Writing Corner: Tips on Getting An Agent From Writer Amy McCaw

Hi everyone! I totally meant to get this post up way before the end of the month (my bad, work has been super busy), but it’s still July, so better late that never I suppose! I’m really excited about today’s post, Amy was my secret sister for the #otspsecretsister project on Twitter, and she has an agent, Sandra Sawicka, so she very generously offered to write a post for you guys about how she found her agent. As someone who is currently going through the querying process, I hope you find Amy’s tips helpful and that it makes the process a little easier for you!

Agented authors will have such a range of stories about how they got there. These are my tips about how I got to that amazing meeting where I was offered representation.

Writing programs

I’d queried in the past and got some positive feedback, but it didn’t work out. This time around, I did my research and discovered Write Mentor. I got a place on their summer program and was paired with Marisa Noelle. She helped me to get my manuscript in shape and the program’s end date gave me lots of motivation to keep writing and editing.

There are lots of programs out there and I’m sure they could have similar outcomes, but Write Mentor definitely worked for me.

Critiques

Writing is so solitary that there’s plenty of room for self doubt to creep in, but finding my writing community helped me to keep my perspective. I met critique partners through Write Mentor, Twitter and at book events that are not only brilliant writers, but I also trust them to give honest, helpful feedback. Through them, I got advice on everything from pitching to that ever-painful synopsis.

There’s also the option to get paid critiques, and Lauren James gave incredibly astute, constructive feedback that really pushed me.

Pitching

I was terrified at the prospect of telling someone in person about my manuscript but I decided to prepare a pitch for the free agent sessions at YALC. I pitched every day and got some great feedback, but most importantly, on that very first pitch I met Sandra Sawicka, who ended up being my agent. The face-to-face contact showed that we clicked and I really felt her enthusiasm for my pitch.

Querying

Once Write Mentor was over, I started querying. Part of the process involved getting a synopsis and query letter ready to go, so then all that was left to do was to choose my agents.

If you don’t end up polishing your query with a mentor’s help, there are lots of great online resources. Writer’s Digest and Nathan Bransford’s blog were my go-to guides.

I used books such as The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook to narrow down my choices, as well as the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter and Manuscript Wishlist website.

Once my research was done, I made a spreadsheet to track who I’d queried and their responses. I also kept notes about agents’ wish lists and preferences, which helped to personalise my queries.

I hope you’ve found this post useful! If you want to talk books or writing with me, you can find me on my blog at yaundermyskin.co.uk or on Twitter @yaundermyskin. Happy querying!

amy mccaw

Amy McCaw is a YA writer and blogger. She’s a fan of all things dark and spooky, and is currently working on her untitled Gothic YA mystery novel set in 1990s New Orleans.
 
Her main interests are books, movies and the macabre, and her debut novel has elements of all of these. If Amy’s not at a book event or reading, she can usually be found scribbling away in her writing room, surrounded by movie memorabilia and an out-of-control signed books collection. Unsurprisingly, she’s a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and has gone to conventions to meet James Marsters more times than she cares to admit.
 
Amy also loves travelling and has a particular affinity for America. She’s visited 29 states, 13 Man Vs Food restaurants and many bookish locations, including the cities where Twilight, Interview with a Vampire and Vampire Diaries were set.
 
If you want to talk with Amy about books or 90s movies, you can find her on Twitter.
 

Thank you Amy for that very insightful post! Fellow writers, do you have any other querying tips? Share your top tips in the comments.

If you are a writer, and you would like to a guest post for me, then please get in touch! I have spots open from August-December, so either drop me an email (my email address is jo.ell.x@hotmail.com) or a DM on my Twitter, my handle is @iloveheartlandX. You can talk about any writing related topic you want, and it’s not limited to just published or agented writers, all writers are welcome!

I’m hopefully going to have a review of Strange The Dreamer up over the weekend, so look out for that. I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen with this feature next, as I don’t have anymore guest posts lined up, but if I don’t get anyone for August, then I’m going to be talking about writing second world fantasy vs writing fantasy set in our world and the pros and cons I’ve found of each, which should be quite a fun one!

 

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Writing Corner: A Writing Update

Hi everyone! I know I said that I was going to have another guest post this month, but I’ve been shuffling things around in the schedule a bit, so that guest post is going to come later in the year and I’m talking about something different today. I’m actually quite excited for today’s post, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve shared anything about my writing, mostly because there’s not been all that much to share, other than my frustrations with editing but there’s been quite a bit happening in my writing life at the minute, so I thought I would share it with you all.

