Saturday, 31 December 2011

Year End at Crabbit Towers

I wasn't going to blog today, or even tomorrow, but I had a bit of happifying news to end the year with today, and it relates to you. I had my first royalty statement for Write to be Published and I was very pleasantly surprised at the figures. So, I'd like to thank you all for your support! It doesn't matter whether you bought the book: so many of you recommended it or chatted about it on Twitter, or mentioned it to a friend - all these things have helped and I'm enormously grateful. The book has continued to have fab reviews on Amazon - and thanks to anyone who has gone to the trouble of doing that.

It seems (to me!) like much longer than six months since it was published and I'm proud of how well it's done in a short time. My thanks to Emma Barnes, MD of Snowbooks, and to Corinne Gotch, the ace publicist for the book and a good friend, and to Becky Hearne, my fab assistant and also a good friend. I think we make a great team!

I have recently been taking stock of my career, looking at what's working and what's not, and decided to cut back on certain activities and develop others. I have several different writing projects at different stages, some of which might work and others might not. I will let you know about the ones that do! I've said no to a number of things and will continue to do so, particularly being selective about events. My consultancy, Pen2Publication, has been ticking along very comfortably, and I have managed to restrict the number of clients I take, so that it hasn't overwhelmed my diary. (If you want to book a slot or just discuss the possibilities, see the Pen2Publication website to see what I offer and drop me a line as soon as possible: I am always booked up far ahead.)

Crabbit Publishing has been the most exciting** part of 2011, workwise, and I'm very pleased with how Tweet Right and Mondays are Red have done, and am looking forward eagerly to publishing Write a Great Synopsis in three weeks. Hooray! But self-publishing is not all I want to do and I'm hoping to work productively with publishers, too, if they'll have me.

[** Edited to add: hang on a sec. Because this didn't set out to be a round-up of my year, I quite forgot that not only did 2011 also see publication of Write to be Published, but it saw Wasted on ten shortlists, winning one, being runner-up on another, and with three ceremonies still to go! How could I forget?!]

I wish you all the best possible success and luck in 2012. Keep working, keep learning, keep listening and sharing. And thank you all hugely for your friendship, wisdom and fun this year.

Go, us!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Happy Christmas to you

Dear Lovely Blog Readers,
Good news: you can have a short rest from me! I am taking a break. I've got family coming for Christmas, much entertaining to do, a husband and daughters to love, friends to cook for, and a self that also needs a little bit of care and relaxation. I then have a daughter who is going to South Africa on January 5th, for a few months with a documentary film-making company, and I don't want to be blogging when I could be nagging  supporting her. (I also need to watch her make a trailer for Write a Great Synopsis, to match the brilliance of her one for Mondays are Red.)

I will be back in action on Monday January 9th, and I'll be preparing to publish Write a Great Synopsis a week or so later. To whet your appetite, I'll tell you that I've had phenomenal response from the writers who've seen it. Carole Blake, literary agent par excellence, has called it "pure gold."

Dear Lovely Blog Readers
Wishing you all a very relaxing 
and reviving holiday 
and a 2012 which brings 
at least as much success 
as you deserve

 (Those were pics from last winter - I'm hoping we will get nothing like that this year.)
Keep safe, nurture your muses and look after your loved ones.

Happy Christmas
With very best wishes,
Crabbit xx


Friday, 16 December 2011

Release your inner synaesthete

Last week I was on the Mondays are Red blog tour - see the links on the right for any posts that interest you. One of the posts was particularly relevant to writers, especially fiction writers and poets. It's the one I did for Mary Hoffman on releasing your inner synaesthete.

Mondays are Red is said to be "about" synaesthesia. It's actually "about" the power of language, more than anything. Please do go and read that post and come back to comment. (It would be lovely if you left a comment on Mary's blog, too, just so she knows you were there.)

In 2012 I'm planning a major creative writing competition based on synaesthetic writing. There will be one section for school pupils and one for adults.So, watch this space! And if you'd like to read Mondays are Red or recommend it to a teenage reader/writer of your acquaintance, the details are here.

Meanwhile, do go and read the post on Mary's blog and either leave a comment there or here. Or both. And have fun exercising your inner synaesthete in time for the writing competition. :)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Obstacles to being published

Characteristically sensible post here from Rachelle Gardner. There's nothing I haven't said myself, but it's all succinctly phrased and, especially if you are new to the approaching-publishers-and-agents lark, useful.

There are two points that I thought I'd elaborate on:

Pitching several books in different genres. Why not? Because although you can have a wide writing career later, you need to be launched with one book and create the expectation for your readers that if they liked your first book they will like your second. It is simply easier (at first) to sell you as a writer of a particular sort of book than a writer whose next book could be entirely different and for entirely different readers. Therefore the agent (and, even more, publisher) wants to know the one book which is best to launch you with. Don't muddy the waters; don't seem too undecided.

Not being able to name a genre for your book. (Even if that "genre" is literary fiction.) It's the selling thing again, damn it. It is, quite simply, easier to sell a book which fits a genre properly. Put it another way, you need to be able to know which readers are most likely to like your book. Also, readers like to know what they are getting, odd people that they aren't. Humans like patterns, familiarity, expectations. Help them out; humour them. You make life very much easier for yourself if you work with the world as it is, not as you wish it was. Of course, the latter approach is very commendable, but only in the same way that it was highly commendable of the cavalry at Balaclava to charge straight towards the cannons.

As Rachelle says, none of these things mean you can't get an agent or publisher. But they are obstacles. Either remove them or jump higher.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Crabbit's Tips for Writers - 4: Publishing Yourself

Here is the fourth in my series of Crabbit's Tips for Writers. See the sidebar for links to the others. You can either read it in the post below or you can go here and download the complete document and print it out. Enjoy!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Unlimited limited single POV

One of the first things we learn about point of view (POV) is that if you're supposed to be telling the story (or that section of the story) from a certain character's viewpoint, you can only say what that character could know or think.

