Tag Archives: creativity

Feel The Fear… and Write it Anyway

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When you want something; really, really want something, where do you begin in getting close to it? My own answer: “Build it, and they will come.”

I live in a beautiful, rented house in Scotland which was the very thing that drove me to write. Seven years ago our landlord decided she wanted to sell it, my husband and I wanted to buy it, yet it was (and still is) way out of our price range and we knew one of us would have to do something extraordinary in order to make it our own. Then our landlord agreed to let us stay until we could, however long that might take.

Sundown in 'Field'.
Sundown in Field

Behind our beloved house is an empty field, owned by our landlord, and every day I take the dogs up there to let them run about free, turning around to look back down over the roof of our home and tell myself again that one day we WILL own it. That is, the whole house, not just the roof. But there are other things I have been telling my landlord’s field.

‘I’m going to write a book,’ I said on a Monday. On a Friday, two years later, I finished it.

‘I’m going to get an agent for this book,’ I told the sky above the landlord’s field several fine, summer mornings in a row. Just six weeks later, on a fine summer morning that found me trudging around Kilmartin Glen, I got an email from an agent asking to meet with me. I signed with her less than a month later.

‘I’M GOING TO GET A PUBLISHER FOR THIS BOOK!’

I shouted this on a pretty windy afternoon in the field that will one day be mine, red-faced and bubbling after the last of a stream of publisher rejections came through. I even shook my fist for emphasis; well, you never know when the Universe needs a bit of sheer grit and anger to get your point across. Just over a year later, I signed to a small press.

‘I’m going to be a best-selling author, Field.’

Okay, I didn’t say ‘Field’, but I love that bit in Shirley Valentine where she talks to the wall, addressing it as ‘Wall’. Right from the off, ‘The New Mrs D’ became a best seller; but not one of those fancy ‘million’ or ‘New York Times’ ones. It’s an Amazon best seller, which all authors know isn’t necessarily going to help anyone buy their house.

‘I’m going to see my name and my writing in one of my favourite publications.’

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Psychologies Magazine (UK), September 2015 edition.

Tadahhh!

‘I’m going to sell a million books!’

Wait… what?

This is the one I’ve been telling Field for around a year now. It’s a toughie, because a year on I’m nearer to the mark of buying a million books than I am to selling them. I didn’t even make one ‘Best Chicklit Books of 2015’ list to give me a sales boost. No one hailed my book as a ‘Top Ten Beach Read of 2015’ even after I’ve spent a lot of time asking the bloggers and journalists that make these lists for reviews. Many have gladly helped; many, many more have never replied. And as British summertime comes to a close, after allegedly having started in the first place, (has anyone had a postcard from the sun?), the beach reads lists are becoming less relevant. It seems the Field of Dreams has hit a stumbling block in the race for me to write my landlord a fat cheque.

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Line from ‘I Hate That You Bloody Left Me.’

So I better get on with the business of finishing my next book, ‘I Hate That You Bloody Left Me’, which is in edits right now.

And everyday I’m still out standing in my field, (you knew I was going to go there with that corny line, right?), watching my dogs roll around in fox poo while I say out loud what I’m going to do with my life.

Who is this nobody shouting at fields and having the audacity to write about selling a million books? Does the fear grab you when you even dare to think about doing that? This is my point. Fears can stop you reaching, and reaching is necessary if you’re going to catch that bonus ball. Let me list some common writerly fears for you:

  1. What if I can’t write as well as I think I can?
  2. What if people laugh at my efforts and I make a fool of myself?
  3. What if no one wants to read my work?
  4. What if people do want to read it and then they hate it?
  5. What if nobody buys it?
  6. What if I get some terrible reviews?
    And the main one:
  7. What if I fail?

Read all of those fears again and imagine they all happened. Now, where in the world are you? Has the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person happened to you?

What if you don’t fail?

I had all of these fears at the beginning but I’ve met them now, and they weren’t nearly as ugly as I thought they would be. I get to say I stood up, took my turn and I tried.

Perhaps you scoff at the idea of thinking and believing yourself to success. If you happen to be an author on Twitter, you might have your own ideas for sales success. Well, let me take this opportunity to tell you this: how many books did you buy after clicking a link in a tweet from a fellow author? This should tell you what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling yourself.

Asking the entire world to buy won’t always make them buy. Daring to tell yourself out loud you are going to sell drives you, at the very least, to work harder for it. Much harder than spending your time spewing out the kind of tweets that will make your followers mute you. Think hard about where you want to be, say it out loud and watch the answers begin to arrive.

