When people are looking for new books to explore, there are three elements that get their attention: The cover The text at the back of the cover The introduction You’ll think about the first two elements after you write the book. The introduction, however, has no time to wait. All great books start with greatness. Do you remember the first sentence of Anna Karenina? “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” After reading that first sentence and the entire introduction, you just know that something extraordinary will follow. You know it’s more than just another love story. How do you get there? How do you craft the perfect introduction to hook the reader? We have few tips to offer.
English psychiatrist Edward de Bono famously said: “Creative thinking – in terms of idea creativity – is not a mystical talent. It is a skill that can be practised and nurtured.” Creativity can change the world, and you don’t have to be an artist or a composer to display it. Just take a look at today’s tech billionaires, from Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Gates and the late, great Steve Jobs. They were born into the same world as everyone else, but they were able to harness their creativity to take the gem of an idea and to turn it into something revolutionary. Inspiration is particularly important for artists, musicians and creative types, but it’s not exclusively the domain of global superstars and artistic icons. We all need a little inspiration, whether we’re writing essays and reports for school or whether we’re shopping for birthday presents for our loved ones.’ Finding Inspiration Unfortunately, finding inspiration isn’t always easy, and it often abandons us when we’re most in need of it. This is most obvious in the case of writers’ block, the phenomenon in which a writer finds themselves unable to continue. There’s no equivalent for painters, sculptors or composers. Jeanie Herrmann of Aussiewritings.com describes writer’s block as “the biggest perceived threat” to would-be writers, adding that “it can be managed and defeated if you have the right techniques”. According to Herrmann, writer’s block is nothing more than a lack of inspiration, and she argues that if you’re running low on inspiration, you simply need to go out and find some. But finding inspiration isn’t always easy. Even global superstars and iconic authors struggle to find inspiration from time to time. Part of the reason for this is that many people find inspiration and motivation from positive experiences, events and impressions. That’s… read more →
Writer’s block can happen to anyone but this doesn’t make it easier. There’s nothing pleasant in staring at the blank Word document and trying to think of what to write, especially when you need to write it as soon as possible. Moreover, it can affect all kinds of people: experienced writers working on a book at a slow pace, bloggers who have a certain writing schedule, and students who have a lot of essays to write. If you are a student, it’s not as scary as it seems. You can always ask for help with your research paper or an essay. However, if writing is your job, you need to overcome the block as soon as possible. While writer’s block is definitely an unpleasant thing, it can be overcome with time and effort. What’s important here is to be patient. Don’t punish yourself for not being able to write at the moment, encourage yourself to work on it instead, so you can overcome the block easily and happily. I wish you good luck with that!
You should write every day. Learn the rules then break them. Variety is the spice of life and you’ll get stuck if you only have one project. You need a routine. Write whenever you feel like it! Write one thing at a time and make sure you finish it. Do 500 words a day and never end on a preposition. There’s so much writing advice out there that it sometimes feels overwhelming. I spent my first ten years as a writer feeling that I was Doing It Wrong. I don’t write every day, or write X number of words. I don’t really plot. I don’t have a routine. I just write as I want to, rather than analysing the language and trying to develop a feel for my themes. I don’t follow genre rules, I play fast and loose with my characters, and I don’t worldbuild before I write. I felt inadequate, amateur, and frankly as if all of my writing failings were stemming from my inability to follow several hundred pieces of contradictory advice. You know what? Screw it. It’s YOUR talent. Try things. See what works. People work in different ways – what works for someone else, even if they’re a best-selling and world-famous author, might not work for you. Experiment. Find your groove and make it work for you. If something isn’t working – if you’re not writing, not finding the time, haven’t got the inspiration, have an idea but don’t finish it, can’t get over that blank page feeling – then that’s the time to be looking at the advice. See if working for an hour in the morning makes you write. See if a routine helps. See if having six simultaneous pieces and working on each of them in turn means you Get Writing Done.… read more →
There’s a lot of things that can stop you writing. Sometimes it’s real life, which can’t usually be helped; if the dog wants your laptop as a toy and your screen’s now decorated with bite marks, that does put a crimp in your ability to type. But sometimes the show-stoppers are either in your head, or in your writing. Here’s five more things that might be stopping your story in its tracks, and some suggestions to overcome them. I’ve got a blank page… You don’t know how to start. You don’t know what the first line should be. You don’t even know if the idea’s worth writing. Flash fiction! Write a story in six words. A hundred words. Three hundred words. Write a paragraph about an image, something you spotted in the street, the eighth line from the book nearest you. Prompts – as a starting point, try Reddit’s r/writingprompts. There’s a whole archive of them, even if you don’t want to put anything on the site. Start in the middle. Write that one scene that set the idea off; write that one snippet of conversation; tell us something about your character. Write the fifth chapter. Write the ending. Get something on the page and then go back to the beginning. My plot is wonky Distill it down to the basics: Get Ring, Take Ring To Mordor, Save The World. You can then expand a little – how are they doing all of those things? What’s stopping them, what’s helping them, what’s the outcome? This can sometimes help to focus on what the actual problem is, and shows where the holes are. Get an outside perspective. It often really helps to get someone else’s ideas; they’ll come up with things you haven’t even considered, and even if you don’t use… read more →
