Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Self-Publishing – Necessity Rather Than Choice?

Only good writing is published. The rest is self-published.

How fair is this assessment?

Is every book you’ve plucked off the shelf tightly written, well structured with gripping beginnings and endings? How many times have you slammed a book shut in disgust after slogging through the first ten pages of absolute rubbish?

And do some books get the nod just because of an author’s name?

The belief that self-published books are below standard is a myth. Many top authors and writers have resorted to this option, either at the beginning or during their careers. Take Matthew Riley, for instance, whose first book was self-published.

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Free E-Book: Hal Spacejock No 1

Simon Haynes, author of the popular Hal Spacejock series, together with his publisher, Fremantle Press, is offering something pretty special.

Anyone can download a free copy of his first book in the series as an eBook.

Why? Because it’s a promotional tactic to get more people reading his other books.

For me, as a blind person, it’s great. I get to read a book that probably isn’t available in alternative formats. And even though it was written for adults, kids apparently love it.

So I’ve downloaded my copy. If you’d like to as well, click here

Let’s hope more publishers follow suit.

Tips for Authors – What Kids Want To Read

Last week, I was lucky enough to do a couple of author workshops at the Rosalie Writers Festival.

Rosalie Primary School is a wonderful little school in Shenton Park, Western Australia. I say wonderful, because the kids there amazed me in every way.

My subject was “doggy dialogue”, based on my soon to be published book, ‘Seeing Dogs’.

I had two groups – year 2′s and year 5/6′s. Even though ‘Seeing Dogs’ is meant for ages 9 – 12, the year 2′s did a fantastic job of creating a really imaginative scene in the book. Never underestimate a seven year old!

And the year 5/6′s excelled in using all the elements of dialogue to write parts of a scene. I honestly thought some of them wrote better than me!

Now the most interesting thing – no, actually, there was more than one – was learning what kids like to read. As an author, this is vital and privileged information.

Some of the kids did a blogging workshop where they put down their thoughts about their favourite kinds of stories. And you can find out what kids aged 5, 6 and 11 like to read most.

Just click here and gain a valuable insight.

Then start writing your next story!

Seeing Dogs: My First Children’s Book Bounding into Print

At last it’s happened! A writer’s longed for dream: a book publishing contract!

I’ve been sitting on the news for some time, because I didn’t want to jinx it. But it’s time to spill the beans.

Seeing Dogs, a story that means so much to me, is finally going to become a published book. Brinda, Tilly, Pudding and Sam are set to move into the hearts of children who love stories about dogs, and guide dogs in particular.

Tiger Publications is the Publishing House. The book will be available in America and Canada, but will be distributed worldwide.

I’m working with West Australian illustrator Kerry Jordinson on black and white sketches that will appear in the text and a colour cover. And it’s an exciting process to witness my story coming to life.

Tiger is planning some interviews with both Kerry and me, so I’ll keep you posted on this.

What this all means for me as well as other writers out there, is that persistence pays when you believe you have a story to tell.

Seeing Dogs has had a rugged journey. In its most primitive form, it was written off by a manuscript asessor who told me I couldn’t write about animals. In the same breath, I was told that it must be very difficult for me to write because I was blind.

Perhaps that’s what got me fired up. Perhaps that’s why I worked so hard to transform my beloved story from slush to a well-crafted sculpture. (Now I’m geting carried away!)

What I’m trying to say is that I never gave up on Seeing Dogs, despite many rejections from publishers in Australia. I knew one day it would find a home. I just had to keep trying.

So don’t fret about the growing pile of rejection letters. Keep sending your manuscript out. One day, it won’t come back. Instead, you’ll get an offer of a contract.

Writing for Children: An essential resource for your writer’s kit

If you’re like me, you’re quite selective about the books you add to your writing library.

They need to be well written and engrossing, not dull and boring like the traditional text-book style.

They need to clearly show the techniques they are describing by using good examples.

And lastly, they need to be affordable.

Apart from books, there are plenty of ebooks around on writing. I tend to go for these as I can access them so much more easily than printed books. All I have to do is open them up and let my speech program – Jaws – read them to me.

But you don’t want to spend all your time reading very lengthy ebooks. You’re supposed to be a writer, right? Your time should be spent on the keyboard or with pen in hand.