So, I’ll race you to the finish line, oh book link tweeting author. Two hundred and forty ‘buy my book’ tweets in your timeline against two hundred and forty days of asking my future field to make the masses buy a million of my books. Because I do believe there is some truth in this ‘ask and you will receive’ thing. If you dare to make yourself want something enough, you will continue to focus on it until finally, it becomes yours. Not by chance or mystical, universal intervention; by sheer hard work, persistence and a great big dollop of belief. What I’ve found is that shouting out loud about what you want also helps drive away fear; the very thing that holds many of us back when it comes to reaching for something we want. Shout at the fear. Don’t be afraid to tell yourself outside of your head that you are going to do this and be specific about it. Just make sure you’re listening when you do.

Be specific; that’s the ticket right there. On reflection, I’ve got a new request for my pal, Field:

‘I’m going to sell a million books. But listen, I’d like this to be before I die, if you don’t mind?’

Tony-Robbins

Update for Toni Betzner – this is the house:-


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Conquering Writer’s Block (Without Your Head Falling Off)

One of the questions posed on my Goodreads author page, was ‘how do you conquer writer’s block?’ I said I didn’t believe in it. I said, ‘just push through. Keep writing. Write anything, even if it’s drivel.’

I think the best thing you can do is allow yourself to write nonsense and all of a sudden, breakthrough occurs.  Simply put: speed write.

I must just point out that speed writing isn’t anything at all to do with drugs. No, that’s called ‘I’m going to prison now writing.’ Speed writing is where you simply blast out all your thoughts in one long, stream of conscious flurry not stopping to worry at all that you might be writing garbage. And yes, you’ve guessed it; this blog post is a speed writing exercise. Thank you for noticing.  And look out, it may be somewhat unpredictable. One minute, I can be telling you something and then (oh look, a new pencil that needs sharpening) I can go off at a tangent because, wow, (my nails need biting some more, hold on a sec), my brain is off the charts odd.

But I believe this is an incredibly effective way to break what you perceive to be your writer’s block and using your blog to do so is the perfect place. This is where I put all my lesser edited, stream of conscious writing, so it’s perfect. But I do think writer’s block is your perfection obsessed self simply stalling you. Stop it and write!

Having said that, I have become a bit of a new-age hippy lately and taken up meditating. But not before I spent an age trying to teach myself how by searching for YouTube videos for guidance and practice. I’ve tried listening to and watching so many bizarre things on there, but keep finding myself side-tracked by my own, zany thought processes that don’t ever seem to switch off when I’m watching or listening to someone else.

‘Now,’ says meditation guru number one. ‘Imagine your whole body is loose and limp.’

I sink down into my pillow, not being able to help imagining I’ve fallen off the top of a tall building and everything is broken. Hmmm, this might not be good…

‘Imagine your hands are loose at the end of your arms.’ What? Like coming off, loose?

‘And your head is loose on the end of your neck.’

Holy hell, now I’m decapitated. Next!

Then there was the ‘ASMR Ear To Ear Whispering’ video, where I plugged in my earphones and listened to a young woman ‘awakening my creative self within’ by leaning in to whisper ‘you are wonderful. You are creative,’ into each of my ears at a time.

‘Ah, what a lovely, hypnotic voice,’ I thought. ‘This could work.’ Only, WAIT! Is that a penis under the chin of the sun behind her?

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Next!

The soft, male voice on my little free meditation app says, ‘imagine yourself on a beautiful, tropical beach.’

Ah, this is better. Yes please.

‘Now, you see a small rowing boat on the horizon and it’s heading towards you.’

I really hope it’s Gerard Butler with a case of champagne, wearing a thong. Do they make thongs for champagne cases?

‘When the boat reaches you, you climb aboard and sail away.’

Oh, Gerard Butler is wearing the thong. Okay, now I’m really not relaxed.

‘And then you come to a small, uninhabited island and disembark. Then the boat leaves.’

What the…? Gerard has left me marooned on a deserted island! How is this helping again? *panic panic*

So you see, I can’t do it… the whole ‘switch off your mind and relax’ thing. Even downloading the famous Paul McKenna’s app for my mobile phone didn’t work:

‘Do not listen to this tape whilst driving or operating machinery.’ (Puts down the chainsaw) ‘Wait for a time when you won’t be disturbed. Get into a comfortable position and switch off your phone.’

