S R Silcox - Author

Blog updated 2-3 times a month.

Year: 2016

Some thoughts on Orlando

I have struggled with life today.

I wasn’t going to write anything about the tragedy in Orlando. I didn’t feel I had anything to add to the many thousands of voices already speaking out. I still don’t think I do.

What I do have though, is an honesty I have discovered about myself, awakened due to those terrible events that occurred on the other side of the world. Something I wanted to share with those who may be feeling the same.

As humans, not necessarily a part of the LGBTQ community, you know in your heart how terrible the events in Orlando are.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, I feel it in my very soul.

Those were my people; my tribe. Although we never met, we share a bond invisible to those outside of the LGBTQ community. It is borne of the scars and stories of those of us who came before; those who suffered terribly at the hands of governments and police forces and others, over decades. Those for whom until relatively recently, it was a crime to be who they were.

I have older lesbian friends. Good friends who have told us stories from their younger years, about persecution, and hiding themselves. Of secret meetings and being paranoid that they would get caught and end up in jail, or lose their children, or on the end of a beating, or worse.

And I thought I knew. I thought I understood that struggle, and I was grateful to them for forging the path for me and those of my generation and making it easier for us to be loud and proud.

But I didn’t know. I didn’t understand the fear, and the frustration, or the strength and the tenacity and the passion they had. Not until today.

Add to that discovery the revelation that I currently live in the most conservative electorate in Queensland – the second most conservative electorate in Australia. I certainly feel it on a day like today.

The activist in me wanted to wear my pride colours down the main street of this town, out and proud and unafraid, to show solidarity for those we lost today. But the truth of it is, most of the people here won’t even know about the events in Orlando until they see it on the news tonight. They may have heard it in passing on ABC radio, but they wouldn’t even give it a second thought.

And just thinking about that made me realise that the most painful thing about being a minority, and living where I do, is the isolation. So isolated, in fact, that even our attempts to join the local LGBT group (extremely hard to find and get hold of) came to nothing – even they are closed to outsiders.

That realisation hit me like a tonne of bricks.

I cried this morning when I read about the scale of the tragedy in Orlando. I cried for those lost and those who survived. I cried for the families of them all, and I cried for our community, once again the target of vicious, unfathomable hatred.

But when I realised how isolated I felt today, sorting through my feelings about this tragedy, I cried for myself. I cried because while I don’t feel unsafe, I don’t feel safe. I cried because being a minority out here means I can’t take ownership of what I write for a living and be proud of it when I so desperately want to. I cried because I hate the feeling of being watched when I hold my wife’s hand when we walk down the street, or when we sit in the only nice restaurant in town and celebrate our anniversary. I cried, because all of this makes me feel stifled and sometimes, alone.

There is nothing more that I want right now than to be somewhere, anywhere, there is a vigil or a gathering; a place to feel the strength of my community.

I want to stand in the main street of this small town and shout “Enough is enough!”

Enough with the rhetoric; enough with the shame; enough with the vilification that you call ‘holding an opinion’ or having ‘religious freedom’.

Enough with thinking you know better.

Enough with inciting fear of those who are different to you.

Enough with the condemnation of people you don’t even know and will never, ever meet.

Enough with allowing hatred and fear to win out over love and acceptance and tolerance.

Because no matter how long it takes,

#loveislove and #lovewillalwayswin

 

Why authors should outsource

(Plus a quick writing update)

I just finished a project I’ve been working on for over six months, and it’s now off to first round edits. While I’m waiting for it to get back, I decided to take a couple of days off from actual writing and start getting organised for that projects publication.

As Indie authors, everything falls to us to organise (unless we have a personal/virtual assistant, which I hope to have eventually), and for my first book, Crush, I did everything except the cover design.

For this new book, when I thought about having to do the blurb, I broke out in a cold sweat. I absolutely hated writing the blurb for Crush, and it’s not something that comes naturally to me. Yes, I know I’m an author, and creative writing is something I love, but back cover copy and blurb writing is an art form, and it’s one I am not good at. I know the story inside and out, but distilling it down to its essence without seeming bland and without giving a laundry list of ‘this happens and then that happens’ is almost impossible for me.

