Writing for Love or Money – the Conclusion

Love can be the motive –

English: The photographer's wedding ring and i...
English: The photographer’s wedding ring and its heart-shaped shadow in a dictionary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 but the profits of writing are diverse

A few weeks ago I began a series of posts on the theme of  ‘Writing for Love or Money’. I wanted to explore what motivates writers – including myself – to write, how money can be made from writing even without a traditional publishing contract – and to discover if money is ever the main motive. As part of the series I  invited several authors to contribute a guest post on what motivates them.

I hope you enjoyed discovering more about all of these talented writers and I want to say a huge thank you to all four of them – Helen Mackinven, Sara Sheridan, Dan Holloway and Andy Harrod for their time – and for sharing their personal and fascinating insights on the topic.

I think it came across very clearly that writing for me and my four guests is something that is vital to all of us. We are all very different types of writers and at different stages in our writing lives. We all write for different reasons – but we have a love of writing in common. Sara earns a living by writing and has a very successful, professional writing career and is published in the traditional way. Helen has studied writing as an academic discipline and is now writing her first novel. Dan and Andy are both unconventional and experimental in their writing. For them, publication is not at all about money, but is about communicating with themselves and with their readers.

For me, its an obsession and an addiction. It’s something I’ve always done as a way of hanging on – just – to my sanity. For me, it’s fun, challenging and therapeutic.

However, it’s only in recent years that I’ve come to think of publishing what I write. Having completed a novel as part of a midlife, now-or-never realisation, I realised I wanted it to be read. It hasn’t made me much money, but it has given me a huge amount of pleasure to have a (small) readership and to see my book in bookshops and online. I still have a day job, but if I’m honest I’d give up my long teaching career tomorrow if I could earn enough money from my writing.

And so to all writers reading this post, and its accompanying ones, I wish you well whatever your motivation. Remember,  keep on keeping on, and profit in whatever way suits you from your love of the written word.

Never About The Money

In this recent series of posts – ‘Writing for Love or Money’ I wanted to explore what motivates writers to write, how money can be made from writing even without a traditional publishing contract – and to discover if money is ever the main motive. As part of the series I have invited several authors to contribute a guest post on what motivates them. The contributors write very different  things and for different reasons. I hope you enjoy discovering more about all of these talented writers.

This is the fourth guest post and it comes from Andy Harrod. I first came across Andy’s work when visiting a virtual exhibition at Dan Holloway’s Eight Cuts Gallery http://danholloway.wordpress.com/eight-cuts-gallery/ and Andy was a contributor. (Dan will also be doing a guest post in this series). I particularly love Andy’s book ‘Living Room Stories’ and reviewed it here.

THANK YOU ANDY!

Never about the Money

by Andy Harrod

I began writing not because of books but due to music, for when I immerse myself in the lyrics they act as a springboard for me to connect with disparate parts of myself, bringing feelings and thoughts together. Of late I have been able to do the same with instrumental music, to drift closer to what I am feeling. Through this I began slowly to unravel myself and my love affair with writing began.

Writing ever since has been a case of capturing those sensations on my edge of awareness and what it means to me to be alive and true to myself. It is not an easy ride, it certainly doesn’t make money, but it is about love. Love for myself and for others. My writing is focused on me, I don’t think of an audience, only what I wish to understand about my thoughts and feelings to help myself and how I relate to other people. Often my writing focuses on emotions to develop an idea, present a perspective, which I hope I leave hanging on the page for the reader to play with.

My writing can therefore be seen as a selfish act or perhaps a selfless one, depending on your view of what it means to be individual. I see a world of individuals as a beautiful thing, with each of us fulfilling what it means to be us. The selfish view comes in through the belief that by allowing(!) people to do what they want there would be no community, but the community I see around me is almost non-existent and shattered as we play out the roles given/inherited. Through this I don’t see contentment, but I do see a comfortable boredom and resentment within a much divided society.

So what does this tangent have to do with the love of writing? That to enjoy writing I believe you need a connection with what you are writing about and a passion for it. It doesn’t matter what other people think, it matters what you think, though tell my self-critic that! Therefore I very much believe in writing for yourself and not for others or what may be in fashion at the time. Through this I have come to develop my own voice and style and I am truly happy with where I find myself.