Marg McAlister of Writing 4 Success has solved this problem. She has put out a short ebook dedicated to writing for children.

Quick Bites No 1 contains information that every children’s writer craves. And all articles are written by published authors.

You can find out about the types of books for all ages and their lengths. There are tips on getting published and reference to other valuable resources. And then there are articles on finding a plot and bringing your characters to life.

The best news is that this forty-eight page ebook costs only $7.

Confession time! I have written an article for this ebook. But no, I do not profit from it.

So if you’re looking for some quick information on writing for children, have a look at Quick Bites

Another Angle on What Editors Really Want

An editor won’t even get past page one of your manuscript if there’s no gripping hook, the writing is dull and peppered with adverbs and adjectives, and if the main character’s personality doesn’t instantly leap off the page.

Despite what I wrote in my recent post Catching The Editor’s Eye where I broke some rules and yet got a promise of being published, I still stuck solidly to what really matters when writing a story: having a main character who the reader can relate to; and using hooks, snappy language and dialogue and action to move the story along, ie the show don’t tell rule.

But sometimes – or is it often – sloppy writing gets published and sells millions of books. The question is why?

I belong to a network of authors – most of whom write for kids – and we regularly exchange thoughts and advice via email. One of the group commented on ‘The Shadow Thief’, written by 14-year-old Alexandra Adornetto.

Apparently, ‘The Shadow Thief’ is an exciting tale, but has three glaring writer no no’s that would have an editor chucking it into the reject pile very quickly. They are:

  • an omniscient author who talks to the reader inbetween scenes;
  • heaps of adverbs, especially the ones ending in ‘ly that if the rest of us mere authors dare to pen would result in an electric shock; and
  • plenty of tell, not show.

The belief of this group member is that Alexandra got published because of her age. Being only 14 years old is a fantastic selling point. We all know that one of the considerations publishers take into account when assessing manuscripts is the saleability of a book.

It is depressing that this can happen, and we’re fully aware that it does. As my colleague said, if ‘The Shadow Thief’ was written by a 40-year-old housewife, would it have been published?

But I’ll stick to the rules I follow, because I know how turned off I get when I read badly written novels. I’d rather attract discerning readers than sell millions.

Writing Inspiration

Last night, I saw an interview with Thomas Keneally on a TV program. Keneally has published over forty books and has been writing for about fifty years.

Often, when I listen to novelists speak, I feel discouraged and depressed. It seems impossible to ever reach the level they have achieved. But Keneally was different. He said a couple of things that hit home for me.

Firstly, he said: “write first, get it right later”. He reinforced what I’ve heard before and what I should know, that you need to get your story down, do the editing later. Don’t let that critic in to stop your flow of thoughts and ideas. But it’s hard to stick to this. When I heard this, I suddenly realised I had stopped writing my young adult novel, because the critic had taken control. For weeks, I’d been on Chapter 14 and not budged. Prior to that, I was writing one chapter a week! So I put my head down, fingers to the keys, and got back to the writing. And now it’s flowing beautifully.

The second thing he said made me smile. He said that as writers, we’re made up of fifty percent uncertainty and fifty percent artistic arrogance. The arrogance is about us thinking that the world needs and wants to read our books. Both are so true. I swing from feeling self-doubt and uncertainty about my stories, to being incensed that my work doesn’t always get published. It’s an interesting mix.

So I sally forth, feeling a bit less isolated in my writing career, determined to keep going. One bit of feedback I got from a manuscript assessor for my junior fiction novel, “Seeing Dogs” was so uplifting, that I feel driven to get it published, no matter what. Sally Odgers, a multi-published children’s author, read “Seeing Dogs” and told me there was nothing wrong with it. The problem in getting it published is with it not fitting the market. I’ve got some choices about how to remedy this, one being self-publishing, the other being condensing it into a picture book. I’m considering both, but still searching for that elusive publisher.

The other bit of encouragement that is keeping me motivated and my fingers on the keyboard is an acceptance of a couple of my pieces by Harcourt, the educational publisher with whom I’m now aligned. They’re non-fiction pieces for a year six literacy unit, but it’s a foot in the door. I love this type of work: it’s challenging, exciting, and a new learning curve in terms of knowing how to write for the education market.

So I’m going to practise what Thomas Keneally preaches: write first, get it right later.

