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Blog Bytes: E-Books, Talking and Writing.ie

14 Feb

After last week’s blogging break I have loads of stuff to catch you up on but they aren’t enough days in the week to do them all in separate posts. (I have a 2 post per day limit and I’d really prefer to stick to just the one. And I’m sure you would prefer me to stick to just one too!) So here in little blog bytes are all the things I have to tell you about, stuffed in the one post.

New E-books for Writers

Two fantastic books for writers were released into the ebook world recently: Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence by Roz Morris, and Bringing the Dream Alive: Write to Get Published by Inkwell‘s Vanessa O’Loughlin.

Bringing the Dream Alive covers everything from essential fiction writing tips to plotting and planning, and tips for writing winning short fiction. It also has advice on how to cope with and avoid rejection, and how to build an author profile to sell yourself, as well as your book, to editors and agents. Anyone who has ever attended an Inkwell workshop will tell you how motivated they felt afterwards – now that same motivation can be delivered to your Kinde, iPhone or computer! You can purchase it from Amazon.com here or from Amazon.co.uk here.

I’ve read Nail Your Novel and am a big fan of Roz’s blog, and I can tell you that its practical advice is invaluable. It focuses on that especially thorny problem of plotting, which not many How To Write… books do, and is so well explained and laid out you’ll end up returning to it again and again. You can purchase the Kindle e-book from Amazon.com here and from Amazon.co.uk here.

Writing.ie

Writing.ie is the new home of Irish writing online, a brilliant website for Irish writers at all stages of their careers founded by Vanessa O’Loughlin and supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.

It has advice, tips, blogs, forums and hopefully centralizes all news of literary events, courses and festivals in one place. It also has some great interviews and articles from all your favourite Irish writers in the ‘Meet the Authors’ section. There really is a wealth of useful writing information on there and the site  is well worth a good look round.

I’m also on there. I’ve expanded my How To Publish an E-book, How To Make a Novel ‘Bible’ and Using Screenwriting Techniques for Plotting guides, and I’ll also be blogging on there too once a week.

I know – all I need to do now is bring out the Ferrero Rocher and I’ll really be spoiling you.

Me, Talking About Stuff

I have two events (get me!) coming up so if you near anywhere near Belfast or Birmingham, are interested in using social media to build an author platform or working in Walt Disney World, and love the sound of people who’ve had way too many espressos talking, please – come see me!

On February 24th I’ll be speaking at LitNetNI’s Making a Living as a Writer in the 21st Century Workshop in Belfast, along with Eoin Purcell and Carlo Gebler. I’ll be talking about the practicalities of blogging, tweeting and social websites as marketing tools for writers, sharing my own experiences of exploiting digital and online technology and going to town on a PowerPoint presentation. (It’s pink! To match the blog!) You can get all the info and book tickets here.

Then on Saturday April 30th I’ll be doing a presentation about Mousetrapped at Mousemeets in Birmingham. Mousemeets is the UK’s only Disney fan convention that brings together fans from all over the country to enjoy a weekend all about the Mouse. Guests will enjoy presentations, film screenings, trivia, pin trading and much much more. To find out about the event and how to obtain tickets visit www.mousemeets.co.uk.

And in case you missed it…

Mousetrapped and me were in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times yesterday. Thank you to everyone who sent me a message of congrats or retweeted the link or even pointed at the article and said, ‘I know her from Twitter!’. It was all very exciting and wasn’t I very good at keeping that a secret for the whole of last week? I think so, especially since I was bursting to tell you.

Those of you following for my self-publishing advice might wonder how I finagled that. (Finagled: LOVE that word.) The truth is I didn’t really do anything but sell books – or e-books, specifically. I’m no Konrath or Hocking, but they are benefits to being a relatively big fish in a small pond. Here in Ireland, if you’re lucky, five or six hundred copies of a book can get you into the Top 10 bestseller list, so selling nearly 3,000 copies of a self-published book and doing it without spending any money makes a good story. I wrote a blog post about it, that post got picked up the website Irish Publishing News (thanks Eoin!) and I’d say that’s how the writer of the Times piece found out about it, and emailed me.

(And yes, I did squeal a little when I saw ‘sunday-times.ie’ at the end of his email address.)

