My 2016 Writing Goals Vs The Reality

Towards the end of 2015 I listed my writing goals for 2016 on this blog. I didn’t really expect to achieve them all, but at the same time, they did feel achievable! I also listed them as a way to kick myself up the backside and keep track of what I wanted to get done this year. So as we draw to the end of 2016, (oh my God how fast did this year go??) how many did I manage?

  1. Finish the first draft of Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature (nearly there!!)

Yay! I did this one! This book nearly ready for release, but I’ve been waiting for some final feedback from a trusted beta reader and working on the first draft of A Song For Bill Robinson. Once this is done, I will be rushing back to dear Elliot to give his story a final going over or two and then deciding on a release date! (Plus I need to think about front covers and so on!)

2.Whilst letting that first draft breathe, do the final rewrite/edit of The Tree Of Rebels and submit to agents and publishers. I want to try the traditional route with this book, as I think it is a worth a go every now and then!

Well, as you may know, TheTree Of Rebels is still not ready despite being now two years in the making. A while ago I decided it needed another rewrite and possibly some further storylines introduced. But it has to wait until Elliot Pie is released before I get back to it, so this one is still not done. It is much improved though and I’m glad I’ve been patient with it.

3.Whilst waiting for responses, dive into second draft of Elliot Pie, which also means developing a Pinterest storyboard for it.

Yep, as mentioned above, second, third, fourth and so on drafts have happened for Elliot Pie, and I have started a Pinterest board for it too. Cool, can tick that one off!

4.If no success with trad publishing, then release The Tree of Rebels with my indie publisher,with my detailed promo plan in place!!

Well that indie publisher went out of business in February 2016 and I then published with Amazon for a while and am now with Pronoun. That threw a spanner into the works for a few months and set everything back a bit, so the detailed promo plan for The Tree Of Rebels will have to wait a bit longer to be set into motion!

5.Have a real life/in the flesh book launch in my local library (eek scary!)

Well, obviously as neither novel was ready for 2016 this goal was not achievable. However, I have recently made contact with my local library in a bid to foster links with them for this sort of thing. I’m holding a workshop there in March and will be talking to them about lots of other ideas too, so this goal is definitely one for 2017. I hope!

6.Have an online launch/promo etc (see point 4)

Again, neither novel was launched so couldn’t do an online launch either, but very much looking forward to this in 2017!

7.Finish putting together another short story collection, which will be partly shorts related to my novels, other shorts, and partly previous blog posts and musings

Aha! One I did achieve! I released Bird People in May 2016 and I’m really pleased with how it turned out

8.Plan a local author event! This will be under my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group banner, and will involve getting other local authors together for a meet/greet/signing and workshop extravaganza, all designed to put readers in touch with writers,, and spread the word locally about our books.

Yay, well sort of. I have a workshop booked for March which will be the first adult one I’ve put on, by myself, under my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group business. I did also take part in a Writers Day Event in October with Dorset Writers Network which was a brilliant opportunity for spreading the word and making connections. My workshop is about building an author platform and part of it will be unveiling my idea for a pop-up book shop to put on at any future events, the library and so on.

9.Enter competitions and submit to awards!!

I have entered two or three competitions this year I think? Always worth a go. Not submitted to any awards, though, which is worth looking into I think for 2017

10.Plot/plan the sequel to The Tree Of Rebels and add teaser chapters onto end of first book

Done. Most of the sequel is written or planned, but I did go off the idea and it fizzled out. When I do finally go over The Tree of Rebels again I will be deciding if I want to do the sequel or not, or just leave thinsg open incase I do another day.

11.Start the sequel to The Mess Of Me (if I finish Elliot Pie, or when I am having a breather between drafts)

Didn’t get time for this, as a lot of time was spent republishing books this year, and rewriting Elliot Pie and Tree Of Rebels, then a few months ago an old story started to plague me and turned into my current work-in-progress A Song For Bill Robinson. The sequel to The Mess Of Me is planned and half-written and will happen, one day, though!

12.Start writing the screenplay to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, which involves writing in extra scenes between the two books, so as to make a TV series. Well, why not dream big??

