Who are you?

When investigating ‘how to get published’ one thing you are sure to come across is the advice to write for your audience. But until you have an audience, how do you know who your audience is? I write this blog each week, yet (with the exception of Nick who I grill every Monday to make sure he has read it) I have no idea who is reading it.

So who is reading? Some friends (maybe), some writers from my crit group, some people who were actually looking for ‘the novels of Natalie Hawthorne’ and a few people who have read one of my short stories and clicked on a link. And what demographic do all these people fall into… Human beings. That’s about as far down as I can narrow it.

So what does this mean for finding your audience? Well the fact is, for an unpublished author, the known audience is you! So write what you want to read, and let the audience find it. Your passion for the project will always shine through so much brighter if you love what you are writing. If you write what you think people want to read, your work will be the average of everything before it, and offer nothing new to the reader.

True, you could target a known audience in the hope of getting a ready-made following, for example; you write a novel about a boy wizard who is bitten and becomes a vampire. Just for the sake of it, let’s say your novel finds a publisher and sells well. Then you must write another book in the series, and another. No one is interested in the novels you actually want to write, just the boy-wizard-vampire books. Is that what you want? And remember we are ignoring the fact that right now there are probably over a thousand similar books trying to find homes with publishers.

Having said that, I wouldn’t suggest you purposely not write for a popular market, but if you do, ensure that you can fall in love with your story. You might spend a lot of time with these characters, they might pull you away from the other novels you want to finish, so make sure they are the characters you want to hang out with. If you are writing something you hate, you might as well stay in your day job.

Happy writing,

Nat

Tomorrow

Recently I have found myself getting into lots of conversations about ‘what you would do if you didn’t have to work.’ I know, for me it is obvious; become FreeCell champion of the world and get a few novels written on the side, but for others it spans from the mundane to the entirely fanciful, but everyone has something they want to do.

The common thread, whether it be learning a new language, a new skill, or indulging in an artistic pursuit, is that they are putting it off until they ‘have time’. The truth is none of us have time other than that which we make. We push so much into tomorrow that by the time we get there, it is full.

This isn’t intended to be a lecture post, but it is an observation that has been really present in my life recently, and it is related to the risk taking I spoke of a few weeks ago. It is easy to fall into the monotony of our lives and lounge there, we do not challenge the status quo often enough. Don’t wait for tomorrow, grab your passion, and make some time for it now.

So tonight I’m going to take that story that has been kicking around in my head and I’m going to put it on paper. So it’s a short post today, because I’ve got to do some writing.

What are you going to do?

Nat

iBlog

My quest to become a more tech-savvy writer has sent me in many directions this week, none of which were actually to the keyboard to write. But I have learned a lot about tweeting, blogging, commenting and following.

And this helps you how? Because now it is time to share what I have learned, to help build your online following;

  • You need to blog at least twice a week. (My Freecell game will surely suffer).
  • You need to keep posts under 500 words, unless about a technical subject where people need more in-depth information.
  • Put your blog/twitter links in your email address signature. (Yes, seems blindingly obvious now eh?)
  • Comment on other people’s blogs. (But try to make intelligent comments, you don’t want people going to your blog to see if you really are as silly as you seem)
  • Edit your blog copy, edit it again, then put it away for a while and come back to it, and then edit it again. Only then is it ready to publish.
  • Take time to write your post (at least an hour, but ideally over two).
  • Include pictures, links and videos, but only when relevant. (So don’t post your cat pictures –unless they are doing something silly, but not cute, no one is interested in cute, but funny cat photos never get old. Or is that just me?)
  • Use dot-points

I’m not sold on the last point, but I think it is wise to pay attention to those who have gone before me, so I included it. This list is just the tip of the iceberg, there is a lot of great information out there and you can be as active as you like in building your profile.

If you would like more advice on blogging specifically, or online writing in general, check out Copyblogger. While this was not my only source, I did find that I ate up huge chunks of writing time (and even a little work time) reading some of the articles.

So I guess from now on you will be seeing me mid-week. I’ll have to come up with a Wednesday theme… Any suggestions?

Happy writing!

Nat

Find me on Twitter @nataliejepotts

Shameless Self-Promotion

I don’t think there is such a thing as shameless self-promotion for anyone who is serious about selling anything to the public. In a world of tweets, Facebook updates and iEverything it is only with self-promotion that you can hope to stand out from a very noisy crowd. The days of being the reclusive writer who never ventures out are gone. Now you need to understand and leverage off media other than just books or even traditional print.

Here is a great example of what I am talking about:

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This is a book that is being released on July 1st by Kirstyn McDermott from my writers group. I love this idea of a movie-like trailer for a book, and had already scripted one for my own book Paragon (yet to be picked up, so if you are in the market for a post-apocalyptic YA novel, please contact me). Little did I know that people had already carved out careers creating these things!

