23 Tips from Famous Writers for New and Emerging Authors (5 min read) — The Millionaire’s Digest

Written by Millionaire’s Digest Staff Member: Amber M. Founder & Owner of: A Not So Jaded Life Millionaire’s Digest Staff Team, Author, Successful Living and Writing Writer 1. “I have advice for people who want to write. I don’t care whether they’re 5 or 500. There are three things that are important: First, if you […]

via 23 Tips from Famous Writers for New and Emerging Authors (5 min read) — The Millionaire's Digest

Abstraction, distraction and detraction

A few weeks ago I read Stephen King’s book on writing called, um, ‘On Writing’. If you haven’t read it, and you have any kind of literary aspirations, I thoroughly recommend you give it a go. Even if you don’t, as a biography of a successful writer’s career, and as an insight into how he does what he does, it’s well worth looking into.

I’d never read any Stephen King novels before reading that one, mainly because my entire understanding of his work until now consisted of just three pieces of information.

  1. He writes horror (which I’m not into).
  2. His stories often make surprisingly good movies – Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, The Shining, etc.
  3. His books have the word ‘fuck’ in them (a fact gleefully revealed to me by a friend at school when I was twelve).

But on the strength of reading the awesome On Writing I decided to give some of his work a go.

reading the king

The old me would me would have felt the need to start at the beginning, with Carrie, because reading people’s work in the order it was published somehow used to seem so important. The new me, who read all The Watch novels by Terry Pratchett first before going back and starting on the rest (and is very happy he did so) decided to start at the very top with what many consider to be his finest work; the 1421 page, complete and unabridged version of ‘The Stand‘.

I bought an old copy from Amazon for 1p, plus £2:80 postage and packing* (I was interested in seeing what it was like, but not that interested), and so far – 444 pages in – I’m enjoying it. Unsurprisingly, considering the length, it rambles a little, and there are an awful lot of characters to keep track of, but it’s well written, the idea’s really interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it will play out.

* The old library copy I’d bought had an anti-theft sticker inside the front cover, a fact which caused me merry hell when I went shopping the other day – with alarms going off all the time, many a suspicious look and one apologetic bag search – until I finally figured out what was going on and ripped it out, taking part of the front cover with it.

For those of you that don’t know, the basic storyline (in a nutshell) concerns a genetically engineered super flu virus that escapes the lab and kills about 97% of the world’s population, and what the remaining 3% do afterwards to survive. It’s an interesting proposition which brings me, in a very roundabout way, to the actual point of this post.

I just read a chapter on the wave of natural selection that would happen if just such a disaster did occur. After the disease had done it’s thing some people, unused to and unprepared for a world without safety and technology, would die off pretty quickly from their own greed, ignorance or stupidity. We are told about a bunch of different people, and the tragic/stupid ways in which they meet their demise, and that made me wonder about the so called ‘sanctity of life’. We’re often told that all life is precious, that dying is bad and everyone is important. But is it true?

There are 7 billion people in the world; 7 billion! Let’s assume that most of them are either making the world a better place, or at the very least not actively trying to mess things up for the rest of us. Statistically speaking, there must be at least some people who are actually making the world a worse place to be. Even if it was just one tenth of one percent, that’s still 7 million people we’d be better off without. That’s a lot. I mean, that’s 7 million deaths that could make the world a better place. Faced with an idea like that it brings the whole sanctity of life thing into question don’t you think? It does for me anyway.

reading in the garden

That was where my mind wandered to on this sunny Saturday morn (NB: I feel ok in having thoughts like this because I’m not actually proposing we go out and start killing people!), when my mobile phone went *ding ding* and I got an e-mail. Train of thought ended. Something new had come along to distract my brain, abstract my thought pattern, and detract from my creative mental ramblings. And that’s what this post is really about.

We’ve made distracting ourselves into a full time thing, so much so that the distractions themselves fight for our attention. Message alerts and notifications want us to stop our lives and take notice of what our friends are getting up to on Facebook or Instagram, and we let them. No wonder we have short attention spans.

But we do it to ourselves too. Whilst I was writing this I heard my friend get up and go in the kitchen. She’s been away for a week and got back late last night, after I’d gone to bed. I felt a compunction to go say hello, see how she was, see how her trip went, and it actually took some effort on my part to stay focused on what I was doing so that it might actually get it finished.

