Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Deadlines

Next week I'm going to have details for a free to download flash fiction anthology that Torquere Press will be bringing out - it contains 500-1000 word short stories on the theme of "Don't feed the alligators", and my piece is included in it.  That's coming out on the fifth of August, so when it gets to the sixth I'll let you know all about it.

Shameless self promotion out of the way, and on to the topic of today's blog post - how to deal with deadlines.

Deadlines are pretty terrifying, right?  I mean, there's that great quote from Douglas Adams:
"I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."  Which always makes me smile, but unfortunately if you're submitting for an anthology, there is a deadline you have to meet.  If you submit your work after that date, they simply won't consider it.

That is annoying, but it's an incentive to get it done.  There are three reactions to deadlines: 1. Calmly getting it done by the deadline, 2. Panicking and getting it done really early, and 3. Panicking and doing it at the last minute in a rush.  (There is also category 4, ignoring deadlines and not getting things done, but it's just a version of three where the panic carries on for too long)  If you fall into category one, you can probably stop reading this right now - I'm jealous,and I probably can't teach you anything.  Personally, I'm a category two attempting miserably to be a category one.  But my three best friends are a category one, a category two and a category three, so I know a lot about how this works.

If you're a category two, just try not to put quite so much pressure on yourself.  Strangely, for a category two, you can use the same trick I'm about to tell you for category threes: set more deadlines.

That might sound counterproductive.  If you are bad at deadlines, surely the last thing that you need is more deadlines.  But that isn't quite how it's going to work.  You divide the work into chunks, and then you can go from there.  Each chunk has its own deadline, and so you are making progress and getting towards the end goal, without time for the total panic to set in.

Say I decide I want to write an anthology entry that is due in in eight weeks exactly, with a word count goal of 10-20,000 words.  For simplicities sake, we'll say that this is the only writing project I have going on.

I break it up into separate tasks: having an idea, making a rough plan, a more detailed plan, a first draft, a second draft, edits, creating the information that needs to be submitted with it, formatting it correctly, and sending it in.
Eight weeks is fifty six days.
So my deadlines are:
Day three - by now I want to have done a brainstorm, and have a sentence long idea
Day six - make a rough plan
Day ten - have a detailed plan
Day fifteen - have at least 5000 words of the rough draft
Day twenty - have at least 10000 words of the rough draft
Day thirty - have finished the first draft
Day thirty five - finish the second draft
Day forty - have decided on the edits
Day forty five - completed edits
Day forty eight - create the sheet to be submitted with it, formatting
Day forty nine - one final read over to make sure I'm happy with it
Day fifty - send it in, almost a week ahead of the overall deadline
(These are based on the timings I find work for me.  Feel free to adjust as works for you)

If I slip and miss one of the deadlines, there is time to catch up with it later.

If you're writing a novel with no such deadline, you'll have to set your own deadlines throughout.  It's pretty difficult to do that, so what might help is to tell people around you about it - let your friends know that you are going to write something.  If possible, ask a friend if they could read it over - and give them a date that they'll get to read it over. Then try not to let them down - they're your friend, so they won't mind if you are late, but it's something to aim at.  Or give yourself treats if you meet it in time.  You can do this!

I hope this helps you get what you need to have done, done by the deadline.  And thank you to the wonderful LJ Hamlin, twitter: @LjHamlin  for suggesting this blog post theme!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays: Rejection

So today's topic is... *drumroll* Rejection.

Rejection is hard.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  You poured your heart and soul into writing something, you sent it off, and you got it back saying that it wasn't something they wanted to publish.  Now, that sucks.  You might feel disappointed, or upset, or angry - and none of those are unreasonable feelings.  Let yourself wallow for a little while, if it helps, and if not then try and push it aside.

For a start, lets look at what you've done so far.
1.  You had an idea
2. You planned it into a piece
3. You wrote something
4.  You got it to a standard where you felt it was publishable
5.  You sent it off to a publishers

Every single one of those steps is far further than a lot of people get, and you should be proud of yourself.  You got a long way.  I could state some famous statistics here, like how many publishers Rowling got turned down by, but I think you can look those up if you'd find it helpful.  You don't need to compare yourself to anyone else.  Just look at what you've done.

Next, think about what the rejection letter said.  Now, this differs slightly for anthology entries and other stories, as anthology entries have a precise purpose, but the same general ideas apply, so I'll treat them as a unit.  Some letters might say that it isn't what they are looking for - for whatever reason, it didn't meet the theme, or the type of story that they were looking for.  This doesn't necessarily mean that it was bad, simply that it wasn't what they were looking for.  A similar variation to this is the idea that they may have had too many submissions - here your one might be too different, or too similar, to others that they are bringing out.  This sucks, but it can't always be avoided. 