The lesson to be learned here, I think, is that we are a year on from Mousetrapped‘s release (almost) and it’s only now become a news story good enough for some place like the Times. Nobody but my local paper was interested in it at the beginning, and only then it was to cover the bookstore launch (which I had for that very purpose). And why would anyone else have been? Self-published books are released every day, if not every minute. I had to make myself stand out amongst the rest to get noticed by the big boys. So if you’re just at the start of your self-publishing journey, don’t despair. There are opportunities for publicity every step of the way. There’s plenty of time yet.

P.S. I do know what day today is, but I am opting out because my ice-cold heart considers it a pile of Hallmark branded poo. But I do really like this, the best Valentines Day gift guide for “your stupid relationship” that I ever did see. Enjoy!

All I Want for Christmas is to READ THIS NEXT

2 Dec

I am SO excited.

While casually browsing writing-related YouTube videos last Monday I accidentally stumbled upon the “bookfomerical” for one of my favorite books, How Not To Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs if You Ever Want to Get Published by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark (which I reviewed here). This led me to their site, HowNotToWriteANovel.com, where I discovered that they’ve written a new book and – yippeeeee! – it’s out here on December 2nd, aka TODAY.

(And what I really love is how the UK cover is the cover of How Not To Write a Novel with a big “sticker” on it. It goes perfectly with their brand of wry humor. Genius, People Who Think Up Book Covers. GENIUS. )

I am running to my nearest bookshop to pick this up right now. While I do that, you can -

Watch the bookformerical for Read This Next:

and read this text lifted straight from their website:

Our new book, Read This Next, will be published in the US on November 2 and in the UK on December 2 (to allow for Daylight Savings Time). Here are just some of the things people have been saying about it:

“Easily the most entertaining guide to great reading.”

“So good it will probably increase in value, making it a fine investment opportunity.”

“If you only read one book this year, you’re probably not in the demographic we’re looking for, so never mind.”

Okay, they were people in the publicity department, but they’re still people as far we’re concerned, and Read This Next is still a very entertaining look at over 500 great books you might have missed. It was written to be of equal use to people in book groups, people not in book groups, and their friends.Read This Next provides funny, provocative questions to consider, intriguing historical and biographical details about authors and their times, and the signature humor that has made How Not To Write A Novel a favorite in three languages and any number of dialects.

Order it from Amazon.co.uk here or from The Book Depository here.

Holiday Replay | Wannabe a Writer? by Jane Wenham-Jones

11 Oct

(I am currently on holiday and so I am replaying some posts. This one originally appeared in February 2010.)

So all week I’ve been counting down my personal Top 5 How To Write Books Books, picked from a sea of such titles (also known as the Reference section of Waterstones Patrick Street) and combed for clues. Ultimately, I want a book that tells me exactly how to go from daydreaming about being a published novelist to actually seeing my book on a shelf, but not one that prescribes such silliness as stream-of-consciousness writing exercises at the crack of dawn.

I loathe those, by the way. I don’t see the point, especially since mine would look something like this:

But anyway, I digress. Back to the Top 5. So far this week we’ve had How To Write Books books that were either funny and practical, or reassuring and practical, or comforting and funny. My No. 1 pick is all of those things and more. But before I tell you what it is, we need a radio-DJ style countdown. (I’m assuming you haven’t ruined the surprise by reading this post’s title.)

“At number 5 we had How Not To Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to Avoid At All Costs Should You Ever Want To Get Published…”

“In at number 4, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need…”

“Number 3: The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club…”

“Just missing out on the top spot at Number 2, The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. And now, Catherine’s Number 1 How To Write a Book Book-“

[Drum roll, please…]

Wannabe a Writer? by Jane Wenham-Jones!

(Imagine streamers and party poppers and champagne corks and stuff.)

This book is 258 pages of pure and utter joy and if you only buy one How To Write a Book book – or in fact, any book at all – let it be this one. Having read it all in one sitting – well, not counting coffee breaks, of course – I felt comforted, informed and totally motivated to write. Also, my face was streaked with red and puffy as I tend to cry when I laugh, and I had an overwhelming craving for a bag of kettle crisps. Jane is like the Dr. Phil of writing (only a lot more attractive); she tells it like it is.

“I have heard so many authors tell the story… of how they first got into print. Typically, they woke up one morning with this little idea that they might write a novel. So they dashed one off over the course of a few rainy weekends, found an agent on the Monday, were in a frenzied auction with ten top publishers by Tuesday and banked their six-figure cheque on Friday just before they flew off to the States to discuss the screenplay. They seem touchingly bewildered by their own success. But not as bewildered as I am when I have known for a fact that the author… had written three previous novels before the one that made it and had burst into tears at the Writers’ Circle Christmas party when the twenty-seventh agent had written to suggest she stuck to crossword puzzles instead.”

