S R Silcox - Author

Blog updated 2-3 times a month.

Category: Writing (page 1 of 7)

My new library card

I’ve been meaning to get one for years, but today I finally relented and applied for a library card.

A few reasons, I suppose.

Firstly, libraries are such great resources, and as an author, I should be supporting them much more than I have been.

Secondly, I’ve started to sell a few of my ebooks to libraries via Overdrive, so I wanted to check out how it all works. (BTW, my books are available via Overdrive, but it depends on your local library’s catalogue, so you may need to ask your local libary to stock them).

The kicker for me, though, was a conversation I had with my wife last week about the cost of entertainment. While we’re not huge spenders, up until the weekend, we had both Netflix and Stan, and I’ve just signed up for a Kindle Unlimited account, because it was cheaper than buying the number of books I was every month.

And while I’m a fan of the subscription model (mostly – though I do wish the amount authors get paid per borrow was more, which is why I don’t have my books in KU at the moment), I realised how differently I tend to seek out the books I want to read since I started using my KU subscription.

The choice is limited, as more and more authors go ‘wide’ and publish on other platforms (Amazon requires exclusivity in order to utilise the KU system).

And a lot of the big-name authors don’t have their books in KU because, I’m assuming, their publishers want sales and not borrows.

Plus, we’re trying to save some money, and although it’s not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, eveery little bit does count.

So I’m going to read what I’ve borrowed on KU this month and then cancel my subscription.

And then I’m going to start borrowing my ebooks from the library.

I’ve had a quick look at the apps I can access with my new library card, but have to wait until my card arrives to use most of them.

I am a little disappointed to not be able to find an LGBTIQ+ category in the apps  I can access so far, and will be interested to see if that’s the case for all of them.

I have some further thoughts on that subject that I think I’ll look at next week, hopefully after I’ve been able to get stuck in to using the apps and borrowing books.

I am curious though as to how many of you have library cards and actively use them? And do you use them for physical books or ebooks? (Did you even know you could access ebooks with your local library card??)

Hit me up in the comments – I’d love to know your thoughts.

The Invisibility Cloak of an LGBTIQ YA Author

I’m preparing to give my very first author reading in a few weeks, which means I’ve been spitballing ideas on what to talk about that won’t bore the pants off people and maybe, hopefully, even convince them to buy a book or two.

After asking for advice from friends, thinking about the books I write, and reading a good friends brand new blog, I settled on my theme for my pre-reading talk.

Invisibility.

Invisibility is a superpower for those of us who are introverts. It comes in particularly handy for those of us who write in tiny niches, which LGBTIQ YA stories certainly are.

On the one hand, we wish our stories would get much more attention, if not because it would be good to actually make a living wage off our writing, then to be able to reach readers much more easily.

On the other hand, being invisible as an author writing in a tiny niche means almost never having to explain what you write. It means never feeling judged when you get pressed to answer the question ‘what type of YA do you write?’.

Sometimes, when you mention the word ‘lesbian’ in conjuction with being an author, the person you’re talking to jumps right over that assumption barrel and lands on ‘erotica’ – or at the very least, sex scenes.

It can be exhausting explaining that writing lesbian characters, particularly in the young adult genre, does not necessarily equal sex.

So anyway, thinking about this reading, and what I wanted to talk about, I had decided to explain why I choose to write happy lesbian YA fiction.

I’ve been taken to task by some people – not often but often enough – for not writing realistic characters, which essentially means that because my characters suffer no homophobia, have happy endings and have supportive family and friends around them, that I may as well call my books fantasies.

Apart from the fact that I have been lucky enough myself to have a happy ending, have suffered no outwardly bad homophobia that I can think of, and have loving and supportive friends and family, I just think there are other writers out there better positioned to write those darker stories than me.

And that led me to thinking about how authors like me stumble around on the fringes of the publishing industry.

I’m a niche within a niche – a self-published author writing in LGBTIQ YA/children’s fiction, but I don’t write coming out or angsty stories, which is what seems to be currently expected when you add the ‘LGBTIQ’ tag.

While the big publishers are starting to release more fiction in that niche, the authors of those stories still don’t get the huge backing that other authors of more mainstream genres (ie contemporary romance, fantasy, urban fantasy etc) do.

We’re in effect invisible.