Okay done. Why has he stopped talking…?

So now I simply sit in silence for ten minutes twice a day and empty my thoughts to only focus on my personal mantra. Which I cannot tell you, as it is very personal; but I can reveal that I changed it from ‘I am’ to stop my mind wandering further as I attempted to finish the sentence with a comedy retort.

‘I am… probably asleep.’

‘I am… missing Coronation Street.’

How have you conquered writer’s block?

Book Marketing Tactics You May NOT Have Considered

I’d like to apologise in advance because this is a MUCH longer blog post than I usually prefer. I don’t know about you, but I like the kind of blog I can jump in and out of, coming away with my will to live intact and plenty of time to work for the rest of the day. I also prefer to blog about life and comedy, but after my 29,000 Downloads Later blog, I’ve had so many writers asking for more information on my marketing tactics I felt I must do at least one post in a War & Peace style-e.

Forgive me *Clears throat*

You can find a lot of tips online, just by Googling ‘book marketing tactics’, yet what I’ve noticed is a lot of the advice given is the same. So I’d like to take this opportunity to try and pinpoint some you might not have considered.

Largely, this entire post is around the less obvious SEO tactics for Authors. How many of you are making that SEO work for you when it comes to marketing your book? Do you think this is a) way too complex or b) just for businesses?

Well, have you seen how many new authors there are out there? You ARE a business and you have a world of competition to keep up with.

SEO, for those that don’t know, stands for ‘search engine optimisation’ and it isn’t as hard as some people would have you believe. ‘Some people’ being those that would want to sell you their advice and guidance on the matter. Not that I wouldn’t LOVE some professional help (I know, I need it, right?) but it really isn’t all that hard to do at least some basics for yourself, for free.

In short, SEO optimisation is about finding search terms that you think the general public would use to find your book and using these terms in everything you post. You don’t have to put it in your text, although it occasionally helps to, but in your article tags and social hashtags.

Take my own writer genre for instance. I would guess people looking to read a book like mine would search for ‘women’s fiction’ ‘comedy author’ ‘comedy novel’ ‘chick lit’ or, if you are anywhere outside of the UK, ‘British Chick lit’.

If you Google ‘women’s fiction’ or ‘comedy author’ then click on the videos tab, you will find me – a commercially unknown, British Chick Lit, women’s fiction, comedy author and writer of a comedy novel – scattered throughout your search results. (See what I did there?).

And, you can see how this would get annoying if you posted like this in every blog post. But one isn’t going to hurt your readership. She hopes….

You can throw your keywords in casually every now and again, but don’t try to be clever or go for (comedy novel) irrelevant to subject matter, (women’s fiction) subliminal messages (British Chick Lit) which would annoy the heck out of (comedy author) anybody!

I’m going it alone with what I have read online so far, and thought I had only conquered SEO mastery with YouTube, but visits to this website have increased threefold recently. Not that you’re all buying a book, but more people seem to know who I am these days. I am building my brand. Although you might not like my particular style of comedy novel, I may well surprise you with ‘The New War and Peace’ at a future date, therefore snagging that more literary sale from you later. 😀

Bottom Line:

1) Think about what your target audience would Google in order to find you and your books. Then, make a list of those words and phrases and use them in EVERYTHING you post. Blogs, social media posts, YouTube videos, everything. You are aiming to make Google see you as an expert in your chosen subject therefore, pushing you up in search rankings. And social media posts DO count – even more so now than ever before.

2) Get a Google+ account. Yes, I know it feels a bit like a graveyard full of people simply there to sell not buy, but it is one of the best places to post your keywords for Google ranking and it is linked to YouTube. Double the value!

3) Get a Pinterest Account. I am still working on mastering this one myself, but Pinterest has been one of the fastest growing social networks TO DATE and the great thing about this site is that, unlike most other social networks, people on there are actively seeking things to buy and sharing what they themselves like to buy. It’s like scrap-booking online. You can easily find your target audience here because people are sharing pictures of their favourite books. Find those accounts pinning books in your genre or even fans of authors you think your work is similar too and connect with them. You can invite them to pin to your boards and even send pins to people if they are following you back.

Let me help you start out – if you’d like an invite to pin to THIS board connect to me on Pinterest and leave a comment below so I can connect to you and send the invite. As I said, I am just finding my way on Pinterest so the board isn’t that old and doesn’t have any other pinners at the moment but it does have 248 followers, which is a start. Let’s get that Pinterest marketing moving together! There are enough hungry for content readers out there for all of us.

