At the start of every month I ask my Facebook followers to suggest some writing prompts and challenges and then I post the one I chose at the end of the month. January and February flew by without me remembering to ask for prompts but at the start of March I put out a plea and had some great suggestions. I was tempted by a few that inspired fictional responses, but in the end I was most tempted by this non-fiction challenge by Becky Bekstar Paroz: changes you’ve seen in your writing, the industry and industry trends. I’ve decided to just focus on changes in my own writing for this post.
I published my first book The Mess of Me in 2013 so it’s been a ten year journey now for me. It’s had its ups and downs, which, I have to say, are far more interesting than the flat periods, where not much happens. I’ve learnt a lot and I like to think I have come a long way. When I first self-published through a now defunct ebook platform called Autharium in 2013 I had no clue what I was doing. My first attempts at front covers were terrible, my blurbs needed work, I wrote books that were overly long, and I had no idea how to market them.
My covers have definitely improved! I am really happy with most of them now. There are a few older ones I’d still like to revamp at some point, but it all takes time and money. I think my writing has improved too; partly due to constant practice, time, maturity and experience. It would be pretty awful to be worse at writing after ten years of publishing! But I can also credit other people with helping me get better. My wonderful editor and proofreader, my invaluable and honest beta readers and other authors who have, over the years, offered to read manuscripts in order to give advice and tips. I’ve learnt through my own hard work but also through the guidance, kindness and honesty of others.
My writing has changed in a few ways. I think I’m better at saying things with less words now. I’m generally writing shorter books than I used to, with a few exceptions. I also have a large amount of trust in my own writing, if that makes sense. I don’t overthink it. When it comes to a first draft, for example, I just get on with it once my planning is in place. I just write it. I definitely have more self-belief.
The other way my writing has changed is the fact I’m writing in far more genres these days. In terms of marketing, that can be a headache, but hey, the main reason I write is for the pure and magical joy of it. At the start of my journey I was writing hard-hitting, gritty, realistic dramas. The plot for The Mess Of Me, for example, involves drug-running, eating disorders and self-harm. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series delves into the murky world of career criminals, domestic and child abuse, murder, drugs and self-harm. It’s a dark ride! This Is Nowhere examines missing people and fragile mental health. Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature involves a boy trying to prove to his agoraphobic mother that the world is not full of bad people.
Things changed when Sim Sansford asked me to consider writing a series with him. He had already published books in the paranormal/supernatural genre and I was intrigued. We ended up writing a YA trilogy together about two kids with amazing superpowers! If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d move from writing about teenage body image issues, to teenagers with dark forces inside them, I wouldn’t have believed you!
My interests have also inspired some change in the genres I try. Like a lot of people I’m worried about climate change and the decimation of nature and wildlife, and my upcoming series, The Day The Earth Turned comes from this fear. I hope to release book one in June. In the series, which I’d describe as horror, a group of children have to navigate a post-apocalyptic world where all the adults have been culled by nature itself. Many died in multiple pandemics, and the rest died in various awful ways as Mother Nature sought to shake herself clean of humanity. The children are given a second chance, but can they stop fighting each other longer enough to figure out how to live in this new world where humans are no longer in charge?
I’ve been a huge fan of The Walking Dead and anything zombie related for a while now, so about two years ago I started writing a diary-style story about a 15 year-old boy left to fend for himself in a zombie apocalypse. I didn’t finish it but at the moment I’m typing it up to Word and having a lot of fun as in the last two years I have planned out everything that happens!
After re-reading Stephen King’s ‘It’ a few years back, I got the idea for a creepy, strange town where a group of misfit kids have to fight evil and I created Black Hare Valley. Nothing else happened for a few years as I’m always working on other things, but I did design a map of the fictional town, created most of the characters and penned a potential opening scene. A year ago, a prolonged power cut meant I couldn’t use the laptop so I started writing Black Hare Valley into a notebook, got entirely addicted and filled up 5 books before I finished it! I haven’t touched it since then because I’m trying to get other projects ready and published before I return to I’ve full attention to this potential horror series. It’s about dark evil, magic and shape shifters! Again, I never would have imagined me writing that kind of thing!
Marketing issues remain the same. I don’t have a lot of money, if any, to throw at advertising my books so my sales and reviews remain dispiritingly low. I am hoping to change this and have some ideas planned, including trying Facebook ads for the first time and so on, but it is still the hard bit. You put so much into creating these worlds and characters, usually two years of editing back and forth before you publish, and then it proves as hard as getting blood from a stone when it comes to selling and getting reviews.
I know I’m not alone though, and I’d say, if anything, it’s got harder in this industry to be seen. I have realised throughout my own journey that the indie authors doing well have been able to pay for regular ads and marketing in order to push those sales and get those reviews. They can keep it going then, as the more reviews you have, the more you get noticed.
The indie collective Sim and I are building is something to feel hopeful about though. Chasing Driftwood Books is in its early stages but we have big plans! More on that another day!
4 thoughts on “March Writing Challenge: Changes in my writing”
Totally feel you on the low sales and reviews, Chantelle. The struggle is real and getting harder.
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Sorry to hear that Kate – though obviously I can understand and sympathise totally. I never enjoy hearing that another author is having the same problems. It makes me feel sad! And your books are so good and deserve more regonition!
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I can definitely say the same for your books, Chantelle. You are one of my favourite authors and I know I’ll enjoy any book of yours that I pick up.
Oh thank you so much, that’s made my day! I feel the same about yours! Your blog is also amazing and incredibly helpful to writers,