Now, being invisible means we get to toil away, writing the stories we want to write without too much pressure being placed on us by publishers to go bigger and better than last time. (Although I do feel a pressure to write the best I possibly can for the readers I have and give them the stories they want to read, but that pressure is internal).

Being invisible also means there’s less chance of copping criticism. Less chance of someone dragging your hard work through the mud, just to take you down a peg or two because you haven’t managed to be inclusive enough.

Seriously. The LGBTIQ fanverse can be brutal – just ask Ruby Rose about what fans thought of her being cast as Batwoman in the upcoming TV series.

So invisibility affords us a get-out-of-jail-free card of sorts. It affords us a fall-back so that we don’t have to step outside of our comfort zone. We don’t have to stick our head above the parapet lest it get bruised or worse, taken clean off.

But invisibility also means that we feel isolated.

Invisibility means we feel like the only gay in the village, when in reality, that’s so often not true.

Invisibility stops us from living our best selves, and from connecting to others like us who will validate us and make us strong enough and confident enough to claim our own unique place in the world.

And so that’s what I’m going to talk about if I get the chance to do my reading next month.

I’m going to talk about how, even though it takes me weeks of mental preparation to talk to a group of people I don’t know, and then days to recover from the stress of it, that it’s important I stick my head up every now and then.

I’m going to talk about the fact that though some people don’t think my stories or my books are realistic, or even any good (which is entirely subjective anyway), that it’s important that I still write them because of those emails and social media messages I get from readers who are just discovering who they are; those who are living in families that aren’t accepting of their sexuality; those readers who have lost friends from coming out; they need my stories.

I know because they’ve told me.

Those readers need something light-hearted and fun, where the characters are accepted for exactly who they are. Where they’re surrounded by supportive friends and family. Where they get a happily ever after.

Those are the books I write. I’m not going to shy away from that anymore.

And I am going to do my damndest to get past my own awkwardness and my own tendency to hide away in order to get those stories to the kids who need them the most.

How catching a mouse taught me a lesson about writing

My wife yelled out “Got’im!” in the middle of the night a few days ago. No, she wasn’t dreaming. I was though, until that moment.

She’d been listening to a mouse run around our bedroom until finally, it found the food we’d left for it in the trap she’d set. She’d heard it go off while I was apparently blissfully unaware until her shouting in her moment of triumph woke me up.

Before I go any further, I should explain we purchased a trap that wouldn’t harm the mouse, so we could release it later, which we did, and that trap forms part of the story below. I just wanted you to know my wife and I are “catch and release” type people as much as we can be. Even with spiders, which I am absolutely afraid of but if we have to have them, I would rather have them outside than in.

Oh, except for flies. We both hate flies.

So how did catching a mouse teach me a lesson about writing?

If you’re part of my Reader Group email list, you’ll know I’ve been struggling with my writing for the last four months. This isn’t unusual for creative people – we can periodically get caught up in depression and depressive episodes, questioning what we’re doing and why, and whether what we do even matters.

Writing is hard when you remind yourself that you’re effectively putting a piece of your heart and soul into each new project and setting if off into the world for people to judge.

It’s easy to lose your self-belief and get stuck in the mire of thinking that what you do doesn’t matter.

Which is part of what I’m going through right now. Among other things, but it’s my mental state that needs some loving right now so that’s what I’m talking about today.

So back to the mouse story.

We’ve known we’ve had a mouse running around our place for at least a few months, but it would disappear for a few days and we’d think it was gone for good, only for it to wake us in the middle of the night rustling through the paperwork in our bedside drawers.

Finally, a few weeks ago, my wife came home from work and informed me she would make a trap to catch the mouse. She’d just need an empty softdrink bottle, some wire, a piece of wood, some books and some food to tempt it with. I wish I’d taken a photo of it, because it was the most un-mousetrappy thing I’ve seen. It would never work.

And then it actually did. The first night we set it, we caught the little sucker.

And then watched as the mouse squeezed through the smallest of gaps to escape.

It then proceeded to spend the night going back and forth, nibbling on the food and then doing whatever the heck it was doing before we provided it with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Then it vanished again.

(That’s not exactly true – I found a dead mouse drowned in the dogs’ water bowl and assumed it was our mouse – so sad, which is why I didn’t want to add it to the story. Ahem).

Then it turned up again. (A different one, I guess). In the middle of the night, it woke us with its shenanigans, going through our bedside tables, and I finally put my foot down. “We’re buying a mouse trap tomorrow,” I said.