Firstly and I guess the most exciting/terrifying news is that my novel is officially out on submission with agents. I started querying back at the end of April and it’s been…..well I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard. It’s scary sending your work out into the world, and disheartening when all that comes back is rejections. Which is it what it has been so far, lots of rejections and I was expecting that of course, but it’s one thing to expect something and another to actually experience the reality of it. It’s also kind of frustrating, because agents are incredibly vague about their reasoning for rejecting your book, which I know is totally fair because they get thousands of submissions, but it’s a constant worry when you’re writing something new and you don’t know exactly why agents aren’t responding to your current work, so you might be unwittingly making the same mistakes. I had to take a step back from writing for a while because getting all those rejections made me feel kind of despondent towards it, especially since I’m working on the sequel to the book I’m querying and it was kind of hard to see the point of working on it when I was getting rejections everywhere for the first book. I know that it’s only going to take one yes to actually get an agent, but waiting for that yes is incredibly stressful!

In happier news, I’m working on a new project! Since This Is Not A Love Story is out on submission, there’s not really anything more I can do with it, so I’m working on the sequel. I didn’t originally intend to have a sequel, I’d envisioned it as a standalone work, but my critique partner Katie suggested that it might have series potential and once I’d reworked the ending, it seemed to quite naturally lead into another book. What can I say, apparently standalones aren’t my style!

I started writing TINALS’ sequel last summer, after I finished my first round of revisions for the first book, but I kind of put it aside to work on more revisions for TINALS, especially as I was getting ready for querying, so I’ve been working on it on and off since last June, mostly when I had any free time from Uni work, which was not often!

I’ve written the first 9 chapters so far and am currently working on the tenth, it’s just under 24,ooo words, so I’ve still got a fair way to go considering that the first book was just over 76,000 words and I think that this one might end up being a bit longer than that. Unlike the first book, I did write an outline for this one, though being me, it was basically just a few bullet points and I’m still pretty much making things up as I go along!

The second book has definitely been a very different beast to write so far than the first one. I’ve got three POVs now as opposed to two, so that’s quite a lot to juggle, and two of the POVs are new ones that I didn’t have in the first book, so though I already knew the characters, learning their voices and their thought processes has been new for me. I’ve loved it though, the two new character POVs are Mia and Adrianna, two major characters from the first book and they’re both quite different to Tiffany, my main character from the first book and extremely different from Cam, who is the other main POV in the first book.

Mia is a particularly interesting character to explore, and though I can’t really go into too much detail as to why (without spoiling stuff from the first book, which I hope will eventually be available for you guys to read one day), she has a complicated past and I’m getting to explore that a lot more in this book which has been super fun to do. Mia is kind of an enigma in the first book, no one really knows all that much about her and in this second book I’ve been able to explore her character and motivations a lot more which I’ve loved doing. Adrianna, my other new POV character has also been a fun new adventure to write, she’s quite a nice contrast to Tiffany, she’s more sensible, she embraces the more traditionally feminine things that Tiffany has been conditioned to despise because her sexist society has wrongly taught her that enjoying those things makes you weak and she’s been part of the Resistance for a lot longer, so she has insight and perspective that Tiffany just doesn’t have after only a year with the group.

I’m not entirely sure whether this series is going to be two books or three, I know roughly where I want this book to end and I think there’s enough storyline to have a third book as well, but I’m not going to know for sure until I finish this book, which could take a while considering I still have at least another 50,000 words to go.

That’s all I really have to share right now, I’m going to be working on the TINALS’ sequel throughout the rest of the year and I’d like to have a full first draft done by December, though that might be a little ambitious! I’m also hoping to finally get more done on Underground Magicians this month, I’ve had over a year away from it now and that doesn’t really seem to have helped my block any, so I want to go back to it and see if the time away has given me a fresh perspective on it.

Fellow writers, how has your writing been going? Anyone else struggling with querying right now? What projects are you working on? Let me know in the comments!

If you are a writer, and would like to do a guest post, or a Q&A or any other kind of post for me then please get in touch, I have spots open for this feature from August-December, so either drop me an email, my email address is jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or a DM on Twitter, my handle is @iloveheartlandX. You can talk about any writing related topic, the sky’s the limit, and it’s not limited to published or agented writers, if you write then I want to hear from you!

I’m hopefully going to have my first post of a new feature for this blog, comparing books to their movie adaptations up over the weekend, which should be the start of a fun new feature for this blog, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime for this feature, I’m going to have a guest post from a friend of mine, Amy McCaw, about her journey to finding an agent next month, so that should hopefully be very insightful and useful to those of us who are embarking on the querying rollercoaster!

Writing Corner: Q&A With Author Amanda Foody

Hi everyone! As you can probably tell from the picture at the top of this post, today is my stop on the blog tour for Amanda Foody’s new book, King of Fools. I’m super excited about this because I love Amanda’s books, and it was so much fun getting to ask questions about King of Fools, plus having another author on my blog is such a cool thing for me, so thank you so much to Amanda, and to her publicist Nina Douglas for setting this up. I hope you guys enjoy it and if you like content like this then please let me know and I will try to see what I can do to hopefully get more authors on here in the future. My questions are largely about King of Fools, with some more general ones about the Shadow Game series as well, but don’t worry if you haven’t read it yet, there are no spoilers here. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Shadow Game series, I’ll give you a quick basic rundown, it’s a trilogy, with King of Fools being the second book, set in a fantasy version of Atlantic City, where the streets are run by gangs. The main characters are Enne Salta, a finishing school dropout who travels to the City of Sin to find her missing mother and Levi Glaisyer, a gang lord who she ropes into help her. There’s a lot more that goes on than that, obviously, but hopefully that gives those of you who are not familiar with the series, a better idea of what Amanda is talking about in this post. Now onto the questions: 

  1. Q: King of Fools is the second book in your Shadow Game trilogy, did you find that the process of writing the second book differed at all from Ace of Shades? What were the major challenges in writing this book?