So now for a little self promotion of my own… I have just opened a twitter account, so if you would like to follow me, please just look for ‘nataliejepotts’ and I promise I won’t tell you when I’m getting myself a coffee or going to bed. It will be writing stuff only!

On the writing front; I have a short story in Aphelion (June/July edition), so read it here for free until mid next month. I also have a flash fiction piece coming out in the Short & Twisted anthology – volume 3, being launched today.

So, now all I have to do is finish building my new website, learn how to eBook my novels and create my book video for YouTube. Hmm I’d better get moving if I want to have something to show you by next week!

Happy writing,

Nat

The Golden Rule of Writing

A few weeks ago I talked about the importance of keeping your eye open for accidental homonyms, but I realised that piece of advice was really most important for those of you who want to get published. What about those of you who are just interested in getting started in writing?

Well for you I would like to pass on this piece of advice, perhaps the number one golden rule for writing; give yourself permission to write crap. Yes, you read that correctly. The most important thing about writing is… writing. So if you want to write, then you need to… (you guessed it) write. Getting words on the page is the only thing that will make you a writer, and it is the only thing that will get your story finished.

If you start editing and labouring over getting the perfect turn of phrase from line one, after several hours of ‘writing’ you might find yourself with one lovely paragraph and not much more. To make matters even worse, the next day when you look at that previously perfect paragraph, you will see that it is very overwritten, you will hate it, and spend your next night’s writing trying to fix it up.

Even if you do still love that paragraph, a perfect paragraph does not tell the story (unless you are writing flash fiction). You will still have a long way to go and will more than likely burn out before you get to the end.

If you give yourself permission to write badly, then you can concentrate on getting the story out of your head and onto the page where it belongs. Only once it is finished should you go back and start your edit, and let me stress here that you SHOULD go back and edit your work.

So I guess really there are two golden rules here; give yourself permission to write badly, and never send off a first draft! Editing can be tedious and frustrating, but it is also necessary if you are serious about making your writing the best that it can be.

By the way, my ‘fear’ that I faced this week was signing up for my new web hosting service. So now I’m committed to my new website, very exciting!

Nat

Facing Fears

Following on from J K Rowling’s excellent speech (see previous post) I have been thinking a lot about taking risks over the last week. It is so easy to look back on the past risks of successful people and dismiss them as being minimal. But the truth is it takes a brave person to turn their back on safe and head into the unknown.

Every time you send out a manuscript you are taking a small risk. You are putting your work out there and seeing if someone likes it enough to publish it. You risk being told you can’t write, you risk being told your story is lame, you risk being told to give up. But these are all very small risks, and if you can’t take these, then you have no place in the world of publishing.

It is becoming apparent to me that these days if you want success in publishing, you need to take bigger risks. You need to fund your own marketing, you need to be prepared to get out there and push your book, you need to become more IT savvy.

I’m ready to take those risks, so to that end sometime before the end of this month I’m going to move my website and blog from my current ‘copy-paste’ templates to a new platform that I design and maintain. So please stick with me, there may be glitches, I may lose all my current content, but keep checking back if you suddenly find that I’ve gone off line. I will be back!

And do stay tuned, I have some exciting big risks coming up and I would love to bring you along for the journey. Life belongs to the brave, and I’m at the point where the fear of everything staying exactly the same has finally outweighed the fear of failure.

So let’s take part in a challenge, do one thing this week that you are afraid of, and please tell me about it. I’ll do something too, and it won’t just be turning off my website template. Let’s be brave together!

Happy risk-taking!

Nat

Taking risks, if Little Chef can do it, so can we;

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All writers are great

Yes, it sounds like something that would be said by a member of the generation that were given participation awards at school, but I can assure you that I’m firmly in the Gen X category where the ribbons only went down to third place and sometimes a wooden spoon was handed out for coming last so you had a memento of your humiliation. However the statement about great writers is true. But perhaps I do need to tack a little bit on to the end of that… All writers are great to someone.

I am amazed at how often I can be glowingly recommended a book which I cannot force myself to finish, likewise a book I love is slagged by others. It is uncanny how often a writer taps into the global ‘love’ list while also squeezing themselves into the dreaded (but apparently profitable) ‘hate’ list as well (Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, anyone who has a number 1 bestseller basically).

So what am I saying? That you don’t need to try, someone will love the words you chuck together? NO! What I’m saying is that if you love your stories, then others will too, just not everyone. Rejections will come, people will slag and stories will be placed forever in the bottom drawer… But someone will love your work, someone will want to publish your work and someone will silently thank you for inventing a story that resonated on such a personal level with them. It might just take time. After all, there must be some truth to the oft’ quoted saying (attributed to so many people that I just had to pick one from a long list):

“There is a word for a writer who never gives up; published.”