So we did.

I do have a picture of this one:

And this one worked too, hence the start of my story above.

My wife duly released the mouse on her way to work. Apparently after it had gorged itself on the food we’d left in the trap. Which I guess you can’t argue about really.

If you’ve read this far, you’re now wondering how on earth this story relates in any way to writing.

One of the things we did with that mouse was reassessing the tools we had at our disposal. We used what we had ourselves first, to see if that would work. We were almost there with that, but we decided we needed the proper tool for the job to get the best result.

We also didn’t give up and let that mouse run around our house like it owned the place. If we did that, who knew how many extra house guests we’d end up having once the word got out we were apparently happy to have them.

And that’s effectively what I’ve been doing with my writing these last few weeks.

I’ve questioned whether it’s what I want to do, and reminded myself that I actually love it when it’s working.

I then questioned why it’s not working right now and came to the conclusion I’ve not been working on myself or my craft as much as I should have been.

So I upgraded my tools.

I’ve been reading and rereading craft books, fiction books for fun, and motivational books to get me back on track mentally. I’ll share those books and my thoughts on them in future posts for anyone interested.

I have a tonne of story ideas I want to get out of my head and into the world so not writing was never going to be an option anyway.

I’ve also reframed my thinking around my writing and story in general, which I’ll write about in another post.

But for now, I’m going to head off and do some free writing to get back into the habit and then finish reading some books that have been on my TBR pile for far too long.

And hoping that another mouse doesn’t decide to move into our place…

 

Sunny days are made for beach driving

Coloured sands on the western side of the beach.

The great thing about living where I do is that it’s got some beautiful places to visit. And since those places are prone to the elements, (changing tides, storm surges, erosion etc), the landscape is constantly changing.

Take the coloured sands, for example. Erosion along the western side of the beach causes the cliff faces to drop away, sometimes in quite dramatic fashion, making the colours of the sands exposed change. Sometimes the colours will be lighter, as you can see in my photo taken on the weekend, but sometimes that sand is a deep orange, almost red.

On the eastern side of the beach, king tides and storm surges wash away sand dunes creating drop-offs. Then just a few weeks later, the tides will drop sand back onto the beach, allowing the dunes to reform as if nothing ever happened.

A few weeks ago, due to some storms and high king tides, the remains of a container shipwreck were exposed for the first time in over a decade. The Cherry Venture became stuck on the beach in 1973 after a huge storm and remained there for decades until safety concerns saw it removed and buried.

We didn’t stop to get photos of it but we did drive through it and I managed to grab a quick video, which I’ve posted up on my facebook page. You can check it out here.

Looking back to Double Island Point.

It’s quiet at the moment, due to school holidays being finished, but we’ve got some public holidays coming up, which means the population will increase by a few hundred to a few thousand people, depending on the weather. (People love camping in my neck of the woods).

We stopped off on the eastern side of the beach for a bit of a sit session and snacks, watching the world (and very few cars) pass us by, before heading off back to the western side, back down the beach and then stopping in to find a geocache on our way home.

 

Cool little discovery in a geocache we found on our travels.

After a relaxing morning watching the world go by, we indulged in our geocaching hobby and stopped in to find one on our way home. It was a cool little find, though we did overthink where it could be hidden and missed the absolutely obvious.

We still have a few caches to find around where we live, so more adventures to come, I’m sure.

This next week will see me getting stuck into the next Girls of Summer novel, which has been plotted to within an inch of its life. I did more pre-writing work on this story than I’ve done before, so I’m pretty sure where things are going. I’m a little unsure of where to start it though, so I’m just going to pick a scene as a jumping off point and get writing.

Once I’m into the story more, I’m sure the beginning will come to me. Stay tuned for the working title reveal, as well as the cover. If I can get my butt into gear, this one should be ready to go by some time in June, just in time for the northern summer.

Next week will be the first Reader Spotlight post on the blog, showcasing one of my readers. I’m planning on highlighting one of my readers each month, so if you want to be involved, you’ll need to sign up for my Reader Newsletter. Click here to head over to the sign-up page.

See you next week!

 

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!

Crush paperback unboxing and pre-order

When I was just starting out on my self-publishing and writing journey, I discovered an author who has become one of my all time favourites. When I was feeling down about my writing, watching his first unboxing video used to give me a great pick-me-up. I still watch every now and then to remind me how exciting this big adventure can be, and how far I have yet to go.

