My rules for writers

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon Zadie Smith’s Rules for Writers, and, coupled with a conversation I had on Twitter last night, I thought I’d give my own list a go.

For those of you still new to me, here are my credentials: I’ve been seriously writing for publication since I was about fifteen (which is 27 years and pre-internet!), have received at least 300 rejections, had two major writing breaks, and suffer writers block every time I finish a project.

4-book-web-site-picI’ve also had 12 short stories published in small press journals; 19 short stories long-listed, short-listed and placed 3rd, 2nd or 1st in competitions; and three books published by small/indie publishers and one book self-published.

  1. Don’t aspire be the next [insert best-selling author in your genre], be the first you. By the time you’ve read that author’s latest book, and been inspired to write something similar, the industry has moved on to the next big thing. Don’t you want to lead rather than follow?
  2. Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. Most books go through at least several drafts before they are published. Mine go through many
  3. Don’t be afraid of rejection. I wrote a post about that…
  4. Read, a lot – in your genre, outside of your genre, non-fiction
  5. Don’t force yourself to write if you don’t feel like it. I’ve read a lot of advice that says you should write every day, but it doesn’t work for me, so I don’t do it
  6. In fact, ignore any advice you don’t think will work for you
  7. Know the rules of good grammar, and then break them, if it works in your story
  8. Know the rules of submission etiquette and stick to them. Agents and editors have a preference, for their ease, on how they want to be approached. Don’t give them a reason to reject you before they’ve even read your manuscript. Janet Reid has a lot of advice. Personally, I learnt from Writing Magazine.
  9. Take regular breaks, preferably outside. You don’t want to look pasty in your promotional material
  10. Don’t give up if things don’t go exactly to plan. Think of plans more as a guideline.

Bonus tip: Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy writing, if it causes you misery or heartache or depression more than it brings you joy, consider whether it’s really the path you want to take.

 

What would you add to this list?

 

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Fake News or Chocolate Hob Nobs?

I’ve been sitting on this post, this idea, for a long time. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever post it, but the concept isn’t going away. One of my concerns is that I’m going to delve into politics… But  this isn’t a political post, it’s a grammatical one, a linguistic one.

I hate the term Fake News. It’s meaningless. It’s a catchphrase.

what-you-talkin-bout-willis-quote-1
Also a catchphrase 🙂

In a speech to commemorate Black History Month, Trump said,

“You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago, when somebody said I took the statue out of my office and it turned out that that was fake news. Fake news.”

Wait? What? Turned out? 

No! It didn’t turn out to be anything – things only turn out to be something else if you don’t have personal insight of the event. You can say, “I thought Beyonce was looking a little chubby, and it turns out she’s pregnant,” but you can’t say, “I thought my bedroom was looking really good, and it turns out I tidied it.”

It’s such a passive way to express yourself. (I’m going to completely ignore that he often refers to himself in the third person… that’s a whole different post!)

As you probably know that report was, in this instance, wrong – and the reporter corrected his mistake. Trump could have said,

“But actually, the statue was exactly where it’s been for the last eight years.”

It would have made him sound reasonable and a little more presidential. But the catchphrase won through.

For balance – because this is not a political post – other cries of fake news have proven to be correct, but the term seems to hold a lot of sway, if it’s shouted loudly enough. It’s short enough to just repeat over and over until the reporter/interviewer gives up hope of ever getting an answer.

With a catchphrase, you don’t need to put reason, logic and plausibility into your replies. In fact, you don’t need to put any thought into them. I wish I was a kid right now (and I hope my kids don’t read this!) Conversations with my mum would be so cool.

Mum – “Annalisa, why did you eat the whole packet of Chocolate Hob Nobs?”

Me – *blank stare, waiting for excuse to pop into my head*

Mum – “Your sister said she saw you.”

Me – “Fake news!”

By the way, in the UK, fake news is such an old concept. After all, we had this:

Image result for ate my hamster

Do you have a linguistic pet peeve? Has ‘fake news’ annoyed you too?