I don’t know if we’d be better off if there were less people in the world, but I do know we’d be better off spiritually speaking if we turned our phones and our brains off once in a while and just stayed in one place – both physically and mentally – and did just one thing at a time. I suspect we’d be a lot happier, and we’d make more of this life that we’re all so keen on preserving.

Words!

I like words.

I like their shapes, their sounds and their use to convey meaning and concepts (I know that’s their purpose but still, well done them!).

And it’s not just the big words I like, like lackadaisical or discombobulated, but the funny little ones too, like svelte, lithe, and my favourite of all time (for now) louche.

I realised how much I liked words when I did my life coaching session recently. I mean I already knew I liked them, but even I could hear the enthusiasm in my voice as I was telling my friend about the book I was writing and the few little gems of text that had come out of it.

These are what I gave as examples of “…a sentence that glows.”

NB: It’s a fantasy novel, written in a noir style, so don’t be surprised if it just sounds silly out of context. And the text below is more or less unedited, so there’s likely to be a grammatical error here and there (at least that’s what Word tells me anyway).

This first paragraph occurs at the end of a robbery, where the robbers offer their inside man a full share and a chance to come with them rather than stay and carry on as normal.

Scrud considered his options. What was there to stay for? Hard work and the odd beating now and then. Not much of a choice really. There was Lita of course. She was the only person who’d ever shown him any kindness, and he had a real soft spot for her. He’d even thought about marrying her one day. And now he had the money to do it right. He could buy their freedom, set them up in a small holding, buy a cow, plant some crops, see if they could make a go of it. It might work. But then again, with a huge pile of cash, soppy housemaids were ten-a-penny.

And this one, my favourite so far, is how a character sums up his current situation, on the verge of a new career after his last one was cut short when he was caught in flagrante with the Shah’s fourth wife.

Well well, he mused silently, perhaps the hand of fate had been between Zarina’s thighs after all.

They just make me smile, not just because they’re good, but because I did them and yet they came out of nowhere. That to me is when you know you’re really onto something; not when you impress other people, but when you impress even yourself, lol.

And likewise bad writing sends a shiver down my spine. Check out this post from slushpilehell, a tumblr blog done by a weary literary agent (and looking at some of the stuff they get sent, who can blame them for being weary!).

slushpilehell:

Hello, I am A Christian woman that recently has been lead by the Lord to write books for little childrens and teensagers. I beleive these are blessings from above and I am convinced the Lord will will lead me to the write agent/pupblisher/illustrator.

I’m no theologian, but I wonder if the Lord should first lead you to a dictionary.

Some people just shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard. And if they are, they should at least learn how to spell check. I mean, everyone make nistakes ;), but c’mon!

If You Write It, They Will Come

It’s not easy being a would be author. First off you have all the time and effort you have to put into creating your work, which you do for free in your spare time since the publishing industry is only interested in finished novels (if you’re writing fiction that is). And then when you want to try and get it published you come up against the great machine that is the publishing industry itself which, like pretty much every other industry in the world, has been designed to protect the people investing the money, producing the highest yield for the least amount of risk.

money & politics

Now I’m not saying it’s unfair. It is what it is, and so mote it be. But! it does result in the same old overly pessimistic advice being given to authors who are starting out, and after a while this can be a little wearing.

I recently read this blog post, How To Turn Your Blog Into A Book, which lead me to this one, How To Get Your Book Published, an excellent post which pretty much encapsulates the viewpoint of the industry in general.

Now I’m no industry insider. I haven’t got an agent, had a book published, or anything like that. But this is a subject I have studied since I was eight and first dreamed of becoming an author, so I flatter myself I know a little something on the subject. And yes, whilst in general the advice is sound, and well meaning, it is also very general indeed, and studiously ignores the exceptions that prove the rule.

Yes the – write and re-write, get help, find an agent, approach them in the right way, don’t be precious, keep trying – approach is a good one, but it’s all too easy to become discouraged when faced with such an arduous, and limited, journey.