                                                                        – J. A. Konrath

Finally, love her or hate her, I think J. K. Rowling wrote some great books and here is a commencement speech she gave at Harvard University in 2008. If you haven’t seen it I think it is well worth watching:

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The Curse of the 5th Chapter

May has been a month of deadlines. One of these deadlines was for a novel development program, open to any genre. Keen to get advice from other writers and editors about how to write a better book, the first decision I had to make was which partially written novel to submit.

This was a bigger challenge than you might expect given how many novels I have started over recent years. I kid you not, I have six novels actively on the go right now. They are in different genres, aimed at different readers, written in very different styles. The one thing they do have in common is that they all stop after the fifth chapter. Why? Because for me, that is when it really starts to feel like a novel and I begin to fall in love with it. So naturally I become terrified that I’m going to stuff the rest up and will find any excuse not to go back to it.

I have long known of this is a particular affliction of mine, and I have read other blogs by other writers who have similar problems, but at different parts of the book. But gratefully for this novel development program I could ignore the bits past chapter five and just pull together the first few chapters for my submission.

Here was my surprise. The first five chapters weren’t great. In fact the first five chapters weren’t even good. They were actually crap. I had spent three years avoiding this book because I loved it so much that I didn’t want to bugger it up, and it turns out that by neglecting it that was exactly what I had done.

What was meant to be just a weekend of work turned into about 25 hours of re-writes and hard edits to get my chapters up to scratch in time for posting on Friday. But what’s even better is that I’m raring to go on chapter six and beyond! So even if the development program doesn’t come through for me, at least I now stand a chance of finishing this book!

So now I guess I have nothing to worry about… Until I hit the curse of the ¾ mark –where you become convinced that your novel is crap. But we’ll cover that in another blog.

Happy Writing!

Nat

The Horrors of Homonyms

Someone recently asked me for some advice about writing and getting published. I know, get back on your chair, I was surprised too! But I wanted to take this seriously so I had a long think about what pearls I could pass on. I know I am no expert, but I have read enough books and spent enough hours with writers to have picked up a thing or two, so I tried to think about the most important ‘rules’.

The thing that kept coming back to me is every rule is there to be broken. I could tell of the pitfalls of point of view slips, the danger of dangling modifiers, the crime of clichés or even how trite it is to marry adjectives to nouns based on them sharing the same first letter. But the cold, hard fact is that I could also show you countless number-one bestselling novels that do all these things in abundance and no one gives a rat’s patooty.

But there is one error that many first time writers (myself included) make that will preclude you from the best seller list; the misplaced homonym. Here are some examples:

  • She drew an ark around them – what, a picture of a boat? That would be arc.
  • The waves crashed on the beech – unless a tree was growing on the beach you want to swap the ‘e’ for an ‘a’. 
  • He was such a boar – unless you are trying to say he was a pig, it would be bore.
  • She lifted the vile to her lips – the contents might be gross, but the receptacle itself would be a vial.

I could go on, but there are smarter people than me who have dedicated full websites to this, so I’ll leave you to explore them. The point is, spell check does not pick them up, even fancy new Word doesn’t get them all. So keep an eye out for these little devils because they can pull the reader right out of the story, and anything that pulls the reader out is working against you.

Now eye knead two go and do sum righting…

Nat

PS My online story is brewing; if you would like to register to receive the updates please send me an email (including your email address) via my website (click here).

Be careful what you wish

Yes, after a week that flew past faster than a rumour spreads in an all-girls school, this week the minutes dragged by. Don’t get me wrong, data modelling and report writing is fascinating stuff (pick the parts of the blog post written in case my boss is reading), but I had so much to do at home this week that I just couldn’t get through the days fast enough.

So I guess the good point to take from that is that I’m back into a writing frame of mind. I’m editing a lot and writing quite a bit of new stuff, so that’s as much as you can ask for, even if the cost is a working week that drags by so slowly you can count the milliseconds and model some data between each one.

On Tuesday I’ll be going to a web writing course. Besides learning that all my blog entries are wrong, I’m hoping to get some new ideas about how to publish some of my stories on line. It is the future after all (well, at least the future until some global cataclysm sends us back to the dark ages of technology). So check in next week for the launch of my online foray into the wonderful world of online publishing.

Finally I would like to make another plea to any of you want-to-be writers out there to get yourselves into a writer’s group. I met up with mine for brunch yesterday and it was just fantastic to spend three hours talking books, story arcs and novel writing problems with a group of like minded people. If you don’t have one yet, go out and get one!

Now, just to get a few gratuitous laughs off someone else’s brilliance, check this out. It made me laugh…

Nat

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The journey of a spec fic writer.