Writing Too Fast

I’ve been working on a novella for the last couple of weeks. And when I mean working, I mean thinking really, really hard.

In fact, for the first three weeks – apart from a thousand word synopsis – I didn’t write anything at all. I’m not sure whether I was putting it off, or just had too many other things going on. Family, work, my upcoming wedding and moving to the other side of the world…things like that can really take it out of you.

Or was I just not writing? I’ve already chatted with you guys about the difficulty of writing a second book. Was I struggling with the same sort of things?

I had had enough. I woke up at eight in the morning, and without even getting up, I started my laptop running.

Lunchtime saw me downstairs stuffing my face with bread and cheese…but I was still working.

By the middle of the afternoon, I stopped. The creative juices had stopped flowing, but I was now the proud owner of over 11,000 words.

The next day, I wrote another five and a half thousand, and finished the novella (in a first draft, obviously) at just under 17,000 words. I planned to flesh it out in my second and third drafts to between 22,000-25,000 words before I sent it to my editor.

I was so unbelievably proud of myself (and I’ve got the twitter status to //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” target=”_blank”>prove it). After such a long dry patch, it was a relief to finally have something written down/typed up on the page.

I took a few days off and then last weekend went to visit my fiance. He had to work from home, but I assured him that I also could work as well, and then we could relax in the evenings.

So there we were: him, typing away on his computer at one end of the dining table, me, staring blankly at my computer at the other end of the table.

Minutes stretched into an hour. I went to the shop. I came back. I looked blankly at my computer. I spent twenty minutes window shopping for flats, hoping that he wouldn’t notice. I closed all tabs, and looked once again at my novella.

I’m not usually one to talk about writer’s block, but I felt it that day. Why was everything that I read back to myself so…mediocre? Why couldn’t I bring myself to write any more, to improve it, shape it, take out the rubbish and replace it with gold.

My fiance is not a fool.

He suggested that perhaps I wrote it too quickly.

Too quickly? I replied. Nonsense. The muse was with me! I said dramatically. You can’t stop when the words are flowing through my fingers. I just kept going. The muse was with me, I reiterated, just as dramatically.

My fiance was not impressed by the muse, present or otherwise. Perhaps, he suggested kindly, you’d work better, and produce better work…if you took your time.

I don’t know about how you write, but I’ve always worked one way: fast. I wrote my first novel, all 72,000 words of it, in three months. While revising for my finals as an undergraduate. Fast worked for me.

But now?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Usually I would say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…but I’m not sure now whether writing incredibly quickly is working for me.

I’ve printed off my novella and I’ve started going over it in nice bright red pen, adding words, paragraphs, crossing out horrendous phrases that sounded good at the time, but now make me want to vomit. Don’t get me wrong – nothing I’ve written is that terrible, or unsalvageable. It’s more that a critical eye takes time, and when I was busy typing away, my critical eye just couldn’t keep up.

Perhaps next time, I’ll write slower. Perhaps not. But it has made me think a lot more about how I write – because it’s not necessarily the best way.

Have you had a similar experience to me? Has the way that you write changed over time? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Four Reasons No One is Buying Your Book

The great and terrible thing about books when you are an author is that there are so many of them. Like, literally thousands. Sometimes it can be really disheartening to see all of the millions (that’s what it feels like) of books that everyone else is buying and enjoying…whilst your book stays resolutely at 455,987 on Amazon. So what is it that everyone else has – what are the four reasons that no one is buying your book?

1. Your book isn’t where its readers are looking for it.
Half of the problem when selling books is making sure that people find it. If your book is categoriesd incorrectly, then anyone looking for it will only stumble upon it in accidentally. Say your book is about gardening. Would you be so daft as to stick it with manga? Didn’t think so…but that goes for everything else about your book too. If your book is erotica, and you don’t have an ebook version of it, you are missing out of thousands of readers who are of a shyer nature, and would prefer to buy their books without someone peeping over their shoulder in the queue at Waterstones. If your book is a picturebook and you don’t have copies in children’s libraries or primary schools, it’s going to take a lot longer for their parents to discover you. Play to your strengths, and place your book in your reader’s way.

