Category Archives: How to be an Author

Joe Conlan get started as a writer post pic

Being a Writer | How to Get Started as a Writer

How did you get started as a writer? In today's guest post, Joe Conlon, talks about his experience. Enjoy!
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How to Get Started as a Writer

by Joe Conlan

Joe Conlan get started as a writer post picHave you ever made the statement to anyone who would listen, “I’ve always wanted to…" ? I’m pretty sure most of us have on many occasions about a variety of experiences. Sometimes, we even make it happen. Since I was a young adult, I completed that sentence with “write a book.” It might have never happened for me if a simple question from my ex-father-in-law hadn’t given me the kick in the butt I needed. My family was gathered for the celebration of my daughter’s 20th birthday. I had already retired from my day job, the practice of law and had lots of free time on my hands. During conversation, I announced to the room that I had always wanted to write a novel. My ex-father-in-law, in his inimitable way, then inquired, “Well what the hell is keeping you from doing it?” Realizing he had an excellent point, I asked everyone or anyone for suggestions as to what I should write about. My ex-wife recommended murder on a cruise ship. That day I wrote the very first words of Nameless. I honestly believe that if that conversation had not occurred on that day, I would have never discovered what I was truly meant to do in this life.

Plot or not

Just because my mind was set on getting the task accomplished didn’t mean that I had the talent or ability to write a story from beginning to end that people would want to read. I had absolutely no experience or education on the subject of writing fiction. I didn’t know whether I should come up with some form of outline of a plot and list of characters. For that matter, I had no idea how to structure a story. So, rather than think too much, I took the easy way out as I am so often prone to do. I decided to sit at my laptop, start writing and see what happened. Fortunately, my fingers were tapping keys and producing words on the screen.

Feedback from Friends and Family

So, now that I was actually creating a story, I was still faced with the issue-will people want to read it. The solution was fairly simple though far from fool-proof. I chose several family members and close friends who were avid readers, to read the story as I wrote it. I’m sure you’ve figured out for yourself the flaws in such a theory. Could I really trust them to be totally honest? I asked them to be. In fact, I insisted on it. I let them know in no uncertain terms that I didn’t want to waste my time writing trash. Now that all is said and done and even back then, I was pretty sure they were being truthful once I started to get feedback. You can usually tell when the people closest to you are being deceptive. Another pretty good clue was that everyone had the same reaction. I couldn’t write the chapters fast enough for them. Due to their insistence and the motivation that their amazing comments provided, I finished the first draft of Nameless in just over 2 and a half months. It was quite a strange experience. Once I started typing, I never stopped until the final page was written. Of course, I ate and slept. I know this is going to sound crazy. What I mean to say is that it almost seemed as the story wrote itself.

The Next Stephen King

Here I was thinking that I was the next Stephen King. I was able to write an entire novel in such a short period of time that all my friends and family loved. I would be knocking out 8 books a year and watching my stories unfold on the silver screen. Then came the editing process. That’s when the real work started and more importantly, I was brought back down to earth. I hired a reputed editor in New York to read my manuscript. My purpose was two-fold. First, this was a way that I would really find out whether I had written a worthy novel. I also wanted to hear her suggestions about how I could improve the story. At the time, I was half-expecting she would take the six weeks she indicated she needed to analyze the manuscript and come back to me to tell me it was absolutely perfect. After all, I was the next Stephen King. As you can imagine, that wasn’t the case; far from it. Four years later, Nameless was ready for publication.

Working with an Editor

I can’t say that the entire time was spent on work, work, work. I resubmitted the transcript to the editor several times. Each time, she would take at least six weeks, sometimes significantly longer, to get back to me. Then there was a period of almost a year that I put Nameless down and didn’t touch it. That’s another story for another time, if you’re interested. The point being that my inner Stephen King was not yet quite fully developed. It takes a lot of hard work to get a manuscript into the shape required for publication. In the end, it was all well worth it. In a matter of two and a half months, Nameless became the number 1 bestselling thriller ebook in the Amazon UK kindle store and ultimately reached the number 2 spot for books of all genres. Being a self-published author, I have to say that I’m proud of that accomplishment. There’s no question it takes some luck for a book to go viral on Amazon. But, I think it also has to be a story that people want to read, which was my goal in the first place.

