Tips for a Struggling Writer

That title is a bit misleading. Every writer is a struggling writer. If you’re not struggling then you’re not writing!

Below are a series of tips in no particular order. Some may not apply to you at all, but some might. They’ve helped me!

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  • Write a little every day (even a hundred words is a hundred words in the right direction!)
  • Never force the words (If the words aren’t coming perhaps you should do some…)
  • Research, research, research (We all have google – it’s easy)
  • Set BIG goals (This year I want my novel written!)
  • Set little goals (This week I want 2000 words written)
  • Don’t be scared to delete (Just because we’re sitting on our asses doesn’t mean our writing should be bloated)
  • Try writing short stories (I put this off for too long!)
  • Read your genre(s) (Duh)
  • Learn from what you read (Others make mistakes so you don’t have to)
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes (Fear stops people from achieving their dreams)
  • Treat writing like a job (You HAVE to read up on dragon lore before the end of the week or your boss will be on your ass [you’re the boss])
  • Enjoy your job! (Oh boy, dragon lore!)
  • You don’t have to pick a side when it comes to self publishing and traditional publishing (You can do both – just not with the same manuscript)
  • Be brave (Don’t be ashamed of what you’re writing! Embrace it!)
  • Write from the heart, edit from the brain (Some things need passion, other things need logic)
  • Don’t overuse words (Yet again I used yet one too many time… yetyetyet)
  • The ‘Find’ tool in word is your friend
  • The ‘Replace’ tool can easily become your enemy
  • Be Patient (Good things take time. Take a deep breath.)
  • Don’t be bitter (Don’t hate others for their success)
  • Give a story time to breath (Put it aside for a month, reread it)
  • Every correction you make is a lesson (Learn that lesson!)
  • Back-up everything you write (email, hardrives etc)

And finally:

  • DON’T GIVE UP

 

– Sebastyan

Writing is easy… right?

I often see fellow writers on twitter post about not being able to write, and I’m guilty of the same posts.

 

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This got me to thinking – how hard do you all find it? I always feel like I don’t have enough time, like whatever I do there’s always more to write. I tend to have a few projects going on at once and chip away at them. Nearly every free moment is spent working on them – research, planning, editing etc.

There’s so much more I know I could be doing, but there’s only so many hours in the day. Like many writers I dream of a day my writing will support me financially. Would I be more productive with every day spent writing? Or would all that free time be detrimental?

Perhaps I’ll look back at this period of working two jobs and writing and think ‘Damn I was motivated,’ or alternatively: ‘How did I ever manage to get any of it done?’

I think I DO find writing easy, because I enjoy it. I love editing paragraphs down, making them slicker, I revel in finding my own mistakes and restructuring scenes so that they flow better. I love starting a new short story, I love deleting pages of unnecessary text.

I just wish I had more time!

 

– Sebastyan

Hay Book Festival 2017 – What a Day!

As mentioned in my previous post I’d never been to the annual literary festival in Hay-on-Wye. It’s not too far from where I live but getting there without a car is a bit of a nightmare. Fortunately two lovely friends of ours were also going, and offered us transport!

I didn’t really know what to expect, other than books, and there were plenty of those to be found. When it comes to book shopping I’m awful. I tend to grab something that catches my eye then um and ah about it for an hour. This time was no different. I was captivated by Yiyun Li’s book Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life from the moment I saw the cover:

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I don’t know what I liked about it so much. It was sitting alone on a desk full of other titles. I picked it up and read the first few extracts, then put it down, feeling guilty that I wanted to buy the first book I’d picked up. What followed was roughly an hour of walking around, occasionally returning to see it still alone on the table. I bought it, obviously, and I don’t regret it. I’m only a dozen or so pages in but already it’s shaping up to be a stunning read.

After that we bumped into two people. Firstly Amanda Palmer, a very talented singer-songwriter from America, who just so happens to be married to Neil Gaiman – the reason for our visit. My partner didn’t want to pass up the opportunity and stopped her to say hello. We didn’t want to bother her with any photos as she was busy and in a rush, but Nicole was incredibly happy to have had a moment to speak to her.

After that we were waiting around for our friends to come out of their talk with Chris Riddell – UK Children’s Laureate. It was his final public event in the role when who should walk past us but Neil Gaiman himself, having just left the talk.

I’d brought a few copies of Death Echo: Vol. 1 with the intention of leaving some around the event as surprises for anyone who wanted them. This didn’t go to plan as it was an awfully humid day with dark clouds overhead. Leaving a copy of my book out in the open to possibly get ruined by the rain didn’t sit right with me so I kept a hold of them. Giving one as a gift to a writer I’ve long admired is another story.

With some convincing by Nicole (behind every awkward man is a strong, confident woman ready to kick them into action) we nabbed him and gave him a copy. He could have snubbed us and I wouldn’t have blamed him, these events can be insanely busy and it’s difficult to stop and chat to everyone. He very graciously accepted it as a gift (making sure I’d signed it!) and even posed with us for a picture:

 

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I didn’t even ask him to hold Death Echo like that, he did it of his own free will!

 

We learnt later that by stopping him a small queue built up and he didn’t get away from there for some time (sorry!). I hope he enjoys the collection. Just the knowledge that a writer I respect so much reading my stories gives me a wonderful tingly feeling.

