- I read, write, craft and home educate. My debut novel Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase was published in 2014. My second novel, A Life Between Us, was published in 2017. My third, The Road to California, will be out in 2018. I live in Northamptonshire. My website can be found at louisewaltersbooks.co.uk
Saturday, 19 August 2017
But there is no advice. There is just a string of arrogant insults and inaccurate statements. And assumptions that are so wrong it's mind-boggling. I won't list them here, but if you do stumble upon the blog post, they should be apparent. It's the same old, tired old bullshit that snooty types like to trot out for the benefit of their own egos and to delight their acolytes. It's meant to be "funny". You get the picture.
This "bookseller" above all implies that if a book has been self-published, it means the book is bad. Fact is, there are many bad self-published books, and many awkward self-published writers who do approach bookshops in the wrong way. Of course, it's disingenuous to tar all of us with that brush, but more important than that, it's mean spirited to ridicule any self-published author in this way.
Why? Because it takes guts to walk into a bookshop and ask if they would consider stocking your work, knowing in your heart you are probably going to make a hash of it and, crime of crimes, annoy the manager. But do you know what? Simply by TRYING, the self-published author is a better person than this (anonymous, of course) bookseller will ever be, because it takes a lot of time, dedication, and hard work to write, publish and attempt to sell your book, no matter how bad (or good) it is. You are trying to be the best a human can be: creative, brave, enterprising, passionate, vulnerable.
By all means, (anonymous, of course) bookseller, please do give advice. By all means do tell the rude (or just plain inexperienced) self-publishers where to get off. By all means refuse to stock any book you want to refuse. I've no issue with any of that. But don't take the piss out of people who attempt something truly admirable. Something that, by your own admission, you can not do.
Louise Walters (reader, writer, trade published author, self published author, and former bookseller. Not anonymous.)
Friday, 14 July 2017
The long list was arrived at reasonably easily. We had 29 chapters (out of the original 133) that we both felt merited a place on the long list. Whittling those 29 down to the final 10 this week was a little harder... but we did reach a consensus quite easily.
I scribbled down a few observations as I read, and I thought I'd share them with you. Things that worked, things that didn't. No specific examples and no names, of course.
Some of the chapters that didn't make the longlist were, quite simply, badly written. Not all of them, of course. "Competent" was a word I found myself ascribing to many of these chapters. But to go further in the competition, the chapters needed to be more than competent. I had the feeling that some of the writers don't read much; or don't read attentively; or haven't studied at all, at any level, how to construct a story. There is an art to it, a craft. It takes time, effort, huge attention to detail. It's not a case of just pouring words onto the page. It was easy to spot the no-hopers. And there weren't that many.
So, the next level. Why didn't some of the competent stories get onto the long list?
Some of the chapters, many of them in fact, suffered from over-writing. My pet peeve is a list of adjectives that all more or less mean the same, separated by commas. Like this: She was tired, fatigued, exhausted. Just pick the best one and stick to that. It's more concise, and has more impact: She was exhausted. Pace suffered when over-cooked description took over.
Typos. There were typos in all but a handful of the submitted chapters. I was flabbergasted by this. Why would you do that? Check, edit, re-check, re-edit. A typo-free chapter was refreshing and I was more inclined to put those on the long list even if the writing wasn't amazing. OK, amazing writing will always trump a handful of typos. But if the writing is borderline, typos could tip it in the wrong direction. Do everything in your power to remove all typos from your chapters. Seriously. There is no excuse.
Cliches. A surprising number of stories mentioned characters' breathing. It happened a lot. Don't. It's one of the biggest cliches going. Let your reader imagine how a character is breathing in the circumstances you have described. We all know how we are likely to breathe in certain circumstances. Don't ram it home. Also, Rolex watches. Almost without exception the rich characters wore a Rolex. Try another brand. Patek Philippe?
OK, I have to tell you now, clip art was in evidence. I kid you not. DON'T. It's the height of unprofessionalism. You each paid £15 per chapter to enter. That's a lot of money. If your entry is decorated with clip art, it screeches, "This writer is not trying to be professional." It is not getting onto the long list. You wasted £15. I say again, DON'T.
Titles. There were very few good titles. A good title is gold dust, a great opportunity to get readers interested. In some ways it's more important than a good cover. People love a good title. They want to repeat it, talk about it, READ it. BUY it. Always, always do your best to come up with an amazing title, if you can. There were a handful of honourable exceptions, and more than one of them is on the short list. Good titles tell the reader A LOT about the story. They are part of the story. A good title intrigues. Titles should evoke, if possible. There were many bland, meaningless titles. Work on this aspect.
