I seem to write about writing a lot (you’ll find my hundreds of blog posts about writing here). And if you listen to So You Want To Be A Writer, the podcast I co-host with Valerie Khoo, you’ll know that I also talk about writing, and ask other authors about their writing, a lot.
But I don’t often talk about my own writing. I’m usually asking the questions, not answering them.
That all changed when Kel Butler from Writes4Women podcast interviewed me about all things writing. The first part of the interview came out a few weeks ago as a ‘minisode’, focussing on book promotion and building your author platform. You can listen to it here on the web or here on iTunes (Ep 18).
The main interview was released a few days ago and, as Kel says, you’ll need a cup of tea for this one. The interview covers a lot of territory, including:
•finding your writing voice
•writing while parenting
•dealing with rejection
•writing without a plan (aka how I learnt to outline)
•making time to write
•raising readers, and lots more.
You can listen to the interview via the web here or on iTunes here (Ep 20).
I hope you enjoy!
Are you new here? Welcome! You can find out more about me here and all about my books here: The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.
Goodness me, but that was a whirlwind. I can’t believe The Book Of Answers (Ateban Cipher #2) has been out for a week already. The Easter long weekend in the middle, plus the end of daylight savings, has left me with a strange jet-lagged feeling (what is it about that one ‘extra’ hour that makes such a difference?), but I thought I’d put together an update.
This blog is my record of all that goes on, so apologies if you’ve seen some of this on one of my various social media platforms, and “hello” if you’ve seen none of it.
A big thank you to my local booksellers (Dymocks Books Nowra and Dean Swift Books) for inviting me in to sign books for my local community. Our region is so lucky to still be so well served by bookshops (another fantastic bookshop in my area is Boobook On Owen and I hope to get there soon) and I feel blessed that, as an author outside a capital city, my local booksellers are so incredibly supportive.
Support your local bookshops everyone – they do an amazing job!
And, of course, if you’re not local and you’d like a signed copy, head to Booktopia, where I signed a stack before launch day – but get in quick because there aren’t many left. (Handy tip: use this link to order The Book Of Secrets and The Book Of Answers for $25)
First reviews of The Book Of Answers are starting to come through, and I was thrilled with this one from Ashleigh at The Book Muse:
“Gabe’s discoveries were unexpected but worked well with the story – and came at just the right time, with the right pacing. Overall, the elements of The Book of Answers worked really well together, and all the elements tied together nicely at the end. A great read for children aged ten and older, and adults if they like these sorts of stories, and it is a nice quick read as well, which is all down to the well-written pacing of the story.”
Speaking of reviews, Quinn and the rest of the crew of The Mapmaker Chronicles series continue to find fans and friends all over the world. I was absolutely thrilled with this series review by Erik of This Kid Reviews Books:
“I really liked this entire series. Five out of five bookworms all-around! Yay!
Having the books available in the US, the UK, and other territories means that they are finding new readers all the time, which just makes me feel like a proud parent. And, given it was Erik’s fabulous blog that inspired Book Boy to begin his own blog a few years ago, I’m just chuffed with his review of each book (click here to read them all).
Kid reviewers are the best!
Writers might be interested in a couple of podcast chats I’ve had this week.
On this week’s episode (228) of So You Want To Be A Writer, Val and I had a chat about the strange sensations of launch week and why my online community (that’s you!) is so important to me at this time. (If you haven’t discovered my podcast as yet, there’s more info about it here.)
I also talked to Kel Butler from the Writes4Women podcast about author platforms – what they are, why you need one and where to put your energies. Lots to think about.
In related news, for those of you who have young writers and who live on (or near) the south coast, I’m experimenting with some school holiday writing workshops for kids on Wednesday 18 April 2018. There are two sessions, one for kids aged 9-11, one for the 12-14 set.
Click the link for each age group to see all the details and book a spot for your young writer (but be quick – each workshop is limited to 10 young writers and tickets are selling fast).