I wrote a so-so blurb in order to get Crush out on time, but I knew that I would end up spending weeks trying to write one to get the next book out, and I didn’t want to delay the release of the next book simply because I couldn’t get my shit together and write a blurb.

So, I made the decision to outsource the blurb writing to someone I’ve never met, through fiverr, something I’ve never used.

The result was fantastic. My original blurb:

Tess Copeland’s beloved family tradition, the Crush Festival, is under threat from poor attendance and funding cuts and she needs to come up with a way to stop it from falling into the hands of an opportunistic councillor.

Up-and-coming singer Maddie Lambert wants a break from her hectic life and she’s hoping that spending some time away from the spotlight in small-town Chesterfield will help her regroup and refocus.

Tess and Maddie’s budding relationship gives them both a welcome distraction from their problems. But when disaster strikes and the Crush Festival seems doomed, and Maddie’s secret is exposed, they both need to decide what’s important in order to save the festival and Maddie’s career.

Now, that’s okay, and it gives you an idea about the story for sure, but emotive? Not overly.

The new one below, however, blows the original out of the water:

Summertime in Chesterfield means two very different things for teenagers Tess Copeland and Maddie Lambert.

For Tess, spending time with family and anticipating the annual Crush Festival goes hand-in-hand with the country air and the sweet smell of a cane fire. For Maddie, Chesterfield offers an escape from the demands of a reality that she’s just unable to run from.

This summer, however, there is one lit fire that’s even harder to contain than the massive bonfires that characterise the town’s summer spectacle, as young love and awakened passions smoulder in the shadows.

Amidst the turmoil of growing up and the pressures of youth and fame, can these two young women navigate the precipices of adulthood unscathed? Will Maddie and Tess be able to overcome the secrets of a small town and save the beloved festival before it’s too late? Find out in this touchingly sweet coming-of-age tale from SR Silcox–grab your copy today!

See how much more emotive the second one is? It’s much more interesting to read than mine.

And it made me realise something that I hadn’t really come to terms with until now – I suck at selling my own work because I don’t believe I’m good enough. My lack of confidence comes through in how I wrote the initial blurb. It’s unsure of itself, and though it did the job early on, it doesn’t take someone by the scruff of the neck and say READ THIS BOOK!

So without taking any time to make the decision, I went ahead and requested the blurb for the next book as well, and as soon as the job was accepted, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Everything that’s left to do to get the book out is on me, and those are things I’m looking forward to doing (except the covers – they’ll be outsourced as well).

And that means I can get started on my next project without having to take a month off to get this one finished and sorted, and then trying to get back into writing.

Which brings me to a quick writing update. In my last post in January, I said I had a goal of writing a minimum of 1,000 words a day, five days a week. I set that goal to start on the 1st of February, because I wrote January off thanks to a move back out west which really took it out of me mentally.

I bought myself a calendar and some stickers, and asked my wife to come up with a small treat every week if I hit my goals, and for some reason, it worked. Even though I took a week off in the middle of February (as you can see in the pic below), I still hammered my word count.

February's writing goals achieved

February’s writing goals achieved

 

Tracking my word count in a spreadsheet also helped enormously. I had a goal to hit 20,000 words for the month, and I ended up with over 27,000 words, which is amazing. I didn’t get the project finished in the month, thanks to that week off in the middle, but I did get it finished in the first couple of days of March when I wrote over 13,000 words over four days.

What’s the takeaway from all of this? A couple of things I think.

  1. Revise and improve your process, and you’ll start seeing better results.
  2. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and outsource the stuff that you really aren’t good at to people who are.
  3. Also, for me, setting an achievable goal, such as a minimum of 1,000 words a day over a 5-day week, and tracking my output over time has meant I far exceeded my own expectations.

It also means I can get to my other projects earlier than I expected, and maybe have some spare time to get stuck into some other ones which I have been pushing back for a few years now.

March is shaping up to be a great month, because I get to start the 3 book series I’ve been mulling over for almost two years, and with the next book due for release in May, it’s going to be a busy and exciting next couple of months.