4) Get an Instagram Account! Instagram is another network where people are happily sharing their interests, particularly when it comes to books. Its users are looking for recommends and love nothing more than to link with like-minded people. As with Pinterest, search for lovers of books in your genre and followers of more famous people you think you are a lot like. So, for me, I would look for fans of Claudia Schiffer of course 😉 What do you mean ‘dream on?’

And you need to get hashtag savvy here. You want to use hashtags in your posts and also search them to find people to connect with. Don’t think for one minute this is not worthy of your precious time. You are going to find active, book-loving people in your target audience instead of sitting at home waiting for them to find you! Reach out.

For instance, a kindly US review website compared my work to one of my writer heroes, Jane Green. Not only is the lovely Jane ON Instagram herself, but there are heaps of people posting pictures of her books with the #janegreen hashtag. Now, all I have to do is search this hashtag, follow people posting about her and her books and chat to them because I already know they have my taste in great books and my sense of humour. The aim isn’t to sell, sell, sell, it is to converse and yes, why not, make friends. I love Instagram because I can connect to my lovely readers there and am building a fantastic, supportive little community of people that think like me and love all the things I love. The beauty of Instagram is ease of use and a conversational thread that I think is easier for everyone to follow than on Twitter.  And you can use it to share pictures from your day on your smartphone while going about your day or walking the dog. *CLICK* ‘Look everyone, a pretty tree… oh, that he’s just cocked his leg up.’  It really is THAT simple.

Here’s a great list of author hashtags to get you started. And no, you don’t need to use all of them. You will soon find the ones that work for you, just give it time. You’ll find me there as @hell4heather – taking people shopping with me, sharing photos of my grandson, things that make me laugh and sharing occasional news about my book. You don’t have to plug, plug, plug. Let your real personality shine through. I kid you not, I once sold four books in an evening just through chatting to a couple of fellow Instagrammers, without once asking them to buy it and having no outwardly promotional intention while I was chatting to them. I enjoy Instagram and I love chatting to people! If I can sell a few books by just being me, I’m happy and it is worthy of an hour of my time a couple of times a week.

Remember, the Amazon website is a search engine too. Use your keywords OFTEN in your book description and research the seven keywords Amazon gives you for your listing, watching your placement for each one and altering them from time to time to try and stay visible. I could write a lot on this, but I won’t – Amazon have done it for you HERE

Sounds exhausting, right? For me, it doesn’t feel so bad because this is my chosen career and I’m very bloody serious about it. I am NOT a million best seller, but I’ve kept my book in an Amazon bestsellers list since my KDP free promotion in December last year and have regular sales – not always huge – but regular. I’m building brand awareness just like any online business should be trying to. This is what YOU have to think of yourself as – a BRAND that needs to build an online presence. It’s very much the long game and may feel tiresome, but a good campaign can keep you writing for years to come and also attract publisher interest if that is your wish. I read all the time how publishers love to see authors who are clearly working extra hard on their own branding.

But back to that free KDP promotion. Lots of people asked about the gigs I used on Fiverr.com for marketing mine. There were only two that I could say for sure really helped:

https://www.fiverr.com/facebookprogig/promote-your-amazon-kindle-book-with-real-uk-usa-book-lovers-to-200000-members?funnel=201501071454174808500000

and

https://www.fiverr.com/kindlepromoter/submit-your-kindle-book-to-30-top-kdp-promotion-websites?funnel=201501071455427078500000

And lastly, I went to the Author Marketing Club website and submitted links to as many of the sites on this page as I could find myself:

http://authormarketingclub.com/members/submit-your-book/

I hope you’re still here and still feeling positive.  It isn’t supposed to be fun I guess, but why not try to have some fun with it? Mix up your marketing and get creative with it. Turn that one star review that made you weep back on to itself, with a light-hearted, $5 Fiverr.com gig video like this one:

Try not to be afraid. Put out lots of different types of content and more than a smidgen of the real YOU. And if that one star review has hurt you, take a look at this must shorter post that I guarantee will put your smile firmly back on:

In Celebration of the One Star Review

Hopefully you will find something unique in here that will help and I can now use this link whenever someone asks me what I did to get those downloads.

Good luck everyone!