And so Jane vowed as a much-rejected wannabe that when that dreamy day of publication came, she would tell the truth about the long and difficult road that led to it. With chapters on everything from The Benefits of Alcohol to Richard and Judy, Jane paints a realistic but not disheartening picture of the life of a wannabe novelist in a way that, to my knowledge – and remember, I’ve basically done nothing but read these kinds of books for the last ten years – no other book ever has.

Let me put it this way: have you ever read a How To Write a Book book that had both a hangover cure AND tips on how to avoid Writer’s Bottom?

I didn’t think so.

There is also oodles of practical writing advice, including an extensive section on my favourite problem, plotting, as well as things like grammar, layout and punctuation, or as Jane calls them, ‘The Tedious Bits.’ There’s input from best-selling authors, literary agents and major publishing houses and the story of how Jane went about getting herself her agent will make you laugh so much your family/spouse/neighbours will wonder if you’ve been possessed.

Tip: don’t read this book in a library. You’ll be asked not to come back.

Wannabe a Writer? will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about getting your book published, and a lot of stuff you didn’t. The New Writer called it ‘a must-have book’ and the National Association of Writers’ Groups said it was ‘as refreshing as a fizzing Alka-Seltzer after a big night out.’

This is, in summary, my ultimate How To Write a Book book. Aspiring authors, go and buy it now.

(Well, not right now. Read to the end of this post first.)

Jane has published three novels – One Glass is Never Enough, Perfect Alibis and Raising the Roof - and in honour of this, um, honour, I asked her very nicely (with smiley faces) if she would answer a few questions for us. Being lovely as well as hilarious, she kindly agreed – I didn’t even have to resort to my usual tactics of chocolate-related bribery.

What was your motivation for writing Wannabe a Writer?

I’d been doing my Writing Magazine column – a sort of agony aunt affair called ‘Talk it Over’ – for a couple of years and readers seemed to like it (apart from one particular gentlemen who was outraged when I suggested a good stiff drink to help the inspiration along). My thinking went like this: 24 columns at 1000 words each equals – a quarter of a book! (I’m always looking for short cuts!). In the end, of course, only the odd snippet from my columns made it into the final manuscript but it was the vision of all that material I had already that got me started. Also, I find so many of the existing writing books rather bossy. I wanted to say that it doesn’t matter how you do it – personally I would rather eat own leg than make index cards for each character – as long as you do, and mention the things that nobody else has seemed to, like the knotty problem of Writer’s Bottom and the fact that one can become insanely jealous of other writers getting published when one is being horribly rejected oneself. Stuff like that.

In your book you reveal that you didn’t always want to be a writer but instead toyed with several career options including ‘being Business Woman of the Year with a large desk, two telephones and a young male secretary [you] could send out on errands of a personal nature’. Who or what planted the idea of writing a novel in your head?

A writing aunt/tales of six figures sums and deals for screen rights (HA!)/being largely unemployable doing anything else.

Tell us a bit about your writing method. From what I can gather, it involves Post-It notes, a lot of alcohol – Wannabe a Writer? is the only How To book on my list that includes a (very useful) hangover cure – and eating kettle crisps…?

You’ve summed it up beautifully. Plus there’s the considerable amount of weeping and wailing when it’s not going well. I am trying to become more organized as I get older and (supposedly) more experienced. I try to do that planning thing. I dream of a single sheet of paper containing a grand design. In reality I am still surrounded by notes, lists, folders of cuttings that need to be incorporated somewhere…

Those of us who dream of publication believe (whether or not we admit it) that getting published will change our life, fill the hole in our soul, land us on Richard & Judy, etc. How has it changed yours?

Life is more fun; I am more neurotic. Never made Richard and Judy (though did spend an hour on stage with the lovely Richard Madeley, interviewing him for the Guilford Book Festival a couple of years ago) but have done lots of daft TV and radio programmes that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had some books published. I’ve made lots of lovely friends and  have the perfect excuse to wear pyjamas all day.

If you had to sum up your advice to aspiring authors in two sentences and we assumed that ‘Buy copies of Wannabe a Writer? for you and all your friends’ was one, what would the other be?

