Tag Archives: publishing

The Problem with NaNoWriMo …

… is that it leads to some crazy coverage in the press and social media. Yes, of course, writing a novel in a month sounds absurd, but the spirit of nano isn’t to produce the finished product in a month. It’s all about getting the words out (well, 50,000 words anyway) and for many people it’s extremely helpful to concentrate on word count and to give yourself permission to press on regardless. Anything can be fixed later – and perhaps there’s the key. I suspect that most nano naysayers don’t see this month of manic writing as the start of a long process, but rather as the whole process. Or perhaps more importantly, that’s what they imagine the NaNoWriMo writers (or wrimos) themselves see it as. Or maybe less charitably, they simply don’t want others messing around in their pool.

The Guardian’s ‘how to write a novel in 30 days’ piece has hardly helped this year, encouraging many novelists on Twitter to snipe about what they presumably see as the misrepresentation of their craft. But if you actually read the Guardian piece, it’s about producing a detailed outline in 30 days and not at all about a finished product ready to go to press.

If you want to know more about NaNoWriMo, your first stop should be the official website. I particularly like the list of published NaNo novels. If that’s not evidence that NaNoWriMo can be a way to write a ‘real’ novel, I don’t know what is. And OK, there will be many times more unpublished NaNo novels, but I would be surprised if the published/unpublished ratios weren’t similar for NaNo novels and those produced under different circumstances. People write novels that don’t get published, you know – and often they’ve still benefitted from the process.

I’ve seen two particularly good blogs about this NaNo snobbery over the last couple of days. Check out Catherine Ryan Howard’s great piece about what NaNo is good for, and Keris Stainton’s excellent stand against the ‘that’s not how you do it’ brigade.

Recommended Writers’ Resources 3: The DIY Special

I’ve been considering packaging the revision notes on my website into ebook form so students could download them onto their phones, so I’ve been investigating self e-publishing lately. Here are the most useful resources I’ve found:

The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing

is a website with an array of resources and been-there-done-that advice. In a blog-style format, with contributions from lots of different writers (including the marvellous Talli Roland), it’s easy to lose a lot of time browsing here ūüôā

Self-Printed: the Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing (2nd edition)

is a fabulous, entertaining read¬†which outlines clearly and specifically exactly what Catherine Ryan Howard did (and does) when self-publishing her writing. Her advice is thorough and comprehensive, if a little bossy at times (but hey, it’s her book, so why shouldn’t she get bossy?). Publishing to Kindle and Smashwords are explained step-by-step, as is using Createspace to produce a paperback. She also covers how to sell and promote (in a non-annoying way…) using only free online tools such as an effective blog and social media presence. I found the answers to lots of nitty-gritty questions here, and would strongly recommend it to anyone thinking about self-publishing.

I particularly enjoyed her frank discussion about the quality of much self-published writing and her attempt to distance herself from the more rabid self-publishing rhetoric (usually focused on ‘gatekeepers’ and the many perceived failures of traditional publishing). I read in it the kindle version, but it is also available as a print on demand paperback.

It’s also well worth checking out Catherine’s site for more advice and opinions about successful self-publishing.

Words on Wednesday: Recommended Writer’s Resources

Welcome to the first in a new occasional series, where I’ll round up a few handy resources for writers that I’ve seen recently or use regularly. It will be a mixture of blog posts, websites, books, events, organisations and anything else that crops up. I decided to make it a semi-regular features as I’ve already got quite a list. So here are the first crop of resources for you, in no particular order:

Abi Burlingham on Picture Books

The latest¬†blog post¬†(10th August), from PB (and MG) author Abi Burlingham is full of useful advice. And if that’s not enough, she’s offering to email you a more detailed handout on getting started in Picture Book writing! You might also want to stay and browse awhile here, as there are more great posts about writing.

Nicola Morgan on Preparing Submissions

The ever-helpful Nicola Morgan has a new ebook out, Dear Agent – Write the Letter That Sells Your Book,¬† which is full of clear, no-nonsense advice on writing to agents and publishers. If you don’t already have it, her¬†Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide¬†is another essential read if you’re getting ready to submit. They’re practical little books, each priced at under ¬£3.

Zoe Marriott on Writing YA

This blog post, Ultimate Form and Why it Doesn’t Work is fantastically helpful if you’re struggling to follow all ‘the rules’ in your writing for the YA market. Again, this is a blog that’s well worth digging into, as Zoe is fantastically generous with her advice (not to mention brilliantly feminist and incisive in her opinions) despite being busy as a successful and well-loved fantasy writer.

Happy writing!

Coming Up in February: Kids’ and YA books

There are loads of exciting new releases heading our way in February, so I thought I’d put up a quick post highlighting some of the ones that I’m interested in.

In the Children’s shelves, I’m looking forward this month to reading Talina in the Tower, while the YA releases I’m most excited about at the moment are Hollow Pike, Someone Else’s Life, This is Not Forgiveness and An Act of Love.

Talina in the Tower¬†by Michelle Lovric (Orion Children’s, 2nd Feb) is a fantasy adventure set in Venice featuring scary hyena-like creatures and Talina, who discovers the power to turn into a cat. How cool does that sound? And it’s a beautiful hardback; very purply and atmospheric with gold lettering.

Hollow Pike¬†by James Dawson (Indigo, 2nd Feb) is this month’s big paranormal release. Centred on Lis, who moves into an area with a history of witchcraft, this is a classic chiller and I loved it. Look out for a review later on this week.

The other three February YA releases I’m highlighting today are all contemporaries.