Umm.. Say no more? Please use the chapter name in your file name. Now, this didn't make any difference regarding getting onto the long and short lists. But it was a pain in the arse and made me lose patience a little quicker than I would have done if the name was obvious. It was hard to find a particular chapter. Remember, as an author a huge part of the job is to consider the readers' experience. You have to strive for clarity from the top down, and that starts with clearly naming your work.
Rules. It clearly states in the rules that prologues can not be entered. There were prologues. OBEY THE RULES. Again... you paid £15. OBEY THE RULES. The rules ask for double spacing. There was single spacing. OBEY THE... you get the picture!
So, I need to talk about the positive stuff too. Why did the final ten chapters make it to the final ten? Well, to begin with, all ten are very well written. (Yes, there are typos here and there!) The writers know how to open a story well, they know how to include enough info to whet the readers' appetite, without over loading the chapter with too much info (another frequent fault). The ten chapters are fun to read! They have a certain confidence... you have to believe in your work and believe in your ability to write. It's that quiet confidence thing. It's how you carry readers along with you. Gotta have it. Believe me, it really shows. You also have to be self-critical. I got the feeling these ten chapters had been well edited, looked at, re-written, re-visited. I felt the writers had been a little hard on themselves, which is essential.
I hope these tips help! It was a great experience to read the entries, and I'm already looking forward to doing it all over again next year.
Good luck to the writers of the ten short listed chapters. They are all worthy winners of the competition and I can't wait to see which one is finally chosen by Laura Williams.
Monday, 10 July 2017
Drum roll please.... my third novel is called... The Road to California
Here's the blurb:
Proud single parent Joanna is accustomed to school phoning to tell her that Ryan, her 14 year old son, is in trouble. But when Ryan hits a girl and is excluded from school, Joanna knows she must take drastic action to help him.
Ryan hasn’t seen his dad Lex since he left home when Ryan was two years old. Ryan doesn’t remember Lex, but more than anything he wants a dad in his life. Isolated, a loner, and angry, Ryan finds solace in books and wildlife.
Joanna, against her instincts and better judgement, invites Lex to return and help their son. Lex is a drifter who runs from commitment, and both Joanna and Ryan find their mutual trust and love is put to the test when Lex returns, and vows to be part of the family again...
I hope you like the sound of it! Last week I posted this photo on Twitter as a clue to the title:
This is a patchwork pattern called Road to California. In the book, Joanna is a talented textiles entrepreneur (think wannabe Cath Kidston!) who specialises in recycling and upcycling. She calls her company Road to California, which is her favourite patchwork pattern. It seemed only natural that I should name the book accordingly.
The Road to California is not an easy story to categorize. It's women's fiction; literary(ish) fiction; book club fiction; a romance; definitely a weepie!! And it could be read as YA, as there are really two protagonists, Joanna and her teenage son Ryan. I quite like the fact it doesn't slot neatly into a genre. Somehow that seems right for this novel.
There will be more news to follow in the coming months, including a cover reveal, character profiles, a look at the opening few pages, and news of a giveaway - which will include the piece of patchwork pictured above, made into an upcycled book bag (oh my, how Joanna would approve!)
Friday, 30 June 2017
There are a couple of other positive things coming up which I can't yet reveal, but I'm chuffed.
I check my Amazon ranking
In the great scheme of things, my second novel is doing OK. Literally, OK. I'll take that!
The idea of bringing out my third novel is just as daunting. It's going to be hard work. It may do "OK", it may not. But if I don't bring this book out it won't do anything at all. I'm 50 this year and I've realised, finally, that life is short, so precious and fleeting, and it's not a failure to try something, even if you fail. The failure is to give in to fears and doubts and not try things. (Paraphrasing Bruce Lee here!)
So here I am, running my own company, setting up my own imprint, and bringing out my third novel.
Monday, 12 June 2017
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
Big thanks to Margaret! Fascinating stuff, and a refreshingly uncompromising attitude to book reviews. As Margaret says, they are for readers, not the authors or publishers. I also like the sage advice for us self-published authors about the importance of decent editing and covers.
Margaret blogs at Bleach House Library
Thursday, 18 May 2017
Isabel is now also an author, with her debut novel Paris Mon Amour, published in ebook and audio in June 2016 with Canelo. Isabel made the decision to self-publish the print version of Paris Mon Amour, and that's what we're talking about on my blog today. Here she is...