My latest book, tearing at thoughts (http://79ratpress.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/our-contributors/), a collection of writing, art and photography, is the accumulation of my unravelling. I think of tearing at thoughts as an album, each piece works separately, but together they layer and resonate the unspoken and the lost. It leaves me feeling exposed, as if I have laid bare my sense of self through a group of fictional characters as I attempt to bring the hidden and pushed aside into focus, through the hope that if it is brought into awareness, change may occur. I finally believe in my writing voice and I won’t allow it to be corrupted by paper lies. Of course it would be great to make a living from my writing, but I would never want it to control what I write. I would rather feel exposed. For the genuine, heartfelt and thoughtful comments I have received is the reward I want, and to be honest, the reward I have sought since I started writing.

BIO:

Andy Harrod is a writer, who writes not out of a desire to tell stories, but a need to understand, to find meaning and connect with self and life. Outside of writing Andy is a trainee person-centred therapist and runs the streets of Lancaster, one day soon the fells of the Lake District.

PUBLISHED WORK:

Living Room Stories was Andy’s first release, handmade (http://decodingstatic.blogspot.co.uk/p/living-room-stories.html) and kindle (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Living-Room-Stories-ebook/dp/B008HSMGGI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1341573814&sr=1-1) editions are available.

tearing at thoughts is to be published by 79 rat press as part of their NOTHING TO SAY (http://79ratpress.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/our-contributors/) exhibition, available to buy from June 2013.

BLOG: Andy posts stories, photos, art and thoughts at Decoding Static (http://decodingstatic.blogspot.co.uk/).

TWITTER: Say hello at  @DecodingStatic (http://twitter.com/DecodingStatic)

Writing for Love or Money – Dan Holloway Guest Post

In this recent series of posts – ‘Writing for Love or Money’ I wanted to explore what motivates writers to write, how money can be made from writing even without a traditional publishing contract – and to discover if money is ever the main motive. As part of the series I have invited several authors to contribute a guest post on what motivates them. The contributors write very different  things and for different reasons. I hope you enjoy discovering more about all of these talented writers.

This is the third in the series of guest posts. I first ‘met’ Dan Holloway several years ago on a peer review writers website. Later I kept up with him on Twitter and we both write for Words with Jam, an online magazine for writers. I have also visited and reviewed two virtual exhibitions of art and writing curated by Dan at his Eight Cuts Gallery. Dan is a true ‘indie’ writer as you will see.

THANKS DAN! 

Love or Money

by Dan Holloway

 It’s a truism that if you don’t love writing, really love it, you’ll get nowhere – wherever it is you want to go. But for me it goes beyond that. When I’ve tried to make money from my writing I’ve felt like my writing has really suffered, I’ve been distracted from the goals I’d always set for my writing. It even got to the stage where I have removed one of my books, which I originally self-published to make money, from availability for good.

My parents bought me an old school desk for my 3rd birthday, and I’d sneak downstairs to scribble at it almost every night, but despite that and the fact that our house always creaked beneath the weight of books, and I was brought up to idolise the likes of Virginia Woolf and Colette, the main creative influence in my life has always been art. And the desire to transfer the vibrancy I feel in the art world into the way people see books, combined with a love of philosophy and a burning ambition that comes from playing competitive sports from an early age, has led me to turn my back on the idea of ever making money. Or at least to consider it an irrelevance. I still feel slightly nervous putting my goals on paper (exactly the kind of nervousness that separates a lot of literature from a lot of art) because it sounds so over-reaching, arrogant even. I feel the need to make the obvious postscript every time I do – I am not saying I think I’m good enough to do it, I’m saying I have to try.

In short, I want to make literature the stuff of watercooler conversations the way the likes of Tracey Emin has done for art. I want people to look at books in new ways, to get excited by the possibilities they hold, to make them question what books, stories, words, really are and what they can do. And I want to unpick the structural power games, the patriarchies and colonialisms inherent in every language system, to pull language apart and with it the straightjacket that constrains the way we think of ourselves in the world, and to create from the unravelled mess a poetics of hope, the possibility of every voice truly being able to inject itself into the world.

The practical upshot of this is that what I feel most compelled to write is something no self-respecting publisher would go near. At least not one without a whopping subsidy behind it enabling it to take on board projects with very little chance of selling more than a handful of copies.

