Support, Selling, Success

It’s now less than 24 hours until my Kickstarter campaign closes and honestly, the support I’ve had has been just the most amazing and encouraging thing any young start-out writer can hope to have. I finished the second edit (and therefore technically the third draft) of my book, then I got it all resized, reformatted and ready for publishing. I ordered a test copy of the book, and it arrived and surpassed my already-high expectations.

The test copy of the official Haunt second edition going to all my generous pledgers.

When I posted a photo of the book on Facebook I was only £10 off of my Kickstarter target, which was £125. After posting the picture I got an overwhelmingly wonderful response from old friends, new friends, family and miscellaneous. It was something I hadn’t been expecting, and my current Kickstarter total sits at £245 – almost 200% of what I originally requested!

That means that, in essence, I have sold 19 copies of my book. People have actually paid to read something I’ve written. I never thought I’d feel this much like a real writer. Getting published by a professional publisher was the goal (and still is), but with everything that I’ve achieved so far it’s taken a lot of the pressure off and made me feel like I can always find success in other ways. I’m just feeling very lucky right now.

So tomorrow is the day when I order test copies, get a covering letter and proposal started, and really start knuckling down and putting in a hard slog. It’s also my first cheat day in 2 months of dieting after shedding nearly 30lbs, so to bolster my energy I will be eating chocolate, donuts, burger, pizza… you name it! Really everything just feels good right now, and I’m so humbled and grateful to have a support network that I (shamefully) underestimated.

Now comes one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with, a question that is going to taunt me in the days and weeks to come:

Are people actually going to like my book?

Taking It Seriously

Oh my God. I’ve been working more on my novel in the last few days than probably in the entire time that it has been part of my life. I’ve been editing, formatting, changing and amending, creating and just all-round going a bit mental with it. I whacked out my copy of ‘Getting Your Book Published’ by Rachael Stock and also my copy of Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2013 and have picked through the measly amount of publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts. I’ve created a list of viable agents that I can write to as well, and even started planning out how I’m going to get in touch with them.

It’s been hard work. But it’s beginning to pay off! My kickstarter campaign is doing really well, I’ve almost reached my target. Please click here and pledge, if you have £10 to spare and live in the UK you’ll be helping me out and get a copy of Haunt, but you can pledge as much or as little as you want to help this struggling writer out!

The most fun thing I’ve done, though, by far, in these last couple of days, is finish what I’m calling “the Haunt second edition special cover.” It’s the cover that will be on the book I send out to everybody and I spent ages painstakingly working over it to make sure it’s perfect. I’m exhausted and have my day job to go to tomorrow, so I’ll just end with posting the new cover. Here’s hoping that very soon I’ll have somebody to make the cover for me!

My Kickstarter Project

So I’ve taken a bit of a plunge and started a kickstarter campaign. It’s to raise enough money to print and post copies of my novel to publishers and hope to see some success. If you feel like pledging I’ve got some rewards on there, so it might be worth taking a look if you’re interested in helping out an aspiring writer. Click here to be taken to the page, I would really appreciate any help and will be more than happy to return the favour to others looking for some support!

The Strength of a Writer

Where do writers get their strength? I mean, I don’t know many aspiring writers. As a matter of fact, I might even only know one (that I can think of) in my extended circle of friends. It was talking to this particular friend (shout out to Rosie, who is lovely!) that I got to thinking about writers-at-large. Where do we find our strength to keep working in such a competitive market, despite the fact that the odds usually don’t appear to be in our favour?

I think the first place that I look for strength is in my friends and family. Just having people to speak to about my writing that take it seriously and don’t patronise me because they think it’s just a flight of fancy. Maybe it will always be a fantasy to me – how am I supposed to know? But just having people to speak to that take it as seriously as I do instantly makes it feel like more of a reality. People say you’re a writer when you consider yourself a writer, but it certainly helps when other people think of you as one.

Inspiration is, in itself, a form of strength for a writer – well, for anybody who has chosen a creative profession really. I probably get the majority of my inspiration from just getting around. I love being in the car with Jennie, she’ll be driving and we’ll be listening to music and I can just stare out of the window and daydream and get inspired. Either that or walking in nature, or even walking around towns and cities… just anywhere really. I have an extremely overactive imagination so I’m always looking around and dreaming of new worlds, new characters, new scenarios.