2. Your book doesn’t say what it does on the tin.
We’ve all seen them: books that are billed as the next best thing to air, and instead start slowly with insipid characters, and a plot that you don’t even think the writer believes. If you are setting yourself up as a best-seller…then you should probably be a best-seller. If your book claims to increase your memory by ten years, you should probably have some sort of evidence that it actually does that. Because when your book doesn’t say what it does on the tin, readers are going to a) never buy another book you write again, and b) tell everyone that they aren’t going to buy another book you write again. Bad reviews can sink books.

3. Your book is overpriced.
Yes, I know, you’ve worked long and hard on your masterpiece. Of course you want to see a good return on the investment that you’ve put in: hours of slog and misery and tears to get that perfect tone and structure. But funnily enough, our readers don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds or dollars on our books. In fact, they don’t really want to spend anything at all – that’s why free kindle books are are so incredibly popular. It’s a difficult and painful balance, but unless you price your book competitively, no one is going to bother with it, especially if they haven’t heard of you. Readers do buy books by lesser known authors, but they aren’t going to spend much on them.

4. Your book isn’t as good as its competitors.
This may come across as incredibly harsh, but I believe it to be true – and I’m happy to include myself in this sometimes. In my genre of historical romance, especially medieval, I come across authors that are just incredible. I love reading them! And so I can’t really begrudge other people from buying their books. Quality will out in the long run, and so if your editor isn’t keeping a close eye on you (or you are getting sloppy in your own editing), then it will bite in the behind eventually. Readers want to be immersed in what they buy, and if you are just writing carbon copy of a current best-seller, no one is going to want to know.

Think I’m a little too harsh, or right on the money? Comment below and let me know!

Considering Self-Publishing?

If you are reading this, the chances are that you are considering self-publishing your writing. This means foregoing the trappings of a literary agent and a publishing house, and instead being your own publishing house.

Self-publishing is not a modern idea, although it certainly has become easier through the introduction of print on demand and epublishing. Sadly, it has somehow garnered a reputation of being the last resort of a writer that no one actually wants to read, and therefore they create the books themselves. But this is complete nonsense.

Authors such as Jane Austen, James Joyce, Beatrix Potter and Mark Twain all self-published some of the works. It was, and is, a way for new writers to get the beginnings of a readership, and they can use this to demonstrate to more typical publishing houses that actually, there are people out there that will be willing to pay money to read what I write.

If you are tired of never hearing back from publishing houses, or hearing from literary agents that, “readers just don’t want what you’re writing at the moment”, then the time may be right for you to look elsewhere. You can read about my personal experience trying to get published for the first time here. And remember, just because you start out self-publishing doesn’t mean that a big publishing house won’t notice you and approach you.

But don’t be taken in! There are certain elements that you should look out for and be wary of, because in self-publishing as in any industry, there are pitfalls. When you self-publish, you have to be your own editor, cover designer, formatter, and marketing department. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. Take a look at my spotter’s guide:

What is Print on Demand?
This process is rather clever, and it is how I personally publish the paperback version of my book Conquests. Print on demand means that a publishing company keeps your manuscript on file. Every time someone orders and buys your book, they print one copy. This means that you don’t have to invest your own money into buying up five hundred copies of your book that you may never manage to sell. It also means that all of the hassle of printing and posting is up to the print on demand company.

Can’t I print print lots anyway?
Well of course you can! But it would probably be a lot easier for you if you went with Print on Demand, and then ordered x number of books yourself. That way, your book may go up the Amazon chart (if you are selling on Amazon), you still only have to buy five or twenty of the books, and you again don’t have the hassle of posting them. I personally always have a couple of my paperbacks lying around the house in case someone wants one, or so I can do exciting giveaways.

