- Email me
- Nail Your Novel: books
- FAQ: I’m a new writer: which book should I read first?
- My writing process: the picture tour
- Nail Your Novel: Bring Characters To Life
- Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and how you can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
- Reviews of Nail Your Novel
- Who’s tweeting about Nail Your Novel …
- Who am I?
Posts Tagged writers
My guest this week says that for the first part of her life, performing music was everything to her. She spent most of her teenage years singing two-part harmony with her sisters and was set for a career in music when a bout of depression wiped out her desire to perform. During her recovery she began to write romantic comedy, which seemed a natural way to use her awareness of pacing, rhythm, texture and emotion, those innate senses that help us master the reader’s experience. Now she uses music for companionship while she writes and to put her into a creative state of mind. She is Kirsty Greenwood, romantic novelist and founder of the site Novelicious, and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
Ani Difranco, authors, Best Coast, Bobby Helms, Boogie Woogie, Carole King, classical music, Color Me Badd, contemporary fiction, Danny Elfman, Desert Island Discs, drama, Duke Ellington, Eddi Reader, Ella Fitzgerald, entertainment, Fairground Attraction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, George Fenton, George Gershwin, Grease 2, Hans Zimmer, having ideas, how to write a book, how to write a novel, Ironside, Jeff Buckley, John Grant, Kirsty Greenwood, Matilda Beam, music, music for writers, music for writing, musicians, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Nora Ephron, Novelicious, Pan Macmillan, Phoenix, playlist for writers, Point Horror, romance, romcom, Rosemary Clooney, Roz Morris, Rufus Wainwright, Skeeter Davis, soundtrack, Stacey Kent, Stevie Wonder, The Andrews Sisters, The Undercover Soundtrack, Toni Braxton, undercover soundtrack, Women Writers, writers, writing, writing life, writing routine, writing to music, Yours Truly
Music, dead rock gods, psychedelia consciousnesses and the CIA – this novel definitely had to feature on the Undercover Soundtrack. Its title came from a Jimi Hendrix song, and germinated when the writer was just 17 years old. It took him another 15 years to write, though, when an Elvis track kicked his imagination and gave him a vivid scene set in a bar in rural Missouri. The novel is Beyond the Will of God, the writer is Talking Writing columnist David Biddle, and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
Beyond the Will of God, Biocycle, David Biddle, dead rock gods, Desert Island Discs, drama, Elvis, Elvis Presley, entertainment, Fix and Finish With Confidence, Global Illage, Harvard Business Review, having ideas, how to write a book, how to write a novel, Huffington Post, In Business, Jeff Buckley, Jerry Garcia, Jim Croce, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Kotori Magazine, Last Goodbye, male writers, middle, Missouri, murder mystery, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, mystery, Nail Your Novel, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, playlist for writers, psychedelia consciousnesses, publishing, Robert Johnson, rock ’n’ roll music, rock n roll, Roz Morris, the Beatles, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writers, writing, writing to music
My guest this week measures his novels in rainstorms. More accurately, I should say he measures them in how many times he has listened to one rainstorm during the writing. His novel is about a dreamy and messianic boy, and he used a loop of weather noises to cocoon himself in a mental space where he felt composed enough to write. The result is a meditative post, perhaps perfect for summer days in the drowsy grip of a heatwave. His name is Bryan Furuness and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
GIVEAWAY Bryan is giving away 2 paperback copies of The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson to commenters here. Extra entries if you share the post on Twitter, Facebook or other platforms – but remember to note in your comment here that you have! He also asks that if you happen to win, he’d be extremely grateful for a review on Amazon or Goodreads – favourable or otherwise.
Also, don’t forget that there’s a giveaway here on the Purple Blog as well… to celebrate a new cover.
anaphora, authors, book giveaway, Bryan Furuness, Butler University, cars, climate, contemporary fiction, Desert Island Discs, drama, entertainment, literary fiction, literary journals, literary novels, literature, male writers, miriam berkley, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, nature, nature sounds, Ninth Letter, playlist for writers, populate a mysterious place, Pressgang, rainstorms, Rainymood.com, Roz Morris, second coming of christ, short story writer, sound of rain, sounds of nature, sounds of rain, sounds of storms, The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson, The Undercover Soundtrack, transistor radios, undercover soundtrack, writers, writing, writing to music, writing to rain
I’ve just finished my first novel. A most enjoyable experience only tainted by the reaction from the literary agents I have approached so far! Any and all advice and direction will be gratefully received and much appreciated.