Now, I can’t stop writing. Book 2 of the series, When White Fades to Black is just about complete. I’m hoping to release it by either late fall or the very beginning of 2014. For more information about it and Nameless, please visit www.joeconlan.com.

Hiring an editor to help him get started as a writer certainly worked out for Joe - #1 bestseller is an outstanding result. Have you ever worked with an editor? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And share this post with your friends, using the handy buttons provided.

Who Would Be A Writer | Why I Write

Who would be a writer is a question many of us ask, particularly in the wee small hours after the hundredth rewrite, when our characters are still not doing what they're supposed to!

Today's guest poster explores our need to write with wit and imagination.
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Who would be a writer?

by Catriona King

Catriona King Who would be a writer graphicIt’s a strange thing, wanting to write a book. Firstly, why do I want to write it? Why does anyone? It’s hard work. Not digging the roads or standing on your feet ten hours a day hard work, and not making life changing decisions or saving lives, but it’s hard work for all that. Dreaming, thinking , plotting, typing, editing, re-editing, writing to agents, writing to publishers. All to get ninety thousand words on a page and place it somewhere that people can hopefully buy your dream, with no guarantees. So why do it?

The answers are probably as numerous as the authors out there but they all boil down to want or need. I want to do it; I want to see if I can do it. I want to show everyone that I’m not just all talk, that I can actually string two words together and make people feel. Something. Happy, loving, afraid, soulful. Just something. I want to see if I have what it takes or if those people on the Man Booker shortlist are different somehow. Deep thinking creatures who wear black turtle-neck sweaters and smoke Gitane. The Jack Kerouacs and Hemingways of this world. People whose lives are so interesting that they have a story to tell. One that’s worth hearing. But everyone has a story. You have, I have. We may not have travelled or drank or slept our way around the world but we have all lived.

So what about need?

What type of need makes someone sit in an airless room for hours on end and stare at a screen alone? Grateful for any interruption to pull them away from the thousands of words that won’t appear. Is it some drive to tell their story, or any story? Dreams of fame and fortune and seeing their characters live on the big or small screen? Hearing their words read aloud at schools or on tape, or being a module on an English literature course when they’re dead? The need to put food on the table and the hope that writing will make that dream come true, except that it rarely does. So why does anyone want or need to write? Perhaps just because they do.

What to Write

The second question is, what shall I write? What do I have to say and what do I know? They always say you should write what you know, but doesn’t that stifle creation and remove imagination from the mix? How about ‘write what you know a little about and embellish on the rest’? Check the facts where there are some and let your mind create the story in between. Writing lets you make new worlds and have an adventure every day. It has to be fun, even when it’s pain. Otherwise why would anyone want to write?

“Don’t write romance if you’re heartbroken”

Write what you like. Don’t write romance if you’re heartbroken, unless it’s therapy on a page. Don’t write about loss if you’re raw and hurt, wait until the stage of acceptance instead. Write what you like and makes you happy. Otherwise why would you sit down every day and try?

Plotting a Story

The third is, how can I plot? Some author friends are amazing with their timelines and character charts. Others are more free-wheeling, viewing a chapter like a journey with an unknown end. All the excitement of exploration and then checking back to see if it makes sense. Plot how you like. Plot however suits you. But plot.

Who Are My People?

Number four is, who are my people? Who do I want walking and running across my typed page? Is there one leading man or woman, or four? Do I give them detail or just form? Do I like them or love them or hate them? And do my allegiances change as they grow? Are they human and real and bad and good and weak and vulnerable and strong? Do I care about them? And if I don’t then how can I expect anyone who meets them to care?

The Business of Writing

“can I take critical reviews without wanting to kill the reviewer?”