I can’t wait to let you in on the details of the next book in the Girls of Summer series.

Happy writing!

The year that’s been and the year ahead

(The requisite end of year post).

I meant to post this yesterday (31st December 2015) but there was cricket on the telly and then we caught up with a friend for lunch and then we had to prepare for New Year’s celebrations, and so I’m doing it now, on the 1st of January 2016. I don’t do resolutions, so this is meant to be a quick look back at 2015 and a look ahead to what I want to achieve in 2016.

In general, 2015 was the kind of year that cemented in my mind why I want to write and what I want to focus on. There was a LOT of discussion generally in the publishing and blogging world around diversity in fiction, which is fantastic, though it still hasn’t translated into a marked uptick in diverse fiction being published yet. Though that could change over the next few years as the cogs in traditional publishing are slow to turn, so we may see more diverse offerings in the future. I’m excited to think that I could be part of that.

So. My 2015.

Published

Crush was published in April, after I spent almost 6 months on it from starting the story in late 2014, to submitting it to a small LGBTQ+ press, and then subsequently having the revised manuscript rejected by that press in March after doing a shit tonne of work to it to double the word count from the original short novella. (You can read more about that here). After a couple of weeks of soul-searching and a good pep talk from my wife, I put Crush out myself, and I’m extremely happy I did. While I know it’s going to be hard to gain traction with what I write (YA contemporary romance on the younger end of the scale) by publishing myself, I also know that I’m the one person who is most passionate about those stories.

I also put Crush up on Wattpad in order to gain some readers for it, and it was featured in the Teen Fiction section in October, which really boosted it up the charts. It reached #54 overall in the Teen Fiction Category, which is spectacular, and although it’s dropped off the charts now, it’s still being read regularly and commented on. The comments are the best part about having Crush up on a site like Wattpad – the readers get to interact with the story as well as other readers (and me), and it’s great seeing what readers think in real time as they read each chapter. It will come off the featured list in April, at which point I’ll decide whether to keep it up there or not.

I made a few contacts at Brisbane Pride in October, and sent down some paperback copies to the Newfarm Library as well as to QSpace at the Gold Coast to add to their LGBTQ+ libraries. I’ve also been asked to donate to a local library on the coast, and though I haven’t had the opportunity to get that done yet, I’ll certainly organise that early this year. I also gave away a few paperback copies to some excited Wattpad readers, and will do another giveaway a month or two before Crush is due to be taken off the featured list.

Also late in 2015, I decided to publish two short stories under a pen name to test an idea I’ve been mulling over for a few years that falls into the adult crime fiction category. I stuck them both in KDP Select, which means that Amazon readers who subscribe to Select can borrow them for free as part of their subscription. I’ve not done any advertising or publicity for them, and they’re both being borrowed regularly, which is cool. I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do with them as yet, but I will decide in the second half of 2016.

Process

I’ve learned a lot more about my process over 2015. Firstly, mornings are my most productive time for writing, because it’s the quietest time in the neighbourhood and the least likely time I’ll get distracted or interrupted. In light of this, I’m working on changing my daily routine to take advantage of this, which includes waking up earlier (which I seem to be doing naturally anyway) and getting in an hour of writing before I do anything else.

I’ve also learned (or reinforced my belief really) that I write much faster with a solid plot summary and chapter outlines. I’ve also worked out what’s most important in those plot summaries – characters and setting. If I know those two well enough, the story will come naturally. I’m working on ways to get better at getting the summaries done more effectively before I start the actual writing process.

I’ve also learned that the longer I take to write a book, the worse I feel about it over time, so I think it’s important I get the outlining process sorted so I can become more efficient all round and stop my brutal inner critic from lording it over my creative process. The fastest book I’ve written (Three Wishes, which was written in under a month from idea to published) is still the one that needed the least amount of final editing. I think that says something.

 

Writing Goals

I missed last year’s writing goals due to a bit of upheaval in my personal life in the second half of the year. We moved twice in a month – the first move in the same town, and the second to another town 6 hours away. It’s likely we’ll have another big move one way of the other in the next month or so, so I’m keeping my goals modest for the first half of the year.

