Category Archives: writers journey

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!

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?

The Writers Journey | The Year I Found my True Calling and Began to Live it

The writer's journey has many pathways to publication and, hopefully, fame, film options and eventual wealth.

Today's guest writer, Lannah Sawers-Diggins, describes her writers journey in a most engaging way, from publishing her father's life work to discovering her own creative passion for writing. Enjoy and please share with your friends.

The Year My Life Began

by Lannah Sawers-Diggins

Lannah Sawyers-Diggins writers journey post headshotIt wasn’t at birth. Nope. Please don’t get this wrong - I had a wonderful and very unique childhood and the rest, leading up to the present – well, like everyone, I had my share of ups and downs. But I do feel that my life really did begin only a few years ago. It happened something like this.

I awoke one morning, suddenly realising I had to get my late father’s book published.
Dad had been working on this book for the last twenty or so years prior to his death in 1993. Every spare minute, when not focussing on one of his other passions – his family, our family station, his veteran cars and nature, was devoted to his book. In short, ‘The Sawers From Pitcairn’ traces the lives of the first of our ancestors when they moved from our home in Scotland out to Australia, following their employment on various sheep and cattle stations in two Australian states, finishing up with a detailed look of life on the station which remains in our family today. Dad had literally just finished the actual writing when he passed on. In the years since, the manuscript and accompanying piles of documents and photos passed between my three elder brothers and me, back and forth, again and again, until it landed in my hands for the umpteenth time and I finally typed it out.

Then on that particular morning – it was a birthday - I knew I had to get it out. This feeling was a tad overwhelming - I presumed that my mother’s advancing age (late 80s) might have had something to do with it. Fit as a fiddle usually, but she was also the world’s leader in hiding minor details like health issues.

Writers Journey: How to find a Publisher

But – that little block that stops so many authors in their tracks, some forever, others only temporarily - how do you get published – seriously – how? Now this itty bitty problem just might have been enough to put me off altogether but for the memory of Dad’s passion for his writing, ancestry and the outback of Australia not kept nagging at me. Added to that the thought of Mum and her pride in her Dad’s efforts - but not seeing them come to fruition – that did it. I found a self-publishing business that offered precisely what I was looking for. Full steam ahead. There was no stopping me.

The book was published exactly a week after Mum died in 2010.

Damn! But - I had tried and was reassured that Mum knew that something had finally been done about the book - that it was close to release and that, I was told, made her a happy woman at point of death. Well, as happy as anyone can be when facing the end of life.

Thus was the catalyst for my writing. It was and is now in my blood and I am following a lifelong dream of writing and publishing books.

Next off the rank was one about bullying. I had been a victim in the past and it was rife throughout my family. I am now an advocate in this fight. While embroiled in this and with my bullying book, ‘Bullseye’ safely published, I was finally able to turn my attention to combining two of my passions – writing and the outback. As mentioned earlier I had the most wonderful and unique childhood – I grew up on that sheep station in South Australia. My book on stations is a work in progress – I am absolutely thriving on it.

I began work on it about eighteen months ago. The research has presented the biggest challenge of my life (apart from childbirth…) but to say I really am loving absolutely every nano-second of it would be the understatement of my life. Doing this has also finally given me a chance to put my journalism and photography into action – ie I do all my own and loving it.

Picture this, if you will. I am a 57 year young woman, have been very happily married for 31 years, with two successful adult daughters, have enjoyed a great life to date, but that day – that birthday – when my ‘epiphany’ struck – well, let’s just say I really do not feel life could get a lot better. I am on this road now – writing is well and truly in my blood – and I am meeting the most amazing and unique people. Doors that I would never have even looked at in the past are now actually opening for me – AND letting me pass through. I am now doing radio interviews, both national and international – all so good.

I am now also writing for several online publications – some voluntary, others are paid positions. Love them all. It is all such invaluable experience and exposure and, believe me, I grab at anything I can to help on this road. At times I venture well and truly out of my comfort zone and have made more than a few enemies – but also many, many new friends who well and truly outnumber the former.

Every day, something new happens or I discover a fresh approach to an old idea or problem. Yes, I certainly do meet with some very negative obstacles which do halt me, very briefly.

In summary, LIFE IS GREAT. The sky really IS the limit. After that, who knows.

Dyslexia and Writing | The Writers Journey

It's not easy being a writer at the best of times, but being a person with dyslexia and writing for a living is something of a challenge, as Doug Clark outlines in the latest in our series on how to be an author.