I started this! I also wrote a later episode which I intended to enter in a competition but I missed the deadline! Fully intend to keep working on this in 2017 as it was a whole lot of fun!

Results; seven out of twelve, not too bad!! I think writing this list at the start of 2016 was hugely helpful to me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to tick them all off, but they were all things I desperately wanted to achieve, so it made sense to me to list them like this so I’d have something to spur me on. I am going to write a new list for 2017 writing goals which will be next week’s blog post!

How about you? Do you write lists or make plans? What do you hope to achieve in 2017? Did 2016 go as planned or did you have things go wrong or veer in other directions, like I did? Please feel free to comment and share!

 

Author Interview; Mark Gillespie

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Indie author Mark Gillespie currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, although he originally hails from Glasgow, Scotland. Mark is the author of two alternative history novels; FAB (FAB Trilogy Book 1) which examines what would have happened if John Lennon had not been killed, and recently released L-2011 (Future of London Series #1) which asks what if the 2011 London riots had gone on, and on? Mark has also penned a unique collection of short stories The Outsider Tales. Here he talks to me about his favoured alternative history genre, the idea behind L-2011, his journey so far as an indie author and his future projects. Enjoy!
1 – How would you describe your work? What genres do you feel comfortable in?
I tend to go with ‘Speculative Fiction’.  I know that’s a huge umbrella term that covers many things like sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and other sub-genres.  Narrowing it down, I’d say my own preferences – both for reading and writing – are alternate history, apocalyptic and horror.  But anything dark and imaginative is good.
2 – L-2011 is set during the London riots of 2011, and explores what might have happened next…Can you tell us where you got the idea for this novel from? How did it evolve?
The idea to write about the London riots was inspired by a friend of mine.  She lived in Croydon during the riots and her flat was burned down, taking everything with it – her two cats, her musical instruments which she used to earn a living.  And God knows what else she lost.  Up until then, the London riots had just been something on the news for me.  After that, it was real and I couldn’t let go.  Not long after that, I wrote a post-apocalyptic short story, which drastically evolved over the course of five years, eventually morphing into L-2011.
3 – I understand L-2011 is going to be part of a series – when will the next books be out and can you tell us anything about them?
Yep sure, it’s a series called ‘Future of London’ about errr, the future of London 🙂 Or at least the one in my head.  I hope to have the second book out by late September/early October.  I write fairly short books – novella/short novel sized, so fingers crossed it’ll be done by then.  I can tell you that the next one is set nine years after the events depicted in L-2011.
4 – Tell us how you write your novels. Do you get the characters first, or does it all come from a plot idea?
I start with an interesting situation and run with it.  After that, it’s all systems go and I’m absorbed in the idea.  Regarding work techniques, I’m neither exclusively a plotter or a pantser  – I’m a ‘plontser’.  
5 – What is your writing process like? ie how much time do you dedicate to writing, how do you stay focused etc
On average, I’d say 6 days a week for an average of about 4-6 hours a day of writing.  First draft it’s 1000-2000 words a day, then with further drafts it’s 2-3 chapters editing per day.  Past failures, disappointments and frustrations spur me on.  That’s how I stay focused.  It’s also how I get out of bed and go to the desk at 6am on a freezing winter’s morning, and still be there at 10pm (with a couple of breaks in between of course!)  You’ve got to be a little bit mad to be a writer.
6 – When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Early 2011.  I’d just ended another creative career and was drifting in No-Man’s Land for a while.  I wasn’t sure where I was going and then, as I was preparing to embark on an English degree, I got the writing bug when we studied short stories by the likes of Raymond Carver and John Cheever.  It was always there a little bit though, the bug – I’d dabbled with writing in the past and I was an avid reader.
7 – What made you decide to take the indie route into publishing?
I attended an intensive two day publishing course in Melbourne.  This wasn’t long after I’d moved to Australia from Scotland.  Both trad publishing and indie publishing were covered in the course and the indie session was head and shoulders above the rest.  To sum it up, it was all about what writers could do for themselves rather than begging the gatekeepers and God knows who else for a break.  I actually wrote a blog post about the decision to go indie – (link to post)
8 – What would you say are the best and the worst things about being an indie writer?
The best thing is the absolute freedom to do what you want.  You’re the star, director, and producer of your own movie.  But it’s kind of the worst thing too in terms of workload.  And at the start, it’s tough because nobody who isn’t a friend or is related to you cares about your book.  That’s where oodles of stubbornness and perseverance come in handy.  Play the long game, just keep reminding yourself of that.
9 – What advice would you give to anyone who has finished their first novel and is about to embark on the indie path?
Write another book.  And do it quickly, but don’t skimp on the quality or the editing and all the things you need to do well.  As indies, we have to produce good work and we need to do it consistently to remain visible.  None of this one book a year crap for the likes of us – not unless your book genuinely takes a year to write of course!  But I feel most writers are capable of a greater output than that.
10 – Where would you like to be five years from now with your writing?
Ha-ha, that’s funny you should ask.  I’ve been reminding myself to write a five-year plan for a while now, but it’s taking me five years to getting around to writing my five-year plan.  Five years from now, when I’m finished, I’ll let you know 😉
11 – What are you currently working on? What other projects are on the go?
I’m on the brink of completing the first draft of the second book in my FAB trilogy.  This is another alternate history series which asks ‘What If John Lennon Had Lived?’  In between drafts, I’ll be outlining the second book in the London series too.
12 – Tell us three interesting things about yourself
I was a professional musician (bass player) for 10 years.  I toured around the UK and Ireland a lot, and got into some hilarious situations (that’s a book in itself)  Also, I got married on a mountain top in New Zealand in 2014 – that’s two interesting things – jeez, there must be something else interesting.  Oh yeah – I used to work as a bouncer in Glasgow.  There’s a book in that too 🙂   
You can find out more about Mark by following him on social media;
Facebook  Twitter and his  website