Castle Combe – one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever seen.

Music, of course, is a fabulous way to flex your creative muscle. I think you can find so much inspiration in music. There are just as many genres and styles of music as there are genres and styles of literature. If you think about it that way, there’s always going to be a soundtrack to whatever you’re writing. Finding the right songs might be a challenge, but when you do, you’ll find it so much easier to get into the right frame of mind.

I think probably the most important strength a writer can hope to have, however, is really a combination of two things: self-belief, and confidence in whatever you’re working on. I say that because when you have confidence in your project, you find yourself getting support from the story itself. If that sounds a bit lame or arbitrary, then fine, but I honestly believe it. There are days when the writing itself seems like a chore, but I keep working because I can still daydream and visualise the story and the characters, and that gives me support. It gives me strength.

Anyway, I’m getting distracted by Come Dine With Me and I’m hungry, so I’m going to go. But before I do, I will also suggest that another great form of strength can just come from having a nice day out with your Mum.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I’ve been away from my blog for a while. Not because I’ve lost confidence in my blog (or really my writing), but because I’d lost some confidence in myself. I’ve been in a state of flux for the past month not really knowing where to take my writing career from here, but I finally have a plan in place (thanks in part to lots of people in my life).

Actually, it’s been horrible being a bit adrift creatively and not really knowing where I was heading. But I started this blog to track my progress from being only part of the way through a novel to invariably get it published. Whether I self-publish, or if I’m lucky enough to get backing from a publisher that actually feels like my modest little supernatural crime-thriller deserves to be on the shelves, I will one day have this published.

To that end, I have come up with something of a loose plan, which first of all means I have to edit Haunt one more time. Just a quick toss-over to change some little bits. Actually, it’s probably important to mention that Haunt has had it’s first ever beginning-to-end read-through from a very dear friend of mine. I trust her opinion and she told me what I didn’t imagine I would hear… That it was really good.

I also enlisted a sample service of a professional editor, who edited the first few pages of my novel for me and gave me some pointers, and who actually read (and subsequently gave feedback on) the whole first part of my novel. Probably the thing that stunned me the most was that the editor had no idea that Stephen King is an idol of mine, but loosely stated that my writing is similar to King’s. They also said, and I quote, that it is “very well written.”

So that was really all I needed to remind myself that all these years of hard work and all the effort I’ve put in to my writing is actually worth it. Whether I find success this year or in the next 5 years (or the next 25!) I am determined to reach my goal. But one important thing I’ve realised this year is that, in the meantime, I have to my backup. I have to try and do something else with my life, just in case my writing never reaches the wide audience I hope it does.

That being said, I’ve also found success in a novel I tried writing a few years ago. I’ve refined the story and scraped off the excess fat to turn it into something streamlined and clever, something with a real message. I knew it was never going to be an abandoned project because I’ve got an A4 journal filled with notes and history and all sorts, but it was nice to stumble back into it in such a nice way. I tried my hand at my fantasy epic, but I feel like that story still hasn’t matured enough to become anything real. This story however, tentatively titled The Last Courier, is something that I think could really gain some traction.

Yes, I often like to indulge myself a mock-up cover when I’m excited about a project.

This is my return to form now. Refocusing attention on Haunt, juggling some work on The Last Courier when I feel like writing something new, and all the while keeping my eye on the prize. I’m just going to stay true to myself and always keep pushing to pursue my passion.

And to close this “return to form”, here is a throwback Thursday picture of me from when I was either 16 or 17 years old.

This will not be on the inside cover of my first successful novel. Well… maybe it will.

New Year, Constant Changes

Happy New Year! To be honest, despite achieving my resolution from last year (which was to finish writing a book), I couldn’t be happier to see the rear end of 2013. The first half of last year was okay, punctuated by some high moments that counter-balanced the lower moments. From September onwards, however? Well, that was a struggle.

I’m not going to dive into a woe-is-me rant about the things I lost last year though, only highlight that this new year is a time for new beginnings. I have a feeling my life (and my writing) is going to have to take a huge turn this year and undergo some pretty powerful overhauls if I want to make it to 2015 in one piece.