Although we’re now used to writers who publish themselves, there is still a sizeable crowd who are set on finding an agent and a traditional publishing deal. Most of my critique clients, for instance. Why?
1 – Kudos and confidence
If you have an agent or a publisher, you have validation. You’re not just a spare-time scribbler, which you have probably been for countless years before. If you get an agent, your friends, family, total strangers – and you yourself – have proof that you made the grade.
This cannot be underestimated. Getting an agent took me years. By the time I did, I’d already got ghosted bestsellers and a track record coaching writers. But I felt I was sneaking under the wire, using the title ‘writer’ on false pretences until an agent signed me for My Memories of a Future Life.
2 – Developmental input
We all need developmental help. If you’re a good fit for an agent, they can give you perceptive, priceless notes on how your book works and guide your revisions.
3 – Long-term career-building
Obviously, an agent helps you find a publisher, usually with a better deal than you could get on your own.
But agents can’t always sell your first book, and often the only choice is to self-publish. Some agents are giving writers a leg-up with showcase imprints of their own – Jason Allen Ashlock at Movable Type Management set up The Rogue Reader to launch outsider suspense writers. As publishers increasingly opt for ‘safe’ books, we’ll see more agents devising ways to build audiences for their exciting new authors.
So I still think it’s worth looking for an agent. Markets change and new opportunities are opening for writers all the time. If you can, it makes sense to get the support of professionals with more legal and commercial clout than you can muster on your own.
But every silver lining has a cloud. Here are two.
If an agent gives you editorial input, they might be steering you to fit a commercially viable genre. That might completely suit you. But it may not if your aim is to pursue a more individual and creative path. You still don’t have to abandon dreams of traditional publication; many small presses will take submissions directly from authors.
Almost every writer will probably now self-publish at some stage, but not all agents have adjusted to this. I know successful indie authors who have been offered agency deals that claim a percentage of all book earnings – which of course includes royalties from books they published themselves. This was appropriate when all the author’s work came through the agent, but now is plainly unfair. Happily, many agency agreements demand commission only on deals that they have made. If you’re offered a deal that takes a percentage of everything, query it. They might adjust the wording. If not, think hard about whether you want to work with them.
3 The disreputable
Not all agents are reputable. Some ask for money up front to read your manuscript. Even with all the boundaries shifting, an agent should never charge to read your work. Agents earn commission on the back end.
So what do we make of our correspondent here, whose quest for an agent is proving a challenge? Why might you have trouble finding an agent?
1 – Your book may not yet be strong enough. It’s so easy to send off our lovely novel too early. If you nearly made the cut, most agents will try to let you know. But if they dismiss you with the equivalent of a compliments slip, you may need to hone your craft.
2 – You might have pitched the wrong agents – either their lists are full, or they don’t take your genre. Check websites before you hit ‘send’ (although agents are often quite bad at updating their requirements).
3 – You might have a great book but a dull pitch. Pitching is an art and you need to know how to make an agent curious.
4 – Your book may not be commercially viable. You might get feedback about genre mixing, undesirable subjects or unfashionable style choices. Your book might still be a good read in spite of this – and if so, agents are usually genuine enough to let you know.
5 – You might need to kiss more frogs. There are thousands of agents, all very oversubscribed, all with different wishlists. With such pressures, rejection is far more likely than acceptance, even for awesome books. Don’t do anything different until you see a reliable pattern emerge.
Anyway, I’m hoping this will kick off a discussion. What’s your feeling about agents? What would you advise our friend here?
agents, amwriting, authors, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, getting a literary agent, how to get an agent, how to write a novel, Jason Allen Ashlock, literary agent-publishers, literary agents, literature, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, suspense, The Rogue Reader, writer collectives, writers, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, writing life
November is National Novel-Writing Month, when writers everywhere will handcuff themselves
to their keyboards and aim to get a 50,000-word draft finished in 30 days. Apart from clearing the diary and creating a big Do Not Disturb sign, what can you do to prepare?