But it’s a very hard furrow to plough without deviation. The pull towards something more commercial is incredibly strong. I’ve succumbed to it on several occasions, trying to write thrillers – having a measure of commercial success in the process, but then finding people only wanted to talk to me about marketing or crime fiction, and that the things so deeply ingrained in my writing DNA were being left out of the picture. At other times I’ve found my spoken word shows reaching a wide audience and offered the opportunity to reach a wider one – if I just altered the content a little, made it more widely acceptable.

Pretty much once every six months I find I have to remind myself what I really want from writing, and radically repositioning myself towards the margins. It’s an incredible wrench, and when I am struggling to make basic rent and debt repayments every month it’s even harder, but it feels so much better when I do. And whilst it’s 99% certain that I’ll never achieve my goals, if I head down the path of even thinking about making money, that figure becomes 100%. So, my next project (after my first solo show at Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Some of These Things Are Beautiful, which is a poetic journey through the world of lost friendship), Evie and Guy, due out in May, is a novel without any words, told wholly in numbers. And I will be launching 6 titles from new, largely experimental, poets through my small imprint 79 rat press on June 10th.

You can see YouTube clips of Dan reading his work at the two links immediately below. N.B.Please be aware that although there is no swearing, the content is adult in nature.

Her Body https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qXXdIqA8LsI

Hungerford Bridge https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Q8HRava-2hc

LINKS

http://danholloway.wordpress.com (where my collection “i cannot bring myself to look at walls in case you have graffitied them with love poetry”, which accompanies my spoken word show, is free to download, along with my experimental novel “The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes”)

http://79ratpress.blogspot.com 

You can also read an illuminating interview with Dan over on Jill Marsh’s blog at http://jjmarsh.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/not-the-granta-1-dan-holloway/#comment-1845 –

Writing for Love or Money – Sara Sheridan Guest Post

In this recent series of posts – ‘Writing for Love or Money’ I wanted to explore what motivates writers to write, how money can be made from writing even without a traditional publishing contract – and to discover if money is ever the main motive. As part of the series I have invited several authors to contribute a guest post on what motivates them. The contributors write very different  things and for different reasons. I hope you enjoy discovering more about all of these talented writers.

Sara Sheridan colour03

This is the second of the guest posts and it’s by author, Sara Sheridan. I really enjoy Sara’s novels and I first ‘met’ her on Twitter. And then last year I met her in person when I attended a talk given by her at Edinburgh’s Central Library. She was kind enough to invite me to meet her for a coffee before the talk. I reviewed Sara’s book, ‘The Secret Mandarin’ here on the blog.

THANK YOU SARA!

Love or Money by Sara Sheridan

It’s an interesting distinction. I’m a full-time professional writer and I don’t see why I can’t have both these things. Being a writer is a more difficult job than people imagine. Everyone assumes writers spend their time lounging around, writing and occasionally striking a pose while having a think (fair play, I do my share of lounging). These activities however, are far too small a proportion of my job. I spend my days researching in dusty old archives, travelling across the country to speak at book festivals, libraries and independent bookshops and dodging the pile of administration tasks on my desk (an estimated quarter of my time goes on administration including social media.) On top of that most years I write two books (a total of around 200,000 words because historical fiction is, well, longer). All in, I work harder than many of my friends who are in safe 9-5 jobs and I probably earn slightly less than I would if I was putting in those kind of hours on a ‘real’ job. That said, I love what I do. Unexpectedly so.

I started writing about 18 years ago. I had never considered becoming a writer – it wasn’t a long held ambition. I had just got divorced and was struggling to hold down my 9-5 job as a senior administrator in the charitable arm of a major university. I needed to find something with more flexible hours so I could look after my daughter (only a toddler at the time) and retain my sanity (or near enough). One night I made a list of all the jobs I could do from home and decided to try one at a time until I found something that worked. At the top of my list was Write A Book. This story drives people nuts and I feel guilty about how easy I found it once I got going. I knew nothing and nobody but someone told me a novel was 70,000 words (that’s a minimum) so I figured that if I wrote 1000 words a day for 14 weeks (weekends off, naturally) then I’d have a novel. So I did. Then I researched publishers. There were 96 publishers of fiction in the UK in those days. I printed 96 manuscript copies and sent them off. Within three weeks I had my first offer – and only then set about finding myself an agent. It’s a jammy story, I know. I was incredibly lucky. I make a point of telling people that from those 96 manuscripts I ended up receiving 4 offers (it’s approximately a 4% hit rate – so mostly I failed, of course. But it only takes one offer, no matter how long the odds).  The book went on to become a Top 50 UK bestseller and I haven’t looked back.

