Casting about for a good read? See if there’s something you fancy in this list.
People are always asking what my favourite book is. I don’t have favourites. At least, today’s favourite may not be tomorrow’s favourite. It depends on my mood, on my diary, on the weather, who’s around, what’s for lunch and what deadlines are screaming. I don’t often go in for the current hot bestsellers: I’m mulish and like to choose for myself rather than letting publishers’ marketing departments choose for me. But all these are tried and tested – you can rely on every one of them to fill you full of good words and satisfaction. What’s to your taste… that I can’t guess. But let me know what you’ve already read, and if you choose something you’ve not read before, let me know what you think. Are your favourites here?
Your first book is published. Fame at last! Followed swiftly by fortune, one hopes. But will your publisher help you along the way to fame? Unlikely, unless you’re already famous. This article outlines the truth of book marketing for unknown authors, but be prepared for unvarnished truth you might find deeply depressing.
All that effort to get the book written, perfected, and published… and the copies sit on the warehouse shelves waiting for the news to get out. Book signings, lit festivals, blog tours, press releases, book trailers, social media campaigns, celeb endorsements, reviews… the publisher’s job, yes?
No. For an unknown first-timer, no. Publishers’ marketing budgets go on big name authors, not newbies. A hard fact of the writing life.
It turns out that all these promotional schemes and scams might boost your ego, but they don’t do much for book sales. Really, not much at all. And avoid book signings unless you have a guaranteed ready-made audience waiting to queue for your signature. Every author has horror stories about the echoing loneliness of book signings.
Bottom line: write the book, outline the sequels, find the agent, get the publishing deal. Swig back the bubbly, then prepare for the slog of flogging your book without much help from your publisher or the uninterested media and book-buying public. You need to be thick-skinned, innovative and ruthless to get your name known and your book talked about. It can be done. You can do it.
You have all the gizmos and apps that a writer could ever want.
Your characters zap, your dialogue zings.
But you can’t get down to writing the actual, chapter-by-chapter, 80,000 word manuscript.
You want to, you yearn to, you’re excited about it… but you can’t find the time. You can’t find the motivation. HOW DO AUTHORS DO IT?
All published writers – authors, journalists, scriptwriters, dramatists – will tell you this unhelpful secret:
“Just apply your bottom to the chair and your fingers to the keyboard.”
Gee, thanks. But they’re right. It’s the only thing to do. So here are 14 ways to trick yourself, persuade yourself, bully yourself, cajole yourself into doing it. Try them all. See which works best, and stick to it.
Set the alarm half an hour earlier than usual. Get up, drink some water, have coffee if you want, then shake yourself all over and sit down with your laptop and start writing. Do this for half an hour every morning, and you’ll see the word count rising remarkably quickly.
Go to a book fair and get inspired. All those luscious books! Imagine yours among them. See your name on that book cover, imagine yourself signing books for an endless queue of fans paying good money for your story.
Enter a contest with a reasonable deadline. Give yourself three months to get the synopsis and first three chapters written. And a cracking title for the book (or short story). Three months sounds a long time, but believe me – it comes round scarily fast. Make sure you meet that deadline and get your entry IN.
Find an app that helps you stick to a schedule. For instance (NB I have no connection to these examples): Monday calendar or Unstuck.
Commit money to your book: commission a cover illustration or hire an editor.
Hang a treat above your head, like a chocolate bar or a bottle of beer, and allow yourself to grab it when you’ve written 1,000 words.
Meet up with a writing pal every weekend (at least) to compare notes, bitch about the writing life, laugh at yourselves, swap sob stories, and egg each other on.
Apply for a writing bursary or a grant – put a bit of pressure on yourself to meet the standards you’re set.
Imagine a very hungry monster outside your room, trying hard to get in and eat you. Every 100 words you write hurls the monster 100 meters further away.
Set this up with someone reliably fierce: every day that you DON’T write, pay that person some money – £2, €3, $5, 10 lei – to spend on something really annoying, like a cause you don’t believe in, or a film you hate. Or a scrumptious treat that you love, and can’t bear to see someone else eat instead. A bit of money might not seem much for one day, but that bit builds up very fast if you don’t write for a week. Ouch. That starts to hurt.
Agree with a friend (ideally one that suffers from the same problem) to swap chapters every week for constructive criticism, or at least congratulations on another chapter written. Failure can be its own punishment, or you can agree forfeits, like buying the other a drink, or lunch. Or a book.
Join NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is an American thing that’s spreading all over the world. It’s a plan to get you writing your novel, and challenges you to write 50,000 words or more in the month. Great scheme. November’s coming soon!
Go on a weekend writing retreat to get yourself started. After a weekend’s dedicated work in the company of other writers, you’ll be in the flow.