And is it even possible?
This is a repost of a piece I ran a couple of years ago, but with NaNo rising as a buzzword again in the writerly ether, I thought it might be helpful. Tomorrow I’ll post some tips for getting your story into good shape before you start.
First of all, do established writers do this or is it just a game?
Certainly NaNoWriMo is not just an exercise. Many established writers use it to get their first drafts done. Novelist Sara Gruen wrote her New York Times #1 bestseller Water For Elephants one NaNoWriMo. What you start in NaNo can go on to great things – here’s a list of all the NaNo novels that have made it into print.
How do you do it?
I’ve never done NaNoWriMo because other projects have got in the way, but I have written a lot of novels to tight deadlines – 50,000 words in two months. And not just first draft, but revised and ready for a publisher to see. It was effectively two NaNoWriMos back to back, which I did several times.
I have several friends who are NaNoWriMo winners. Here are their tips. And the key to success is not just what you do in November, but what you do NOW.
Prepare your story
Zelah Meyer is a NaNoWriMo powerhouse, having consistently delivered 50,000 words for the last five years. Some years, she even lost a week because real life inconveniently got in the way, but even so, she sailed past the finish line. This year she’s hoping to finish the first draft of her trilogy.
Zelah (left) says: ‘Do a rough brainstorm beforehand of where you want to take at least the first 5,000 words or so. I call it plot scaffolding and I’ll often talk to myself on paper about what could happen and where the story could go. I find it helps to know that so that I can avoid writing myself into a corner – but everybody works differently!
‘I ask myself a lot of questions such as “Why does nobody know that he isn’t really the lost prince/company CEO/etc?” I use the ideas I have to flesh out character back story and sometimes that will give me ideas for the plot.
‘If I decide that I need to go back and add in a scene, I’ll do that – but I never rewrite one. Instead I have a second document that I keep open called Corrections. There I make notes of changes I want to make in the re-writes and then continue as if I’d already done them.
‘I also find it helps to have a third document for any names I need to keep track of. This saves me from wasting ages scanning back through thousands of words trying to find out which town the characters were heading for or what you called the hero’s aunt.’
In real life, Zelah is an improvisational performer, and her experiences on stage have strengthened her approach to storytelling. ‘I ask myself: “If I were in the audience, where would I want the action to go now?” and “Which character do I want to hear from now?” Also, everything that is said changes you – both the person saying and the person listening. Everything evokes some kind of emotional response and that colours how things happen from then on.’
Prepare your targets
Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (left), another NaNoWriMo veteran, says: ‘My one tip is stick to your daily wordcount no matter what – 1,600 words a day even if you’ve been run over by a steamroller. Nothing’s more disheartening than an impossible deadline,’
Zelah’s keen on statistics too. ‘I create a spreadsheet for the 30 days of November with how many words I aim to write on each day. I give myself a contingency of around 5,000 words.’
Prepare your research
If you go and look something up on Google, do you stop there? No; an hour later you can still be happily cyber-faffing. So do all your Googling, Wiki-ing and forum fact-finding before November. Don’t burn through your writing time by looking stuff up. If necessary, put a keyword in the text like [factcheck] and start a file for queries you will Google in December.
You don’t slog through NaNoWriMo on your own. That’s one of the beauties of it. The NaNoWriMo website is, of course, essential, and you’ll find hashtag communities on Twitter, and bloggers who will be wearing NaNo badges and blogging if they have any fingers to spare.
Ann Marie Gamble, another old hand, says: ‘The single best non-official resource I used was Doyce Testerman’s day-by-day blog posts. He described exactly what he was going through so I could think, ah, everyone feels like they are choking on Day 11 – it’s not just me being pathetic. Plus he has a wife and kid, so his coping strategies are more accessible to me than those of the college students in the local NaNoWriMo groups.’
Remember it’s a first draft
NaNoWriMo is about turning off your inner editor. If your draft sucks that doesn’t matter. All first drafts suck.
It is also about a definite goal. Ann Marie says: ‘Keep your eyes on your prize. NaNoWriMo is a chance to build writing habits and experience in finishing a piece. Don’t get sidetracked by questions of quality, plausibility, readability etc. Let your pen fly during this intense month and analyse later.’