Okay, I think that just about covers a very big week. Thank you for reading this far and thanks you once again for all your support.
Somehow my author blog turned nine and I missed it. When I started writing here, the blog was called Life In A Pink Fibro and it was a mish-mash of thoughts and parenting and writing and reading and…
Hmmm, looks like not that much has changed, only I don’t blog DAILY like I used to.
Daily. Excellent for downloading the brain and building a blog, but not so brilliant for putting actual words in actual novels.
But I digress.
To celebrate entering my 10th year of blogging – which makes me pretty much a centenarian in blog years – I thought I’d rustle up my top three tips specifically for author bloggers.
- Work out why you’re blogging
It took me about five years to get to the bottom of this. I started out with the blog because a wise friend suggested I should. I blogged daily because a) I liked it and b) that’s what all the blogging experts said you should do to build a blog.I realised that I’d written 350,000 words on my blog one year and cut back to three times a week because – well, 350,000 words is about three adult fiction manuscripts.Lots and lots of people visited my blog. People approached me about taking advertising, raising the word ‘monetise’. I said no*.
One day, I put up a chicken soup recipe (in my defence, it’s a really good one). My dear friend Kerri Sackville emailed to ask, politely, WTF I thought I was doing. “You are not a food blogger,” she said. “You are an author.”
She was right. I looked at all the things I was doing on my blog. I mean, really looked at it for the first time in five years. And I made some changes.
I blog to share my thoughts, an insight into my author life, and news about my books. I try to share useful information and insights about writing and publishing because I know that’s what my community wants (how do I know? I asked them). I offer space on my blog to other authors because I strongly believe in sharing the love and the insight, and I keep lists of recommended children’s books because I know, as a parent, how difficult it can be to keep kids reading.
This blog is not about traffic, it’s about community.
As I wrote in my fifth year of blogging, I blog because it’s worth it.
Why do you blog?
- Don’t overthink it
There’s an awful lot of information out there about blogging – from optimal word lengths for posts to how many sub-heads you should have to which latest tech improvement you should be making the most of. My advice for author bloggers? Don’t overthink it.You are an author. You are a writer. So, write things.When I’m wondering what to blog about, as I wrote in this post last year, I ask myself three questions:
• what am I thinking about?
• what am I feeling?
• what can I do that’s useful?
And then I write about one of those things. I don’t ignore SEO, but neither do I obsess over it. I try to think about what I would search to find that particular post and I go with that.
- Blogging is more than platform building
Every year when I write my annual ‘what I’ve learnt in X years of blogging’ post I come back to one thing: blogging has been so very good for my writing.When I began the blog, I was a fulltime freelance journalist (or as fulltime as one could be with a three year old in tow) and I had been writing for magazines and newspapers for nearly two decades. I had a very well-defined, most excellent broadcast voice. An outside voice, if you like.
What blogging every day gave me was my own voice. My inside voice.
Good blogging requires you to look closely, to reveal what you think, how you feel. It shows you that a whole story can be found in a tiny moment in your day. As an example, compare my first ever blog post with this one, where I was starting to get the hang of it all.
Blogging was a great tool for helping me to find my voice as an author. Obviously, you don’t need to go public on a blog to do this, but if you’re struggling to really find ‘you’ in your writing, look at a daily journal of some kind. But there is something about ‘putting it out there’ that helps to focus the mind – and, of course, bring readers to your website.
And now… here’s to another 12 months!
You’ll find more thoughts on authors and blogging here:
Blogging: Inviting Readers Home
Social Media For Writers #1: Blogging (featuring Jane Friedman)
Let’s talk about blogging and authors
Why blogging is not writing
My #1 tip for bloggers
How to write a better blog
Or take a look at my online course at the Australian Writers’ Centre on How To Build Your Author Platform.
*For the record, I did introduce bookseller affiliate links on the blog around 18 months ago, as per the disclosure here.