What about epublishing?
Well that’s rather easy actually. Many Print on Demand services now offer you the opportunity to also sell your book as an ebook on sites such as Amazon and Smashwords. This allows you to reach another totally different audience, and you are able to more quickly get your book out there.

How long does it take?
How long is a piece of string I’m afraid. For me, it took six weeks from starting the process to getting my paperback on Amazon. That took about three weeks longer than it should because there was a slight hiccough with my cover design. Be aware of this: every single aspect of self-publishing is down to you. No one else is going to do it for you.

What about down payments?
Personally, I would say steer clear. It is perfectly possible to print on demand AND publish as an ebook without having to pay a penny. If you can do that, then why on earth would you pay someone else a stack of cash to do it?

Who would you recommend?
I promise I’m not being paid to say this: I’m only going to recommend the company that I use, because I’ve found them to be marvellous. Createspace is a company that does both print on demand and can publish you as an ebook, and doesn’t charge you a penny. Be aware that there are optional extras that do cost money, but I did the entire thing without paying anything, and I think my paperback book looks rather good, though I say so myself. I did have the benefit of my book already being published as an ebook by my publishers, and they graciously allowed me to use the cover design that they made for me. This may be the one thing that you do decide to spend money on: book covers can make or break how your readers see you.

I hope that helps you as you decide whether or not to self-publish. It’s definitely helped me publicise my ebook by having a paperback, and they make great Christmas presents!

Do you have a bad experience with self-publishers? Let me know below!

Writing about Real People you Know and Love

We’ve all done it. We’ve been writing away, and suddenly that hilarious turn of phrase that your grandmother uses every Christmas Day pops into your head. It’s funny, it’s endearing, and it would be perfect coming out of the mouth of one of your characters. But is it allowed, using our nearest and dearest as the basis of our characters?

It’s something that my darling fiance (bless him) thought about when we first started dating. He only told me this quite recently. Apparently, as soon as he found out that I wrote, he seriously had to consider whether he would be alright with certain elements of our personal life appearing in my work. Thankfully, he decided that he could live with it – although certain aspects are obviously off-limits. But have I based some of the loving cares and concerns that my characters do on his actions? You bet. Has he noticed? I’m not sure yet…

There’s also the opposite path – writing about people that you dislike! What revenge could be sweeter than immortalising that horrible person you know by using them as a basis for the enemy of your hero…you know, the one that gets pounded into the ground at the end.

Of course, there must be people that I love – whether I’m related to them, or they are some of my closest friends – that probably haven’t even thought about it. I’m sure the majority of them would be astounded if they knew I had smiled at some of their jokes…and then used them within my book. Or noticed a way that a female friend pushed her hair behind her ears, a habit which I have definitely included in a character.

And it wasn’t until a new friend asked me how I envisioned my protagonists that I admitted to her (without naming names) that whenever I wrote my first book, I tried to imagine it, with a very close friend playing my female protagonist. Does this close friend know that I tried out dialogue through her lips? No. Would I ever tell her? Definitely not.

Why is this? I’m not ashamed to use my friends and family in this way…am I? After all, the majority of what I write comes from my medieval historical research, and my imagination. Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid of being accused of ‘cheating’ by other authors – does it count as my own work if I’ve kind of borrowed it from my brother?

Films and books now include a phrase similar to the title of this post. But can we as authors ever truly write a book without any influence from our nearest and dearest? I challenge any author to say that they’ve never been inspired by someone they met once, or saw across the train, or had breakfast with.

Because the way I see it, everything I do and everyone I meet ends up, one way or another, in my work. And I hope my friends and family wouldn’t have it any other way…

Does this sound familiar? Or do you write in a completely different way? Let me know below in the comments.

A Real Advance In My Career!