The advice is understandably cautious, and maybe hopes to stop people wasting their time pursuing a career that might never happen, but it is also a bit of a downer. Like the news it focuses on the negative side of things, and offers very little encouragement. It reminds me of things like the Dragon’s Den, which people might watch and think “My idea would never make a good business”, just because it doesn’t fit into the very narrow criteria of what this small group of people will invest in.

beginning buddhism

You can equate it to the music industry, for example, where all eyes are concentrated on pop music and all advice is given on how to make it big in that one genre. Yes, the advice given is ‘the truth’, but also there are many other types of music out there, and many other ways to become successful, and those stories are equally as true as the ‘tried and tested’.

For example:

* The book The Horse Whisperer attracted a lot of interest and even got a six figure deal when the author took just the first 100 pages to the Frankfurt Book Fair and showed them to Robert Redford (who subsequently agreed to do the movie).

* L. Frank Baum had to invest his own money in publishing The Wizard Of Oz just to get it off the ground.

* Recently Fifty Shades Of Grey, a piece of New Moon saga fan fiction, became a number one bestseller and the subject of a Hollywood bidding war despite being a self published e-book.

* And finally, JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was turned down by 12 publishers before finally finding a home at Bloomsbury (and even they advised her to get a day job as she’d “…never make any money in children’s fiction.”

recipe book cover

Now I’m not suggesting you pin your hopes on something like this happening to you, or that you rush out and start self-publishing right away, just remember how general ‘general’ advice really is, and how there’s still room in this world for something new and dramatic to happen.

Don’t get weighed down by other people’s pessimism. Deal with their well meaning and knowledgeable advice the same way you deal with both compliments and criticism; with a warm smile and a polite “Thank you very much.”

making headspace

As ever, these are just my thoughts on the subject, garnered through many years of trying and failing. Like so many others before me I’ve sat for hours in the coffee shop trying to come up with ideas. I’ve spent my nights writing, and my weekends editing. I’ve written to publishers and cold called agents, read the trade magazines and spoken to people ‘in the know’ at events, all just to find a way to get me started in the industry. And y’know what, after all that effort the best advice I ever got was in a standard rejection letter sent to me by an agent years ago.

Would that I could remember it word for word, but it went something like this:

“It is a myth that there are hundreds of great, unpublished works out there. 99% of them are rubbish. So if you have something that’s really good, keep at it. Eventually you will get published.”

This was proven to me when, about a week later, another agent accidentally returned to me two other would be authors’ submissions along with my own. I couldn’t resist, I had to read them. They were terrible. The ideas were bad, the description poor, the grammar awful. I hate to admit it, but it gave me hope.

Of course you have to make sure that you’re not one of that 99%, but as long as you work at it, take advice, be self critical, but above all don’t lose hope, there’s no reason why one day you can’t become a published author too.

And if it never happens then for God’s sake make sure you enjoy yourself along the way, because there’s no point chasing after your dreams if you’re going to be miserable about it. That really would be a waste of time.

Where To’s That Then?

(brace yourselves, this is a long ‘un – oo-err missus! :P)

Oh Spring, where have you been? Away for so long, I thought you’d never get here!

tree flower

But now finally the equinox has come and gone, the days are longer, the nights shorter, the sun is out, and we’re about to go into summer time for 2012. Oh yes, things are looking up! That’s up as far as the weather is concerned anyway. Elsewhere the forecast is not so bright.

Work are humming and harring a little about giving me a sabbatical. They’ve sent me a list of questions, the general gist of which is “How will this effect the company?” and “What’s in it for us?” Now of course I’ll answer their questions in detail, but I just get the feeling they’re gearing themselves up to say no.

If they do though I’m pretty sure I’m going to take some time off work anyway (ie: hand in my notice). I mean if it’s a choice between that and my gravestone reading:

Here’s Lies Keith Dickinson
He Kept His Job

I know which one I’d prefer!
 
it's boring waiting for the sun to come out
 
Ok, so never mind spring, where the hell have I been? 2 weeks it’s been since my last post. I feel bad for neglecting my blog like that (don’t take it personally, it’s taking me a week just to respond to personal e-mails at the moment). I’ve just been working constantly, trying to make a bit of money to help pay for future shenanigans.

I have been doing other stuff too though, things more in line with My Brand New Life!

For one thing I met up with a friend of many years, Rakka, who I’ve actually never met before in real life. She’s a Flickr Friend, someone I’ve followed for 44 months (literally the third person I started following on there), and a very creative artist and photographer. It was her ‘My Name Is…’ Diego Montoya that caught my attention, and I’ve been an avid fan ever since.