Have You Got What It Takes To Go Indie?

Life as an indie writer is not easy. It is a hard slog, full of ups and downs. It is a journey often plagued by a gnawing self-doubt as well as the added burden of feeling like you constantly have to prove yourself. Not only do you have to make all the key decisions about your book, with regards to editing, front cover, and how to market and promote it, you also sometimes feel like you have a shadow hanging over you. You have to fight harder to be seen, try every trick in the book to prove yourself, and all with the nagging question that just won’t seem to go away. Are you really good enough?

Sadly, since I started my own journey in 2013, I’ve seen indie author’s announce they are quitting on a regular basis, stating that they just can’t do it anymore. There are just so many of us out there now, all searching for the same thing. The Holy Grail. How to succeed as an indie writer.  It often feels like a step forward, followed by two steps back. Many give up when their books refuse to sell. Many become disenchanted when they fail to find an audience. Many become exhausted by the endless choice and costs involved in promoting their books.

So what does an indie need to survive? What sort of person to they need to be to get through the inevitable highs and lows? I believe survival comes down to four main things, four personality traits you are going to need in bucket loads, if you are going to stick with the indie life and not give up when the going gets tough.

You need to have an immense passion.You must believe in your stories. You might be good at writing, but you are going to need more than talent to survive the bumpy road ahead. Never mind your writing abilities or creative talents right now. Ask yourself this; do you truly have a passion, a deep and possessive passion for the stories? Do these stories keep you up at night? Are these stories begging to be told? Do they plague your daydreams and interrupt your ordinary life? Do you have something you desperately want to say and share? Is this idea driving you crazy? If yes, then you‘ve got the passion. But that is only half the battle. You have to keep that passion, especially when times get tough, as they inevitably will. It helps to have a lot of unwritten material sloshing around inside of you. A host of characters chattering away, urging you to get on and give them their turn. A desire to get it all out,whatever it takes, to keep writing and writing, no matter what.  The passion to write is perhaps the most important thing you will need. It will ensure you keep writing, because you have to write, because absolutely nothing is going to stop you.