Five is about the business. Why do some books rise and some books fall? Can I scale the obstacles to go for a contract or self-publish and hang them all? Can I take my editor’s nasty words without crying, and see them as helping to shape the way my words lie? And when my book is finally out there, can I take critical reviews without wanting to kill the reviewer?

Perhaps you don’t have to. After all, if you’re a crime-writer you can plot a nasty end for those reviewers in your next book. Maybe that’s why I want to write!

Have you ever murdered someone you dislike in a story? Tell us about it in the comments below - and share with your friends!

Mike Cantwell Photography and Writing headshot

Being a Writer: Photography and Writing

There are many kinds of writers - and we all come to it from our own creative space. Michael Cantwell, today's guest poster, shares how his creativity in photography and writing are connected.
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Photography and Writing

by Michael Cantwell

Mike Cantwell Photography and Writing headshotOver twenty years ago, photography became a hobby of mine. My mentor informed me that, “It will take you ten years before you understand the dynamics of making an image.” At the time, I thought the guy was nuts.

Learning the Basics

Then he taught me about the darkroom. I learned about different developers and how they react to different papers. I learned how to overexpose and underexpose in the camera as well as doing it in the darkroom. I learned about composition and the zone system, among many other things.

“I realize my mentor was wrong”

Fast forward more than twenty years later and I realize my mentor was wrong. After twenty years, I am only now learning how much I still need to learn. With the age of digital cameras, people believe they are cheating the system. They think you can adjust the little doohickey to the sports guy on top and take an action shot. Flip it to the scenery icon and you can make the perfect landscape. I chuckle to myself when I run across people who believe you don’t have to learn the basics. To this day, despite having one of the best Nikon digital cameras made, I still adjust every shot manually. I cringe at the thought of using what the camera’s computer chip believes is the image in my mind. I want to control the light. In other words, I write an image in my voice.

Thinking back to the first few images I would show my mentor, his comment was always, “Is that your best?” I would stare at him with my ignorance and ego and proclaim, “It’s darn good.” He would again look at me and ask, “Maybe so, but is it your best?” After putting in a full day at work, then standing on my feet for several hours in his darkroom, it quickly became my best. Years later I look at those images and shutter.

Is This Your Best?

I started writing on a bet. I had no mentor, no direction, only a lunch bet I couldn’t do it. I pumped out that first manuscript and envisioned myself reaping all the awards of any bestselling novelist. It was my best, so I thought.

The following summer I joined a writers group. I also read everything I could find on the internet about being a top novelist. I ran across an article that stated you had to write ten novels before you have a clue about writing. I scoffed at the idea. I then thought back about the lesson I learned in photography and scoffed anyway. Writing and photography are so different I thought. There are plenty of examples of authors having success with their first offering, right?

“it takes several novels to find your true voice”

I am now writing my fifth novel. It’s likely I will read my first novel again one day and once again wince at my words. My first photographs were technically excellent but not in my voice. Maybe it takes several novels to find your true voice. For others, maybe it doesn’t. All I know is that every day when I sit and write, I hope to become better. People enjoyed my first novel and I am proud of it. Considering what I accomplished with as little knowledge I had about writing at the time, I am even more proud.

I still work as a freelance photographer. I shoot high school sports for a national company. Many of my images have been sold and published in books and newspapers as well as to individuals. I did find a voice in photography. But I learned the basics and paid my dues.
I am finding a new voice with my writing. Some of my readers think my first novel is the best. Others think it is the second and so on. Just like some people see something in an image and others don’t, I guess it’s the same way with books. It’s a matter of taste. But in the end, I now have learned yet again, whoever wrote it takes ten books before you can find your voice is dead wrong. I never want to think I have learned all I can learn about anything after ten years or ten books. My voice is constantly improving. What about yours?

Michael's fifth novel, Soul Directive, is available from Amazon in paperback and kindle format.

Finding your voice as an author is a process - how did you find yours? Tell us about it in the comments below. If you're too shy, please share the article with your friends!

Afternoon Tea

"
Amos reached for another tiny cucumber sandwich triangle, marveling at how something edible could be rendered so unsatisfying to a healthy appetite.