A: It was, by nature of circumstances, a very different process. I wrote Ace of Shades in high school, with far off aspirations of being published, and I rewrote it many times over the years as I improved as a writer. King of Fools had a publishing deal before it was written. It was drafted over two months on deadline, and I was both a different kind of writer and person than when I wrote the first book. The biggest challenge had to be the book’s length-it’s undoubtedly the longest book in the series, and the complexity of the story made every little change take me forever to implement.

2. Q: One of the things I love so much about the book is the wonderfully wide range of female characters, how important was it to you to show all these different kinds of women within your world?

A: Extremely! Even in a world of violence and crime, it was very important to me to have just as many women in the game as men.

3. Q: On that vein, which one of your female characters is your favourite to write? Who is the most difficult?

A: Vianca is my favourite, she’s so complicated, and so evil. The most difficult is Enne, who is also deeply complicated. Complicated is a lot harder when it’s through their POV, when their thoughts get jumbled among their many desires & contradictions. Enne lost everything in the first book, so she begins King with nothing–not a home, not security, not ambition. It was a lot easier to write characters like Levi and Jac–who did want a very definable thing–than to write the journey of a young woman finding herself.

4. Q: King of Fools introduces a lot of new characters to the world, how do you think these additions change the dynamics between the characters readers remember from Ace of Shades? Who do you think will be readers’ favourites?

A: It changes the dynamics a lot. In fact one of the hardest parts about talking about Ace of Shades was not being able to include so much of the new cast in King of Fools. We originally had this group of four–Enne, Levi, Jac and Lola. And now that’s expanded, and even more, it’s become this very complicated, multi-circled Venn Diagram. You have Enne, Lola, and Grace. Then you throw in Tock, Sophia, Narinder, Poppy. The questionable Bryce-Rebecca-Harvey trio. Not to mention all the new villains. I think Grace will inevitably be a fan favourite. Also Poppy. I’m personally very partial to Tock.

5. Q: There’s a lot of great exploration in King of Fools of women and power, particularly through Vianca and Enne, what interests you most about the relationship between women and power?

A: When women are powerful or successful, they have to prove they deserve it, over and over again. Because women don’t just “get” power. They have to be special in some way–maybe they’re uniquely cunning, uniquely ruthless or just uniquely lucky. Because the second they’re viewed as simply women, they’re dismissible. This is a pressure both Vianca and Enne have struggled with. Vianca was warped by it. She surrounded herself with men and went to constant efforts to prove herself to them through ruthlessness. Enne has surrounded herself with women and has proven herself through loyalty. I loved writing their relationship because these two women did identify with each other…to a point.

6. Q: Your books are wonderfully feminist, how would you say your feminism has influenced your writing in the Shadow Game series?

A: As a young girl, I had a wide variety of interests. I was focused in my academics, but I also loved arts, sport, fashion, books. I didn’t fit neatly into one category, and I quickly learned that the world loves to put women into categories. Hence the development of one of my least favourite phrases, “strong female character”. This label, originally only meant to denote a female character who was developed, not simply a prop, has twisted somehow to throw girls into two categories, strong and weak. Which has low-key deviated further into masculine and feminine. For most of my childhood, I identified with the main characters of books–usually bookish, quiet girls. I also identified with their bubbly best friends who liked clothes. Or the mean popular girl who cared too much about being liked. In fantasy, there were these warrior female characters, who used their strength not to lift other women up, but to diminish them.

I’ve thus made it my raison d’etre to write girls who do not fit into neat categories. Who surround themselves with women. Who cry and are vulnerable and sometimes want silly, useless things. These are the sort of female characters we should be lifting up–female characters who are not internalised models for the patriarchy.

In fact, I loved writing Vianca because I felt like in many ways, she was the epitome of the twisted version of “strong female character”. Ruthless. Oh so different from other women. More terrified of being called “weak” than being called “cruel”.

7. Q: King of Fools added Jac’s POV into the mix, how different was he to write from Levi and Enne?

A: At first I struggled with him. I had spent so many years with Levi, and Enne, of course Jac took some getting used to. But I very quickly fell in love with his voice and the perspective he added to this world and this story. Jac also gets what–in my opinion–is the most action-packed, highest stakes chapter in the book.