She comes over to the UK once a year or so to get her fix of Britishness (a wee bit of an anglophile she is) and so we reckoned it was high time we met up. Actually we tried to meet last year but she was so ill we had to call it off.

Anyway, we met up in Islington where she and the guy she came over with, Leff, were going to be meeting a famous cat (?). Hey, who am I to judge, lol.

I took my friend Amanda along coz she works in the area and she was highly amused by the idea of meeting up with someone you only know through the online world. Rakka also invited along another online friend of hers, Nathalie, to meet for the first time, as well as another guy they know from the States, Chris, who just happened to be over here, so all told it was a pretty mixed bunch!

I have to say I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. Who knows how you’ll get along when you know someone one way and then meet them in an entirely different context. But I needn’t have been worried. She’s lovely, her friends were lovely, my friend got on with her and her friends, and all in all we managed to prove that the world is indeed just a great big onion, lol.

We had a right laugh once we were comfortably ensconced in the pub (alcohol helps in these kinds of situations, though I’m glad to say the fact that I don’t drink anymore didn’t prove to be a hindrance). Topics of conversation included (but weren’t limited to):

* Which parts of the UK are like which parts of America? – The North of England is like the Deep South (apparently, though I contest this a little), London and Edinburgh are like New York and L.A., and Leicestershire is like Ohio (ie: boring, hehehe ;))

* Icelandic Emo Ponies (or Ice Po’s, as we called them) – check out this link if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

* Portlandia – “It’s true. It’s all true!! They think they’re making a joke but they’re not, that’s what it’s like!!!

And…

* Sexy Neaderthals – Which is just so (unintentionally) hilarious! You’ve got to check it out. Just be sure to stick with it to the end.


 
As you can tell, we had fun. It was so great meeting up with everyone, I’m so glad we did it, and it just goes to prove the old adage –

‘There’s no such thing as strangers, just friends you’ve not yet met.’

 
So, apart from that, what else is going on? I’ve been writing a bit, which is nice. Actually coming up with some good stuff at the moment. The hard part is finding the time to write. For example I haven’t had time to do anything yet today, it’s nearly midnight, and I’ve got work tomorrow. Not conducive to good output. But that’s just an excuse. I need to make the time, and come Monday I will! It’s all good. 🙂

I’ve got a 10 day residential meditation course coming up which I’m really looking forward to. It should be amazing. Very intensive, quite hardcore (up at 4:30am!), but definitely worth it. Can’t wait to see what I learn from it.

Between now and then it’s just work work work. Might get some cooking done, in fact I better! I’ve bought the domain name http://www.myveganlife.co.uk (which you can type into your browser but it just leads you back here at the moment, lol) and I’m going to start an all vegan blog which I’ll be launching in a month or two (haven’t even started building it yet!). It’ll be the public face for all my cooking shenanigans.

Don’t worry, I’ll keep this little baby going. This is where I come to share silly things, make dick jokes, and talk about all the weird stuff I got going on. I just need somewhere I can build into a ‘proper’ foody site that people can really enjoy (and that might lead somewhere in the future). Coz that’s the one thing all this faffing about with work has taught me, that not only does no one get rich working for other people, and if you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you’ve already got, but if you don’t do it now, then when?

So it’s time to crack on! Who’s with me??? 🙂

“…what I wrote I wrote on purpose.”

There’s an excellent website called Letters Of Note. They reproduce, as you might expect, letters people have written (Where will such websites get their material in the future, in this age of e-mail and text, I wonder?) that are special, or significant, or just plain fascinating in one way or another. Trust me, go there and you’ll be there all day.

I was just reading a letter written by the ad executive David Ogilvy to someone seeking advice on the art of copywriting, and one sentence really stood out for me. It sums up, I think, how all writers must feel when presented with well meaning advice, expert opinion, or (more often than not) ignorant utterances from those who see only their own world in your writing without first trying to see yours. It was this:
 

“If the client changes the copy, I get angry — because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.”

 
If people could only remember the unseen effort people put into the things they do then who knows, perhaps they would not make their little ‘helpful suggestions’ so lightly? Now wouldn’t that be nice.