On Being Strong

There are many different definitions of strength. Most of them, I find, are inadequate. Strength isn’t the absence of fear or weakness, and it isn’t something purely physical.

I’m partially thinking about this because I’ve been rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer season seven, these past few nights, but also because strength is something I’m constantly striving for. I have to remember that being strong is also not the same thing as being hard on yourself. I mean, sometimes it is, but not all the time.

I’ve done a lot of hard things in my life so far – fought through a fair few difficult situations – and where I am now, I have more hard things in front of me.

I am fighting against my body and the medical condition I have to get pregnant.

I am trying hard to lose weight – something that even people without PCOS struggle to do.

I’m also trying to secure a publishing deal.

These are big things. A lot of people much better than me have spent big chunks of their lives tackling one or other of these. The fact that I’m struggling with them is not a sign of weakness. Or, maybe it is, but that weakness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Sometimes, I gotta cut myself some slack.

I cannot be top of my game, doing my very best, all of the time.

Being strong is not an absence of weakness, it’s accepting the things holding you back – the things failing and falling apart – and going on, regardless.

I am both weak and strong. That’s okay. The same is true of all people, even slayers. I just need to remember that.

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What To Do When Offered A Publishing Contract

Some people might rightly assume there are only two things you should do when you finally get that precious publishing deal: sign on the dotted line and open the bubbly.

I understand this impulse, but I have five other steps you should also maybe consider.

  1. Read the fine print
  2. Have the Society of Authors read the fine print. This is a free service they offer to members. Because of their expertise, they will be able to see any potential red flags better than you.
  3. Contact the other places you’ve had your manuscript on submission to let them know about the offer. This is courtesy but, aside from making you a good person, it might also net you a second (or third) offer.
  4. If the contract you have been given is by a publisher directly, ask an agent to come in and broker the deal. Even if you’ve previously submitted to agents with no luck, they will likely reconsider given this new circumstance and can probably get you a better deal.
  5. Consider your options. While you don’t want to leave your interested party waiting indefinitely, lest said offer expire, you do want to to give the people contacted at stages three and four of this process long enough to get back to you. Also consider, in the case where you’re given multiple offers, that the largest cash advance might not be the best deal for you/your book. Ask your publisher/agent what vision they have for marketing it and what level of edits they expect.
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On Researching Contemporary Fiction

I don’t think it’s particularly big-headed to say I have a somewhat decent set of writing skills at this point – it is my job, after all – but world-building is definitely not something that comes to me naturally. This didn’t matter, I told myself, because I mainly write stories set in the real world in the modern-day.

Well, as you can probably guess, I was wrong.

I may have been basing my descriptions on places and things that already exist, but I don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of stuff even I know fairly well. Like, I can picture a road I’ve walked down dozens of times, but I won’t necessarily know the name of that road because it hasn’t ever been relevant to me before. And the thing about characters is that, if done right, they take on a life of their own, which means things will be relevant to them that have nothing to do with you as a writer.

If you don’t want your reader to stumble over something out of place, sooner or later, you’ll have to look things up. Even if the real world is your source material, the reader probably won’t know which part of it you’re drawing direct inspiration from, so you’ve got to rebuild that world inside their head – not as big a deal as creating an imaginary empire from scratch, but still no mean feat.

In preparation for National Novel Writing Month last year, there were a series of Instagram inspiration prompts and one of them was ‘Last Writing Related Search.’ Displayed in the photo, below, is what was in my Google search history.

Yes, it was all research for my book, odd as it may sound.

Since then, I’ve actually gone even further, to figure out what subjects my main characters would have studied at G.C.S.E., what dates the exams would have been on, and plotted this info on a calendar next to the plot points of the book.

No one else is ever going to need this information, and it doesn’t end up in the book directly, but it certainly helped me get my head around timelines and pacing, which ultimately makes the book better. Continue reading

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What Literary Agents Do For Authors

This post comes directly from my notes of the recent publishing conference I attended in Dublin. For more general info and advice from that event and another one I attended in Belfast, please click here

If you’re new to the world of writing and have heard people talk about trying to get an agent, you might well be wondering what these mystical creatures are and what they do. Well, wonder no longer, because I’m about to spell it out. And – spoiler! – it’s more than just taking a cut of authors’ earnings.

Agents are…

1 – Advocates

On the most basic level, an agent is a third party who can enhance (or engineer) an interaction between two other parties. In the literary world, they are the middle man (usually a woman, in fact) who brokers a deal between writers and publishers.

Can’t writers submit to publishers directly, though? Some of them, yes, but the ‘big five’ publishers (and their imprints, who make up most of the market) usually only take submissions sent via agencies.

2 – Buffers

Imagine the scene: you’ve managed to get a publishing deal all on your own, but something has gone wrong. Perhaps the publisher has chosen the most hideous cover. You’re upset and you have no idea how to communicate this to your publisher. You worry they won’t take your criticism well, or that they’ll change their mind, so you’re left with the choice of accepting a cover you hate or risk rocking the boat by being seen as difficult.

Well, with an agent, you don’t need to worry. They will have this conversation for you.

3 – Knowledgeable

These points are in no particular order but if I was to rank them, this would probably be first.

Publishing deals are complicated beasts involving the sale of rights in a number of regions and formats: paperback, ebook, and audio as well as film, TV, and stage. Got an agent? You don’t need to stress over the fine print of any of it! They know all about shifts in the market and changes to the going rate. Nine times out of ten, they will get you a better deal than you could on your own. Continue reading

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Six-Month Stats Round Up

It’s a new week at the start of a fresh month. We’re now entering the second half of 2019 and, personally, I’m excited. But before I jump headlong into the next round of CampNaNoWriMo, it’s time to look back. I said I’d be more open with my stats, going forward, so here we go:

Books Read

  • 31 out of my goal of 60 for the year = 52%
  • So, just ahead of target. That’s a win.

Words Written
(Rounded to the nearest thousand)

  • January: 4,000
  • February: 6,000
  • March: 6,000
  • April: 37,000
  • May: 12,000
  • June: 13,000
  • Total = 78,000

Continue reading

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