Create a local Meetup group for writers, for mutual encouragement, constructive criticism and reviews, commiseration and motivation. Promise yourselves something fabulous as a joint treat once you reach a certain threshold, like 40,000 words, or ten chapters, or three short stories…
Yes, I said 14, but here’s an extra tip: Start at Chapter 1 and go on to Chapter 2, 3, 4… Don’t jump around writing your favourite scenes – you’ll struggle to fill in the less interesting bits later.
One final tip: Don’t revise till you’ve finished the whole book. Every time you sit down to write (every day, of course – at least) read through yesterday’s work and continue straight away. Don’t rewrite anything – just keep going till you’ve finished. That’s the first draft. Put it away for a week or a month until you’ve forgotten exactly what you wrote. Then have a look and start revising. Rewrite as you go and you’ll never finish.
So, tell me – how do you motivate yourself? What gets you to the keyboard and the top of Page 1?
When a hint of a thought of an idea catches on fire in your head… and you find yourself chasing your characters through the skies over London until the story comes to satisfying close, it’s a great feeling.
When the story becomes a paper-and-ink reality, 192 pages with a fabulous cover, and you spend two days at a big book fair launching it, that’s something else. Exhausting, but exhilerating.
To be told (as I was today) that the initial print run of 3,000 copies have sold out, just 6 days after the launch – THAT’s a real buzz!
My dragons are being reprinted now, as their story seems to be rather popular. Nice…
So never give up on a story because you think it’ll never be published. Look at me and my dragons! Have faith in your story and make it happen.
Thanks to Booklet Fiction for their faith in the story, their publishing expertise and their enthusiasm…
My long list of books I’ve loved… These are books from all genres and none, for all ages. It’s not a snob list of books I pretend I’ve read – I have actually read each of these, to the end, at least once. And I think everyone would enjoy most of them, too.
I’ve adapted a list I filched off Facebook, removed some, added some. There’ll be lots I’ve missed off or *shame* forgotten. I’ve stuck to one (max 2) books by any author, even though it pained me to resist temptation.
I invite you to do the same and pass on your list. But before you do, please let me which of these you’ve read (or your top 5 or 10 favourites off the list) and which titles you’d add or delete.
And which of these have you hated? Or tried to read and gave up in boredom or disgust? I junked Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and the Shipping News, for instance. Got bored by the first, and enraged by the second.
This isn’t a contest and there are no right or wrong answers. It’s just fun to see what people read, what they like and what they don’t.
There are two which you might think I’ve chosen just because of their titles. You’ll know when you see them… But genuinely I love these books for much more than the title (although they are little extra bonuses).
Tell me about your books and whether they’ve changed your life in any way. And what are you reading right now?
Are you anxious about not having much imagination?
Do you worry?
Do you daydream?
Do you plan holidays?
Do you plan ahead for the weekend?
If you’ve said yes to any of those questions, you have a perfectly good imagination. In fact, if you’re human and reading this, you have a perfectly good imagination. Without it, you couldn’t worry, think about the future, daydream, write a shopping list, plan a holiday, or decide what to have for supper. Let alone run a household or fall in love or fantasise or buy Christmas presents…
You may not realise it, but you have to imagine everything you want to do before you do it. Think about it. First the idea, then the reality.
Are you aware that you’ve been trained to think? And that thinking is different to imagining?
The education process – a dozen years at school, at least – is all geared to teaching us to think. To analyse, to be logical, to manage, organise, filter, file, memorise… We are not taught to be inventors or innovators; original thinking is discouraged. Art lessons are about technique and art history; English lessons are about structure and syntax and organizing facts and subtext and other writers’ stuff.
School is designed to make us focus on the path to employment, vocation, career. We have to think about getting a proper job as soon as we get to high school. Before we even hit puberty, we have to stop daydreaming and playing, and be serious.
And what happens to our imagination? You tell me.
So… the good news is that your imagination is there, in full working order.
The bad news is that with nothing else to do, it’s bubbling away, concocting nightmares and waking you up at 3am in a muck sweat, keeping you awake, worrying.
The better news is that you can use all that imaginative power to create beauty and delight in whatever way you choose.
The best news is that you can learn how to grab hold of your imagination and go for a wild ride…and you can learn how in one single day. Actually you’ll learn the big secret in less than 10 minutes. The rest of the day will show you just how amazing your imagination is, and reinforcing the good news.
Where? How? At the Where do you get your ideasone-day workshop – see dates and venues here.
No hard work. No experience needed. And here’s the best bit: No thinking...
I guarantee you will have a great time. I guarantee you will succeed. I guarantee you will go home with new characters and new stories. I guarantee you will have more confidence in your storytelling. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised and delighted with what your imagination produces.
Now… I dare you to have a go. I dare you to make the breakthrough and find the story that needs writing. Email me today and ask any questions you have. Sign up today and commit to becoming a storyteller: on the page, on the stage, on the screen.