Marry someone rich.

What are you working on now? I heard through the magical interwebs that a sequel is in the works…

Yes – Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? comes out in October. (Just the small matter of finishing it first….)

Is being awarded the accolade of Catherine’s No. 1 How To Write Books Book the highlight of your entire writing career so far? Please tick as appropriate: (a) Yes, (b) Absolutely or (c) Without a doubt.

All three – am touched, thrilled, delighted and – hey – any excuse to break open the fizz. Thank you!!

———————————–

Click here to buy Wannabe a Writer? on Amazon.co.uk:

Wannabe a Writer?

Click here to read a glowing review of Wannabe a Writer? by Trashionista.

Click here for Jane Wenham-Jone’s official website and here for her Wannabe a Writer? Twitter account. You need to follow Jane on Twitter. Just look at this gem:

Thanks so much Jane for writing Wannabe a Writer? and for taking the time to appear on my blog. You’re a Starbar.

And so concludes my Top 5 How To Write Books Books. (What the bubbles am I supposed to write about next week?!) Click here to read all the posts or click here to shop for all my favourite How To Write Books Books.

My #1 How To Write Books Book: Wannabe a Writer? by Jane Wenham-Jones

12 Feb

So all week I’ve been counting down my personal Top 5 How To Write Books Books, picked from a sea of such titles (also known as the Reference section of Waterstones Patrick Street) and combed for clues. Ultimately, I want a book that tells me exactly how to go from daydreaming about being a published novelist to actually seeing my book on a shelf, but not one that prescribes such silliness as stream-of-consciousness writing exercises at the crack of dawn.

I loathe those, by the way. I don’t see the point, especially since mine would look something like this:

But anyway, I digress. Back to the Top 5. So far this week we’ve had How To Write Books books that were either funny and practical, or reassuring and practical, or comforting and funny. My No. 1 pick is all of those things and more. But before I tell you what it is, we need a radio-DJ style countdown. (I’m assuming you haven’t ruined the surprise by reading this post’s title.)

“At number 5 we had How Not To Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to Avoid At All Costs Should You Ever Want To Get Published…”

“In at number 4, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need…”

“Number 3: The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club…”

“Just missing out on the top spot at Number 2, The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. And now, Catherine’s Number 1 How To Write a Book Book-“

[Drum roll, please…] Continue reading

#2: The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

11 Feb

This week I’m counting down my Top 5 How To Write Books Books, based on a decade’s worth of reading every title in the genre I could get my hands on and using this as a method for getting absolutely nothing done.

In at No. 2, we have The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by writer/editor/agent extraordinaire, Betsy Lerner.

It is not an exaggeration to say this book changed my life.

Well, maybe it is an exaggeration. A very slight one.

About a year ago – you may recalling me mentioning this before, about 37 times – I was working in the depths of administrative hell, spending my days thinking of ways I could maim my boss with my stapler and my nights crying myself to sleep in a wasteland of abandoned ambition. I felt like I was walking around in a cloud of gloom, doom and self-pity, living in a place where dreams went to die and they only serve decaf coffee.

Instant decaf coffee, at that. Continue reading

#3: The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club

10 Feb

If you’ve just joined us, I’m counting down my Top 5 How To Write Books Books that I’ve whittled down after almost a decade of reading every book about writing books I could find but not actually writing anything.

On Monday we met No. 5, How Not To Write a Novel: 200 Common Mistakes to Avoid If You Ever Want to Get Published by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark, and yesterday I introduced you to No. 4, Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by the late great Blake Snyder which I (hopefully) convinced you could be used for plotting novels too.

Today, I give you No. 3: The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club.

Writing is hard. Not as hard as doing a job you hate for the rest of your life or, say, understanding string theory, but it does have its hurdles. As Gene Fowler once said, ‘Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood appear on your forehead.’

And so sometimes, you just want the writing instruction equivalent of bacon sandwiches. Continue reading

#4: Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

9 Feb

Yesterday I began my countdown of My Top 5 How To Write Books Books with How Not To Write A Novel: 200 Common Mistakes to Avoid At All Costs If You Ever Want to Get Published by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittlemark.

Today I’m going to tell you about No. 4 – Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder.

Before you all start screaming at me, yes I know it’s a book about screenwriting; I’m not as dumb as I look. But it is also the single most useful tool I have ever come across when it comes to that thorny little problem called plotting. Continue reading

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