There’s nothing quite like the experience of having your first novel appear on bookshop shelves. And nothing quite like the learning curve involved in getting the book there in the first place.
Today, I’m pleased to welcome debut author Louise Allan to my blog, to share the process behind getting her first book The Sisters’ Song (Allen & Unwin) from idea to published novel – and all the things she learnt along the way.
Take it away Louise…
10 things I’ve learnt from writing my debut novel
Sometimes I look at my book and can’t believe I’ve written one! I didn’t start my working life as a writer but came to it much later than most. But being older didn’t excuse me from doing my writing apprenticeship—I still had to learn the craft and it wasn’t at all easy. There were hair-tearing moments, disappointments, times I needed to take a break, and times I needed to talk myself into returning to my keyboard.
Here are some of the things I’ve learnt along the way. This list is by no means exhaustive, but includes tips about the craft of writing as well as organising your time.
1. Get your bum on the chair
Don’t make excuses, just do it! Yes, it might be easier once the kids are all in high school, or once Christmas is over, or once you have a dedicated writing space, but if you keep putting it off, you’ll find you’ll be forever waiting because the perfect time will never come. You’ll never get a clear diary. Your kids will always have something on. Your writing space will never be perfectly set up. But it doesn’t matter—start anyway. Even 30 minutes a day. Don’t put it off. Just start. Get those fingers on the keyboard and start typing. It’s the only way to write a book.
2. Protect your writing time
Protecting your writing time is an active thing, and don’t let anything encroach upon it. Put off making the beds or vacuuming. Don’t cook a couple of nights a week, or keep meals simple. Decline coffee shop invitations. Don’t volunteer on the P&C or for canteen duty. Turn off the wi-fi. If you write best in the mornings, tell the repairman he can’t come until the afternoon. Book appointments for when you’re free and only when you’re free. Shut your door and stick up a sign that tells the kids not to interrupt you:
I found saying No the hardest thing of all. I felt guilty, as if I was letting people down. I kept telling myself that this was my time and I was entitled to it, and eventually, people stopped asking me to meet them or volunteer, which caused more guilt. I reminded myself that mums who work outside of the home can’t do these things either, and that my writing was now my job.
3. Mix with other writers
They’re your tribe. They’ll understand you more than anyone. They’ll be genuinely interested in the book your writing and they get your need to write it. Being around them will keep you motivated, just by reminding you why you started it in the first place. After you’ve been rejected, they’ll tell you about theirs. They’re very helpful people, great sources of advice, support and comfort. And when your book comes out, they’ll be your biggest supporters.
4. Get online early
Everyone tells you this and you might think it will take away from your actual novel-writing time. It’s also rather daunting, especially at first, and you’ll feel a bit vulnerable. You also feel as if you’re putting your work out there and no one’s listening.
I started a blog and Facebook page in early 2013 when I’d was about to finish the first draft of my novel. I had 39 Facebook followers for quite a few months, but I kept going, posting consistently and trying to be myself. I made a lot of mistakes, but only those 39 Facebook followers know about those!
Over time, I’ve relaxed and got better at it, and slowly built up a loyal following. Because we’ve been together for nearly five years, my followers and I know each other well, and since the release of my book, they’ve been amazing, jumping on board and championing it.
So, start a blog and Facebook page early even if you feel as if no one is listening. Be yourself and post consistently. Don’t worry if you make a mistake—just hit the Delete button! Give people time to come, and when your book’s published, you’ll have a group of followers who are more than willing to support you because they’ve been with you all the way.
5. Try things out and experiment
Writing’s meant to be fun, too, so explore. Go off on tangents. Be adventurous. Be free. There are no restrictions, not when you’re drafting. Write your deepest fears, your most embarrassing moments, even things that might seem really wacky and over the top. Overwrite a scene, you can always pare it back later. Or delete it.
