Friday, July 29, 2011

Photos and Guest Posts

 I mentioned on Monday that CreateSpace very kindly offer every Nanowrimo winner a free printed copy of their book wth no obligations or shipping costs or anything else nasty. It's rather like getting a present from a large corporation.

Quite a few people wanted to see photos so here you go - CreateSpace deserve the free advertising and I also hope this may nudge a few potential Nano-ers over the line :)

First of all, I had to think of a title on two days notice and I am - and I really cannot stress this enough - CRAP AT TITLES. The title came from a poem, A Call of the Sidhe, by George William (A. E.) Russell (am I the only Pratchett fan thinking of A. E. Pessimal?). So the awful title is a placeholder and will be changed as soon as I discover some hitherto unsuspected title-thinking-up skills.

I was very impressed by the quality of the printing. I chose the font for my interior title page and my chapter headings poorly (as a font-obsessive, this is a major blow to my sense of self). The capital letters overlapped with the lowercase letter directly after them, which was most annoying. But as no one apart from myself and few friends will ever see the book, it doesn't matter.

Below is a picture that shows the spine, which may be my favourite part of the whole thing. The quality is lovely and the font reminds me of a book I adored as a child called The Summer of Lily and Esme, which is never a bad thing :)

Apart from the 'I have a cool souvenir of the time I wrote faster than I can think' factor, it's also been interesting to read the book in print as opposed to on a screen. It made a lot of my errors more obvious because reading it as an actual physical book made me judge it as though it was a real, published book. I was - for possibly the first time in my life - able to approach my own book as a reader and not as the writer, and I was able to see the moments where I, as a reader, would have put the book down.

I can definitely say that getting my souvenir proof copy was worth whatever loss CreateSpace incurred in sending it to me :)


As I'll be away for the next couple of weeks, rather than let the blog go silent, I have rounded up a selection of guest posters to keep you all amused while I'm away.

So you can expect to hear from, among others, an adventurer, a publisher, a writer/musician who lives near an exceptionally beautiful beach and my beta reader extraordinaire,Writer Friend, whom you may remember from some other posts

I hope you all enjoy the guest posts and have a lovely couple of weeks :) I look forward to have a great backlog of posts to read when I get home!

- Ellen

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Perils of Kindle Ownership

I am always especially glad to own a Kindle when I'm going on holidays. No more lugging emormous, heavy piles of books everywhere! Now I'll be bringing my guidebook, my phrasebook and a light, easy to carry Kindle on holidays with me.

Ahem.

I decided to buy a few holiday books. As you do. I logged on to the Kindle store, downloaded a few, and sorted them, and a few other recent purchases and new releases, into a category so I could find them easily.

Turns out I have 14 of them.

This seems excessive, even to me. My Amazon account hasn't started to actually weep euro coins yet, thankfully, but it's a matter of time.

I am a fast reader, I admit. But I am not that freaking fast. Nor am I one of those busy people who catches up on their reading on holidays. There is no way I am going to get through 14 books. 

Since we're on the subject, what are your favourite holiday reads? I've bought Kiersten White's Supernaturally, and am trying to save it for the airport. My best-ever holiday read was either Catcher in the Rye, which I read on a flight home from Liverpool when I was 15, or Forever Amber, which I read while sitting on an airport floor.

Tell me your holiday reading stories! And in return, I will tell you just how few of the books in my digital stash I manage to get through. . .

PS On Friday I'll let you know what the blog will be doing in my absence. I think it may throw a party and invite a bunch of other blogs and drink all my booze and I'll come home to find three drunk blogs passed out on my living room floor.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nanowrimo and CreateSpace

Last year, CreateSpace (an Amazon subsidiary) offered a prize to anyone who finished Nanowrimo. Free of charge, they would print and ship a paperback proof copy of your novel. Or whatever novel you chose to upload.

Mine arrived a couple of days ago. I barely got it submitted in time, so I didn't get a chance to design a decent cover - I went with one of their stock images, but it's actually a reasonable fit for the novel (which wasdifficult - I wanted something natural and pastoral but because the book was set in Ireland, I also didn't want green. I know green may seem fitting but trust me, when your country is exclusively associated with a single colour, using it for a book cover just looks cheap and easy!).

I also didn't have time to check if I could get cream pages instead of white, so the book now flouresces a little on its shelf.

But it is very pretty, and it is a rather cool keepsake to have. And there will only ever be one like it, which - in most cases - automatically makes it cool.