News Flash! I have a publisher at last!  The hard copy of ‘The New Mrs D’ is to be released by Fledgling Press in Edinburgh in the Spring. I’m so excited to be working with ‘Fledge’ as I now affectionately call them. Here’s hoping for a brighter, writer future 🙂

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This is a tribute to my elongated blog typos! 🙂

Real translation: Don’t be afraid to get your voice, your image, your work and your ‘YOU’ out there. Never worry that you are any way inferior. Go for it!

Authors: Don’t Be a Bloody Statistic

There are people that are writing in the hope of getting rich, and there are people that are writing for the love of the craft. I would firmly plant myself between these two extremes.

I suspect that those writers who are most disappointed are in the first category.

I love writing, have reached a point in my life where I recognise I have always loved it, yet was hampered by an inaccurate belief that making a career out of it was out of my reach and capabilities.  Today I’m ready to pursue it to the death, only with the hope in my mind that I might make a decent living out of it.

Since the moment I first began working on my book, I knew I’d never stop writing again. I know that even if I never sold another word, I couldn’t stop. I’m forty three years old; that’s how long it has taken me to get to this place

Do I hate the idea of getting rich quick? No. I’ve almost accepted around four email marriage proposals from Nigerian Princes in 2014 alone. Do I care if I don’t make my fortune with writing? No, actually, I do not.

I’m not taking my rejections personally, not watching my sales figures hour by hour asking why the world isn’t recognising my genius and I’m not dying inside every time a fellow author has heaps more success than I do. This is my journey; my dream. I’m not going to dilute it or belittle its significance to my life’s journey by making it all about money or the competition. I wish we could live a little (okay a lot) easier and I do imagine that big cheque landing on my doormat, of course I do. But my ultimate goal is having a better, more fulfilled life experience. It is doing what I think I was supposed to do with my life and being in love with it. That, for me, is worth more than gold.

I’m offering you here my best advice on how to overcome your obstacles as a new writer. It is an A for attitude – and the greatest thing about attitude, is you get to choose yours. There are too many articles telling writers to be careful what you wish for and I for one don’t like reading them. It is good to know the pitfalls you might face, but not good to focus on them too much.

Let me break it down in to a simple sentence: Don’t let people tell you you can’t do something.

A few months back, I wrote to hundreds of book shops all over the world, asking them to put ‘The New Mrs D’ on their shelves. I emailed scores of book reviewers, joining what I don’t doubt is an absolute sea of similar requests from self-published authors just like me. As well as the rejections this book has had, I also have the biggest pile of ‘no thank you’ emails you’ve ever seen. The ‘no reply at all’ pile is so big, I’m considering climbing it for charity.  🙂

A submission that sticks in my mind the most is the book I bought and posted, as per the submission guidelines on their website, all the way over to Barnes & Noble in New York asking that they please consider stocking it on their shelves. Their response was (something along the lines of), ‘in our experience, self-published authors only sell on average two hundred copies for the lifetime of the book, many of those to family and friends.’ In case you haven’t guessed where this is going, they declined my request. Yet I had already sold a thousand copies by the time I read their letter, and believe me, I don’t have that many family and friends.

I read this particular line again: ‘Most self-published authors only sell on average 200 copies for the lifetime of their book.’ I’d already proved them wrong in my own case, but instead of internalising this statistic, as some might be inclined to do, I decided to smash it. And no, I haven’t yet. This is not a victorious, ‘I told you so, you short sighted bookshops, agents and publishers’ post. I didn’t sell thousands of copies, but to date over 32,000 people have downloaded ‘The New Mrs D’ and of that 32,000 I gave away just over 29,000 in a free Amazon promotion. It’s not a huge, life-changing income, but it’s a very promising potential readership for book two. Although, in a personal way, it is life-changing. It taught me I’m ever-so-slightly addicted to being read. Thank you for feeding my addiction today.

I can’t offer advice from the perspective of a long in the tooth, experienced writer who has made it to the top. I can only offer the perspective of a long in the tooth person with some years of life experience behind her. And my advice is, if you love it, don’t let it lie.

Don’t be a bloody statistic.

Am I selling dreams of writer success to people who can’t write? I don’t think so. If writing is what you love and truly believe is inside of you to do, even if your first attempt sucked, you are going to work hard to get better. You’ll scrape together your last pounds for proper, professional editing, get the best cover art you can afford and you’ll read your submissions feedback, searching for the common elements and taking at least some of the advice given to make your project shine. You’ll give it all you’ve got and stop wallowing in bitterness and self pity.