8. Q: You first came up for the idea for Ace of Shades when you were 16, did you know that it was going to end up being part of a trilogy? And if you did, how different was your initial conception of King of Fools to what the book ended up being?

A: I did! I usually know when I get my ideas whether they’ll end up as standalones, duologies, trilogies, or otherwise–even if I don’t necessarily know what comes next. Honestly, King of Fools was quite similar to how I always pictured it. Though I didn’t have everything figured out–I’m still figuring out what happens in the third book as I write it–there are some really big reveals that occur down the line that I knew King of Fools needed to build the framework for. So there were really two categories of characters in this book–characters that I knew because they are major players in the overall story, and characters who introduced themselves to me as I wrote and demanded a spot at the table.

9. Q: Are there any characters from the Shadow Game series that you’d love the opportunity to explore more once the series is done?

A: Apart from perhaps the occasional short story, the only story I’d be willing to write any sort of spinoff for is the tragic romance of Enne’s parents during the Great Street War. It’s not off the table, but it depends on so many factors–the success of the series, the willingness of my publisher, the desire from readers. We’ll see!

10. Q: What are you most proud of about King of Fools?

A: I’m most proud of Enne and Vianca! I loved writing their relationship. I’m also pretty proud of the RIDE that is my last four chapters. I held nothing back.

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she lives in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

www.amandafoody.com

Amanda Foody’s third novel, King of Fools, the sequel to 2018’s Ace of Shades is out now, so head to your local bookshop, Amazon, or wherever it is you get your books from and check it out.

I hope you all enjoyed this Q&A with Amanda Foody, and if you are a writer and would love to do a Q&A about your books or your writing with me (you don’t have to be published, I welcome all writers, published/unpublished, agented/unagented, if you write then I want to hear from you!), or do a guest post about your writing, then please get in touch with me via email: jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX. I have spots available from August-December, and the sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIP, writing process, agents/querying, whatever it is you want to talk about! 

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday post will be up later, so make sure to check that out, and I’ve got a few things planned for the next week or so, a review of We Are Blood and Thunder and a Jo Talks post, so you can expect those soon! I’m also going to have another post for this feature before the end of the month, as I told you guys last month, I’ll have a video from my friend Hannah (not my YALC friend Hannah, my other friend Hannah who is an author!), talking about finding a publisher and a publishing route that works for you. I’m going to be on her channel talking about writing as well, so I’ll let you know when that’s up and you can check that out too.

Writing Corner: Q&A With Author C.G. Drews

Hi everyone! I’m back for my Writing Corner post for April and I have a really exciting (well I hope you guys will find it exciting) post for you today! A few weeks ago I contacted C.G. Drews, who you guys will probably know better as PaperFury, one of the YA community’s most beloved and hilarious bloggers & now a brilliant YA author to see if she wanted to do an interview for this feature and very happily for me (and hopefully for you guys as well), she agreed! So I sent her over some questions about her new book The Boy Who Steals Houses (which came out in the UK on Thursday) and her general experience in writing and publishing, and I have her answers here for you guys today, so I hope you enjoy them:

  1. Q: Could you for anyone reading this, who may never have heard of The Boy Who Steals Houses, give a short summary of what the book is about?

A: It’s about a homeless teen named Sam, who breaks into houses when the owners are away on holidays–not to steal, but just to live. He and his autistic brother Avery are actual disasters who make terrible decisions, but they love each other fiercely and Sam protects his brother like nothing else. Then Sam messes up and steals a house that isn’t truly empty and ends up entangled in the lives of a big messy family. He craves this life, but if they find out why he’s homeless and what’s he’s running from, he’ll lose it all.

2. Q: Both of your books have retelling aspects to them, what attracted you to this method of storytelling? Do you have any particular favourite retellings?

A: I love retellings because you already get the bare bones of a structure….then you get to renovate and rebuild and let your imagination go wild! I definitely am fond of Goldilocks, which The Boy Who Steals Houses is based around, but I’d also love to do a Sleeping Beauty retelling one day too. Or the Seven Swans!

3. Q: You are based in Australia, and obviously your agent and publisher are based in the UK, are there any difficulties to having a transcontinental relationship with your publishing team?

A: It’s been great actually! The only downsides are waiting for things to come in the mail (contracts, proof copies, finished copies etc.) and how I end up staying up way too late waiting for emails since my sleeping time is when my agent/editor are working! It’d be nice to go over someday and meet my publishers though.

4. Q: You’ve been on both sides of the author/blogger relationship now, what have you had to change about your blogging, if anything, now that you are an author?

A: It’s definitely been an adjustment moving away from the wild and sparkly blogging life…over to the author life. I made the decision to stop doing negative reviews, because as an author, I felt it was a bit off to be critiquing my peers. I also have less time to blog because of writing and edits. But my blogging family is just the bessst and shout out to the whole blogging community for being masters at reviews and discussions and boosting new authors. I owe so much to their love!