(You can see Hugh Howey’s unboxing of Molly Fyde on youtube here.)

Since Crush is my very first novel, I wanted to share the excitement of opening the box and seeing it in print for the first time. You can see that video below. You can also scroll down to the video below that to hear the details of when the paperback copy will be available and where.

For the initial launch through until the end of July, you’ll be able to get Crush for $12 plus postage. After that, the price will go up to $15 (plus postage).

 

See the video below for details on when the paperback will be released.

Don’t forget, the pre-order page will go up on Monday the 25th May.

Introducing The Girls of Summer series

So, remember those sweet romances we read as teenagers in the 1980s an 1990s? The ones with lesbian main characters who fell for other girls and had fun adventures and happily-ever-after endings? No? Me neither.

I do, however, remember those sweet teen romances from Silhouette First Love, Dolly Fiction, Sweet Valley High… The list goes on. I remember hiding in the stacks in the library at high school reading those books, never checking them out lest they appear on my borrowing record. Though I loved sci-fi and fantasy (Day of the Triffids and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are still two of my all-time favourite books), when I hit 14 or 15, I started being very interested in the way relationships worked. Because I was a voracious reader, the way I discovered those things was mostly via fiction.

I’ll go into my personal story in a future post, but as I read those short romance books, I quickly learned that it wasn’t the female main characters I identified with the most. It was the male characters that the girls lusted after. I wanted to be those boys that the girls chased after, had fun adventures with and fell in love with by the end of the book.

I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I knew it meant I was different.

I’m not sure whether reading a book with a girl who fell in love with another girl and nothing bad happened and they got to be together in the end would have made me realise back then that I was lesbian, but who knows?

What I do know is that we’re in an exciting time in the publishing industry, when there are more and more books with diverse main characters making their way into the world. A good number of them, however, deal with the ‘bad’ side of being different – the bullying, homophopbia, unhappy endings, coming out etc. While those stories are needed and valid, we also need stories where sexuality isn’t the main plot point.

I think we need more happy endings, more sweet romances, more girls-who-love-girls and that’s okay stories.

And that’s why I’ve been working on a series of sweet teen romances that will feature lesbian main characters, whose problems are just like any other teen, and whose sexuality is not a major plot point.

I touched on the series in this post back in August last year, but since then, I’ve refined the series idea and decided on a direction for it.

The books in The Girls of Summer series, beginning with Crush, are intended to be short and fun reads. Lighthearted sweet teen romances where the girl might struggle to get the girl sometimes, but she’ll never be dealing with bullying or homophobia as the major plot point.

Though they will be linked by taking place in summer (my favourite season of the year), they will be stand-alones that can be read in any order.

And most importantly, the girl will get the girl in the end.

 

Wattpad Edition

Wattpad Edition

Crush is due for release on the 1st May 2015. You can get it for free before it’s released to the general public by signing up to the mailing list here. You can read the first five chapters and synopsis here.

 

 

 

On ‘Saving Francesca’ by Melina Marchetta and the Aussie voice

After finishing a massive rewrite of a manuscript, I wanted to crawl up in a hole and not do too much at all. The experience of having to more than double the word count of a finished story, while exhilarating when I was done, was also exhausting. I felt like I was out of words. And a writer needs words in order to be able to fashion them into coherent sentences. Which I couldn’t even do while talking out loud for awhile.

During the couple of months I was outlining and rewriting and throwing wads of crap ideas in the bin, I neglected my reading. That was a conscious decision for two reasons. The first is because when I read, I like to be able to devote hours and hours to a book without having my own unfinished work churning in the back of my mind interrupting my reading flow. The second is because I can’t focus on both reading fiction and writing fiction at the same time, and I didn’t want my choices of reading material to sneak into the re-planning of the novel I was working on.

So I neglected my reading.

My reward after finishing that manuscript was to spend a voucher I got for Christmas on books. Real paper books, rather than ebooks, which was also a conscious decision. I love ebooks. I love the immediacy of buying them and having them appear on my kindle to devour instantly, but there’s still something for me about holding a paper book in my hand and turning each page as I read. I also love having those books on my shelves in my study/office, and being able to look at them and try to remember if I liked them, or what they were about. There’s something tangible there, and when I’m recommending a book to friends or my niece, if I can see one on my shelf, it’s easier to remember than looking through my kindle. And it’s easier to pick a book off the shelf and just give it away, which I love to do.