If you’re lucky enough to have found something you love doing (inadvertently) then I have always believed you can’t be greedy for much more. I reckon as long as I’m earning the national average wage, then I can’t really complain. Most years since that book came out, I’ve achieved that. Sometimes I earn more. So yeah, I’m jammy (but I work hard for it) and I get to have love and money. Why not?

 

Some Sara facts:

Sara Sheridan is an historical novelist. The latest book in her Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series, London Calling, is out now.

Sara LondonCallingsmall

“Intelligent, accessible writing”www.sarasheridan.comTweet me @sarasheridan http://www.facebook.com/sarasheridanwriter
Order Sara’s latest book, London Calling, the second 1950s Mirabelle Bevan Mystery  here. The hardback is on special!
In the last few weeks..  taking part in the 26 Treasures of Childhood exhibition at the V&A’s Museum of Childhood, receiving a professional development award from Creative Scotland, writing an article about 1830s Rio for BBC History magazine, filming a talent taster for BBC television, appearing at Bath Literary Festival, publication of London Calling, becoming a guest blogger on the Huffington Post and talking about historical ladies on Woman’s Hour.

Coming up…  writing a first draft of The Melting Point set in 1820s Brazil and London, going to Colonsay Book Festival, interviewing Maggie O’Farrell, a Mirabelle Bevan short story going into ever Best Western hotel room in the country and taking part in a writing celebration of Norwich’s UNESCO City of Literature award.

Fame and Fortune from Writing

Helen Mack MonetIn this recent series of posts – ‘Writing for Love or Money’ I wanted to explore what motivates writers to write, how money can be made from writing even without a traditional publishing contract – and to discover if money is ever the main motive. As part of the series I have invited several authors to contribute a guest post on what motivates them. The contributors write very different  things and for different reasons. I hope you enjoy discovering more about all of these talented writers.

 

The first guest post is from Helen Mackinven. Helen has recently completed an MLitt in writing. She’s a fellow Scot and twitter friend of mine. She is currently working on her first bestseller. You can find out more about her over at her own blog here http://helenmackinven.wordpress.com You can also find her on twitter at @HelenMackinven

She originally posted the piece below on her own blog in June last year.

THANK YOU HELEN! – over to my guest:

Fame and Fortune from Writing by Helen Mackinven

“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.”  But the inspirational quote makes no mention of how much chasing a  dream might cost in pounds and pennies. Like the dress stashed at the back of the wardrobe (it was a bargain, and I’ll get lots of wear out it, honestly!), sometimes it’s best not to admit to the true cost of spending money on something you love.  And I’m all for listening to Jessie J’s advice, “It’s not about the money, money, money… Forget about the price tag.”

But it was still a great feeling this week to receive the first cheque I’ve ever been given for writing.  Woo Hoo! I won 2nd place in the Roy Wood Short Story Memorial Competition run by Alloa Writers group.

You can read my story, ‘Practice Makes Perfect’, here.

And my picture  was in, drum roll please, the Alloa Advertiser (okay it’s not the Arts section of the Glasgow Herald but I’m all for keeping it real and supporting local newspapers striving to report what matters most in the community, e.g. page 3 has the headline, ‘Bin torched in Alloa’ and page 5 ‘Lamb bitten’ yes, these are actual news story, even as a fiction writer, I couldn’t make them up).

So over and above being a media star in Clackmannanshire (I daren’t go near the Hillfoots in case I’m mobbed for autographs), the £50 was most welcome as a very small step towards offsetting the thousands of pounds I’ve spent  on following my writing ambitions.  To date, there’s been Arvon residential courses x 2, numerous day courses/conferences/workshops, author events, books, not to mention the biggies giving up the day job to do the MLitt course. If I added up the cost, eh, well… let’s not go there! I don’t think hubby would want to see the actual figure in black and white.

On Twitter this week, lots of folk I follow made me laugh with the hashtag #thingsnottosaytoawriter and one of the most common phrases was a variation on “So what do you do for money?” I could relate to that, especially after ignoring the voice of reason and giving up my day job.