5. Q: Like your characters in TBWSH, you also have autism and anxiety, do you have any recommendations for other books you’ve read with characters who have these conditions that you feel are good representation (from your own experiences)? 

A: I absolutely loved being able to weave things I’ve experienced into this novel! I wanted to write my experiences and feelings, but not put myself on the page, so that was an interesting balance to find. Sam, my narrator, has an anxiety disorder while his brother, Avery, has autism. There are endless ways these neurodiversities can present, but I’m particularly keen to find other books that represent them in non-problematic ways! I definitely recommend the autobiographies of Autism In Heels by Jennifer O’Toole and Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate by Cynthia Kim. And for YA fiction, Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik, Queens of Geek, by Jen Wilde, When My Heart Joins The Thousand by A.J. Steiger and Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare—all have great autism representation!

6. Q: I’ve done a whole post about my writing inspirations, but who were yours? Do you think you can see their influence in their own work?

A: I really look up to authors like Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor and Tahereh Mafi for their gorgeous prose and lush styles. I adore Cassandra Clare’s banter, and Adam Silvera’s wringing of hearts. And I must shout out to the fairy tales of the world for being so fun to rework too haha.

7. Q: We’ve talked writing inspirations, but where also do you look to when you’re needing to refill the creative well?

A: I read! So, so much. If I’m feeling uninspired–it’s time to devour a book, or ten (or one hundred and ten?!). I also love listening to music, anything from epic movie soundtracks to Imagine Dragons or Clean Bandit. And I mean who isn’t inspired by cake? I am. It is a gift.

8. Q: What do you know now about the publishing process that you wish you’d known going into it? 

A: That you need a lot of patience! And it’s not always the magical, glittery journey that you think other authors experience all the time. There’s plenty of downs as well as ups and it pays to have a support network in your life who can distract you with cookies.

9. Q: I know you don’t know what’s coming next for you publishing wise, but what are you working on right now?

A: I’m playing around with a bit of a passion project that involves dark woods and pretty monsters….and I’m always working on another dark contemporary or two!

10. Q: What advice would you give to young writers looking to get into publishing?

A: Definitely: KEEP WRITING. If you don’t feel “good enough” or your project gets rejected—keep writing. You get better the more you write and you have endless chances to get published. My first book that went on submission to editors was rejected, but my second novel was A Thousand Perfect Notes and it landed me a two book deal which changed my world. So always keep going, I believe in you.

Thanks so much for answering all my questions Cait, I’ve loved reading your blog for about two/three years now and it’s so wonderful, I can’t wait to keep following your publishing journey!

C.G. Drews

C.G. Drews lives in Australia with her piano and the goal of reading every book in existence. Consequently, her brain has overflowed with words and she spends her days writing novels to make you laugh or cry (or both). She never sleeps and believes in cake for breakfast.

She blogs at paperfury.com.

C.G. Drews’ second novel The Boy Who Steals Houses is out now, so head to your local bookshop, Amazon or wherever it is you get you books from and check it out!

I hope you all enjoyed this Q&A with C.G. Drews, and if you are writer and would love to do a Q&A about your books or your writing with me, or do a guest post about your writing, then please get in touch with me via email: jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX. I have spots available from August-December and the sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIP, your writing process, agents/querying, whatever it is you want to talk about.

I’m going to have my latest Top Ten Tuesday post up for you guys tomorrow, so stay tuned for that and I’m finally done with my Uni work, so expect a lot more posts from me in the coming weeks! As for this feature, I’m going to be sharing a video from my friend, author H.T. King next month, she’s going to be talking about finding a publisher, and a publishing route that works for you so that should be a really good one. I’m also appearing on her YouTube channel talking about my writing, so I’ll let you know when that’s up & you can go watch that (please support it guys, you have no idea how terrifying filming myself was, I’m very self-conscious about how my voice sounds on video, hence why I’ve never been a BookTuber!).

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Corner: Writing For Pleasure Vs Writing For Work

Hi everyone! I’m back for another Writing Corner post this month, but never fear, I have guests lined up for the next two months, so that should be really exciting, next month I’m going to have a Q&A from author C.G. Drews (who a lot of you will know as PaperFury), so that’s going to be really brilliant, I hope you guys really enjoy that one, I’ll have it up in the next couple of weeks. Today however, you get another post from me, this time I’m going to be talking about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and that’s Writing For Pleasure and Writing For Work. As an author, journalist and blogger, my writing is pretty evenly divided between work and pleasure, but the lines can often be quite blurry, which is what I wanted to talk about today.

I love writing obviously, I wouldn’t want to be an author, or be doing or Journalism, or even doing this blog if I didn’t. So naturally, writing brings me pleasure, whether I’m doing it for work or for my own free time. However I definitely approach my writing differently depending on whether I’m doing it for work or for myself.