2015-01-10 10.22.48

The books I bought as a reward for finishing my manuscript: Tomorrow, When the Ware Began, Eleanor & Park, Paper Towns and Saving Francesca.

Anyway, I wanted to try a mix of books  and read for both research and enjoyment, and I made a long list of the ones I wanted to read from a few online recommendations lists and then whittled it down to these four. I deliberately made sure to have two Aussie books on there, because I’ve been reading a lot of American authors lately, and while that’s perfectly fine, my own works have very Australian characters in them and I wanted to see how other authors dealt with our unique Aussie language and settings. I haven’t read a lot of Aussie books since I was at high school, which is something I am now in the process of rectifying.

I read Paper Towns first, because I hadn’t read anything by John Green (I know. A YA author not having read John Green. Shock! Horror!) and he’s on everyone’s lips right now. Paper Towns had been recommended to me by a teacher I met awhile ago as the John Green book I should read first, and I loved it. Having watched John and Hank Green on youtube, I could hear John’s voice telling me the story of Q and his quest to solve the mystery of the disappearing Margo Roth Spiegelman. I read it in three sittings, and that was only because I had other stuff to do in between (like spend time with my wife, eating and sleeping). I’ve seen The Fault in Our Stars, but not yet read the book, and I’m looking forward to reading Looking for Alaska.

Today, though, I finished Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta, who is a popular YA author here in Australia. I have to say that in the beginning, the book frustrated the hell out of me, and though I’m still not entirely sure why that is, I have a theory. I almost made the decision to just put it down and go onto the next one. I’m one of those people who hates not finishing a book though, so I put it down for a couple of weeks and came back to it when I had more time to focus on reading without interruption. I finished it over the course of three days. I loved the book, and while the story seemed simple enough – teenager in her second last year of high school, navigating her way through an all-boy school that has just started accepting girls, a depressed mother and everything that comes with it – it was the characters who enthralled me the most. By the end I, along with Frankie, the viewpoint character, was surprised at how she’d ended up with so many good friends after resisting so early on. We definitely have a very unique way of writing coming-of-age stories here in Australia.

Saving Francesca is definitely a book I’ll be rereading in the future, and it’ll be one I’ll be giving to my niece to read.

And after thinking on it this morning, I realised that the reason I struggled with the book in the beginning is because I’ve not been reading enough Australian books, and I’ve grown unaccustomed to our unique voice. It was almost like I’d been overseas for a long time and came home to our laconic Australian accent and cringed at it. Which, incidentally, actually happened to me a few years ago when I was in Europe for two months with my wife.

I think that’s also why I’ve struggled with voice in my own writing as well lately, and I’m determined to fix that by trying to focus on more Australian books and authors than I have in the past.

My next read will be Tomorrow, When the War Began, by John Marsden which has been on my radar for a long time.

If you have any recommendations on Australian authors and books I should read, particularly in the YA genre, let me know and I’d be happy to add them to my To Be Read list.

 

2014 – A relatively shitty writing year that turned out not so bad

It’s that time of the year when we all take stock of the 365 days that have passed, and think about the next 365. This year, my second full year of being a full-time writer, hasn’t gone to plan. But when does anything ever go exactly to plan? I’ve been reading writing and author blogs over the past week and how those authors have had relatively successful years and have moved ahead in their careers in leaps and bounds. Well, this isn’t one of those blogs. I’ve actually had a shitty writing year and it’s kinda my fault.

I started out the year not knowing where I was headed, which slowed my productivity down a lot. I self-published Sunday Fish, a short story, back in May, and then spent a month going over my business and writing plans and resetting some goals, even though I had no real idea what I wanted to be writing.

On a whim, and after a little encouragement from a good friend of mine, I submitted a short story to an anthology call – on the very last day they were due no less. This turned out to be the turning point of my career, and I finally found my direction after floundering for so long.

The anthology, First Time for Everything, published by Harmony Ink Press, accepted that short story manuscript, and for the first time ever, I found my work in print.

