Why you should share your writing and how to go about it #amwriting

As a person who has spent 20 years writing without another soul seeing my work, I think it’s fair to say that I’m a self-proclaimed expert on the difficulty of sharing.

I think this is probably something many writers struggle with at first. That transition from our innermost thoughts being just that, to allowing them exposure to the critical assessment of others.

It’s daunting, I get that. Really, I do.

Why do you need to share? Why do you write?

This is the first question you need to answer before you go any farther. If you have no aspirations to publish or simply love to write but have no desire to do anything more with your work, then you should feel no burden or need to share. For a lot of my twenty years writing I was exactly this, happy to write, no burning need for it to go anywhere or be seen by anyone

I guess I got to a point where I felt, why not do something more? See what happens?

Yes, I did want to publish. Yes , I did want the satisfaction of sharing what I had done, and hopefully someone (even one person) saying yes, this work resonates with me.

So, why should you share your writing?

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Feedback is the only way to learn and improve: This is the truth of it. Yes, reading books about writing techniques, blogs, and online articles are all very helpful, and there is no doubt they will improve your work. But! There is really no substitute for ‘just doing’ and receiving feedback. In my opinion this is the only true way to learn and grow.

We don’t often learn by doing something once, or even twice, and we don’t learn without any feedback at all. Learning is an iterative process, which by definition means you have to do it more than once.

It gives us confidence: I can attest to the fact that sharing is the one and only way to gain any level of confidence in your work. I think it becomes less daunting with each increment of sharing. Less traumatic, and more encouraging.

So, you are ready for some feedback, how do you proceed?

How to share your writing

A friend: It can be hard to find a ‘friendly’ someone you know and trust to be gentle, but who at the same time, will provide some valuable feedback on your work. That’s a big ask, and not everyone will fit the bill. So take your time, choose carefully and be brave. Critique Partners

Share anonymously: Using sites such as Wattpad.

Professional feedback: There are all kinds of editing options out there. Developmental editing for example will assist in story structure, copy editing for grammar and punctuation, or proof reading if the story is almost there and you need a final check. See Editing v Proofreading

Generally, this is a service you need to pay for. I used a copy editor who also offered some amazing developmental insights. I learnt an insane amount by having my story professionally edited.

Beta readers: Are kind and wondrous beings who are prepared to read your work and offer feedback…for free. My advice on engaging beta readers is to be polite and mindful that they are doing this for FREE, so make sure you provide background on your book to ensure it is a genre they like. Also, check the type of feedback they provide, some will offer a lot of detail and some will give you a summary overview of what they thought. Note: They often have a queue of books to read, so find out upfront when they may be able to get around to reading your book, and ensure the timelines work for you both.

A Note on feedback: All feedback is invaluable, but, you need to be mindful that you don’t need to act on it all. Not all feedback providers are professional, and even if they are a professional, you still need to think it through. I would say that generally when someone gives you good advice you just know it. I usually read it, let it sink in, and then read it again a little later. You can pickup some amazing gems even from what may at first seem like a negative comment.

My own experience with friends, beta readers, and a professional editor is that very little of their feedback was disregarded. And if it was disregarded I understood exactly why.

So what’s holding you back?

BiXiMA-CUAEk3DtSource https://twitter.com/tomgauld/status/443008838791213056

If you are anything like me, and you struggle with the idea of sharing, ask yourself why you write and if you are ready for feedback.

A few encouraging words can provide a world of motivation!

So, if you haven’t shared before, why not jump in. You might be pleasantly surprised 🙂

Selecting a book cover…I’ve found something else to procrastinate about #amwriting

Throughout the process of publishing a book I have had to navigate numerous stumbling blocks: the dreaded analysis paralysis, indecisiveness, and a great deal of procrastination.

First there was the character names, and I have excelled at indecisiveness in this area. I am about to publish and I am still changing character names! I am even—at this late stage—contemplating changing the sex of one of my main supporting characters! I am the living embodiment of a Tom Gauld cartoon.

Then there was the book name, and many an amusing conversation between myself and my father (and other people) has taken place about what to call the book.

And now there is the book cover…

I honestly thought the cover would be easy (what a fool I was!), but no, yet again, I have discovered new degrees of procrastination due to the choice available to me. My book is sci-fi fiction, which typically can have:

  • A picture of a planet(s)
  • A picture of a spaceship
  • A picture of a person
  • A picture of a landscape
  • An obscure symbol

My book, while sci-fi, also has elements that would appeal to fantasy fans. So you can probably throw a sword in there because hey-ho, there are some swords.

And let me tell you that is way too much choice for my brain to cope with.

Let’s layer over the top of this some angst from all the articles I have read talking about the vital importance of getting your book cover right to attract the right audience.

Ahhhhh!

I fear many more days, weeks (hopefully not more than weeks) of procrastination about my cover design, after which I will probably pick something incredibly mainstream out of sheer desperation.

Ah the joys of writing 🙂

…And if only I could pick a cover so I could get back on with the writing part.

Post apocalyptic writing – The rise of dystopian sci-fi #amwriting #scifi

As readers we seem to have developed a fixation with dark future worlds. Are we purposely casting a sinister slant onto human destiny? Is it a desire for sensationalism, or simply realism that colours our apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction trends? Are we heading rapidly towards disaster? Or is it a slow unfurling of all that we hold dear? Love it or loath it, dark future sci-fi is here to stay. Here is my pick of common themes in the post-apocalyptic / dark future world.