I don’t believe any writing is ever wasted, even if it doesn’t make it into the final version. I have 190,000 words sitting in my ‘Outtakes’ folder, and every single one of them was necessary to making the final version of my novel what it is.
6. Accept feedback
I can’t stress this one strongly enough, especially when you’re starting out. Actively seek feedback whenever you can. Join a writing group and share writing with each other. If there’s a writer-in-residence at your local writers’ centre, they’ll often look over a couple of chapters, and give you pointers which you can then use to go through the rest of your manuscript. Before sending your work out to agents and publishers, consider getting a formal manuscript appraisal. Work with a mentor even.
Separate yourself from your writing while you’re getting the feedback. Talk about it as if it’s an object and not part of you. Look at it as critically as you can. Tell yourself that it will make it better, because that’s the aim, after all. Don’t defend it and don’t get upset. If you’re not sure of what the critique means, just ask the reader to elaborate. Even if you disagree, listen anyway and think about it.
In my personal experience, I’ve never encountered anyone with an ulterior motive. Every single person has been trying to help when giving me feedback.
Besides, if your book is ever picked up by a publisher, believe me, they won’t go easy on you during the editing. If you want to be a published author, at some stage you’ll have to get used to hearing feedback.
7. Be prepared to rewrite
Following on from the previous point, no first draft is ever ready for publishing. Nor a second or third. It’s tedious and hard, but you just have to sit at the computer and go over your words time and again. I’ve lost count of my redrafts and rewrites, but each time, it’s improved it. Believe me.
8. Writing a novel takes a long time
It takes a long time to write 90,000 good words from your imagination onto the page, structured in such a way as to take the reader on a enjoyable ride. There are no corners you can cut, and if it’s your first novel, there are no ways you can avoid making at least some rookie mistakes. Then there are family, paid work and general living that also get in the way. Sometimes, the words just won’t come, and you’ll need to take a break.
It took me six years to write my novel, which sounds like a long time but doesn’t actually feel that long because I was busy all those years. Now that it’s published, I’m glad it took as long as it did—the story has benefitted from the extra incubation time.
9. Don’t give up
Never, ever give up. Remember the Ira Glass quote. Aim for that ideal vision of your book that you have in your head, but go easy on yourself as you head towards it. Allow yourself to be a learner and make mistakes.
10. Write for yourself
Write the novel you want to read. Chances are, others will want to read it, too.
Louise Allan’s first novel, The Sisters’ Song, is out now with Allen & Unwin. The manuscript has previously been shortlisted for the 2014 City of Fremantle—TAG Hungerford Award and awarded a Varuna Residential Fellowship. Find out more about Louise and her wonderful book here.
Interested in writing your own debut novel? You might find these links helpful.
Six reasons you should start writing your novel now
Writing is all about trust
An inconvenient truth about mothers and writing
So here we are, the last of my top 10 blog post posts for 2017. Probably just as well as we’re into the second week of January 2018…
This time, the focus is on authors and author life, and so we have a mix of posts about publishing, social media, blogging, book launches, author platforms and all the various bits and pieces encompassed in an author’s career OUTSIDE of the writing (you can find my top 10 posts about writing here).
10. The one superpower that all published writers have
9. Industry Insider: How to get published
8. An important question for every writer
7. How to host a book launch
6. Ask the writer: How to build your author platform
5. 10 of my favourite book dedications
4. What to blog about: 5 top tips for new and aspiring authors
3. 10 things to do while you’re waiting on your writing
2. 6 more Aussie Instagram accounts I love
1. Five Australian author Instagram accounts I love
If you’re writing children’s or YA fiction, I’d also suggest having a look at my top 10 posts for readers here. This top 10 mostly comprises book lists, created from recommendations from the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community.
These are the books, across many different age categories, that parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, authors and other interested parties are recommending to each other over and over again. It’s really worth having a look at what those books are!
And, if you’re new here, you can find out all about me here or check out The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, my two epic adventure series for middle-grade readers.