As much as I enjoy Journalism, I approach it as my job. It’s not something that I’m doing for fun and nothing else, I’m doing my Journalism course at Uni with the aim of getting a job in the field someday. I’ve loved writing my pieces for my Project and I’m very passionate about the topic I’ve chosen (period poverty)  but the ultimate aim of doing this is to get my degree and hopefully get a job in the future, I would not be writing these articles if I didn’t need to for my degree. The same goes for The National Student, I love writing for them, but I approach it as a job, I have deadlines and word counts that I need to adhere to, and it’s a way of gaining more experience before I graduate, writing for The National Student isn’t something I do as a hobby in my downtime, it’s something that I’ve chosen to do to further my career.

My fiction writing is slightly different because it somewhat straddles the two. At the moment, I’m not published, I’m not agented or anything like that, so whatever I write, it is mostly for me and my own pleasure, there’d be no point writing my WIP if I didn’t enjoy it because at the moment it’s largely for me. However this has changed over the last year or so, as I’ve started to get more serious about publishing. I still have fun writing my WIP, nothing has changed there, but the end goal is different, I’m not just working on this book for me, I’m working on it because I want it to be read by people, I want to get an agent and I want to get published. This means that as I’ve been going through the editing process, I’ve been thinking more and more about what other people will want to see from my book, how I can make it the best it can be so that it can eventually make it’s way into readers’ hands. In other words, my WIP has become less of something I do simply in my leisure time and more of a work project, in the same way that my articles are.

When it comes to the different things I write, blogging is definitely my leisure outlet. That isn’t to say that it’s not a lot of work, because it is: I spend a lot of time working on my blog, making sure that it is entertaining to read and that it looks the best that it can. But there’s no sort of work pressure to it, I can update or not update my blog as and when I choose to, any kind of pressure that I put on myself and my blog is purely internal. Blogging is a great thing to have, because unlike journalism or fiction writing, it’s not something that I’m looking to do as a career, it’s just something fun that I like to do to share my love of books.

Blogging also fits into things I do for pleasure already anyway, I love reading, so reading books for the blog is a purely pleasure based thing, it never feels like work and I’ve always loved to share my thoughts on the books I read anyway so having reviewing as an outlet is pretty great for me as I can automatically spill out my thoughts about a book onto the blog when I’m doing reading.

There’s nothing to say that you can’t enjoy your work, in fact, I’m sure that most people would agree that the ideal is to be able to combine both work and pleasure, that’s why people want to go into jobs that fit their areas of interest. However, I do think that it’s important to have an outlet outside of your work so that the thing you enjoy doesn’t constantly feel like you’re doing work. I love writing but often it can feel like a chore when I’m writing articles, or even when I’m working on my WIP because my focus there is very much, “I need to do this because I want to work in this field”.

It’s so important to have boundaries between work and hobbies, especially when you really enjoy what you do. I have found this, because I spend so much time doing what I enjoy for work, often I feel like I don’t actually want to write when I have down time because it’s so often what I’m doing when I’m working. This is why I like to have different outlets for writing that are unrelated to work, because it means that in my downtime, I can remind myself that I really do enjoy writing and do things, like my blog that are just for my own personal enjoyment and don’t really have any kind of work aspect (beyond what I would usually do, reading ARCs doesn’t feel like work to me because it’s reading and that’s my main downtime hobby anyway!). I also feel like it’s incredibly important to have hobbies outside of writing as well, especially if you do it for work as well as pleasure because you can start feeling burned out by it if you’re doing it all the time.

Writing for work and pleasure definitely don’t have to be mutually exclusive, you can do both and do both well but there has to be some sort of separation between your writing for work and writing for pleasure in order for neither to feel like a chore (at least in my experience) & I think downtime away from writing is key to maintaining enjoyment within your work.

If you are a writer, do you find it hard to strike a balance between writing for work and pleasure? Do you ever feel burned out by writing? What do you do in your time away from writing? Let me know in the comments!

As I’ve already said, I’m going to have a Q&A with C.G. Drews as my next post for this feature and that’s going to be up very soon, in about two weeks, to coincide with the release of her new book so keep your eyes peeled for that. In the meantime though, I will have a new Top Ten Tuesday post up on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that!

Writing Corner: On How Writing For Different Platforms Helps With Fiction

Hi everyone! Yes. it is me, I am hoping to keep the guest posts from last month coming as a more regular thing on this feature, but as I couldn’t find anyone for February, you’re stuck with me again. I think today’s post should be pretty interesting though, I’m going to be talking about my experiences writing on different platforms and how I think these have helped me become a better fiction writer.

It’s no secret that I write A LOT. I’m a blogger, I write for student news website The National Student, my entire degree is writing based, and of course I have my novel, so honestly, there aren’t many points in a given day where I’m not writing something or other. And obviously practice makes perfect when it comes to writing, so any writing you do is good practice for writing a novel, but I think that particularly writing on different platforms and in different forums has been really important for me as a writer, for several different reasons.