Zelah says: ‘When I’m actually working, I remind myself that I’m not striving for perfection at this stage. I have a strip of paper saying “Quantity not Quality” taped to my monitor.
The message is, prepare, prepare, prepare.
- your story
- your research
- your targets
- your support groups
And that, my friends, is why NaNoWriMo starts now.
With all that sorted, just one thing remains. Simon C Larter (left) of the blog Constant Revisions says: ‘How do I convince my wife it’s okay for me to spend so much time writing?’
Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How are you preparing? Is it your first time? If you’ve done it before, do you have any tips? And if NaNo requires you to ramp up your writing routine, how, like Simon, will you convince your nearest and dearest to indulge you? Share in the comments
You can find tips for researching, outlining and what makes a robust story in my book, Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. Available on Kindle and in print. And tomorrow I’ll be going through a workup routine to get your story sorted before you lock the doors.
Ann Marie Gamble, authors, beginners, distractions, drafting, first draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, Gar Ryder Hanrahan, how to write a novel, literature, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, NaNoWriMo, National Novel-Writing Month, novel writing, novels, preparing for NaNoWriMo, publishing, Roz Morris, sara gruen, water for elephants, writers, writing, writing routine, Zelah Meyer
‘He sees her playing wildly. She feels exposed. Ashamed’ – Jane Rusbridge, The Undercover Soundtrack
My guest this week was planning a novel about a cellist and imagined a romantic, melancholy instrument – until she sat in on a lesson at the Royal Academy. The young player’s gutsy ferocity was so electrifying that it threw the story into a different pitch – an exploration of wildness and taming. She is award-winning novelist Jane Rusbridge and she’s on the Red Blog talking about the Undercover Soundtrack for Rook
authors, awards, cellists, cellos, creative writing, deepen your story, entertainment, fiction, Fix and Finish With Confidence, how to write a novel, inspiration, Jane Rusbridge, literary fiction, literature, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, novels, Planning, Rook, Roz Morris, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, wildness, writers, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
‘I wanted music that was angry and soulful, both at the same time’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Zoe Sharp
My guest this week writes to everything from Gregorian chant to grinding rock. For her latest novel in her crime series, she wanted to explore themes of regret and loss – and she looked for resentful, raw emotional songs to echo the pressures in her character’s life. She is Zoe Sharp, the novel is Fifth Victim: Charlie Fox book nine and she is on the Red Blog with its Undercover Soundtrack.
Anthony Award, authors, award winner, Barry Award, Benjamin Franklin Award, Charlie Fox, crime, CWA Short Story Dagger, deepen your story, drama, Edgar Award, entertainment, fiction, Fifth Victim, Macavity Award, murder, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, Roz Morris, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writers, writers who use music, writing to music, Zoe Sharp
‘Two pieces of music; two essential sides of the human self’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Dave Morris
My Undercover Soundtrack guest this week is unusual for a few reasons. One, his book isn’t on paper at all, it’s a digital interactive app. Two, it’s a critically acclaimed reworking of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that allows the reader to dig into the story’s emotional and social questions. In writing it, author Dave Morris says he ‘wanted to reach out and drag the modern reader right into the text’ – and he used music to reveal the tragic misunderstanding at the core of the monster’s story. (And if you’re wondering about the match in surnames, reader, I did indeed marry him.) Do join us at the red blog for Dave’s Undercover Soundtrack
app, authors, Dave Morris, Frankenstein, literary app, literary fiction, Memories of a Future Life, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, Roz Morris, soundtrack, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writers, writing to music
‘One person has been forgotten in this unholy publishing maelstrom: the author.’ That’s London literary agent Jonny Geller, from Curtis Brown, writing today in The Bookseller.
In a piece he titles ‘An agent’s manifesto’ he says: ‘The author is not an object a publisher has to step over in order to achieve a successful publication.’ Someone needed to say this and thank goodness he has.
Any author who has knocked around the publishing industry has hair-raising stories of bad treatment. Everything is usually fine if we keep their heads down and do as we’re told. But if we get out of our boxes, we suddenly meet unreasonable amounts of disrespect.
