know 🙂

Fibi xx

Daily Prompt: Back to School / I don’t got no gramma’

Daily Prompt: Back to SchoolIf you could take a break from your life and go back to school to master a subject, what would it be?

Now here is an interesting question! If I could go back to school, what would I want to master? Well, ideally I’d love to learn all the ‘stuff’ about grammar and punctuation – I’d particularly like to learn how to spell (auto-correct, you are a fiendish friend!) I don’t know where I was, when everyone else was learning all the ‘rules’ of grammar, but I’m certain I wasn’t in the class!

When it comes to the rules, I always feel deficient. Why does i go before e except after c? When should I use a semi-colon, and the possessive apostrophe ends up everywhere, even when there are no s’sssss to be found! I’m aware these days, that with the wonder of googliness, I can read up on all these rules and re-learn them. However, I feel cheated. These aren’t things I should be learning, (I can’t relearn something that I’ve never learnt) these are things that I should know.

The deficit is a hole within me. When I’m pulling out the story and the flow and the words and throwing them onto the page like an artist with paint; I can’t help but feel I’ve been robbed of a valuable tool – the paint brush perhaps. Yes, I can throw a variety of colours onto the page, and I might even be more imaginative, painting without a brush, but when I’m trying to be a serious artist, the lack of definition shows.

Please could I learn some grammar?

Thanks!