#ThrowbackThursday – Right hand/left hand

It’s Thursday, which means I’ve looked into the archives of my old blog to bring you something I think might interest you. This week, I’ve been playing around with my new novel, but the beginning isn’t right – I think I’ve started it in the wrong place, and I’m not sure how to fix it. Then I remembered a technique I’ve used in the past that might help. 


 

This is my attempt at a useful post. I’ve moaned about mentioned my tendency towards writers block since this blog was born. And today I thought I’d talk about a method that really helped me with one story in particular. The story Omelette won third place in the inaugural Words with Jam short story competition a couple of years ago, so I feel confident in sharing this method with you. (And is now free to read on WattPad!)

What you do is swap the hand you normally write with!

That’s it. How easy!

This isn’t my invention – I read about it, but I can’t remember where.

The theory behind it is that writing with the wrong hand makes you concentrate much harder on the actual mechanics of forming the words on the page, which leaves your subconscious mind free to be creative.

Try this:

Start with the sentence When I was younger my favourite toy was…

Remember to write it with the wrong hand, and don’t analyse the content – that’s very important: don’t censor yourself!

When I tried it myself, I managed to pull out a long forgotten incident involving my mum, which actually had nothing to do with my favourite toy. It’s a great way to stop writers block in its tracks.

Part of Omelette written normally…
… and with my left/wrong hand

This technique helped me past a particularly difficult part of the story. Don’t be fooled by how neat my writing looks – I remember having to concentrate very hard!

 

Have you tried something like this before? Or even, just now? How did you get on?
 
 

Slip-sliding away

Good morning, lovely people! What a great day. The sun is shining, and it’s just above freezing. On our walk this morning, the grass was solid with thick frost, the river was mirror-still, and there was a beautiful river mist clinging to the valley and edge of Plymouth.

There are no photos, because it was far too cold to take my gloves off so I could operate the camera. So here’s a picture of Artoo before we left, at the moment he’d given up hope of ever going for a walk ever again…

artoo-asleep

I tend to spend these walks thinking about my writing plan for the day, and today I was completely overwhelmed by all the things I want to do and the time I have to do it. I have:

  • my NaNoWriMo novel to develop into a proper novel – including all those bouts of utter paranoia that it’s the worst idea in the world (which is time-consuming)
  • 4 short story competitions I want to enter within the next month, which also need writing or re-writing, and then several more over the months after that
  • to keep up with blogs I follow, new and old, because I’ve realised I’ve lost touch with some of the amazing people that have helped me so far (and probably don’t even know it). And I’m worried that my move from Blogger to WordPress means that some of them have given up on me
  • re-write a novella I re-wrote badly last year. Except, it heavily features a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship, which also happens to be be the basis of the novel I’m writing. I don’t like the idea of writing two stories which could be tucked nicely into a genre together like that – I want to do different things

As you can see, this isn’t really a to-do list, it’s an overcoming-my-issues list, which will be a lot harder.

I’d love some feedback – especially on the Blogger/Wordpress issue, and the fixation on mothers I seem to have at the moment.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

You. I. Us. by Annalisa Crawford

You. I. Us.

by Annalisa Crawford

Giveaway ends January 27, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

#ThrowbackThursday – You. I. Us is finally here! (And a giveaway)

Today’s Throwback Thursday post come from June 2016, just a few months ago, on the day my latest book was published. Below are details of a Goodreads giveaway that will be running for the next 10 days, so I thought a quick introduction for people who don’t know about it would be a good idea.

Happy birthday You. I. Us., you gorgeous thing!

It feels like I’ve been anticipating this day for a long time – in fact, I signed the contract in April 2015!

Writing these stories was a lot of fun, and completely different from the way I usually write. Because of the short length of each one, I curled up for a week – wrapped in a thick cardigan, because it was winter – and just wrote whatever came into my head. Several stories remain unchanged from those initial sessions, others merged together, a couple were thrown away for being rubbish. A few more – for example, Ode to River and Growing Apart – are autobiographical, which was an interesting experiment.

I want to say a huge thank you to Jessica Bell and Dawn Ius from Vine Leaves Press for all their hard work on this book, for the cover art (still so beautiful!) and for rapping my knuckles every time they saw a semi-colon. I have not completely overcome my semi-colon addiction, but I do consider their usage a little more.