For example, if we're in Fred's head, we can't have Fred tell us something that Joe's thinking, only what Fred thinks Joe's thinking.

So, writing from a single POV is limiting, isn't it? Even writing one section/chapter from a single POV must be limiting at least for that section/chapter.

Not so. Let me introduce you to the Unlimited Limited POV. (Don't Google it - I made it up.)

The point of ULP is, crucially, that the reader can know more than the character who is telling the story. This is because the reader knows that in fact the author is telling the story, manipulating the character to observe only what the writer needs him to observe. So, the character can observe something but not know the significance, but the reader, knowing the rules of story-telling, knows that the writer has put the observation there for a reason.

It's like Chekhov's Gun. (The idea that if a gun appears in Act One, it must be used by Act Three.) I also call it the stage telephone. You NEVER see a telephone on a film or stage set if it's not going to ring.

Recently I came a across a fabulous example of Unlimited Limited POV. You only need this one example to understand the whole concept. It's in The Help by Kathryn Stockett - a wonderful, wonderful book, by the way.

The book is written in the first person, but alternates throughout the book between several first-person narrations. So, how does the author show us more than the character can see? Well, my example comes from the POV of Skeeter. Skeeter's mother becomes ill during the book and the clever thing is how you know this before Skeeter does. She will mention things such as seeing her mother walk into the distance, looking smaller than usual; or she'll mention her not eating. She won't say she's worried about her mother being ill - she isn't, at first. But the reader is. The reader knows that the author wouldn't have mentioned such things if there wasn't a reason. It's like when, in a book or a film, if a woman feels nauseous in the morning, we know she's pregnant before she does.

So, when you're telling the story through a single POV, don't feel limited by it. Tell your readers more than the character knows, by selecting the things your character notices and subtly regulating how she expresses them.

I love fiction, love it!

Monday, 5 December 2011

What makes a debut a debut?

Well, duh, Crabbit fool. Surely a debut is just a first book, different from your second only by virtue of being first. No, not necessarily so. And if you think like that, you may never write one. Or rather, it may never be published, which makes it not a debut.

I recently wrote a blog post for Catherine Ryan Howard about debuts - on the subject of Mondays are Red having been my debut, although also not my debut. Do head over and read it and then come back and ask me a question or say what you think.

I think it may help you in your struggle with that awful agent response, "I like it but I don't love it enough." This phrase doesn't necessarily mean that your writing isn't good enough or that there's anything you can do to that novel to make it lovable-enough. It may "just" not feel like an idea or execution which is going to set the sales and marketing team alight sufficiently for them to take it.

Which, frankly, is very gah-inducing.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Publishing Deal - Forget the Clichés

I promised to come back and tell you the rest of the end-story from Write to be Published. For the first part, go here. For today, you'll need tissues.

Again, this is reproduced with kind permission of Snowbooks.

So, what is it like, that moment when you realise you are really going to be published? It’s different for everyone, but let me tell you how it was for me. You think I was starry-eyed with excitement? Skipping around drinking sparkly stuff?

Sadly, no. The news came in stages, during several phone-calls over a few days, mostly as I stood in the car-park of Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, while my mother-in-law, Alison, was dying. Apart from my husband, Alison was the person who supported me most vigorously. She had railed against every rejection, bemoaned the blindness of publishers, and constantly praised my resilience. She was genuinely and enormously interested and she wanted to see a novel with my name on the cover almost as much as I did. If she’d lived, my publishers would never have needed a publicity department; the sales reps would have had a ready-made, unpaid sales force in Scotland; every acquaintance of hers – and there were very many – would have been persuaded to buy copies.

Alison died about a day after we finally heard that Mondays are Red was sold. Although she was unconscious all that time, I like to think she heard, too. A day or so before, my father-in-law and I were talking at her bedside; she had shown no signs of awareness for a while, and I said something to him along the lines of, “You know, I think this book is really going to be published.” And she said, with her eyes still shut but with a definite smile, “About time, too.” It is the last thing I remember her saying.

So, despite ending my years of grim failure, news of publication for me was not marked by happiness. I was standing in a hospital car-park, with my new agent talking about possible film deals and definite publication dates and that it had been taken as a “highlight title”, and how everyone had huge hopes for it, and I had to go in from the August sunshine and sit in a neurosurgical ward, watching Alison lose her life.

That is why the dedication in that first novel reads, “In memory of Alison, whose belief in me was everlasting.”

I hope you all have an Alison to keep you going. She’d never read any of my attempted novels, because I didn’t show them to anyone, but she believed in me anyway, because I believed in myself. In her opinion, anyone who kept trying as hard as I did deserved to succeed. She was wrong, of course: trying hard and long is not enough. We have to be good enough as writers and write the right book. But she couldn’t judge me on whether I was good enough, only on whether I worked hard enough. For her continued belief in that I am so grateful. I wish she’d been around to see the end of the story.

There’s something else she’d have done if she were alive now: remind me to acknowledge what I have done. We need to do that. You will all have had successes and improvements, made new contacts and potential readers, had feedback that has inspired or re-directed you, written something better than the last piece, formed new ideas, grown as writers and people. So, before you return to your writing, do remind yourself how far you have come, how much better you would like to be and that your improvement and success are in your hands more than anyone else’s.

I wish you all the success you deserve.

Reproduced from Write to be Published, by kind permission of Snowbooks Ltd.

Mondays are Red is available as a brand-new ebook, for around £2.25, with new material. Please, please buy it. Readers, I need you.