Millie watched Amos demolishing her carefully crafted cucumber sandwiches and wondered how he could eat and talk about sewage at the same time. Her own appetite for the delicate treats had already deserted her.

"

- Doll Face: A Reiki Circle Mystery, by Imogen Knight

Writers Self Doubt | The Critical Inner Voice

“The critical inner voice is hard to silence - particularly when we believe it”

Writers are often consumed by angst - self doubt, anxiety and the consequences of well meaning attempts by friends and family members to protect us. The critical inner voice is hard to silence - particularly when we believe it.

In this courageous post writers self doubt by Heather Jacobs, she examines an experience that's familiar to all of us, but which we rarely talk about
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Writers Self Doubt | The Self Doubting Writer

by Heather Jacobs

Heather Jacobs writers self doubt headshotMany writers fight the self-doubt battle everyday. I’m one of those writers, but I’m trying not to let it take over my writing … or my life. But what do I mean by self-doubt? I mean that tiny little voice in your head (not your characters) that whispers into your ear that you and your writing just isn’t good enough.

My self-doubt started at the same time I decided to write to publish. Not shocking. Before that I wrote simply to release stress of the day. That doesn’t mean the self-doubt wasn’t there before. It was. I just didn’t pay it much attention.

It’s funny how a decision to form words into sentences that turn into paragraphs that turn into hundreds of pages can exasperate an issue like self-doubt. Just the idea of publishing something terrified me, but there was also something deeper; something that drove me deeper into quest to write something that could potentially be published.

I can’t explain exactly what it was, but my best friend will tell you that it was a good thing I had it. There were (and still are) many times when I tell myself I’m not good enough and I’ll never be published, that I should just quit now. Too many times I would give up only to return to the keyboard the next day and keep working. I don’t know what it was that kept me driven, but I’m glad for it. During these times I do a lot of reading. And in the long run I know that that reading will continue to make me a better writer.

“Writers battle with this search for the right title”

Through this process I’ve had time to consider what it means to be an author – aspiring or otherwise. Writers battle with this search for the right title. Are we writers or are we authors? For me the elusive author title is packaged with the even more elusive book deal. I think though that my self-doubt will still make it impossible for me to ever see myself as an author for a while. I’m trying. Slowly, but surely I’m getting closer. I’m not constantly going back and forth changing my website between writer and author.

So what can a self-doubting writer do to improve? Keep going. It might sound simply, but it’s a good start. There have been many times when I haven’t wanted to keep going and have unceremoniously announced that I was giving up. My best friend would cheer me on and I think that made a difference. Actually I know it made a difference. Having people in your life that can cheer you on in your writing is important. It helps to keep you grounded in the real world. Writing is often a solitary venture and writers can sometimes lose touch with those around them. I know that I’ve had moments where I’ve gotten caught up in a story. We all have as writers I’m sure.

The old saying goes ‘pq[]anything worth doing is going to be difficult[/pq]’ and I believe that. Writing is fun, but it’s not easy. Writers pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their work and I believe that is another reason I doubt myself. It’s inevitable that one or two of your characters are going to have a lot of you in them. I know a few of mine do and not necessarily the good sides of me. Sometimes it’s the bad sides. It’s that realization that makes publishing a scary adventure.

“you have to keep doing what you love and enjoy”

As I get closer to becoming a published author I’m finding self-doubt creeping in more and more. I’m keeping myself grounded. Family and friends have been awesome and supportive. So my advice is keep family and friends around. Set time aside for yourself and your other activities. Stay positive. It’s hard sometimes, but you have to keep doing what you love and enjoy. And just remember that there are others out there going through what you are. Get online. Connect with people on Twitter. There is a vast world of writers out there. We are a strong community and so many will are willing to help out.

I may be a self-doubting writer, but I’m still a writer. And one of these days I’ll consider myself an author. Just keep writing and enjoying what you do.

Thank you for this post, Heather, which I think will be of great help to many writers.

Please give your feedback in the comments section below. Do you experience self doubt about your writing? If so, how do you cope with it?