But once I’m a successful writer, I’ll be able bask in my fame and fortune, right? And I don’t need to worry about bagging that rare elusive beast-a traditional publishing deal; I can always self-publish and cut out the middle man.  The phenomenal commercial success of trash books like Fifty Shades of Grey should surely spur me on (or turn me on if the ‘mummy porn’ hype is true).

So what am I waiting on? I could upload the two books I’ve already written today, sit back and rake in the profits…

EL James is making more than $million EVERY WEEK!!!

Maybe not, in fact it’s highly unlikely that I would become rich by going down the self-publishing route. A recent article in the Guardian, ‘Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500’ made it very clear that the millions of dollars made by the likes of EL James and Amanda Hocking are the exceptions.  If you’re like me and want to be a writer, you’re not in it for the money (although as Tesco says, every little helps).

Writing for Love or Money – ready to be read…

First draft is just the beginning
 

Part Two – Publish and Publicise

Spread the love, bank the profits?

So you’ve spent a long time writing for the love it – perhaps for years. You’ve learned a lot about the art and the craft of writing. You’ve produced a novel, or a collection of non-fiction essays, short stories or poems. What now?

You could keep on writing for the love of it – nothing wrong with that. But what if you want your work to be read? How do you get it out there? And how do you maybe make a bit of money?

Good news, bad news.

The good news is that nowadays it’s easier than ever to publish your work and build up a readership. The bad news is that you probably won’t make a lot of money and your motivation will continue to be love.

Traditional publishing

The conventional way to get your book published is to get a contract with a publishing company. Authors usually have to find an agent willing to represent them and then rely on that agent to find a publisher. The most fortunate authors will then get a reasonable financial advance from their publisher, the services of an editor, a cover designer and a publicity team. And then there will be royalties on the book sales. Some will make just enough to live on, some will make enough to be comfortable, a few will become millionaires – but J.K.Rowling is an exception.

This route remains the most likely to net reasonable financial returns – and for most authors, if they’re honest, it is still the most desirable. It is, however, increasingly difficult for new writers to get onto this particular road to reaching their readers. The book will have to be easy to market, easy to categorise and have very widespread appeal. This is fair enough. Publishing is a business and, in the present financial climate, no sane business is going to take any unnecessary risks.

Vanity publishing

The only alternative to the above used to be for the author to use a vanity publisher. This involved paying a, not inconsiderable, amount of money to a book printing company to produce as many copies of their book as the author could afford. The author would then have to try to sell these books from their lock-up or garage or wherever and with very little opportunity to publicise the book’s existence. It’s doubtful that any money was made by authors in those circumstances.

Self publishing

But the world of publishing has changed and continues to change. And it is the internet which is largely responsible. The internet has made it possible not only for authors to publish their own work but also to publicise it effectively – and yes in some cases – make a little bit of money. E.L. James is the exception that proves the rule here. Go down this route and you’ll most likely still be writing primarily for love. Don’t let that put you off!  What’s most important is that YOU WILL GET READERS. And things are changing in this regard. It’s gradual, but there are more and more writers taking this route who are making enough to give up the day job.

It is relatively straightforward to set up a PRINT-ON-DEMAND PAPERBACK and to sell it online through Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble etc. It’s also relatively easy to make your book available in DIGITAL FORMAT for Kindle and other e-readers.

But there are PITFALLS to be aware of.

Firstly, I would advise against engaging the services of companies that purport to ease your way to self-publishing and that charge hundreds of pounds to do so. It really isn’t that difficult to do it yourself.

Secondly, don’t go it completely alone at the pre-publishing stage.  Do employ some PROFESSIONAL HELP – namely the services of an editor and a cover designer. After all you’ve put a lot of work into your writing – plus you’re asking people to pay to read it – so you owe it to yourself and your readers to present a product that is of a professional standard. I’ve lost count of the sloppily produced books that I’ve deleted from my Kindle or put in the paper- recycling bin. I will not buy work from those authors again. No matter how many drafts you’ve done and you should have done many – your book will require professional editing. And people do judge books by their covers. It’s what readers see first when looking at you book – either on a shelf in a bookshop or online – so again hire a professional. And if you have trouble with the technology and need help with formatting your book for publication there are some very able professionals who don’t charge the earth who’ll do that for you.