Someone Else’s Life¬†by Katie Dale (Simon & Schuster, 2nd Feb) is an emotional story focused on Huntingdon’s Disease and its effects on Rosie as she loses her mother Trudie to the illness. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Rosie discovers that Trudie wasn’t in fact her biological mother and, naturally, seeks to discover the truth. Again, there’ll be a review of this rollercoaster ride of a book shortly.

This is Not Forgiveness¬†by Celia Rees (Bloomsbury, 2nd Feb) is a tense drama exploring the relationship between Caro (a ‘bad girl’ type) and Jamie, together with Jamie’s brother Rob who’s been fighting in Afghanistan and is not coping well with everyday life back home. It’s all a bit sinister and dark and something is clearly going to go badly wrong. I’m in the middle of this one at the moment and will certainly be reviewing it in the near future.

Finally, An Act of Love¬†by Alan Gibbons is being released in trade paperback by Indigo on 2nd Feb, having been previously published in a larger format in the summer. This is a thriller weaving ‘big ideas’ of terrorism and trust together with the story of a specific friendship. I reviewed this one last year and recommend it highly as dealing with important issues in an individualised way which makes it easy to relate and empathise.

Which other titles are you excited about at the moment?

Words on Wednesday: Review of Write to be Published by Nicola Morgan

Title: Write to be Published
Author: Nicola Morgan
Publisher: Snowbooks
Published June 2011
Genre: Reference (writing)

Find it at Amazon UK

The Blurb says …
You want to make a publisher say yes? First, understand why they say no; then apply that knowledge to your book. Nicola Morgan Рthe Crabbit Old Bat of the renowned blog, Help! I Need a Publisher! Рhas made publishers say yes around ninety times. Now she offers her expert advice and experience, whipping your work into shape with humour, honesty, grumpiness and chocolate.

My verdict: easily the best overview on writing and the publishing business I’ve read, with tons of specific advice despite its extremely broad range. Recommended for those interested in publication: this and The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook¬†could well be all you need.
Like many beginning writers, I’ve read a fair selection of ‘how-to’ books on writing and publishing: books on plotting, characterisation, setting, pitching to agents, specific markets (e.g. writing for children) etc. What I find most impressive about this book is that it gave me more specific advice on some aspects of writing than whole books devoted to that area have done in the past. This book really is gold dust. It considers both non-fiction and fiction writing, both of which Morgan has experience in. The fiction section has invaluable advice on plotting, characters and the elusive ‘voice’ which is more practical and usable than much I’ve seen elsewhere, and includes excellent nitty-gritty comments on genres and age categories which again really hit the mark although these are by necessity short sections in this comprehensive book.

I follow Nicola Morgan’s blog¬†and also follow her on Twitter and would strongly recommend you do the same, if you’re a writer. This book grew from the blog, which has a large following and regularly dispenses no-nonsense advice and the occasional crabbitly rant about publishing and the world of books. Although her reputation is built on her ‘crabbitness’, this seems to me to take the form of a lack of patience with people who say stupid things, are unwilling to learn and quick to blame others (e.g. the type who bleat about agents’ narrow-mindedness in rejecting their unsaleable book). I personally enjoy her writing persona. She’s like a well-meaning (but not necessarily tactful) aunt with masses of knowledge and expertise who doesn’t mind sharing that with you as long as you realise you’ll have to do the work yourself.

But back to the book. It is very well-organised, breaking down Morgan’s simple theory that publication is a matter of submitting the right book which is written in the right way to the right person at the right time. The book is then divided into ‘before the writing’, ‘the right book’, ‘written in the right way’ and ‘submitting in the right way’, along with a detailed ‘further resources’ section. Each of these sections have many clearly labelled subsections, making it a very easy book to navigate. I read it cover to cover a few weeks ago, and have since returned to several sections as I was working. I would say that the book’s strongest point is its practicality. Could I say anything better of a reference book?

I am aware that some people baulk at the ‘functional’ or market-centred nature of her advice, but I don’t think that’s fair. Her focus is on helping people get published, not write as therapy (which is a valuable activity, but a quite different one from seeking publication). And, influential as she is, she is not (I believe) single-handedly responsible for the state of the publishing market. Publishers seek to sell books. We should probably not see that as an inherently evil endeavour.

April A-Z: Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist(from German, literally time-spirit; used in English to mean ‘spirit of the age’, the all-encompassing tone or theme of the time)

The zeitgeist in books is, I guess, like the concept of a trend. But of course, as we all know, writing ‘to trend’ is problematic, since books published now were usually accepted for publication at least a year ago, and therefore written at least two years ago. So if you start writing your ‘trendy’ book now, you’re already (at least) two years behind!

This is, of course, depressing. What if I have the perfect idea for a vampire dystopian YA novel? Well, many say ‘get on with it anyway’. Every time you hear of something being too old hat to contemplate, somebody somewhere has produced something so good that a publisher couldn’t turn it down even though it was on the very theme they’re telling everyone not to pitch with! An interesting angle, something absolutely not derivative, may well get you read. And that may be the key here: too many people are writing very derivative and formulaic stuff because they believe that to be the trend.

What’s reassuring is that agents and publishers never define precisely what they’re after. They’ll talk about voice: a strong voice, a unique voice, a fresh voice. They’ll talk about plot and/or characters: a plot that hooks, characters we care about. But this is all in quite general terms; they won’t specify theme, plot type or genre (beyond the ‘we don’t handle sci-fi’-type statement). This is because they don’t know either. How many times have you read “I’ll know it when I see it” or some version of that?

Don’t stress about whether your current or next WiP is ‘on trend’ (or likely to start a new one) – just write the best book that you can.

Have you read anything interesting about ‘trend’ lately?