Firstly, voice. Voice is something that a lot of writers can struggle with, finding the right voice for your character and making sure that comes through in your work is hard. However, I think that writing for different platforms has made it much easier for me to pick up that skill. For one thing, so much of Journalism is tailoring the voice of your piece to your audience. You’ll want your article to read a different way depending on the platform that your work will be accessed through, the “voice” is different for every paper, articles from The Guardian don’t read the same as the Daily Mail, or The Independent and that’s because as a journalist, you have to learn to write for your audience, and your audience is going to be different depending on where you write for, meaning that you have to get very good at tailoring your voice to the audience. This is obviously a massive help when it comes to writing fiction because the same rules apply, you’re going to want a different voice if you’re writing for a YA audience as compared to an adult audience, or an MG audience, or a younger child audience. Being able to change the voice you write in is also very useful if you write in multiple character POVs, so that the two do not sound exactly the same, and this is another place where my journalism skills have come in handy, when writing my novel, I imagine what I want the audience to see in my characters, and tailor their voice to that, just as I would do when writing an article for a specific audience.

Blogging, believe it or not, is also quite helpful for developing voice in stories, albeit in a different way. When I write my blog posts, I want it to feel as if I am talking to you, like we could just be sitting and having a conversation, and I’ve tried to carry this over to my fiction as well, as that was something that was really important to me when writing This Is Not A Love Story, I didn’t want it to feel like my audience would just be sitting there watching Tiffany and Cam go through the motions, I wanted it to feel like they could be sitting with the two of them and listening to them tell their own story. I don’t know how successful I’ve been with that, but that was the intention anyway!

Journalistic writing has been a massive help in making my writing more concise. I mean being concise isn’t as much of a requirement in fiction as it is in journalism, but personally, I hate authors that waffle on with unnecessary description that isn’t really needed, so when I write my book now, I keep the lessons that I’ve learned from Journalism in mind and make sure that every word I use has a point and I’m not waffling on for the sake of it!

Writing on different platforms also gives my brain a break when I’m getting bogged down in one of my stories. If I don’t feel like working on TINALS or Underground Magicians or the sequel to TINALS, then I can come here and write a blog post, or write something for The National Student, and I’m still flexing that writing muscle, but it gives me a chance to work on something else and let plot issues bubble over in the back of my brain whilst I’m doing so. It also adds some variety to my writing life that I’m not always constantly working on fiction and I think that in turn makes me a better writer because you need different skills to be a great journalist or a great blogger than you do to be an author, but there are lessons that you can learn from each which make you better at the others.

It does have it’s downsides, spending so much time writing, means that sometimes my hobby feels like a chore, and I do have to remind myself that it is something that I find fun and I’m not just doing it to get a degree or for my future career, I’m doing it because I love it. I think it’s very important to have hobbies outside of writing as well, especially when you spend as much time writing as I do, because you don’t want to feel completely burned out by it.

So yeah, basically, I would really recommend writing for different audiences and different platforms if you are a fiction writer, it gives you more flexibility, you can learn transferable skills from writing for different purposes, it allows you to have some variety in your writing and plus, it can just be fun sometimes to try your hand at writing different things!

If you are a writer, have you ever tried writing something outside of your normal remit? Anyone else do Journalism like me? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have my Top Ten Tuesday post up for you guys tomorrow, and also Wednesday is my fifth blogaversary, so I’m going to have a very special Jo Talks post up to celebrate that milestone, so stay tuned for those in the next few days!

Writing Corner: Guest Post-Madeline Dyer on Writing With Chronic Illness

Hi guys! I’m so excited about today’s post, because I actually didn’t write it (except this introduction)! As you can see from the title at the top, this is my first ever guest post for BookLoversBlog, a super exciting step for me and one that I hope can continue because I love getting to connect with other bloggers and writers and have them share their experiences, there is such a wide world of writers out there with different experiences to mine and I want to make sure that is reflected in this feature. 

Which brings me quite nicely onto today’s topic. Madeline Dyer is a YA writer, who has several chronic illnesses, so when she suggested writing a guest post about her experiences of writing with chronic illness, I thought it was a great idea. I hope that any of my followers who are also writers with chronic illness find her advice helpful! So here we go, I hope you enjoy Madeline’s post: 

Being a Writer When You’re Chronically Ill

Ask any writer, and he or she will tell you there are many articles and videos out there, advising us on what we need to do to be a writer. There are checklists you can tick off, schedules you can use to divide up your writing and editing time, and many top tips that other writers swear by. The most popular pieces of advice, in my experience, seem to be ‘write every day’ and ‘treat writing as a job’, as well as ‘don’t give up your day-job’—but when you’re also dealing with a chronic illness, a lot of these tips either don’t apply to your situation or they make you feel like you’re failing because you physically can’t meet the expectations that these articles put on you.

Reading all these articles and lists made me feel as if I could never be considered a proper writer because there were many things on them that I simply couldn’t do as I am chronically ill. The fact of the matter is much of the advice out there assumes that you’re able-bodied and in good health, and when you’re not, it can feel a little bit lonely and discouraging. And, so, I was inspired to write this post, for all the writers out there who are also managing a chronic illness.