Onto the main event:

The main reason for our visit was to see Stephen Fry interview Neil Gaiman. This wasn’t until later in the day but there was plenty to see an do. All the same when the time came we first in line:

 

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Well, first in OUR line – there were multiple lines!

The event included Neil reading a story from Norse Mythology, Stephen reading a story from his upcoming collection on Greek Mythology, Amanda Palmer reading a beautiful poem, and Chris Riddell, drawing sketches of everything in the background on a projector. It was a beautiful thing to witness. After that was a book signing by Neil. I think perhaps the organisers didn’t realise how popular it would be, with a  queue that apparently didn’t die down for four hours!

Fortunately Amanda was nearby to entertain the masses:

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If we could have stayed for her full show we would have, but what with the drive home and work the next day we had to go 😦

In many ways I couldn’t ask for a better experience. I got to see some brilliant people do and talk about the things they love, and I got to be a part of it.

*contented sigh*

– Sebastyan

p.s. Big thanks to all the organisers and staff who worked their butts off (and are still there now, still working their butts off.)

 

 

You can buy my first collection of stories available in paperback and Kindle here: Death Echo: Vol. 1

You can now also pre-order Broken Bones and $10 Bills, an anthology in which one of my stories is featured!

 

Writing Romance

Most of my characters didn’t DO romance. Which is weird because I’m all about love. Between partners, family members friends. Love is very important to me. Yet in writing I struggle with it. I realized a few days ago why I avoided it – I was afraid of it! Or rather, I was afraid of doing it wrong.

After spit-balling some ideas around with a friend I decided to take the plunge with writing romance. Hold up, Seb, you just said you struggle with it – why dive into romance? Well, random voice inside my head – when you struggle with things it usually means you’re having to learn something NEW. Learning is cool.

Learning IS cool, right?

Here’s the beautiful bit, though: by pushing myself into one project outside my comfort zone I’ve been able to re-evaluate character relationships in another, far more developed story. I’ve been able to let my guard down and really get into the nitty gritty details of their imperfect, unlucky, but ultimately beautiful love.

I’m not sure if there’s a moral here.

Hmm.

That’ll do for now. Anyway, I’m really happy that I have this whole new window open to me. I’m not afraid of it any more. THAT’S IT!

Don’t fear the unknown, embrace it.

– Sebastyan

What is a ‘Good Writing Day’?

Trying to be creative is like skating on glass. When it goes well it’s amazing, but one wrong move and it feels like your confidence might fall away beneath you.

Everyone gets that fear, and anyone who claims they don’t are probably lying (see: fake it till you make it).

The important thing is to recognize WHEN you’re having a good day and embrace it wholeheartedly. When the words come easily get them down on the page. When you read something you wrote and enjoy it then radiate in the warmth of a passage well written!

Don’t give up, because if you do you’ll let yourself down, along with the people who might have loved what you created.

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Keep writing!

– Sebastyan

Accepting Inspiriation

Weird title, right? What am I talking about?

I’m talking about the most fickle substance known to humankind – inspiration – and how to embrace it.

I think we all have an idealised idea of the ‘writer’s life’, where we envision ourselves sat, twirling a quill as we ponder the great unknown, looking for something to leap out at us.

The truth: it may feel like ideas come out of nowhere but that’s just not the case. We’re not wizards!

 

We’re people who want to create something that we enjoy, and which others enjoy, too. These things we create aren’t floating in a vacuum – we’re all at the whim of the events which buffet us through life and so are our ideas.

My next novel is called Proper Magic. It’s a light-hearted fantasy which doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s initial creation was based on a dream my partner had, aspects of it have things in common with Xena Warrior Princess and Labyrinth. There are a few references to Beatrix Potter and DnD.

One scene was even written immediately after seeing The Little Shop of Horrors live. When the book comes out you’ll know which scene!

Jeeze, Seb, you stole a lot of things, huh?

Nononono! Being inspired isn’t the same as stealing an idea. Creativity is infinite, and nothing can help charge you up than seeing the work of others. No-one creates in a vacuum. We are all inspired by what we read, what we watch, the world around us, our friends and family – even tragedy. Sometimes especially tragedy.

So let yourself be inspired, absorb the world around you and refashion it, improve upon it, augment it.

Next time you’re struggling with inspiration just let the world in!

… scary as that might seem…

– Sebastyan

Self Publishing and Imprints

We’ve all seen them. Imprints are key part of publishing. As readers we might not really care about them, but as a writer, especially as a self published writer, they become more important. Below are the various imprints from Penguin and Random House after their merger.

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And here are some others:

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An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which it publishes a work. A single publishing company may have multiple imprints, often using the different names as brands to market works to various demographic consumer segments.

Some of those above are established publishers with offices and staff, others are self publisher imprints. The trick is – if you look professional then people will assume you’re professional. Also BE professional… obviously…

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In a previous post I talked about how buying your own ISBNs and how when you do this you are prompted to give a Publisher Name. Picking a name is one thing, but you should also think about your imprint design. One publisher can have multiple imprints if the genres it publishes are different enough; often having one for children’s book, one for horror etc.

You can pay an artist, or make your own via various free design programs online and it’s not too hard to come up with something striking. The Penguin logo was originally a doodle by a junior member of staff!

The key is to make sure the image doesn’t fly in the face of the content matter. You might not want a fluffy cloud slapped onto your horror novel.

Crimson Key Publishing is my own publishing house, and the featured image above the blogpost is my imprint. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. What do you think?

Happy writing!

– Sebastyan