I wish I'd left myself enough time to actually design a cover - hopefully the offer will be back next year and I can do it then :)

In other Nano news, I have once again applied to be a Municipal Liaison for the Dublin region, so if you're a Dublin Nano-er and fancy a chat, please get in touch!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Know Thy Readers

Who are your target readers? Who do you want to see reading your books?

Livia Blackburne is tackling that question today on her blog. John Locke, the first indie author to sell a million ebooks on the Kindle, apparently builds an detailed profile of his target readers and writes for them. Livia has done the same today, and it's a very interesting read, so I've decided to do the same for my current book.

Obviously these are not the only people that I write for - the first person to read Becky was male, and now that I come to think of it, I haven't actually given it to any women to read yet. Audience-targeting fail detected in the Dublin region.

My target audience is mostly female, late teens through to late 30s. They like urban fantasy - with the emphasis on urban rather than fantasy. They like to read about real women with real lives who happen to encounter unusual or paranormal things. They wonder how high-fantasy heroes paid their bills and kept themselves fed, and if they're going to read about a woman who can kick arse, they want to know how she handles her friendships, her relationships, her home, her family. It's not enough being able to handle a supernatural being of immense power. They're interested in how people make difficult decisions, when the right thing to do feels completely wrong. They like it when cool stuff happens but they want it to feel real. 

Who are your target readers? What do you reckon they're like?
PS: I've been largely offline for a few days and I missed Wednesday's usual post I was attending Paul's son Conor's funeral service. I decided not to try and schedule a post because it simply didn't feel right to me. 

Being offline cost me a few Twitter followers but not a single blog follower - so it seemed like a good time to say thanks to all my followers for always being lovely people!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Few Lines

Apologies for my unscheduled silence on Friday, I'm sure many of you will know why I decided to stay quiet for a day.

I find myself with very little to say this morning, so instead I'm going to share the opening four lines of a novel I've been toying with for a while.
At the moment, there is no more novel (I wrote this for a blog challenge) but I plan to return to it once I'm finished with my rewrites. Anyway, hope you find the following mildly diverting!

I stopped the car outside my uncle's house and stared at the dashboard, trying to collect my thoughts. Uncle Fitz was now the last surviving Finnegan, the only remaining member of my mother's family who had been born bearing the Finnegan name. He was now the only one who could activate the Finnegan Curse.

My job was to convince him to do it for the first time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sharing Your Writing - Becky and Book Covers

At what stage do you share your writing with other people? How carefully do you choose the people you share it with? How soon are you able to handle - gasp - feedback?

I ask because I sometimes struggle with sharing my writing.

As some of you may have heard, because I may have had it skywritten over Dublin, London and several American state capitals (hello Bismark and Albany!), I finished the second draft of Becky recently. I wrote the final 15,000 words in three days, with one day off in the middle for good behaviour. 

I did this because all Nanowrimo winners last year were given a code to get a free proof copy of their novel printed and shipped by CreateSpace, and I wanted mine. My coupon expired on June 30th. I had to submit my book by the 29th. 

I remembered this on the 25th. At 10pm.

You don't read this blog for my smarts, do you? 

During those days of frantic writing (all both of them), I took the ending of the book in a few new directions. I had already decided on the substance of my ending, but the final climax changed quite a bit, some new things happened, and I killed off a character that I miss now and regret killing.

I was writing at such a pace that I didn't have time to go back and ponder whether or not something worked. I just kept going and hoped.
When I finished, my feelings about Draft Two would be best described as 'raw'. I was afraid that if I re-read it, I would become so ashamed that I would have to hide under my bed, potentially for weeks. I submitted the text to CreateSpace for my proof copy, designed a cover using their templates (no time to design one of my own) and decided that no one but me would ever have to read the contents.

But then I realised that, while I may have had no idea about the quality of the ending, I had enjoyed writing it. I liked the characters, and I wanted to go back to it. I wanted to start work on Draft Three and I wanted to start soon.


I needed feedback, so I sent it to a trusted friend and asked that feedback not be sent til I asked for it. As it happened, I asked for it as soon as my friend had finished reading, and it was really helpful. I've since asked for more feedback from others.

But I needed a few days to get some distance from what I'd written. 

On the other hand, I know writers who can share as they write. 

Where do you fall on the spectrum? And why? Do you love feedback as you write so you can incorporate suggestions early, or do you need space before you can think critically yourself? Share :p

Friday, July 8, 2011

News & Request for Guest Posters

Today I had planned to talk about sharing your work with others. And I will, but I have a few things to touch on first.