There are always survivors

No matter how bad, no matter how much decimation, no matter what we do to our world, there is always the residual hope of the survivors the book is based around.

apocolypse survivor

They don’t always tell you how it happens

Often there is just an indication that life changed, but no one actually knows the cause. Much of the book may be dedicated to understanding the trigger event, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together in an attempt to rectify or resolve the damage done.

Sometimes they just move on to dealing with the consequence. It all comes down to whether the trigger to change life in this new dark direction was fast or slow.

A slow trigger such as climate change could provide people with plenty of warning.

A fast trigger such as a natural disaster could keep people in the dark.

And many triggers can be applied in different ways depending on how you pitch the book. For example a war could be swift or take decades to tear society down. The same with diseases, and even an alien invasion could be pitched from multiple directions.

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The search for a better place

The book can often be themed around a journey or search. Always seeking to find a safe zone or utopia homeland that is just around the corner, over the hill, or a hidden message away.

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It brings out the best and worst in people

Even a localised natural disaster can bring out the hero…and the criminal who wants to prey on the weak. An apocalyptic event just does this exponentially more. Dark, lawless futures, likewise set a grim backdrop that provides plenty of scope for the scourge of society to step into. There is a big difference between an opportunist criminal that knows he has a few days or hours to take advantage of his fellow men, and the far more profound knowledge that the law and order we have come to rely on is never coming back.

apocalyptic world

Awesome character arcs

Dark places and events can change people, but perhaps more dramatically it can leave them the same. I love the way this genre is often centred around the character arc. Some characters change significantly as their survival instinct kicks in and they adapt. They become something more, or worse, or better, than they were. My favourite is when they stay exactly the same, for example the person who doggedly retains their innocent, hopeful, and caring ways, no matter what hardship or horror comes their way.

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Best bad guys

It’s not just about surviving against the evil humans in these dark future worlds. Zombies, mutations, diseases, out of control robots, rabid dogs, and alien attack! So much creative scope when it comes to the bad guys.

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Divided Serenity out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.

Divided Serenity Book Cover

The writing apprenticeship #amwriting

At the bottom of the article is a wonderful video, and well worth a watch for those who might be struggling to match their writing passion to their desired quality of work.

There are a few takeaways, but amongst them, that it is Okay for it to take time between starting your writing journey and achieving that illusive thing called quality.

Here’s a great notion to wrap your head around…most writers, even successful writers, still consider themselves to be amateurs. Not sure what that makes the rest of us, but I guess at its heart, we should simply only ever strive to do better tomorrow than we did today, should make our next book better than our last, and should not judge our first work too unfairly.

We have to start somewhere, and we have to learn along the way.

I recently went to a writing seminar, and as always at such events you quickly get into a discussion with fellow writers, about what you have done so far in your writing journey, and what you are planning to do next.

I was surprised by the number of people who wanted to be a writer but had written virtually nothing to date.

I realised that I was nothing like them, and that my own journey was considerably longer and slower.

Were these new writers being overly ambitious? Perhaps they were, or perhaps they were simply starting from a higher baseline than me. One thing I have realised from my own writing journey is that I am incredibly slow, and I have (in my old age) become comfortable with simply reaching my writing destination at my own snail-like pace.

So, here is my writing journey.

As a child

Sometimes parents just know their children love books – I was one such child. As long as I can recall I was either being read to, or reading for myself. I consumed books at a voracious rate, and my whole family indulged me. Not sure what to get me for Christmas or birthdays? Just get me a book, and they did in vast numbers. I read them just as fast. Pretty much at any point of my childhood I was reading age relevant books. I loved the fairy tales of mythical places and imaginary kingdoms, talking animals, dragons, castles, that was right up my street. My mother bought me a new ladybird book every week, and it was my absolute favourite treat. Sleeping beauty, The Princess and the Pea, The Roald Dahl collection, Aesops fables – these were my staple reading as a child. Later, I progressed to books such as The Mill on the Floss, and The Hobbit. 

Young adult

I started writing myself just after university (over twenty years ago now), and I have been writing pretty much ever since. It ebbs and flows as with all things in life. That pesky thing called reality and work can get in the way, but I have always been drawn back to write. And of course I never stopped reading.

I write a lot

During the last 20 years I wrote hundreds of parts of books, and a total of 2 full books, before I considered myself close to proficient. That’s a lot of writing. I wrote whatever and whenever I fancied. I didn’t constrict my ideas or my genre; I just leapt right in and wrote.

I considered this my apprenticeship of writing. I have no formal writing qualifications, I have the usual high school exams and good grades in English language and literature, but went on to complete a degree in maths and computing, and my career is based around that.

Regret 

If I had one regret it would be that I did not stop to consider what I loved doing when I was younger, and that I had selected a degree that would complement my love of writing. But that’s just life isn’t it, we don’t always make the perfect decision, and we learn from whatever we do.

You know when it’s the one

I guess some people, such as the ones I met on my writing course, just know straight off that they have found the ‘one’, and some people, like me, have to battle through a vast and extended apprenticeship before they decide to commit to publishing a book.

One thing I do not regret is all the years I have spent writing, or the books I wrote that were not quite right. They taught me a lot.

We all have to start somewhere.

As the video mentions, we all must pass through an apprenticeship of some kind, whether that apprenticeship is long or short doesn’t really matter, the important thing is that we keep going and we come out on the other side.

I realise that I am not a finished product, that my life will teach me much more about writing, and that I will ultimately look back on my first published novel and realise it wasn’t my best. And that is a wonderful thought—to expect that I will always keep improving.

I also realise that we all have to start somewhere, and that the most important step is simply to start.

I hope you enjoy the video 🙂 and happy writing!

Divided Serenity out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.

Divided Serenity Book Cover