Typically this happens if we want changes to a cover or a blurb. Or we object to a title change. Or we make suggestions about the ebook release or the marketing plan. Suddenly we are treated dismissively, told we’re ‘only the author’, told to put up and shut up.
Publishers cannot change anything without the author’s say-so, but they don’t want us to know this. (Even though it’s probably in the contract.) And if we raise it, the standard tactic is not to discuss, but to bully the writer into agreeing by telling them publication will be delayed by a year or two, possibly indefinitely.
Now, having worked in publishers I know how important deadlines are. I know everything needs to run like clockwork. I know that publishers have not just one book to deal with, but twenty at least, plus all the other stuff that comes with working in a company. But they wouldn’t treat any other supplier or professional that way. Just authors.
Jonny Geller again: ‘If an author has a problem with the cover, blurb, copy or format, then something isn’t right.’
It is common, behind the scenes, to hear editors talk about authors with undisguised loathing – not just individual ones who may be difficult, but all of them, authors as a breed. There is a culture that authors must not be listened to.
The real work
They seem to think that because they do some editing and proofing they’ve done all the proper work, and the author was a slapdash child who spewed up a half-baked mess. That’s because the author had just spent months or even years locked in a silo with the book. We had to invent it, from nothing but ideas. The manuscript the publisher sees has another nine-tenths of work and tears below the waterline. If we put it aside and saw it with fresh eyes, we’d see a lot of those problems too (not all of them, but a lot). So no, the publisher didn’t do all the work.
Is it because they think they could write too, if only they had the time? Everybody says that. We’re used to it.
All the glory
Is it because writers seem to get all the glory? Most of us don’t get within a light year of glory. And if we do, we’ve earned it. Publishers get paid a salary, reliably every month. Writers work for several years on an idea and all we can guarantee from it is a lottery ticket that probably won’t pay back. In almost any other business environment, the one who puts in most risk gets the most reward. Try asking a venture capitalist for seed capital and see how much of your company they want for it.
Is it because we’re uncontrollable creatives? That’s what brings publishers new, wonderful things to sell. Jonny Geller again: ‘Remember, we don’t have a job without authors … Authors who are valued, understood, appreciated, included, nurtured and spoken to like adults will experience a phenomenon called Trust. Trust breeds loyalty; loyalty means longevity; longevity means sales.’
Heavens, we want our books to be a success. We want to work with professionals who will help that to happen. We are grateful for good guidance and support. But we want to work in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Thanks for the pic, Lydiashiningbrightly
Agree, disagree, add your experiences? The floor is yours…
I’m planning a newsletter! Add your name to the mailing list here.
agents, authors, fiction, how to write a novel, Jonny Geller, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, novels, polishing, publishers, publishing, Rewriting, Roz Morris, The Bookseller, writers, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, writing life
I’m at the blog of my fellow fiction editor Victoria Mixon, author of The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual, for the second part of what turned into a long and rather diverting conversation. In between the goofing we talk about the things we do when writing novels of our own, ghostwriting, bad deals in the publishing world and the time I got hit by a train.
It’s all here. As you hop on over, mind the gap…
ghostwriting, how to write a novel, interview, publishing, Roz Morris, The Art & Craft of Fiction A Practitioner's Manual, Victoria Mixon, writers, writing, writing business, writing life, writing routine
Sign up for my newsletter
Connect with me here too
As @NailYourNovel I post 4 to 5 useful writing links per dayMy Tweets
Off duty I tweet as @ByRozMorrisMy Tweets
- From ‘To do’ to ‘Done’ – confessions of an organised author December 8, 2013
- ‘Music to make a creative space’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Kirsty Greenwood December 4, 2013
- How to write down story ideas so you can remember why they were brilliant December 1, 2013
- Could The Undercover Soundtrack help you reach readers? Post at the Alliance of Independent Authors November 30, 2013
- ‘Sex, drugs, metaphysics and rock’n’roll’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, David Biddle November 27, 2013
- How do I develop something special in my writing? November 24, 2013
- 2 Tone Records and two cities riven by conflict – The Undercover Soundtrack, Catriona Troth November 20, 2013
See what I did there…