So, for those of you who have already read my series on author royalties, I have exciting news for you! If you haven’t yet read my four part blog series that opens up and unwraps the secrets behind how authors get paid for their novels, then check it out first, and then come back.

I received confirmation of my first advance today.

It is difficult to take in! My wonderful publishers asked me a week ago to consider writing a special one off Christmas novella for them – which I obviously said yes to. Christmas is such a marvellous time of year, for family, friends, and great new reads. I would love to have people curl up under a rug this Christmas 2015 and read a story which really makes them smile, and I am already really exciting about writing it.

However, as I have already written two novels and a novella for my publishers, I thought that now was the time that I should ask for an advance. For those that are not aware, an advance is a sum of money that a publisher pays an author for a future work. This money can be paid either as soon as they agree that a particular work will be written, or on delivery of the manuscript. Then when copies of the book start to sell, the royalties are deducted from the advance.

My advance for this novella is £50, which means that if my novella sells for £1.99 (which I think it will), I will have to sell 126 before I ‘earn out’, or bring in enough to cover the £50 advance. After that, I start to get paid royalties again.

Admittedly, £50 is not a huge amount of money – but to me, it is an absolute gold mine. Not only will that £50 be very handy, but it shows that my publishers have faith in me that I will sell at least 126 copies of my book, if not more. That may not seem like very much, but two years ago I was completely unpublished.

Some authors who are well-known with a huge fan base can expect to receive advances closer to £3000, and while I definitely want to get there someday, today is one step towards that, and a very definite step at that.

I look forward to sharing my experiences writing this Christmas novella, and I hope that you will all want to read it when it comes out Christmas 2015! But if you can’t wait that long, and you just have to have some Emily Murdoch novels in your life, fear not. You can buy Conquests: Hearts Rule Kingdoms: 1, Love Letters: 2 (Conquests), and Captives: Hearts Rule Kingdoms: 3 (Conquests) – or get all three for a cheaper price if you buy Conquered Hearts: The Collection.

Struggling to Write Second Book

I know this post may sound a little strange, and I know it is definitely a first world problem, but it’s something that I’ve been struggling with for a while, so I thought I’d share it: I am really struggling to write a second book.

I know that sounds mental: it’s supposed to be the first book that’s difficult! And for many people it is, but I found that my first book Conquests almost flowed out of me. It was a story that I knew inside out, and I really wanted to tell it. And so I did – it only took me about three months, although getting it published was another matter. But once it was done, there, put on paper, it didn’t feel difficult.

But the sequel?

My word, it’s like drawing blood from a stone. Just like my first book, Conquests: Hearts Rule Kingdoms, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, exactly where my characters are going…and yet they aren’t getting there.

I think partly it’s because I’m terrified that I won’t be able to match the success that I’ve had with my first book. From here, the only way should really be up…but what if my readers don’t like it as much? What if they hate it? What if my family hate it, and they start to disown me because it’s just too terrible to be associated with?

I’m also in such a different place than I was when I wrote my first book, almost two years ago. Then, I was just about to graduate with a BA in History and English, and had days and days of nothingness in which I could write. Now I’m working two internships whilst planning my wedding and a move to the other side of the world (New Zealand). Empty days are a distant memory.

But if I’m serious about being a writer (which I am), and if I want to end up writing about three books a year (which I do), then surely I’m going to have to get used to this? After all, life isn’t going to slow down just because I have another chapter deadline. Life doesn’t stop after the wedding and the move – I’ll have a husband to look after, a house to keep, and a social life to create. “Time to write” isn’t going to drop into my lap.

So here’s the challenge to myself – and you, if you’re struggling to find time to finish that first, second, or fifteenth novel. Divide it into chunks, and allot rewards. For every chapter, a chocolate bar. For every character development, another episode of The Big Bang Theory. For every completed novel, a weekend break away.

Whatever it takes to keep you writing, chipping away at the word count and killing off that antagonist, find it and use it.