One thing that has kept me going in spite of these constant changes was a Christmas present from my friend Jennie. I found myself unwrapping the first (and so far, only) copy of my own novel, Haunt. Needless to say I got pretty emotional when I held it in my hands for the first time and finally felt like a proper writer. Here is a picture of me posing with the book.

Here I am, posing with the first ever printed copy of Haunt.

The book itself wasn’t even the entire gift. I’m now signed up (registration provided and paid-for) to a website where I can print and publish anything I write. I was completely overwhelmed, but it’s been a good kick up the ass to get moving and further my writing more. I’m even considering polishing Haunt and then publishing it through this site, selling it as both ebook and hard-copy. Sure, it’s not exactly how I’d imagined becoming a writer, but who needs a professional publisher? Ah well, we’ll see. I’m only toying with the idea at the moment.

For now, here’s to a happy new year and the chance to make some positive changes in my life. I think I’ll start with working a little bit more on my seemingly brilliant fantasy novel (that could prove to be a revolting failure when I look back on it in a month or so). To all my readers, I wish you a healthy and happy and successful 2014!

Starting A New Project: How Early Is ‘Too Early’?

Is there ever a time that you shouldn’t be starting a new creative project?

Since the completion of Haunt I’ve been thinking about inception (no, not the Christopher Nolan film) and genesis. The starting point, the origin, of a creative project. At this point Haunt is not a 100% finished product or project, but it’s reached a stage where it is, quite literally, no longer in my hands. It’s in the hands of (so far) two of my closest friends to be read, not as fellow writers or artists, but simply as readers. With all that time and energy building up inside me and nowhere else to go, what is a writer to do?

Well remember my blog entry at the beginning of December? I mentioned a time long ago when I’d started a fantasy novel as a preteen that never quite reached any legitimate fruition. To my surprise (and more so to the surprise of my friend and perpetual number one fan, Jennie) I have continued with that project. I was a little bit perplexed by the sudden resurgence of my feelings for this seemingly abandoned project and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was wasting my time. Until, that is, I came upon the above quote from Steven Spielberg (not Stephen King for once!).

I know the quote is about film, but it still applies to creative writing. “But I change; you change.” There are probably very few phrases that are as true for artists than that one. It speaks on so many different levels, doesn’t it? Yes, the daily grind will slowly transmogrify you into somebody that you didn’t even see yourself becoming, but quite rightly whatever you are becomes what your project is. It made me think about how much I’ve changed since the last time I took a bash at this fantasy project.

Not only have I changed over the last few years, but even just in the latter half of this year. I left a very good job behind, along with some amazing friendships, and took a less enjoyable job with a bunch of new people. They become good friends, but soon half of us were made redundant. Following that, I became even closer with those who hadn’t been made redundant in the first fly-by (including myself). Then we were told the campaign was over, and so were our jobs. With even few of us remaining, we all moved to a different job together and now I’m bonding with that handful of people even closer. All of this just since September. I’m not the same person I was when the year began.

I could list a hundred other things that have shaped my changes this year, but the biggest one is one that you, my readers, will already know about: I finished a book. I think it’s given me perspective and wisdom and courage that weren’t there before. Not only did I finish a book, but I did so against a backdrop of lots of critical change happening in my life. So this fantasy novel is now a mirror-reflection of me, and in the process I’ve discovered a little bit about myself: I’ve come a long way.

Not just that, but I’ve discovered that I’m capable of writing a crime/thriller novel, which I used to think I’d never be able to do. And in the process of writing a crime/thriller novel I rediscovered my appreciation for the genre that really captures my imagination and excites me: fantasy (and all it’s sub-genres, particularly science-fantasy).

In fantasy you don’t just create characters and situations… you create an entire world.

So just how early is ‘too early’ when it comes to starting a new project? I think as long as you’re following the King’s wise words (Stephen King, I refer to, of course) and stay faithful to what you’re working on, it’s never too early to step into something else. Does your heart have to be in it? No, I don’t even think that’s essential. Your writing comes from one place: the brain. Both the vocabulary, grammar, prose etc. and also the imagination and the story itself. Your brain is a muscle, it’ll need exercising. Even if your new project is fruitless, it will keep you writing and keep your mind active.

So that was a bit of a brain fart. Okay, I’m done. I’ve had it.