Self-belief. In truth, for any writer, self-belief comes and goes. There are times you have lots of it and feel genuinely proud of your last paragraph or your final, finished product. But there are equally as many times when a first draft is anything but perfect. In fact it is ugly and clumsy and utterly different to how you envisioned it in your head. Quite simply you think you should give up and never write another word. This is quite normal, and I’m sure even the most successful and well known writers are regularly plagued with bouts of crippling self-doubt. There are days you just can’t write properly, nothing comes out the way you want it to, you compare yourself to others and feel you fall woefully short. This is all fine. But in order to succeed as an indie writer you need to have a rather solid foundation of genuine self-belief.You may not want to brag about it or declare it to the world, but deep down inside you must believe that you are good. You must believe that you can write. You can tell a story and make it work. You can make people care. You deserve this and can hold your head up with the best of them. Otherwise, the hurdles to come are going to knock you off course pretty quickly.

Hope. I think this applies to the indie more than any other writer. The indie needs passion and self-belief, in order to get that idea down on paper. They need talent and determination to edit, rewrite and perfect that work until it is ready to publish. They need to become an expert at marketing, promotion, an entrepreneur even, and in many respects a businessperson. But they also need to be an optimistic and hopeful kind of person in order to survive. Why? Because hope keeps you going through all the hard times, through the low sales and no sales, through bad reviews and no reviews, through feeling totally alone and out of depth and not to mention being penniless! You have hope that you‘ll become a better writer, that you will get better with every new thing you write. You have hope that your small following will continue to grow,and that fans will spread the word for you. You have hope that you‘ll one day land a nice big, traditional publishing deal, (if that’s what you want, and let’s face it, most indies would love to hand at least some of the control over to an enthusiastic professional!) You have hope that you‘ll make it. You‘ll succeed and realise your dreams, and achieve whatever level of success you are aiming for.

And finally, I believe you need to be a realistic dreamer. By that I mean, you need to dream big and aim high, but at the same time, you need to keep your feet on the ground and be realistic. I think perhaps too many writers jump into the indie game with their expectations too high. I know I was guilty of just this at the start of my journey. I sort of expected things to just take off. I thought all my friends and family would buy and love my book, would leave plentiful glowing reviews, and would then encourage all of their family and friends to do just the same, and my book would somehow just tumble forward, picking up speed until I made it! Oh how that makes me laugh now! No, I’m sorry, it’s just not going to happen like that. In my experience, people mean well, but when they say they will read or review your book, it does not always happen. People are busy. They have their own lives and interests, and they may not want to read your book for fear of offending you if it’s not their kind of thing. in truth, many of them are just not going to be interested at all. The indie journey can therefore be a lonely one at times, not to mention frustrating. Expect too much, and you are going to get disappointed. Be realistic. Recognise that it is not a race, but more a journey of development and discovery. The fact is, you will get better at all of it. You will get better at writing, and at marketing, and you will realise you don’t need your family and friends to push you forward. You need to find your own audience, and finding them, is quite simply part of the package you sign up to. Getting reviews and exposure, gaining readers and fans, winning awards and so on; all of these things are down to you.

I believe that if you have enough passion, self-belief and hope, you will be able to maintain longevity as an indie writer. Keep your feet on the ground and your expectations realistic, while not ever giving up on the dream. They may all get dented and bashed about from time to time, but as long as the reserves are deep, you should be able to keep going. Who knows what is around the corner as long as you don’t give up your dream?

Indie Survival Kit

Indie Survival Kit

When I first started out as an independently published author in 2013, I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what I was doing, and it took me a long time to figure out what I needed to know. There is a lot of help and support out there for indies, if you know where to look, but it’s very difficult to find the time to research, when you are already spending a lot of time writing. With this in mind, here is an Indie Survival Kit. A list of things you will need! Imagine you are about to pack a bag and start a long, unknown journey. These are the things you might need to pack.

The Right Attitude.

You need grit, determination and self-belief. You need to believe your story is worth telling, and that you have the skills to tell it. You will need to grow a thick skin, and become good at self-promotion. You might wish you could just sit at home writing and not have to bother with the rest of it, but you can’t. Not if you want to succeed. So roll up your sleeves, open up your mind and get working.

Community.