Here are my top pieces of advice regarding how to be a writer when you’re chronically ill:

Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t write every day.

 This is the big one, in my opinion. It’s so easy to think that you should be writing at every available opportunity and thus feel like a failure if you haven’t written that day (or week, or month, etc.). But if you’re having a bad time with your illness and you need to rest, then that’s what you need to do: rest. Don’t push yourself and use up that all-important energy. Your health has to come first, and there’s nothing for you to feel bad about for taking a rest-day instead of working on that manuscript. After all, if you push and push yourself, it’ll take longer to recover and you’ll end up writing less overall.

It’s okay not to write.

Similarly, if you’re not well enough to write at all for a period of time, that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer. You are still a writer.

Set Manageable Goals.

On the days when you are well enough to write, set realistic goals that you know you can meet without making your health worse. Before I became chronically ill, I could easily write 5,000 words a day, and often it was closer to 7,000. That was the pace at which I wrote, and I’d feel like I hadn’t done enough if I’d only written 3,000 words.

When I developed chronic illnesses and was diagnosed with ‘invisible’ disabilities and auto-immune disorders, I simply could not keep up that pace without making my health suffer a lot. It was soul-crushing at first, as I could remember how easily I used to write so many words before. I felt like a failure in the one thing (writing) that I thought I could still do (I’d already had to give up many hobbies and activities). But the problem was that I was using my previous goals as a measure of my current success, even though before I was healthy and now I am not. Those word count goals were set before—before the fatigue and the fainting, the brain fog and chronic pain, the headaches and joint dislocations.

I struggle with maintaining an upright posture now, due to dysautonomia, and my fatigue and joint-pain from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome make writing really difficult. Because of these factors, I’ve had to make my goals more manageable. On my good days, I now aim for around 500-1,000 words, and I know that realistically I’ll only manage this a couple of days a week—and that’s if the week is a good week. Many weeks, I’m unable to write at all, and even on my good days, I can’t go on writing for hours on end, like I used to.

The important thing here is acknowledging that your goals have to change to reflect your health. If you don’t change them, not only will you risk harming yourself by pushing yourself too far, but you’ll also feel terrible when you fail to meet your unreasonably-high expectations.

Physically, I’m not expected to do all the things I used to do—for example, doctors have said that horse-riding and athletics are too dangerous for me now—so it’s important to realise that we can’t be expected to write at the same speed as before too. Chronic illness isn’t something that only affects one part of your life; it affects everything, and adjustments have to be made everywhere.

Let others know what you’re dealing with, where possible. Especially those you work with, such as critique partners and editors.

If you’ve been given a tight deadline that you know is going to be difficult to make, then talk to the other people involved. Let them know you have a chronic illness. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. I’m a firm believer that it’s best to be upfront right from the start about having an illness or condition that could affect your work, so that others don’t place unreasonable expectations on you and so adjustments can be made if needed.

Don’t compare yourself to other writers

This applies to healthy writers too. It’s never wise to compare yourself or the state of your career to that of another. It’s just not a good idea. And it’s especially not a good idea to compare your career to that of an author who’s just completed four book tours, had two books launch this year, and is appearing at all the big cons, if you’re unable to do these things—either at all or at that pace—due to factors which are out of your control.

Whatever you’re managing to do for your writing career, whether it’s writing a paragraph or reading through an edit letter is a huge achievement when you’re managing chronic illness, and I feel like we need to celebrate these things more. So be proud of what you can do despite being chronically ill, and know that your worth isn’t dependent on your productivity.

Know that you’re not alone.

There are many other writers out there who are dealing with chronic illness too, and often just finding them and talking with them can help immensely. It’s certainly helped me feel less lonely, and I’ve been able to swap illness-specific tips with many writers who are also facing similar challenges.

 

Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in the southwest of England, where she hangs out with her Shetland ponies and writes young adult books—sometimes, at the same time. She holds a BA Honors degree in English from the University of Exeter, and several presses have published her fiction. Madeline has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and she can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes.

 Discover Madeline’s books at http://madelinedyer.co.uk/fiction/

Madeline’s books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Untamed-Book-1-Madeline-Dyer-ebook/dp/B01MS5264O/

I hope you all enjoyed Madeline’s post, and if you are a writer, I am looking for more guest posts for this feature, so please get in touch with me via email, jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX, if you have an idea that you would like to write about, I want to hear it! The sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIPs, your writing process, things that affect your writing life, basically anything you want. 

I’m going to have a new review up for you tomorrow, it’s finally time to share my review of Firestarter, the last book in the Timekeeper trilogy, as its release date is on Tuesday, so I’m super excited for that. I will also have a new Top Ten Tuesday up on Tuesday, so lots to look forward to in the coming week. As for this feature, I’m hoping to have a post up about how writing for different platforms helps improve my writing before the end of the month, so stay tuned for all of that!