That little YA short story, Summer Crush, inspired me to go back to where I started my writing journey. Back to my uni days when I started writing fiction for fun and to break the monotony of studying for a business degree. I was writing from the heart back then – writing things I wanted to read and writing for fun. While the stories were basic and the main characters fantasy versions of me, reading over my notes (the stories themselves are on some long-ago lost floppy disks) made me realise that I was taking my writing way too seriously.

Because of that anthology, I’ve rediscovered my love for YA and my love for writing fun, light and (hopefully) entertaining stories with lesbian main characters. After spending the first half of the year struggling for ideas, I have a lot of them calling out for attention. I’m working on one at the moment, which I submitted to Harmony Ink Press as a novella but am currently trying to expand into a fully-fledged novel, and I have a possible 3-book series that I want to get stuck into next. After that, I have a couple of new ideas that have popped up over the last six months, so I have plenty of things to keep me busy.

I also learned that I work better with a basic outline. My current project has grown from a 21,000 word novella, to a 33,000 word novella, and hopefully will grow to a 45,000 word novel thanks to taking time before I started to write a basic story and chapter outline. I also re-outlined at each new editing stage, which allowed me to see where I could add chapters and scenes without changing the basic story structure too much. Apparently, I’m also an “adder” rather than a “cutter”. I write sparse, and then have to add detail, which is fine, but I need to get better at that otherwise it will take me way too long to get my books finished before I get sick of them.

I’ve also learned that while I can write a book quite fast if I have an outline, it takes a lot longer than I anticipated to edit one to get it to a high enough standard to submit to a publisher or self-publish.

I’ve also changed focus to being traditionally published with certain projects, which is a business decision more than an ego one (though having a print book to hold that was made by someone else and being accepted by a publisher is a big ego boost!)

So what’s ahead for 2015?

A lot of hard work is what’s ahead. First off the rank is my current project, which I’ll get back to the publisher by the end of February – watch this space for news on that one. As soon as that one’s been shipped off, I’ll be working on an outline for the 3-book series as well as two other books that have been marinating in my head drive for what seems like ages.

What would I like to have achieved by this time next year?

At least 3 more books out, of whatever lengths they end up being, though I have no idea whether any of them will be self-published or traditionally published. My main goal for 2015 is to concentrate on the lesbian YA work and get those stories finished.

That’s it from me for 2014 – see you on the flip-side in 2015. Happy New Year!

Five things I learned from the publication of the First Time for Everything Anthology

I posted pre-order links to the First Time for Everything anthology a few weeks before it was released. I also posted buy links to facebook for the ebook and paperback versions when it released in September, but it wasn’t until I posted photos of me opening the box of author copy paperbacks I received that I got any type of response.

Me with my shiny new paperback copy of the First Time for Everything anthology

Me with my shiny new paperback copy of the First Time for Everything anthology

I think that’s because most people “get” paper books and once they saw me holding it, it became as real for them as it was for me to have a story published. Apart from realising that paper still means “real book” to some people, here are five other things I learned from the publishing experience.

  1. Don’t discourage anyone from supporting you, even if you don’t think your book is to their taste. Friends and family will be excited for you (at least in the beginning) so if they want to buy your book, don’t discourage them.
  2. On the other hand, sometimes, people don’t give a shit. Yes, it’s exciting to publish a book, but not everyone will care. Don’t fret if people don’t share the same enthusiasm as you do and share your news (and links to your book) with everyone they know like you’d hoped.
  3. Take the compliments on board, and then get back to writing. It’s great to get praise for something you’ve laboured over for what seems like months (or sometimes years). The biggest compliment anyone can give you is to buy your next book and they can’t do that if you’re still fawning over the last one.
  4. Share links to your work often (but don’t spam). People miss them on facebook and twitter and tumblr because of the churn of the timeline and other people’s posts. Give a direct link so people can buy in the easiest way possible.
  5. Non-writers are fascinated by writers. Yes, it can get annoying answering the same questions over and over again (“So, do you write, like, Twilight/50 Shades/Game of Thrones/[insert hot new release here]?”) but at least they’re trying to relate to you. Have patience and answer their questions – they wouldn’t ask if they weren’t interested. Plus, you never know when you might gain a new fan.

Bonus:

Take some time to bask in the glory of what you have produced. I know I said get straight back into it and write the next book, but you should take a few days to ride the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with writing and publishing. Not everyone gets to experience the feeling of seeing other people read their words, so enjoy it for a little while and then get back into it.

With all of that said, my time for basking is over so I’m off to write the next one.

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