Rejection Letters to Writers Mean Nothing, Expert Says

I’ve been tapping away on my keyboard, working on my young adult novel. Just finished chapter 12. Phew! I’m already up to about 22,000 words. I start to wonder how the finished and polished version will be met by the publishing world.

Then I read one of my children’s writers’ ezines that pop into my inbox on a regular basis. There’s a fascinating link to a blog by a children’s book editor. The blog is about how to read or interpret rejection letters. Well, I think, this will be telling. Straight from the horse’s mouth, it has to be illuminating.

And, yes, I suppose it is. In The 8 Rules of Rejections this anonymous editor tells us in no uncertain terms, that all rejection letters are meaningless!

Okay, that’s good news, I agree. Of course all these publishers who’ve turned down my manuscripts are wrong. Maybe they haven’t even read them. But what about the lovely rejection letter from Penguin that told me not to give up, that my manuscript showed real promise? Could this be classified as a personal note, a piece of constructive or specific advice? I think so, and I’ll believe it.

But as for the rest of my rejection letters – well, they were all wrong. And that’s my mantra for the day.

Taking a Break From Novel Writing

I’ve heard of and experienced writers’ block, but I’ve never really been through writers’ burn-out.

That’s what I’m calling my slump in the novel writing this week. For the past six or seven weeks, I’ve been solidly writing scenes and chapters for my young adult novel, never missing a day and loving every minute. But this week, it all came to a grinding halt. I had no ideas at all for the next scene, and no enthusiasm to find them. It felt so awful, but I couldn’t do anything about it in terms of making it happen.

So I did the next best thing. I wrote a whacky little short story to lighten me up a bit. I didn’t consciously think that this might shift things for me, help me get back into the novel, but it has.

And it makes sense now that I look back on it. When you are bogged down in something and can’t move, doing something completely different is often the best way of becoming unstuck. I didn’t want to stop writing – especially as this is my career – but I had to get away from my novel. The light-hearted, quick paced story I wrote has done the trick.

In this story, I wrote about a totally unbelievable situation with a gullible character. It was meant to be whacky and way-out. I sent it off to my tutor for feedback, which in a way, I knew was dumb. My tutor has taught me to write realistic scenes with believable characters. Needless to say, she was very sceptical about my whacky story. But I’m not worried because it has worked its magic. Maybe I needed to go a bit wild for a while.

I’m still going to enter my short story in a competition and see how it is received. There’s no harm trying. But now, it’s back to the novel.

If you feel stuck with something you’ve been doing for a while, try doing something completely different. Dont’ worry about time loss through doing another activity; you will feel refreshed and attack your old task with renewed energy, and therefore be more productive.

Writing the Novel

I’m into week three of my intensive writing course and I’m just loving it.

For the first time ever, I’m so focused on my young adult novel. I’m living it and breathing it. Each night when I go to bed, I start creating the next scene or rethink the scene I’ve just written. And because I’m “in the zone”, the story is taking shape and developing in a way that I never thought it would.

The difference between being able to get stuck in now and not before I think is threefold: firstly, we were encouraged right from the start to set weekly goals which included strategies to achieving these goals; secondly, I was pushed to submit at least one piece of work a week to benefit from the feedback and the tutor’s expertise; and thirdly, getting positive feedback on my work and being able to discuss styles and techniques, as well as plots and subplots.

This week, I started on a couple of scenes where I needed to do some research. One of my characters has an acquired brain injury and wanders from home. She is only twenty years old and her father works full time as a police officer. He can’t get enough care in the home to ensure her safety. So I needed to find a GPS personal locator that would set off an alarm or something to alert the father to the fact that his daughter had wandered from home.

I rang the Alzheimer’s Association of WA to see if they knew of any such devices. I did this after searching on the internet for GPS systems and finding one that would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the wearer having to activate the device. I got a really helpful person at the Association who had the answer I needed. Now I can write that scene with confidence, knowing that what I am describing is not ficticious.

It’s really exciting when things come together like this. The more I get into my novel, the more engrossed I am becoming. Even wehn this course finishes in about two months, I know I will keep up the weekly goals and get this book completed.

I always talk to high school kids about the importance of setting goals. But it really relies on self-discipline. Even I have to keep reminding myself how important it is to set goals.

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