Writing update

A short blog this time with updates on my various writing projects:

 

  • Planetfall: the first book in the trilogy has been available since January 2013. It’s had over 300 paperback sales or downloads. A few agents have expressed some interest in it, but have been dissuaded because it doesn’t fit current market trends. However – recently an online publisher asked to see the full manuscript after reading the first three chapter. More news as and when.
  • Planetfall: book 2, Children of Fall, is going well. I’m about halfway through writing it. It’s already at 100,000 words, which is the length of book 1, and Backpackers – ie, a full novel’s length. The final book will probably be 200,000 words, and I am currently wondering whether I should release it in two halves, and then combine into one book. I have a few months to consider what to do, as I’m taking time out to work on a short, secret project (see below).
  • Backpackers: this has had some interest from agents, and was almost picked up by one. However each cited Fifty Shades of Grey as having changed the market, and publishers wanting more books along those lines. I’ve self published the book for a short time to gauge interest. So far it’s selling badly, which is a shame, as it’s a better book than Planetfall 😀 Oh well. I shall leave it for sale until June, and then take it down. I may re-write Chapter Three, which I think is its weakest link at the moment.
  • Secret project: Not much to say, other than I’m trying to write a novella or a short novel (somewhere between 65,000-75,000 words) in three months. All I’ll say is Jack Wolf from Backpackers makes a guest appearance.
  • Robocop fanfic: on hold. I’m sad about this, as the film is coming out soon, and I’d hoped to cynically cash in on the publicity to grow my readership. The secret project has to take precedence though.

 

Hope your writing is going well. As usual, I’d love to hear what you’re working on.

 

astro x

Advice for the advisors

Don’t write, just write. But don’t write, because you’re not good enough.

Like many amateur writers, I follow a number of online writing tips websites. I’m sure you have ones you like. Some of the better ones that I know about include DIYMFA and Bang2Write.

I mention these two because they’re high quality, and give writing tips from different perspectives. DIYMFA from a writer’s perspective, from someone who’s been through a Master of Fine Arts programme (hence DIY MFA); and Bang2Write from someone in the industry who makes decisions on scripts, as well as being a writer.

The good thing about both of those is that, generally, they give this advice: just write. That’s all you need, really. After that, everything is style.

But some writing tips websites almost go out of their way to stop people writing. Which seems a bit bizarre. They say things like:

Don’t write prologues unless you’re highly experienced.

And

Don’t write cliches unless you’re a really good writer and make a really good job of it.

Have you ever seen this kind of advice? It’s nonsense. In the first one, how would one get to be “highly experienced” if one didn’t write with low experience? And how can one use a cliché in writing and make it brilliant, if one doesn’t use clichés in their rubbish form and learn why they’re bad? They almost say to a budding writer, “Don’t write, you’re not good at it. Leave it to the professionals.” And then off we trot to find out how the professionals became good, and their interviews says, “Just write. Make mistakes.”

 

planetfall update

More work on planetfall book 2 this weekend. I’m about 24,000 words in now, which is about 80 pages. It’s already shaping up to be an action-centred book, where the first one was more thriller-esque. The theme of revenge is strong, and I’ve somehow managed to set up four storylines (one major story, three sub-plots) in that time, which I’m pleased about.

My writing approach with this book is a nice mixture of planned and organic. I know, have known, the overall story arc, and roughly where each of the characters needs to end up by the book’s close. So starting with the end in mind it’s now a case of letting the characters explore their personal space and their narratives, and seeing what crops up. Undoubtedly I’ll be editing things out, putting new parts in, treating what I’ve written so far as guide text and adding more exposition and so on, but for now, it’s going very well.

Regarding book 1, it’s still out with agents, and I’m waiting for feedback from about 10 of them. I think I said that I’d received feedback that it “has a big sci-fi feel”, which isn’t seen much these days, but that agents are looking for different kinds of books for current market conditions. (That’s the same feedback I received for my other book, Backpackers – market’s looking for different kinds of stories.)

 

I’d love to hear what you’re working on. Drop me a line.

 

 

Contacting agents

I recently finished my 2nd novel, Backpackers. It’s a road journey / coming of age story, about a 20 year old Australian girl who struggles to come to terms with her father’s death. She leaves her home to backpack around south east Asia, and her experiences there highlight her inner struggle to cope with life as a single-parent child.

Now that the book is finished, critiqued by my writing circle at every step of the way, and with feedback from some amazing readers(*), I’m about ready to send it to literary agents.

This is the second time I’ve sent a manuscript to literary agents. Last year I sent an early draft of my scifi novel, planetfall, to two agents. That was a test run, really. I didn’t know if the novel was ready – I hadn’t really developed my internal editor that well – and I was lucky to receive lengthy feedback from one agent giving positive feedback, but asking for it to be developed a little more.

This time I feel more confident about my manuscript. Backpackers is a stronger book. It’s really benefited from being critiqued at each stage of the writing, and I’ve really benefited from opening up my writing process. planetfall was written in its entirety before I showed it to anyone. Backpackers had just 3 chapters written before I showed it to others. And I received some very awkward questions which made me question deeply my main character’s relationship with her father, which lies at the core of the book.

Contacting agents is now a more confident affair. I have no idea if they’ll like it, but I at least am proud of the book. It made me cry while writing it, and cry each time I edited it. I was pleased when readers wrote back with the same comment – that they cried at certain points, that the book had emotionally affected them. There is no greater compliment I can think of, that something I wrote affected people busy with their own lives, enough to prick their eyes to tears.

And so to agents. I’m reading through their websites, despairing at the ones who insist on printed submissions, and delighted with the ones open to email submissions.

I’m currently developing my synopsis and cover letter. And when I have a few more readers’ comments in, and a final polishing edit, I’ll be ready to submit Backpackers to those who can make or break. But whatever those agents decide, I am proud of my little book about young adults travelling in exotic climes and experiencing the growing pains that make us rounded, mature adults. It’s fun, traumatic, exciting, tense, emotional and ultimately affirming.

I hope one day you get to read it, too.

(* many of the readers were sourced on Twitter. They are people I don’t know other than through their tweets, which has meant more objective reader feedback than friends may give. I would like to pay credit to those who volunteered to read a stranger’s book and give honest feedback, and by dint of this, point out how amazing Twitter is when used properly.)