Another type might say that you need to work on a particular piece - if you're very lucky, they might even ask you to revise it and resubmit with this idea in place.  Whether they want you to have a go or not, this is incredibly useful advice as it shows what they want in something they are publishing.  That doesn't mean that what they are saying has to be done, but if you want to be published by that particular publishing house, it will be worth doing.

Constructive criticism can be hard to come by, so if you get it, try not to let it knock you back, and instead use it to become a better writer.

One type of rejection letter that I've heard of, but certainly never received myself, is an anthology story which is rejected but which the company asks you to develop into a longer piece.  If this happens, congratulations! Far from being a rejection, what you have got there is an acceptance for a novel when you thought you had a short story.  Work on it, revise, and get the novel in as quickly and as brilliantly as you can!

Once you've thought about what the letter says, and when you feel ready, decide if you want to resubmit it.  If so, research where else you can send it in, and take a look at their precise requirements.  Then read through what you have written and improve it, taking on board any feedback that you have gotten.  Reformat it, edit it, and rewrite any bits that you feel need work.  When you next apply somewhere else, make sure that what you are offering them is better than before.  Hopefully, this time will be a success.

Maybe you can't face resubmitting it, have had too many rejections, or wrote for a narrow theme and so can't find anywhere else to submit it.  That in no way takes away from what you have achieved so far, but now you have to ask yourself what it is that you want to achieve from your writing.  If you want to make money from it, do more research, look at what does well, and try again with something else that you think will be popular - or look into self publishing.  Self-publishing isn't easy, but it is a way of getting your work out there to be read, and there are a lot of guides online as to how to do it.

For me though, I don't write to be published and make money, not exactly.  I write so that people can read my writing, so that people can enjoy it, and because if I don't there are just stories buzzing around my head because I need to get them on paper.  There is nothing wrong with writing for other reasons, but personally that is why I do it. 

For me, the big thing isn't making money as much as having people read my work.  So whilst self publishing is definitely something I want to look into at the moment, for now I'm happy to share my work with my friends, sending it to them and getting them to read it.  If you're lucky and in a similar case to  me, your friends might even be wonderful enough to proofread (thank you R.E.) Or tell you what they like or dislike about it.  That's feedback that you can use for future work, and meanwhile your work is being read and enjoyed.

You can also put your work up online - using a site like livejournal, deviantart or wordpress.  One thing to keep in mind though is that most publishers are only interested if it's the first time your writing has been available, so by putting it up for free online you're losing any chance you might have had for getting it published in the future.

I hope that this helps - rejection is upsetting, but you can get past it, and write more.  Make changes and improve it, and resubmit if you want to.  If not, think about self publishing or just showing your friends, so that all your amazing hard work doesn't go to waste.

Keep writing, and some time soon, you'll get the acceptance email you're dreaming of.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Writing Routines

Alright, today we're going to be looking at writing routines, which honestly is something that I struggle with.  That having been said, it's something important to do - and I am hoping that by writing this, it might help me set a better writing routine as well.

One thing to remember is that writing routines aren't set in stone - if you miss a day because you are ill, or because a friend invited you out, that's entirely alright.  This is just trying to get you writing.  If it doesn't always work, that's alright.  Don't get angry at yourself, just try and do some the next day.

There are a few different ways of setting goals.
* Time based
* Word count based
* SMART goals
There are probably a lot of others as well, but these are the ones I find helpful.

Time based - you decide you will write for a certain time: For example "I will write my blog entry between ten and ten thirty this evening".  You set aside that time for writing, and when it comes to that time, you write.  This can be effective for short things, like blog posts, but it is harder to control when you are writing longer pieces - you might find that you miss the start of your time, and then find no reason to actually write for the rest of it, leading to very little actually getting done.  If you can make yourself put aside distractions while you're writing, this might be good for you (if you're thinking of other things, try noting them down on a scrap of paper), but if you can't, then you might find that this method actually leads to less work rather than more.

Word count based - this is a much more concrete method than time based - you set a number of words to write (be it every day, or perhaps just on weekends), and then you get them written.  I find this helpful, but tend to choose quite a low initial goal - say 100 or 200 words.  That way, it's very easy to meet that even with a busy schedule and you aren't disheartened by repeatedly not meeting your goal.  Obviously, if you  have an entire day to write with nothing else to do, you can be a bit more ambitious.  I find this method useful because it provides the original spark to get you writing.  You start putting down words, and once you're 100 words in you may have forgotten about the fact you only need to put 100, because you're caught up in what you're writing.  Alternatively, if you really are struggling to get any words down, then being able to write 100 then tell yourself you've made a positive step for the day can help.