After publication, you’ll need to publicise your book of course. Social media can be a good way to do this. You can have a fan page for your book on Facebook. You can inform your followers on Twitter. But be careful when doing this – don’t bombard people – far better to use these social media sites to slowly build relationships with fellow writers – a very supportive bunch – and your readers. You can do readings at your local bookshop, get yourself interviewed on local radio. You might blog or have a website. You might do none of those things and just hope your book gets noticed amongst the millions of others.

N.B. It’s worth pointing out here that even those authors who are traditionally published are nowadays expected to be active self-promoters in the ways I’ve just listed.

So there you have it. Writing’s simple really. Do it, love it, and – if you want  to – share it.

I’m delighted to have had several brilliant but very different authors agree to guest post in this Love or Money series over the next few weeks. Come back next week to read the first one.

 

Useful information:

FOR EXCELLENT, DETAILED, COMPREHENSIVE AND GENEROUS ADVICE ON THE WHOLE SELF-PUBLISHING AND PUBLICISING THING – from your desk to bookshop real or virtual –  you would do well to visit DAVID GAUGHRAN’S blog here on wordpress.com

http://davidgaughran.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/self-publishing-basics1.pdf

I would also like to recommend THE EDITOR AND BOOK COVER DESIGNER THAT I WORK WITH.

For competitively priced and first rate, insightful editing JOHN HUDSPITH is your man – find him at http://www.johnhudspith.co.uk/

For superb cover design JANE DIXON-SMITH is your woman – find her at http://www.jdsmith-design.com/

Writing for Love or Money

 

Writer Wordart
Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

How do you become a writer? How do you stay motivated? How do you get published? Is the act of writing enough reward in itself. This is the first in a series of posts where I explore all these questions.

Part One – Call Yourself a Writer

Most writers don’t get rich. Some make enough to live on, but many don’t. So I doubt anyone does it just for the money. However, I do believe all writers write because they love doing it. It’s a passion, it’s an essential part of their wellbeing and it’s a basic need like eating and breathing. A writer would most likely say ‘I write, therefore I am.’

But whether you write for love or money, or both, how do you get to the point where you can call yourself a writer?

The first step to being able to call yourself a writer – and some would say the only step – is to actually write something. Obvious – yes – but a lot of people who would like to be writers are deterred from starting because of unrealistic expectations. You don’t have to produce a bestselling novel right away. You don’t ever have to produce a bestseller. You don’t have to produce anything for others to read. All you have to do is create something – in writing – and then keep on doing it.

Forget rules and expectations and write what you’re driven to write. It can be fiction, poetry, non-fiction. It can be long. It can be short. The important thing is to get those writing muscles flexing. Scribble, free-write, do a five-minute story or a hundred word opinion piece, do a haiku. Whatever – JUST DO IT.

 

Find your voice, find your preferred form and genre, and above all – FIND TIME.

Procrastination is a well known writers’ ailment, but you’re not eligible to suffer from it until you have actually started writing. So having made the decision to commit to your writing, you must then decide how much time you can give to it and when that will be. Then put your writing slots into your diary and KEEP THOSE APPOINTMENTS. It’s important not to over-commit. Be realistic – fifteen minutes on four days is better than nothing – anything is better than nothing. But do be prepared to prioritise your writing when making the appointments. It’s too easy to say, ‘I’d love to write but I don’t have the time.’ You’re kidding yourself if you do. What you’re actually saying is you don’t want to write – that it’s not a priority. Give up an evening’s television. Give up a long-lie at the weekend. Give up time on Facebook. Give up something that isn’t as important to you as writing.

Once you’re at your desk, SWITCH OFF YOUR INNER CRITIC AND PERSEVERE. It’s all too easy to let the negative thoughts creep in. ‘You’re rubbish at this.’ Who do you think you are?’ Call yourself a writer?’ You’re at the start of a long apprenticeship – one that probably never ends. Yes, natural talent is a plus for a writer – just as it is for a musician or artist – but there is a whole set of SKILLS TO LEARN – and you will need lots of practice to develop them.

You might want to attend WRITING CLASSES. This could be anything from a local authority evening class, to a week-long residential course, to a university degree. There are also several excellent MAGAZINES for writers and they are full of advice, tips and useful information.