Thank you too, to Kyra Lennon, for reading the first draft of the stories and throwing out the weakest links.

Next week, my blog tour starts. I’ll be answering a question a day, provided by some awesome bloggers. I hope you can join me!

Publication
date
: June 10, 2016
Genre: Short Stories (Single Author)



Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository // Kobo // iBooks // Nook



In You. I. Us., Annalisa Crawford captures everyday people during poignant defining moments in their lives: An artist puts his heart into his latest sketch, an elderly couple endures scrutiny by a fellow diner, an ex-student attempts to make amends with a girl she bullied at school, a teenager holds vigil at his friend’s hospital bedside, long distance lovers promise complete devotion, a broken-hearted widow stares into the sea from the
edge of a cliff where her husband died, a grieving son contacts the only person he can rely on in a moment of crisis, a group of middle-aged friends inspire each other to live remarkable lives.

Day after day, we make the same choices. But after reading You. I. Us., you’ll ask yourself, “What if we didn’t?”



And here’s the giveaway. Please share – there are three books to give away, so the more the merrier.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

You. I. Us. by Annalisa Crawford

You. I. Us.

by Annalisa Crawford

Giveaway ends January 27, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Cliffhangers

Or, Making the audience wait for closure

Or, oh Sherlock, what did you do? (in my best Mrs Hudson voice)

Before I start this post properly, I should offer a warning: I will probably include the phrase ‘in my day…’, but I’ll try to put it off for as long as possible.

benedict_cumberbatch_filming_sherlock_cropped2I’ve watched Sherlock since the very beginning. If you love it as much as I do, you can imagine the excitement that occurs when a new series is imminent. I tend not to pick it apart as much as many people do, especially on Twitter, but I do love to see what other people have said about it – afterwards, not during! One of the main comments after this week’s episode (S4, E2 – The Lying Detective) was the cliffhanger.

Indeed, one tweeter went as far as saying it was the biggest cliffhanger she’d ever seen in her life.

(I’ll just point out here, while you’re digesting the last sentence that at the end of Season 1, Moriarty was pointing a gun at Sherlock, and at the end of Season 2, he ‘died’.)

But it got me thinking about the bigger picture.

People aren’t good at waiting anymore. In my day (see… I told you!), by which I mean when I was a girl (is that any better?), we had to wait until the following week or the following series, there was no option. Can you remember the whole ‘Who Shot JR?’ thing? We had to sit down, at the actual time the TV station decided to air the programme, and watch it – without pausing for toilet breaks, or popping to the kitchen for a snack.

When Doctor Who returned, a lot of those episodes were two-parters – I remember at the end of the programme, my kids and I would turn to each other and oooh with glee and excitement. I loved that oooh moment – it gave us a shared moment where we could revel in all the things we didn’t know yet.

I once heard that Russell T Davies asked his young daughter what she thought of his new Doctor Who creation and she told him she didn’t like waiting for the concluding part, so from that point on all the episodes became stand-alone stories. I don’t know how much of that is true, but it makes my point. WE HATE WAITING.

But waiting is part of life, whether it’s for a bus, the next episode, the next book in a series, a reply from a publisher.

By not waiting, by having box-sets on tap, we lose that sense of excitement and anticipation, we come to expect everything to be where we want it when we want it – which won’t always be the case.

How do you feel about cliffhangers – TV or books, or in daily life?

 

My nemesis and I…

January! Argh! Can anyone think of a worse month? It’s dull, boring, dreary, and so dark in the mornings. It taunts me, it hates me. And somehow, those 31 days seem to blossom into 64!

But, recently, I’ve been thinking about it more objectively. How many times have you wished you had more hours in a day, more days in a week or a month…? I actually have those extra days, this month. I have 64 of them.

So instead of wishing the month over, I’m going to embrace it. My plans for this year are:

  1. Writing a short story for an anthology
  2. Writing a second draft of a novel
  3. Re-writing a novella and stripping it back to the story I really want to tell.

I should be able to do all that, now that I have an extra month, surely?

wp_20161201_07_57_02_pro

When outside looks like this, I really should be inside with a hot chocolate and all the left-over Christmas goodies.

What’s your favourite and worst thing about January?