SMART Goals - this is where I start sounding like a conference or workplace seminar, but these are actually quite a good idea.  SMART goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.  To un-jargonify it, goals that are clear, that show when they have been met, that you can meet, that you will want to meet, and have a time for doing it.
An example of a SMART goal would be: "I will write a blog post of at least 500 words between 10:00 and 10:30 tonight."  This kind of goal is useful because it is clear whether it has been met or not: unlike just saying "I will write between ten and ten thirty", it gives me something concrete that needs to exist at the end of it.  There is a requirement of what is needed (blog post, 500 words minimum), a time consideration, and as I have set it, it is something relevant to me.  It's a way of combining the other two methods.

Whichever goals you set, be prepared to fiddle around with them until they start to work for you.  You might find initially that they're too difficult or too easy, so just adjust them.  Don't beat yourself up if you can't meet your targets - that might just mean that they are too high.  At the same time, try writing at different times of day, and in different environments, until you find what works for you.

It can help to have big goals, and then to split them up using the SMART method:
Overall: "I will finish my novel by the end of October"
Medium: "By the 22nd of July I will have written the next four chapters"
Small scale: "Tonight, between seven and eight, aim to get 800 words written in the current project, finishing the scene I am working on."
From a big overwhelming thing that I would struggle to do, I have much smaller steps so I can assess progress, and actually get a sensation of reward when it is done.

My final piece of advice about writing routines? If it isn't your day job, it's important you fit it around your life.  Don't let failure to write leave you feeling crippled with guilt - sometimes you need the time off.  Just when you can, pick yourself up and carry on writing.  Dependent on circumstances, that might not be for a while, but that's okay.  You carry on developing your ideas in spare moments, and when you do find time to write, the words will be there.  Best of luck!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Submitting

So, this week, we're going to be looking at another scary step.  Submitting.  You've written something, done all of the hard work, and now you have an edited, finished piece of work.  If it's an anthology entry, or a longer novel, you've worked on it for a long time, edited it, and you're finally happy with the result.  Now, you need to decide what you want to do with it.

There are two main options, if you want to get it out there.  The first one is self publishing, and the second is submitting it to a publishing firm.  For either of these, unless you are purchasing physical copies of your job with associated printing costs, my advice is to not spend money - if a website charges you to list your work, that is quite possibly something you should avoid.

Self Publishing:
If you want to self publish, there are a lot of guides out there - look for advice at how to best format things, and look at the range of different websites.  Amazon has a big marketplace, but may not have the best terms, whilst Book Baby ( has a lot of support available but is less known about.  Createspace ( can be quite good if you want physical copies of your book, and if you do Nanowrimo you may get a discount code or a free proof copy... I'm not a self publisher, but just look around - the information is out there, and self publishing can be a wonderful way of getting your writing out there! 

Think about what your work is - who is it for?  Is it a short story, a novel, or a piece that should be serialised?  Once you've answered that, look around for different websites that might support it. 

Personally, I write LGBT fiction, so I'd be looking at places like Dreamspinner Press (, Torquere Press ( and Storm Moon Press (  If it's been written for a particular call, follow the steps to submit.

If it is something that is unsolicited, take a while to look around their site - make sure that they take unsolicited manuscripts.  If they do, look at what calls they have available, and what is popular right now.  If, for example, they're selling a lot of steampunk books right now, and yours has a similar theme, you can mention it in your email! 

Take a look at the submission guidelines.  Then take another look.  Make sure you meet every one as best as you can, especially for simple things like formatting - if they've asked for something double spaced and yours is single, they may open it and close it without bothering to read it.  Publishing places have a lot of things submitted to them, and if you can't even take the time to read what they've asked of you, they won't bother spending the time to look at what you've sent.  Harsh, but true.

When you've met formatting and other guidelines, you'll need to write a summary, and answer various other questions.  Make sure you give them the information that they need.  As for summaries, try and make sure you meet what they're asking for - a summary is the entirety of the book, not the limited section you'd put on a blurb.  If there's a major plot twist, you mention it in the summary (unless it specifically says not to do it!)