Dyslexia and Writing

by Doug Clark

Doug Clarke dyslexia and writing graphicIf things had been different, I may have chosen writing as my primary career, but things weren't different. I was born with dyslexia and dysgraphia, which in simple terms meant that in fourth grade I was reading at a second grade level and writing (penmanship and spelling) at a first. In 3rd grade, while my grades in writing and spelling were Ds and Fs, a comment on my report card said, “He is good at creative reading.” My parents paid to have me tutored outside of school starting in the 5th grade.

On a field trip to the local library in 6th grade I was fortunate to hear Arthur C. Clarke speak about writing and the love of reading. That was a turning point in my life. Books became a source of wild adventures that were worth the struggles and headaches required to unlock. By the time I was in 9th grade, I was an avid reader. The penmanship and spelling, along with what in the 1970's was high tech - typing - were still far below grade level. In fact my typing teacher offered to give me a D in her class if I promised not to take the next one in the series, otherwise she would give me an F so I couldn't.

To this day I can't use cursive writing and my penmanship is something only a doctor, or my mother, could love. Check as you type spelling and grammar checkers have helped a lot, but they still don't help much when I correctly spell the wrong word (on instead of one). Thanks to the computer, I can actually write a short story and even a novel. Thanks of course also has to go to my very understanding editors, who probably roll their eyes at the kinds of mistakes I make.

Artists Create from Struggle

I've heard it said, and I wish I knew the exact quote and who said it first, that all great artists create from the dark times they've gone through and their disabilities. That somehow, if creating is not hard work, that stirs up deep emotions, a masterpiece cannot be the result.

It's funny because as I sit to write a chapter of my book, or a short story, I have some idea about what it is I'm going to write. But the effort required to type each word, (both finding the keys to hit and figuring out how to spell the word), and the effort to keep the sentence structures correct, doesn't give me much my space left to think about what to write. Instead as I finish each word, the next word seems to just be there waiting for me to write.

I've read about how characters in a story start talking and say things that the authors didn't know they were going to say, and lead the story in directions they hadn't planned. I have experienced this not only in dialog, but in action and narrative as well.

I guess that my writing is very much right brained, or perhaps the Holy Spirit is whispering in my ear. In either case my writing is very much from the heart and at times thought provoking.

I began writing after high school - mostly letters, poems, and the occasional newsletter. I tried writing short stories and even a novel, but never found the motivation to finish any of them. Besides my struggles with the actual craft of writing my life had been pretty good. I was missing the "stirring up of deep emotions". Looking back I wish I still was.

Blogging

Tragedy struck my family when my 15 year old son was killed in a bicycle accident on his way to school. To survive, I took to blogging - spending many hours and many tears writing each page. If you want to experience the journey the site is still up, you can find a link to it on my website. My hope for the website was that someone else might read it and find hope in the fact that I survived that perhaps some of my wisdom might make their of grief walk easier.

After a year, the blogging had run its course and I needed another way to continue my grieving process. I picked up an old manuscript I had started years before and reformed its plot into one that spoke to the grief I was still feeling inside. The next 15 months saw the completion of a 113,000 word novel.

After three months of staring the novel I felt disconnected. With the Blog there was an immediacy to the writing. Hours after I was done, the blog was there for the world to see. To recapture some of that, I started to write short stories for the characters in the novel and posting them on blogs for each character. A few months later I started writing a monthly newsletter about the progress of the novel and writing in general.

Another three years have passed. While writing is still a part time enterprise, it has become part of my life. I recently formed a corporation which, among other things, is producing both written and audio books.

When asked, many authors say, "I just have to write. There is a story that wants to be told and I feel compiled to tell it." When I'm asked that same question I have to pause. In the beginning I hated to write. Then I needed to connect with others by writing. Later it was my way to grieve - to let my soul scream. Now? Now it is a way to explore my emotions, to indulge in my imagine - to create something, and yes to continue my grieving process. I write because if I don't my soul is burdened.

I write, not because it makes me feel good. For in truth, if I write for two hours my shoulders and neck are stiff, my head is pounding, and my eyes are blurry. I write because it frees me and it is earnest prayer that my writing will both entertain and inspire someone.

Doug's online company, A Good Tale is currently running a writing competition: The Zombie Apocalypse Challenge. Looks like fun!

What struggles have you overcome in your writing? Share this post and your thoughts in the comments section below.