In light of that, my most basic goal is to hit 1,000 words minimum per working day, which in my instance is weekdays only since I don’t work weekends (and going by an online counter gives me 250 working days, excluding public holidays). That will give me 250,000 words for the year, which is more than double of anything I’ve written previously. Because I write shorter novels (or novellas) of around an average of 35,000 words, this means I should get 7 and a bit books finished – though that also depends on editing and the creative process.

Which brings me to my only other work-related goal for the year, which is to get a better handle on my process. I’ve struggled with it over the last few years, so this year I’m determined to get myself into a more solid routine and put my writing time ahead of everything and everyone else. I tested a routine for the last couple of weeks last year and I got more work done in 2 weeks than I did in 2 months previous, so I think that’s really telling me something.

Personal Goals

One of the things I’ve struggled with is the distinction between personal time and writing/publishing time, and I guess a lot of people who work for themselves and/or from their home office go through the same thing. So this year, I’m going to schedule in personal time so I don’t feel like I’m goofing off too much, or working too much and not having enough ‘me’ time.

Also, one of the things I decided late last year was to pick one new skill or thing I want to learn and do that for a year. 2016 will see me learning to play the ukulele, which is so far proving to be great fun. My wife bought me a cool little uke for Christmas which I’ve already started strumming and getting the hang of. Youtube and the internet certainly make it much easier to learn, though I have to make sure I don’t get too distracted by all the videos and methods and just choose one or two sites to concentrate on. So far, I know four of the most basic chords and can play (almost through from start to finish) I’m Yours by Jason Mraz, Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin and Riptide by Vance Joy. It’s a cool little instrument to play and having played the guitar previously has made it easy to pick up. I’m planning on having a good repertoire to play by the end of the year and the confidence to play them in front of family and friends.

Finally, 2016 is the year I want to get healthier and fitter. Writing is such a sedentary occupation and sitting for long hours in front of a laptop can cause havoc with your health. Last year, my wife completed the Michelle Bridges 12WBT for the second time, and as I’m the main cook in the house, I did it with her. I lost around 6kgs, which is great, and now I want to tone up and keep the weight constant.

I started doing Five Tibetans last year as well, as a way to get myself out of my chair for 20 minutes or so to get my body moving and that’s really helped to maintain my weight. I got some resistance bands for Christmas, so I’ll be adding a morning resistance routine to my fitness regimen as well. I’ve only been doing that for a few days, but I can already feel the difference, especially in my mental capacity. Getting the blood pumping in the morning is very conducive to opening up the mind and getting my creative juices flowing.

 

Coming up in 2016

Okay, so what to expect from me in 2016?

Firstly, I’m working on the second book in the Girls of Summer series, called After Summer. I’m about half-way through the first draft at the moment and after I spend the first week in January adjusting the plot for some changes I’ve decided on over the Christmas/New Year break, I’ll get stuck back into it with the intention of getting it to first readers by the end of January. I’d love to have it ready to release in May.

I have a 3-book project I was going to get done last year, but Crush and After Summer took up the majority of my time, so it was held over until this year. I’ve gone backwards and forwards on plots for the stories, going from three to five and back to three again. I’ve got the main plot points down for all three books, and want to spend February (while my first readers mull over After Summer) completing the book summaries and chapter beats. Because it’s to do with cricket, I want to get at least the first two books complete so I can get the first one out in November 2016.

With a goal of 250,000 words for the year, completing those four books leaves me with a lot of wiggle room to write some short stories and work on a few other projects I’ve had in mind for the last few years, as well as make a start in the last half of the year on the third book in the Girls of Summer series (which I haven’t decided on yet).

I also want to get Three Wishes out into print, and though I have the files ready to go for that, finances prevented me from getting covers completed. I also have a follow-up book mapped out for Sophie, Kate and Mac which I’d love to get done in time for Christmas, so all things going well, that one will be out as well.

 

Have a fantastic 2016!

SR