(Okay, give yourself an hour on this last one, then move on) 😉

You won’t spend your precious writing time emailing agents that reject you with a stream of profanities telling him/her they have missed a golden opportunity and don’t know what they’re talking about. You are writing all of the time and reading about writing all the time.

So I guess I’m talking to YOU.

Now, get off this page and on to your own. X

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The Rollercoaster – 29,000 Downloads Later

Remember this scene from the 1980’s comedy film, Parenthood?

If you follow my progress you will know two significant things have happened to me lately:

1) I left my agent and found my novel, ‘The New Mrs Dunpublished with a loss of my sales rankings and
2) I held a three day free promotion last week in an attempt to push the book back in to the charts.

It worked.

Last week, 29,000 people downloaded ‘The New Mrs D‘ for free, giving me what I hope will turn out to be a substantial new readership. Hooray!

And many authors are asking me how it happened. So as always, I am only too happy to share as much as I know here.

Firstly, I went to www.fiverr.com and paid for three services at $5 a time. A promo video, an SEO expert to share my video link as many times as possible and a marketer to send details of my book promotion to forty websites.

I also successfully managed to secure a small advertisement with www.bookbub.com. Bookbub only accept something like 10-20% of submissions I believe and require that you have a certain amount of five star reviews. But I do credit this with the huge spike of downloads I achieved on the very first day.

I paid what was at the time, just over $30 to have The New Mrs D promo mailed out to a 210,000 strong mailing list of fans of chick lit. The prices have risen a little lately, but you can find them here.

What’s great is that although I didn’t have the funds to reach the 1,030,000+ subscribers of their women’s fiction list ($245) The New Mrs D reached the no1 best selling humour spot on both the Amazon UK and US free stores list for the entire length of the promotion. It’s highest ranking over ALL of the free store books was no4 in the UK and no7 in the US – beating many of the other BookBub promoted novels for those days who would have accessed the one million plus mailing lists. Not at all bad!

What I didn’t do was tweet my book link constantly or flash post to hundreds of Facebook pages. Some people may have done that for me through the Fiverr.com gigs, but not I. I simply do not believe it works. I did write a blog post and share it across my social channels and I did share the promotions progress over the three days. I also manually entered the book to around twenty free ebook promoting websites. And that is it, the sum total of my efforts.

As I type, The New Mrs D is no 20 in the best selling literary humour chart, just ten places behind Helen Fielding’s ‘Mad About The Boy’. Maybe it will stay, maybe not. Maybe it’s a post promotional lucky spike in sales that will tail off. Only time will tell.

But what a roller coaster! It’s thrilling and hard and scary and up, down, up, down and round and round. What a ride, this writerly life.

I like the roller coaster.

Back to book two!

Those lovely folks at Novelicious.com made me this.
Those lovely folks at Novelicious.com made me this.

Those lovely folks at Novelicious.com made me the quote opposite. Read my full interview on the site HERE

If you wish to know the specific details of services I used on Fiverr, please email me at hell4heather@gmail.com

I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments here also!

The New Mrs D – A Publication Update from a Terrified Author

Image I have been asked by many for an update on my road to publication, so today I am making an announcement: The road has been temporarily blocked. And yes, I am now terrified. I do want to do what I promised I would for other new writers and that is share my journey. I’ve had to be quiet about it for a while, but can now give you all full access.

Since finishing the first draft of my first comedy novel, The New Mrs D, in November 2012, I’ve had a roller coaster of a time. After sharing her with a few friends, then getting her proof-read and copy edited and subsequently undertaking so many rewrites I lost count, she was ready to go out to agents. Two small, little known agencies even approached me and asked for her but I declined. I wanted to try the big players first.

My submission of a synopsis and three opening chapters to agents yielded some very encouraging results. Of the thirteen I submitted to I had four tell me they liked it very much but didn’t think they could find a market for it. One called it ‘laugh out loud funny’ and another said, ‘this is seriously funny stuff’. One of the four – a very large and prominent UK agency – told me they’d love to see anything else I write in future. Two agencies went as far as to request the full manuscript and one – Hannah Ferguson of the Marsh Agency – signed me up. In all, the time taken from submission to signing with an agent was around six weeks.

Mr and I jumped up and down. We opened our favourite bottle of whisky and stood in the garden looking at our beloved rented house, talking about how in a couple of years we might finally be able to buy it. Surely the level of positive responses and the speed in which I got an agent meant I’d written something really special? Then, my agent submitted to ten major UK publishing houses… and all of them passed. Actually, I have ended up with thirteen rejections in all, if I count some small presses that didn’t reply.