Once your summary is written, it's worth getting someone else to look it over if possible.  Then once that's done? Send it in.  Don't expect to hear back immediately - it may be a couple of months or more before they reach your submission.  And once you hear back, well, hopefully it will be good news.  If it isn't?  Then keep trying.  JK Rowling got rejected 12 times before someone picked up Harry Potter. 

That being said, there's no point being a writer if your goal is to get rich.  You need to actually want to do it.  If you love writing, then try and get those words out, and send them out into the world.  Best of luck!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Rewriting

Hello everyone, I’m on a course this week, so it’s another short entry – but that’s alright, because what I’m talking about here is something that really, you need to do in practice. 

First off, hope at least some of you have considered signing up for Nanowrimo.  It really does help to be writing in a community.  If you are doing that, then leave this particular blog entry until later – the point of writing is to get words down, you can edit them later.  If you’re writing, then go and write! This will still be here when you get back.

Okay, so you have some finished text now right?

Last time, we were focused on editing – the final polishing to make your writing beautiful.  We went back over what we had written, replacing crutch words, adding punctuation, correcting spellings, and altering a few sentences.  This time, it’s a bit trickier – we’re going to be rewriting.

Rewriting is going over your story, and then writing large chunks, or even the entire thing, from scratch.  Sounds horrifying right? 

Well, for a start, work out which bits need rewriting – if the order of scenes needs rearranging, and where certain things have to be.  If you have something important you haven’t mentioned, then that’s somewhere rewriting can help – or you can just add in the occasional sentence.  You’re the one who can see what you have got, and what changes it needs.

So, now let’s say you’ve got something written.  To keep my examples short, I’m just going to do a little paragraph, but this can be applied to a much longer scene, or even an entire book.

So, here is the initial scene: (Yes, reused from the starting to write entry, writers are lazy)

Argen stared at the bowl in front of him, poking the unapetizing grey goo inside it with the bottom of his spoon, then lifted his head to glance over at Vairel, who was devouring his breakfast as though he hadn't eaten in weeks.
"I'm not letting you cook again." He told him coldly, shoving the bowl in the direction of the half-elf.  Vairel simply hummed in amusement, emptying his own bowl, and shoving it back to Argen to clean.

Here is it edited:
Argen stared at the bowl on the table before him, poking the unappetizing grey goo inside it with the bottom of his spoon.  He lifted his head to glance over at Vairel, who was devouring his breakfast as though he hadn't eaten in weeks.
"I'm not letting you cook again." Argen said coldly, shoving his food in the direction of the half-elf.  Vairel simply hummed in amusement, emptying his own bowl and shoving it back to Argen for him to clean.

So punctuation and spelling have been corrected, sentences have been rephrased – changes have been underlined to make it clearer.  Small changes, that I think make it read better, but no huge differences.

When I’m rewriting, I need to consider what change I want to make – do I need to change point of view?  What mood is conveyed in the scene?  What needs to happen?  What is the point of this piece?  Make a few notes of what you need.

For me in this example, the scene is to show the relationship and friendship between the two of them.  If I want to keep the basic structure of the scene, I am doing it in this way:
·         Vairel made breakfast and it’s disgusting
·         Argen is in a poor mood
·         Vairel is used to this, and not sympathetic

When I’ve made my notes, I write it out again – either looking at the previous attempt, or just at the notes:

Argen screwed up his face as he walked into the kitchen and was met with a bowl of indistinguishable goo, held out by Vairel.  He poked at it with a fork, glaring at the half-elf who simply smiled sweetly in return.
“I shouldn’t let you cook.” Argen muttered under his breath, picking some of the goo up with his fork and letting it drip between the prongs.  Vairel shrugged, devouring his own food as though he hadn’t eaten for weeks. 

“So you keep saying.  But I never see you change anything.”  Vairel answered with a laugh, mouth full of food.  Argen groaned, shoving his bowl at Vairel, who flashed him a bright grin, and handed over his own empty bowl for Argen to clean.

Of course, this piece still needs a bit of editing, but I’ve brought out the relationship more here – I’ve made it clear that this is a part of their normal routine, and shown how comfortable and relaxed they are around each other.   Personally, I like this one more as it makes Argen seem less severe.

Another way of rewriting is to take the same purpose – such as showing the relationship, but doing it in another situation – maybe start the previous night, or show them in a crowd.  As you write more, you will work out what works for you.

If you think a lot of it needs rewriting, then go through, and make basic structure overall – that way you don’t rewrite one thing to then find that it needs rewriting again to include something that wasn’t relevant at that time.

Rewriting takes time, but the end result will hopefully be much better than what you began with.