Natalie Whipple has just signed a contract for her novel Transparent, and is running a contest to celebrate! If you read Natalie's blog (and if you don't, I promise it's worth checking out), you'll know what a bumpy road she's had to get to this point. She's had an agent for years (first it was blogland celebrity Nathan Bransford, then Anna Webman when he left the industry), and has been on submission for quite a while, but her sale was a long time coming. She has blogged honestly and openly about this - what can really happen after you achieve the first dream of landing an agent - and I can't think of another writer who deserves this good news so much.

In other news, I am looking for some guest bloggers! I'm going away for the first two weeks in August and would rather the blog didn't go silent. I'm open to any topic (I pride myself on my ability to diversity - READ: inability to focus), so please email me at ellen.brickley@gmail.com if you're interested.

I'm going to leave it there for the moment, because sharing your work is a big topic and I don't want to keep you guys reading all day. Certainly not on a Friday! Have a great weekend :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Confidence Boost

I'm going to be a little lazy today and direct you to a post that really boosted my confidence today, just in case anyone needs it. Rachelle Gardner has posted extracts from editorial letters she has written to agented, published or contracted authors.

I felt great after reading them. They reminded me that a book doesn't need to be perfect to get published. It just needs to be as good as you can make it without help. Some of the issues Rachelle mentions (especially the first one, where she is 1/3 of the way through the novel and still doesn't feel excited about what's happening, nor has the core conflict been revealed) seem absolutely huge. But evidently there was something else - characterisation, writing style, whatever - that elevated this book.

I'm not saying that Rachelle's post means it's fine to write something half-assed and send it off. But when I see the huge gap between my drafts and the finished novels I read, I remind myself that the finished novels had the help of professional eyes. And that it's entirely possible that 'the best we can be' is enough.

Provided it really is the best, if course. Expecting people to read work you know to be substandard is just bad manners!

Talking of confidence boosts, an early reader of my second draft of Becky thoroughly enjoyed it :) I'm delighted not only because it bodes well for the third (and please please please final!) draft, but because this person voluntarily gave their time to read it and I'm glad they felt the time they spent on me passed enjoyably. 

I'll be talking a bit more about sharing work on Friday. In the meantime, any confidence boosting stuff you want to tell us about? Have you received any nice compliments lately? It's a rare sunny day here in Dublin - spread the positivity!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Novel Back-Up Day!

I spent half of the weekend ripping up a novel written by one of my best friends.  It's OK, I was asked to :) 

The novel in question was originally written by hand, and photocopied in case the first copy was damaged. Now that the novel has been typed up, the new, edited version can be printed, saved to a disk key, backed up online, emailed to the author - whatever. It is thoroughly safe. The older version, which is now obsolete anyway because changes were made during the typing process, can be safely ripped up and recycled.

Every year, Nanowrimo designated a certain day in November Offical Back Up Your Novel Day. Yesterday, as I was tearing up the second copy of a handwritten novel, I was reminded of how important back-ups are. My novel is currently saved in the following places:
  • two computers
  • one disk key
  • one email account belonging to me
  • one email account belonging to a friend
  • and one online storage service.
That may be a touch excessive. But if your novel isn't backed up, please do it today! Google Docs, Dropbox - whatever. Just make sure your work is safe!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Once More With Feeling

Camp Nanowrimo is upon is. Think of it as Nanowrimo-Lite - you still try to write 50,000 words in a month, spurred on by the knowledge that many other people are doing the same thing. But the meet-ups don't happen, Municipal Liaisons like myself have nothing to do, and it doesn't have the same massive impact as November.

I can't decide whether to do it or not! You can choose to participate in July, or August, or both. I can't do August so if I'm going to do it, I have to start soon.

PROS

  • I just finished Draft Two of Becky, which involved a major sprint. I'm in The Zone.
  • It is fun. Nano always is.
  • I'm trying to save some cash this month and Nano has to be the cheapest way to pass time EVER.
  • Have I mentioned that is it fun?

CONS

  • I don't have any ideas to work on. Literally. There isn't even a back-of-the-head idea that I can birth prematurely. I have no pending projects.
  • It involves doing lots of writing when I occasionally prefer to merely sit.

I suspect I'm going to do it anyway. I also suspect that I'll be asking my blog readers, and probably Twitter (see right hand side of blog), for emergency character names and plot points. 
Either way, I'm about to hand my life over to the writing gods for a month. Again. YAY!!