When you send a submission, different publishers ask for different things. However, it will usually be at least the first 10,000 words, which should be your first 3-5 chapters. This is what the editor will read and what they will use to decide if your book is any good, and then decide if they want to read the rest of it. And it’s not just the editor; later on, the reader will do exactly the same thing. Ever flicked through the first chapter in a bookshop or read it on Amazon? What made you want to continue and buy the book? What made you put it down and move on? It’d be your impression from the first chapter or two. Basically, the start of your book is pretty freakin’ important for giving a first impression. Have a think about the first five chapters of your book. Have a think about any critique you’ve received. And if you’ve ever uttered any of these phrases or you think they might apply to you, please take a long, hard look at your work… “It gets better later…” I can and will stop reading. If you haven’t hooked my attention in the first five chapters, then you’ve lost me. The same goes with the longer view; if you don’t grab me with the first book, why am I going to read until Book 5 of your series when the ‘real’ action starts? You need to get me interested now. “This is just the prologue…” So why are you starting here? Start with the action! Start with the story! Tell me the parts you find fascinating! When you become a millionaire best-seller you can always do a “pre-story” novel or novella or something, but for now – get to the interesting bits. “Oh, you’ve got… read more →
For the next two posts in this series, we’re going to have a look at how the outside world reacts to your writing – and, more importantly, how you react to that. There’s two parts; this one is focusing on taking rejection, and the second will focus on how to take critique and feedback. So, you’ve written something. It’s awesome! Now you want to get it out into the world. So, you submit it to a writing competition, an agent, a publisher, an anthology… And it gets rejected. Let’s face it, this frickin’ sucks. You wrote something amazing, and they hate it? Nooooo! So what’s the best way to deal with it? Everyone gets rejected The most famous writers have stories of the piles of rejection letters they’ve received, and I suspect that every single publishing house has rejected someone who’s later gone on to be famous. You’re not alone. It’s ok to feel bad Grab some ice cream and have an evening off to wallow. You work’s awful and everyone hates it! They just didn’t understand it! You’ll never get published! And then get back up, and get on with it. Rejections suck, but even best-selling authors get them. Have a pity party, and then dust yourself off and keep going. Treat it as a learning experience Take a long, hard look at your work. Was it simply that the publisher didn’t think it fitted, or could you actually have submitted something better? What needs improvement? If they’ve given you feedback, take time to consider it. But… Don’t argue It’s really hard to fight the urge to defend your work, particularly if you’ve been given feedback, but it really doesn’t help! If your work has been rejected, there is nothing you can say that will change the reviewer’s mind. Take the… read more →
I’ll start with a disclaimer and some credentials; I’m involved in the submissions and editing process for Grimbold Books, my publisher. It’s a small indie press, which in many ways is wonderful – anyone involved get to do a bit of everything! But it’s really made me realise that when I first started submitting writing to publishers, I had absolutely no idea of the process that goes on once your writing has hit the submissions inbox. Surely they just…read it? And then publish it? Well, yes…sort of. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. So, before you do any of this, go and read 5 Questions to Ask Before Submitting a Short Story. It applies to novels, too! Stage 1: Submission Read the subs guidelines! I know they’re annoying and it’s a pain to have to format (I submit too, so I have a lot of sympathy for the never-ending task of re-formatting things) but it really does make reading easier. And on the same note, please send the amount asked. If the guidelines wants 10,000 words, a little under or over is fine…but don’t send your entire manuscript. Having a synopsis is nice; it gives us some idea of how the story unfolds. We often won’t have time to read the entire thing, so the first 30 pages and a synopsis is excellent. Tell us something about you; you don’t have to seem quirky, but just some insight into who you are is nice. However, your work will speak for itself, so if (like me) you’re fairly self-conscious when it comes to showing off, you won’t miss out by not giving a huge bio. And lastly (again) – read the guidelines! You want to make the publisher’s job as easy as possible – and that means sending what… read more →
Almond Press publish a variety of short stories, so I thought I’d take a look at some classical short stories that everyone should read.
As most writers will know, in order to produce the perfect piece of work, there are a number of elements that need to be aligned before you can really begin to create the tour de force you imagine in your head. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have sat down with the intention of producing something solid and wonderful. I have the time, I have the brainpower – so why is nothing coming out like it should? Writer’s block is something that has always plagued the writing profession. It can drive you mad, and sometimes gets worse and worse, like a dam of some sort is preventing the words from flowing. So how do we get around this? Obviously what works for one, won’t work for another, but I’ve always found that the best place to start is to step away from writing for a short while. If you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it, so why waste the time and words on something you know you won’t be able to do anything with? Have a sit down, read something inspirational, have a cup of tea, go outside! I always love walking in the woods behind my house. Getting back to nature never fails to calm my busy head. Another thing I like to do is just get out there and do ‘stuff’. See friends, go places, have an adventure, experience feelings that will make you want to write. Sometimes it feels like the last thing you want to do when there’s work to be done, but you’ll only have to go back to it later if you feel the work isn’t up to scratch. Often I’ll find a book, a song, or a movie – anything that makes me want to start creating again. Sometimes… read more →