Creative Writing, E L James, J K Rowling, self-publishing, Top Tips, Writing for Profit

The Three New Categories Of Writing

The Power of Words by Antonio Litterio, via inversehypercube/wikimedia commons
By Antonio Litterio

This is how we all start. Telling stories is a compulsion as old as time. Once we discover our ideas can be made semi-permanent through the fascinating marks made by fat wax crayon, there’s no stopping us. Whether you keep a diary or create a best-selling series, the simple pleasure of opening a clean file or feeling a new page under your nib is unbeatable.
This used to be a case of either catching the eye of a respectable publisher, or delving into the murky depths of vanity publishing. The first often meant jumping through hoops, then signing away some or all of your rights. The latter involved risking a lot of money to see your hard work turned into books – if you were lucky. The explosion of online possibilities means you don’t need the skin of a rhinoceros any more. The scourge of rejection is no longer a threat. Anyone with access to a computer can create, upload and offer an ebook for international sale. The downside is that an already crowded market has now been flooded with the type of writing publishers used to reject, together with self-published gems they will wish they’d been offered.

Vanity publishers may have competition now, but the need for deep pockets hasn’t gone away. It’s a good idea to invest in great cover art to make sure your book stands out from the millions of others, all clamouring for attention. Professional editing will make sure your text is a flawless read, but be warned – it can’t do much for your plot, or story-telling skills. Even poop can be polished until it shines.

This is the Holy Grail of many writers. Seeing your name in print or on screen isn’t always enough. The newspapers love winners like Rowling or James, but most writers don’t hit those heights. If you’re making a thousand a year, count yourself lucky. That’s a good average. Unless you’re contracted to a major publishing house with a multi-book contract, writing is usually a lucrative part-time job, at best.
Of course, these three categories aren’t mutually exclusive. The walls are permeable. Commercially published writing may not sell. A privately published book might take off like a rocket. Something written with nothing but profit in mind may never recoup its costs, while a work with a tiny initial print run may find itself the centre of international attention. In the end, the only sure way to success is the same as it always has been – write from your heart, for your own pleasure. That’s always going to be the best way to appeal to your readership. And if you decide the only reader will be you, then you’ll have satisfied 100% of your audience–and that’s something not even William Shakespeare has ever managed to do.

What type of writing are you doing at the moment? Would you like to switch to a different category?  
3 Top Tips, J K Rowling, J.R.R.Tolkien, Lady Rascal, Lindsey Davis, Nemesis, Open University, Writing

Three Top Tips On Writing That Book… URL: Johannes Vermeer [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsHTML Attribution not legally required
By Johannes Vermeer
It’s said everyone has a book inside them. These days it’s tricky to forecast what is going to be the next  blockbusting best-seller that spawns a film franchise, but all successful writers have something in common.  E.L James, J.K Rowling and J.R.R Tolkien don’t only share a love of initialising. Each of them did more than dream. They buckled down and did the work: day after day of drafting, researching, writing, re-writing, editing  and reading. It doesn’t matter whether they had help with some of the grunt work. The fact is, their ideas wouldn’t have made it around the world if they hadn’t had the conviction to start putting them into words and then kept going until their stories were told. 
I can’t promise that your dream project will outsell Shades, Potter or TLOTR, but there’s nothing surer than this. To be in with a chance, you’ll have to get your masterwork written. Here are three top tips for doing just that…
1. START… in the right place. I wrote Lady Rascal because I’d got bogged down while studying an Open University course on The Enlightenment. I really wished some of those posh, privileged gentlemen doing the Tour of Europe could get a taste of how the other half lived. My hero Philip Adamson has a lot in common with the Paris he’s visiting: despite grand appearances, there’s trouble on the horizon. At the same time, heroine Madeline discovers that changing her appearance can get her out of trouble. As I was writing an historical romance rather than a text-book on Eighteenth-century Paris, I wanted to get Philip and Madeline together on the page as soon as possible. Madeline’s career as a revolutionary ends with a bang right at the beginning of the book, when Philip assumes her looted finery means she’s an aristocrat in danger. She’s swept off her feet, and whisked away to a new and completely alien life.
2…AND THEN… make sure your plot has enough twists to keep your reader turning the pages. A good way to tell if you’re on the right track is how easy it is to stop writing. If it feels like your fingers are pushing through treacle, that’s a warning sign. If you’re scribbling or typing as fast as you can, desperate to capture the movie playing in your head, there’s a chance your reader might be carried away by your story, too. Ironically, it’s when the words are flowing easily that you should finish for the day. Then your enthusiasm will carry over to the next session, and you’ll be raring to go. With that method, there’s no sitting down in front of a blank page, wondering what to write. You’ve been thinking about your next scene since the moment you stopped work the day before, and that’s a great way to avoid the scourge of Writer’s Block.
3. FINISH…in a way that will satisfy your reader. They should have learned a lot about your hero and heroine along the way – and maybe something about themselves, too.  Tie up all the loose ends of your story. Never introduce a character or plot thread and then abandon them, thinking no one will notice. Someone always does! Nemesis, the last book in Lindsey Davis’ Falco series, deals with huge, emotion-wringing themes of life, death and family relationships. I lapped all that up but discovered, too, that I’m an obsessive when it comes to animals. I thought I’d be the only reader left worrying over the fate of one of the most minor of minor characters – Nero (aka Spot) the ox. I needn’t have worried – he wasn’t forgotten after all. If his disappearance hadn’t been explained at the end, I would have felt Nemesis was like the old jigsaw puzzle of Great Britain’s counties we had when I was a child. The smallest county, Rutland, was missing. Apart from that our jigsaw was perfect, unless you were interested in that teeny-tiny- well, spot!