I’m not going to do any naming here, I feel very grateful and privileged to have received feedback for my work from some top editing professionals, most of whom made very kind comments as well as offering some useful, constructive criticisms. I rewrote again on the back of the common theme elements that came out of the exercise. Still, The New Mrs D remains on the shelf as far as the world of publishing is concerned.

I wanted to write something less mainstream; a non-romantic comedy. A novel about a less than perfect, forty something woman who isn’t seeking a man to complete her story. One who will not necessarily stay single for the rest of her life, but who has bravely broken away from the social norm of standing by her man – yes, five days after the wedding – and running off to find herself. She has flaws, she makes bad decisions and – shock horror – she admits that actually she isn’t happy with her husband committing what she considers to be virtual adultery.  Oh and she says ‘fuck’ from time to time.

I’ve taken a very serious, quite modern issue and written a riotous comedy around it and I grant you, this is unusual. If you search the internet for humorous fiction novels by and for women that are not romantic comedies you will draw a near blank as I have. Go on, try it. Not that I don’t love romantic comedies. They are huge business and I enjoy them as much as the rest of the romcom buying public. But I didn’t want to write one. I wanted an older protagonist, who has begun to grow out of her need to chase love and adoration in order to feel complete. I wanted to challenge media objectification of women and speak out about the saturation in our magazines, movies, adverts and the Internet, of women in varying stages of undress. And I wanted to do it in a humorous, easy read which might reach and empower women. Editors have described it as containing ‘close to the bone, crude humour’. Guilty as charged.

My protagonist married a man with a porn addiction and in order to research this, as well as drawing on my own feelings on the subject, I read books and trawled countless internet forums. On the forums in particular, I saw heartbroken women being told the real and only problem is their own self confidence. They are told to ‘put up’ with their partner’s porn use as it is ‘just something men do’. And ‘while you’re at it go lose some weight to feel better about yourself’.

Of course, it must be said that some women don’t mind and are accepting of and even joining in with their partner’s porn use. I want to stress that my book is not attacking the porn issue or discussing its rights or wrongs, it is about the women that aren’t comfortable with their partners using it and are not speaking out. Women in these situations are often not even telling their closest friends because they are embarrassed to admit it makes them feel bad. To quote an article by Joy Go Mah in Huffpost Lifestyle:

‘The vast majority of films produced tell the stories of men, with women cast as girlfriends, wives, or mothers, or in other periphery roles.’

By the same token, the vast amount of comedy fiction I have read has been about women who are already in or yearning to be cast into these roles. I remember how much, even as a younger woman, I enjoyed Shirley Valentine, Educating Rita and First Wives Club – all empowering stories about older women temporarily shunning men and marriage to find themselves. I think these books and films did okay. 🙂

So now – *drum roll* – I am, on the advice and with the support of my agent, going to self publish The New Mrs D.  My story needs to be out there, I am committed to it and I want to bring it to you. And yes, I am very, very afraid. Self publishing can be like throwing a fish into the ocean. But some very kind authors have given me amazing support and advice. Every one of them saying, ‘go for it’.

The quote pictured above was posted on the Facebook page of the wonderful and inspirational Elizabeth Gilbert on a day when I was struggling with the fear of striking out alone with my novel. She continued:

and our fear of being rejected, criticized, ignored, marginalized, typecast, bullied, challenged, misunderstood, mocked, dismissed, and — worst of all — disappointed in ourselves when our completed work does not match the dream of inspiration that initially flourished so beautifully in our minds. I am afraid of all these things, don’t get me wrong. And I’ve experienced all those things. But you know what I’ve always feared more? Facing my death someday and realizing that I never lived a creative life because I was too shit scared to try. Because that would be the worst, saddest, most frightful fate of all. Thus, and always, we must march right over our fears, trampling them to dust under our bootheels (as Hanneke de Groot would say) and continuing ONWARD!

As usual, in my mind, she was talking to me. So I’m off to make something… it’s a less conventional comedy novel called The New Mrs D. However, I am not going to ask you to spend your hard earned cash buying a copy until it is as perfect as I can make it. Had I won a publishing deal, I would be getting some professional editorial advice to make sure the plot is as tidy as it can be, so I am working with someone I have found myself right now. Then I need to get a cover and have the manuscript all properly formatted for publication. All of this costs money, of which I don’t have a lot, so I will be working as fast as I can on all of these aspects and announcing a release date soon. I hope to bring her out for your summer holiday reading enjoyment.