 

 

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Writing can be a lonely business so it’s good to BECOME PART OF A WRITING COMMUNITY. And if formal classes aren’t your thing then local writing clubs can be a great source of knowledge and support. There also many online writing communities – some which offer peer-to-peer critiquing – and some which simply offer mutual support and advice.

READ LOTS and READ WIDELY. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll pick up once you get started and your mind is alert to possibilities. Read genres you wouldn’t normally read, read stuff from the genre you’re writing. Read old stuff, new stuff, experimental stuff.

If INSPIRATION is hard to come by, there are books, websites and the aforementioned magazines all stuffed with prompts and suggestions. One very simple one is to take a book off the shelf, pick a page number at random. Take the first complete sentence from the top of that page and make that into a story starter.

Keep a PORTFOLIO of your work – electronically or on paper. Try out different genres and find out where your writing heart lies. But whether you decide on a novel, a short story collection, a pamphlet of poetry, a set of articles or a collection of essays, stay MOTIVATED.  If you’re taking writing classes you’ll get assignments to spur you on. Another way to motivate yourself is to enter COMPETITIONS – that way you get a readymade deadline.

And it’s a simple as that! Once you’re done some of the above – and intend to continue doing it regularly – you may call yourself a writer.

But what comes next now you’re calling yourself a writer. Do you want READERS? If you don’t that’s fine – then you truly are writing only for the love of it. But if you want to publish – what’s next?

How to reach your readers is the next topic in this mini-series – so come back next week – when I’ll outline ways to get published and offer some general advice on the process.

 

Some useful stuff-

There’s loads to choose from. But here I list only things that I’ve read/ used/ experienced personally.

Books on writing:

WRITING DOWN THE BONES by Natalie Goldbergfull of useful exercises

‘BECOMING A WRITER’ by Dorothea Brandean ‘old’ publication but a classic and still relevant.

ON WRITINGby Stephen Kinghonest practical advice from a master storyteller.

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Writing Courses:

ARVON FOUNDATION residential coursesI attended one at Moniack Mhor led by Ali Smithfabulous.

http://www.arvonfoundation.org/

 

Magazines for writers:

MSLEXIAwritten for women writers but lots of the advice is applicable to menfolk.  http://www.mslexia.co.uk/index.php

WORDS WITH JAMI’m a contributor – so of course it’s excellent. http://wordswithjam.co.uk/

 

Online Writing Communities:

On TWITTER there is the wonderful #amwriting community founded by Johanna Harness.

YOU WRITE ON http://www.youwriteon.com/  This is a long-established peer-to-peer review site for beginner writers – well worth a visit and a try out.

Online Sources of inspiration:

DAILY PROMPTS at http://www.plinky.com / and at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/daily-prompts /

Writing For Love or Money…

'Write Enough' production centre
‘Write Enough’ production centre

For Love or Money

First, an apology to regular readers for missing last week. Second, an apology to this week’s readers for today’s rather brief post. The day job and other writing commitments have meant that the blog has been the thing that had to give. But I hope you’ll be interested in the mini-series of posts that I’m working on at the moment. See trailer below –

The trailer:
Writing creatively is a profession for some and a hobby for many. But professional or amateur, it’s probably true to say that anyone who spends time producing pieces of written work will be passionate about what they do. I would go so far as to say passion is a prerequisite for any writer. So it’s most likely a given that all of us who write do it for the love of it, and for some of us it’s also a way of earning a living.

Writing – its forms, methods and means of distribution to its readership – is going through (and has already gone through) significant changes. The existence of the internet and social media has made it possible for writers to become their own publishers and publicists. The mass market of traditional publishing now co-exists with the myriad niche and alternative markets of the ‘indie’ or self-publishing sectors. Real books vie with e-books. Now, more than ever, it’s possible to write for love and for money.

I’m planning to do a series of three posts under the heading of ‘For Love or Money.’ In the series I want to explore why writers write, how they go about writing, what forms writing can take, and how writers get their writing published – if indeed that’s what they want to do with their end products.

The first post – next week – will look at how to become a writer. The second one will look at publishing and publicising. And the third one will (I hope) be spread over a set of weekly guest posts from a variety of authors who I’ll be inviting to address the ‘Love or Money’ question as it applies to them.