Monday 19 December 2016

Standing On My Own Two Feet - Goodbye Writers Workshop

I almost feel like I graduated from sixth form again or something.  I'm quite possibly never going to see a bunch of people I saw once a month for the past two years.  Writers Workshop has concluded for 2016 and I will not be able to attend next year.

I'm always amazed at how well a group of strangers can work together and build meaningful relationships when they have something in common.  And when that something is a love of words and writing it really does feel like a secret club you're privileged to be a member of.

With regards to content, we had a bit of mop up - a brief foray into what you do when you've finished ordering your words into the most perfect arrangement.  As ever, that discussion was wide ranging with differing opinion but also charged with electric possibility and hope.  You have to have buckets of hope as an inspiring writer.

The resounding piece of advice was to 'let it go'.  Apologies for creating images of snow, ice and Disney princesses singing but.... you really do need to send out your book without still being deeply, personally, attached to it.  You have to consider it as a saleable, marketable product.  Detach yourself emotionally, if you can, because there will be negative reactions and reviews.  Once you launch your book into the universe, you will be out of control of the outcome.  Someone, somewhere will be trying to make money from your emotional heartache so when you've finished your book....WRITE SOMETHING ELSE!

The Writers & Artist Yearbook is your bible - but then you should already know that.  Get a headshot. Yes, really, get a professional image to use across all your platforms, for interviews and on the back of your book.  I know, I know, it's on my to do list.  Write a professional sounding, third person, biography - you will need one.  Set yourself up as self employed for when all those royalties come rolling in.  And finally, write.  Everyday.

Sunday 11 December 2016

Indie Publishing - Promo Promo Promo

In January 2015 I wrote the first chapter of The Gaia Effect.  It had a different title at that time and that was all I had, one chapter - no plan, no idea, no clue of what would happen next.  The chapter made it through to the finalist stage of a local writing competition so I then had seven months to complete the book.  And complete it I did.  I came second.

The next step was to get an agent so I researched and refined query letter after synopsis after query letter and sent out to 50 agents.  I had a lot of positive no thank-yous which was strangely encouraging.  I had one request for full manuscript.  The feedback was brief but negative.  There was still work to be done but now I was uncertain how to move forward.

Then I had more good news from Barking & Dagenham Library service.  They would pay for The Gaia Effect to be published by New Generation Publishing, a self publishing service for independent authors.  I knuckled down and made a huge editing sweep of the book - I cut all my darlings.  I recorded the book and listened to it chapter by chapter which was actually incredibly helpful.  There are still bits that I wish were better than they are but there comes a point when you just have to let it go and move on.

Manuscript submitted, typeset checked, cover artwork approved.  And with that the book is done and sent to the printers.  It will soon be made available for anyone and everyone to buy, read and *gulp* review.  What should I be doing now?

It turns out - a whole hell of a lot.  BooksGoSocial has some very interesting training programs about direct marketing and using email marketing which gave me a great starting point.  I have a huge list of bookmarked websites to go through and there are a lot of social media platforms on which I have little or no presence.  Did you know that Pinterest is the 3rd largest social media site?  And that something like 85% of the users are women.  That's good for my book.  I need an author Pinterest board.  And apparently book trailers are a thing.  So I need a YouTube channel.  And a mailing list. And an email newsletter.  And more twitter followers.  And I need to plan a book launch.  And go through nine pages of notes in my A4 notepad.  Turns out just being able to write a book in the first place is the easy part.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Get into twos #playwriting

It's that awful phrase you dreaded at school - it usually meant the teacher wanted you to get into a partnership with someone other than your mates.  As a grown up being asked to work in a pair is no less daunting.  The last playwriting workshop of the year involved a collaborative exercise - work together to write the beginning of a play using the theme of moving - in ten minutes.

As always a diverse group of people results in diverse pieces of writing.  We had two on moving house, one on moving forward in life and one on being part of a movement.  Working with someone else was an interesting experience.  So often the words we choose to use are highly personal, the topics mean something deeply to us even if we are not aware of it at first.  How would two different writers find a common ground?  I sat back, I didn't want to antagonise anything - I've been accused of being bossy too many times.

But it worked out well.  We just began talking, throwing names out into the air.  Trying to find ones that fitted the characters we were thinking of.  My partner liked to talk through all the back story, getting more and more complicated, thinking up more twists and turns.  We had burned through five minutes of the precious time we had for writing and I needed to get it down on paper.  It was fun, bouncing ideas off of each other and creating new characters from scratch.

When we read the piece out to the group they commented that we had been clever and subtle, how well we had woven things together, thought of all the interplay but in reality we just bounced wild ideas off each other and had a lot of fun doing it.  It was a good thing to hear as two days previously at Writers Workshop I had sat through a round up of everything we'd covered - all these things I was supposed to be doing while I was writing and I panicked.  I didn't think I did any of them.  Maybe I wasn't cut out to be a writer at all.  But now I believe that maybe writing is a instinctual thing and we keep learning with every sentence we write.

Here is the ten minute collaboration.

New Home
Malcolm & Wendy Tibbins, late 40s, meet Ashley, a young estate agent outside a two up, two down terrace.

ASHLEY:  Mr & Mrs Tibbins, you found it alright then.
MALCOLM:  Yes fine thanks.
ASHLEY:  Mrs Price is here, ready to show us round.  (rings doorbell)

Yvonne Price opens the door, Malcolm starts spluttering.

ASHLEY:  Ah, Good Morning Mrs Price
YVONNE:  Ms actually.  Please call me Yvonne.
MALCOLM:  Yvonne!
WENDY:  Where are your manners Malcolm?
MALCOLM:  Oh sorry, good morning Yvonne
WENDY:  (whispers) Why did you say it like that?
MALCOLM:  Looks more like a Marie to me.
ASHLEY:  Come through, come through.  This is the lounge area.  A very welcoming space.
MALCOLM:  So M...err Yvonne, why are you selling?
WENDY:  Malcolm!  Manners.
YVONNE:  I'm moving to Spain.  There's no future for me here.
WENDY:  Oh, you got family out there?
YVONNE:  My fiance has a condo.
MALCOLM:  Fiance!!
WENDY:  What's wrong with you Malcolm?
ASHLEY:  Shall we go through to the kitchen?  There's a lovely breakfast bar that catches the morning sun.
WENDY:  Oh what a lovely photo - are those your children?
MALCOLM:  You never said you had kids.

Wendy looks at Malcolm and Yvonne in turn.

ASHLEY:  And if we just go upstairs... here is the master bedroom.
WENDY:  Oh what's that perfume?
YVONNE:  Chanel No. 5
WENDY:  That's what you bought your mum for her birthday isn't it?

Wendy exits the room.

YVONNE:  Malcolm, are you alright?  You look a little pale.
MALCOLM:  Why didn't you tell me you were engaged?
YVONNE:  Why didn't you tell me you were married?

They walk into the hallway.

ASHLEY:  And this is the bathroom.
WENDY:  What are you two whispering about?
Malcolm and Yvonne look guilty.
ASHLEY:  As you can see it's a lovely family home.
WENDY:  Huh - that's just like the tie our son bought you for Christmas.  Where is your fiance Mrs Price?
YVONNE:  In Spain (looks at Malcolm)