And a special thank you – to all the people who have followed my tweets, Facebook page and blog offering encouraging comments on my writing and telling me how much you want to read The New Mrs D. All of this has added to my determination to keep going. I really do appreciate all of it and feel lifted every time someone tells me how much they enjoy my writing.

This is why I know I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing with my life. And to anybody reading this who is afraid to create something unique, or tempted to alter their natural creative instinct to go and do what everyone else is doing, I encourage you to fight it and keep doing that which makes you YOU.  Don’t give up. I’m not gonna.

Added 19th June 2014: AND… they said it should never happen, but it has! You can now buy The New Mrs D HERE and within TWENTY-FOUR HOURS of it becoming available for pre-order, my little book went into the Amazon 100 Best Sellers in Women’s Fiction Humour chart in the UK. My book… which they said was ‘unmarketable’.

I’m not sure where it will go from here, but I’ll keep you posted.

COver design smaller Heather X

Creativity Blocks,Distractions and Oh, What Was That Other Thing Again?

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Steven Wright and I share a birthday in December and I just love that he sent me this last month. PS this has bugger all to do with this post.

I read a wonderful post on blocks to creativity just this week, which I subsequently posted to my Facebook page. Should you go there to read it, why not LIKE my page while you’re there? I promise to only appear in your news feed once a day and never try to sell you any books in a way that you’ll be able to notice. Okay? Lovely.

As I was saying about the creative blocks/being easily distracted/procrastination thing… After reading this marvelous post I began thinking about how I put off trying to be a writer for so many years and that yes, the reason is I have been a victim. I don’t mean someone fuffed me in the pie-hole with a duster and ran off with my copy of Woman & Home Magazine in some facepolish-and-grab incident. I mean I have been a victim of that old murderer of creativity – perfection.

I’m going to be honest here. I have stopped mid sentence in new books by other authors and skipped to the ending wondering where all this nonsense was leading, only to find I couldn’t care less if Sissy Burans grew up hating the fact that her name is an anagram of Sainsbury’s but it all ends well because she meets the man of her dreams there in the cheese and cream aisle. I’ve thrown books down in disgust and thought how much better I could do. I’ve done it for years and years. And yes, I’ve followed these thoughts up by actually putting pencil to paper and spilling my brains on the page, only to find the prose I told myself would be fine wine was just plain old juice. And not even nice juice. It was sour, cranberry juice – the stuff that nobody drinks unless they have a bladder infection. Apt because I had that burning desire to write and then, after having read my first few paragraphs of cranberry juice-esque ramblings, the burning was gone.

I’ve started writing what in my head was Jayne Eyre and ended up with Jane Eerie. I wanted to call my current novel about a woman who marries a porn addict, ‘The Secret Life of B’s’. I’ve written clangers worthy of a whole episode of ‘It’ll Be Alright on the Rewrite’.  (That, by the way, should be a writer’s Twitter hashtag). Corkers like: ‘His contorted mouth said nothing, but his eyes begged me to get him and his erection out of here now’. Oh yes, this line IS on my cutting room floor. I’m so ashamed… and yet comedically proud at the same time. 🙂

Finally, in my forty-first year of life I got the courage to keep going, writing a novel to completion. Then I shared it with a few trusted friends and family members, feeling sick at the thought of letting my little lamb go out to play with the other children. And as the feedback trickled in, perfection began to attack me again. It tapped me on the shoulder, reminding me I wasn’t good enough. Which is just as well because it wasn’t and as a matter of fact, the first draft NEVER is. For me, the second and third wasn’t either.

The real magic happens in the rewrites. You have to let your creativity run round the garden naked in front of a select few neighbours if you want to be a writer or creator of anything good. Perfection is still trying to attack me all the time, but persistence is my taser gun of choice these days. I won’t give up like I did ten years ago. I know I will keep writing, I will keep creating because it’s what I’m compelled to do. I’m currently on the first draft of book two and I’m not stopping to edit until all that cranberry juice is out on the table. But at least it won’t hurt when I break for a wee.

If the old me sounds like the current you, let it all flow. Write for pity’s sake!

And so, unpublished know-it-all writer that I am, I leave you with one thought: ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’ It isn’t my own thought because I was afraid mine wasn’t perfect enough for the occasion. 😉  Now, get back to writing your next bunch of #It’llbealrightontherewrite clangers.

Ohhh, I forgot to say something about being easily distracted…

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