Surround yourself with like-minded people. Become part of the author community. Read other authors and reach out to them, connect, support and join forces, as together you are stronger. It’s not all about you, and if you think it is, you won’t get very far. It’s amazing how supportive and helpful other author’s can be, so make sure you are involved. Invite authors to post on your social media pages, or on your blog or website, and offer to do the same for you. Interviews are always very popular and interesting to both writers and readers!

Social Media Checklist

Have you signed up to at least three social media sites? One of these should be your blog/website. Do you blog regularly? At least twice a month, although ideally more? Are you visible on social media? Do people know who you are, or have they forgotten about you because you haven’t posted anything interesting lately? Has Facebook assumed your fans are bored, and has unliked the page on their behalf? Keep things fresh and fun, start debates, run contests, let people know about your struggles and successes, link up your sites to save time, share articles of interest and so on! Do this daily, as much as you can and don’t neglect it.

Reviews

Seek them out. Go after them. Don’t just rely on friends and family, or on the assumption that readers will remember to review. They rarely do. Go to review sites, and be prepared to pay for some and to be put on waiting lists for the ones that are free. The same applies for bloggers. Research them, make lists and do this weekly to build up those reviews. Remember that reviews help your book move forward; they encourage readers to buy and they convince Amazon to take your book more seriously.

Courses

Keep your skills up to date. Join writing groups online and in real life. Take courses. Udemy and FutureLearn are great sites that often have deals and freebies, so grab the offers when you can. Keep your skills sharpened and work to constantly improve your craft.

Audience

Be patient, but work on growing your fanbase at all times. Use your blog, Wattpad, Street Teams and social media sites to interact and connect with readers. Ask their opinions, share sneak peeks, freebies and competitions, share your ups and downs, your decision making processes and so on. Stay positive and upbeat. They will feel like they are on the journey with you. Offer free samples and short stories at the back of your books, or on your blog.

Resources

Look for free or cheap to help keep costs down. Canva.com is a great site for graphics and posters. You can create social media graphics, memes, posters, leaflets and even ebook covers on there. iAuthor is free, and is a great way to find the readers who are looking for your type of book. You simply add your books to the extremely diverse ‘themes’, or even make up your own. Wattpad is free, and is a great way to find readers and get feedback. Fiverr is a site where you can pay people as little as $5 for file conversions, artwork and more.

Follow the right people

There are so many great sites and pages out there for writers, it’s hard to know where to start. But do start. Follow organisations that will provide you with the information you need, so that you do’t have to go looking for it. The Alliance of Independent Authors, Author Unlimited, Writer’s Digest, The Writer’s Circle and Positive Writer are just some of the many pages/groups I follow to pick up tips and up to date information on the writing world.

Income streams

Find other ways to make money out of writing. Ads on your blog, sending articles to sites who pay, short story submissions and competitions are all great options. You can also get paid work as a book reviewer. There are so many sites  popping up now to provide reviews for indies and these sites also need reviewers! Offer editing and/or formatting to other indies, or even front cover design, graphics and art work if you are up to it. Many writers also make additional money by going into schools to run workshops, or by offering workshops to other writers. You can also do this online and sell the content. Copy writing, ghost writing, ad writing, all are other ways to pick up income through writing.

Promotion

As an indie, you will more than likely have a love/hate relationship with the promotion of your books. You know you need to do it, but you don’t know how. You know you must figure it out in order for readers to know you exist, but all you really want to do is write. I think the sooner you get to grips with promotion and accept it as part of the deal, the better. It can even become fun. Your blog for instance, should be fun. After all, it should be your little stage, your platform to talk about anything you want to talk about. Again, social media should be fun, and it can be if you engage with it and make time for it. Set aside one day a week when you concentrate on promoting your books. I advise setting up a website/blog early on and making sure it is as professional as possible, after all it may be the main landing point for readers interested in your books. Everything else can come from here; your links to social media, links to your books and your style of writing itself. Set up a subscribe by email button, and another button that collects emails for a fan newsletter. Do this as soon as possible so that you can start building an email list of people who are genuinely interested in your writing. You can then treat them to freebies, sneak peeks and special events and you are on the way to building an audience.

These suggestions are all simple and relatively cheap, and they are all things I wish I had known before I started.