Location, location, location.

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I don’t know how other authors pick locations. But here’s an insight into how I do it.

1. I’ve lived there (or at least visited.)

Some of the locations featured in my stories are places I’ve been which spoke to me in some way.

Windermere/Grasmere in the Grasmere Trilogy is a prime example. The Lake District, in general, is one of my favourite places in the entire world. If I could live anywhere, it would probably be there.

2. Plot Led.

Found You is probably the greatest example from my books. I knew the story had to be set in Florida. The Keys was honestly the only place that would fit what I had in mind for the novella.

And, I fell in love with the Keys while researching for Found You.

CHICKENS!

3. My Bucket List.

Last, but not least, I pick places I’ve always wanted to visit. When I was younger (6 weeks old to 21 years old), I travelled quite extensively. I’ve been to twenty plus countries and lived in five.

I’ve always had a little bucket list of places I wanted to go. And hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to travel again. It’s been ages since I visited another country.

The Sin Bin is the best example of this one. Cornwall is a place that I’ve always wanted to spend a lot of time at. I think we went there when I was a baby, but I obviously can’t remember, so I don’t count it.

Researching the series was great fun for me because I got to vicariously live in the lovely villages that I’ve longed to see.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but those are definitely my top three.

How about you? If you’re a writer, how do you pick the setting of your story?

For readers, how important is the setting?

Balance

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If 2018 had a word for me, it would be unbalanced. At least, that’s how the last six months of the year have gone. You know when you set goals/deadlines for yourself, and things start to pile up? And then it’s like a snowball rolling downhill, and you’re the target?

That was me.

So, for obvious reasons, my goal for 2019 is ‘balance’.

Balance in writing. Balance in my personal life. All about balance.

(How many times can I use the word balance in one post?)

My plan is to tackle this issue in a few ways.

I don’t know about other authors, but I struggle with all recommendations for ‘how an author should author.’ All those ‘experts’ who have the latest greatest advice. I think you have to be careful not to fall down every single rabbit hole with them.

And it is SO hard not to.

There’s always the latest greats ‘everyone is signing up for it’ new social media app or site. Mewe anyone?

Here’s the truth we never want to accept. You can’t be on EVERY single site. You can’t follow every piece of advice. You can’t be all things to all people (I think Lincoln said that.)

You just can’t.

There’s only so much of my brain power I can give.

I’m autistic, balance is crucial for me. If I push myself too far, I shut down. It’s horrible for my health to continue pushing and pushing.

That was 2018 for me.

Unhealthy.

So, 2019?

All about that bass…I mean balance.

What’s your word for 2019?

 

The Poisonous Influence of Perfection.

Me to my brain:
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Perfection is a toxic poison that strangles out my creativity.

And really, it’s less about perfection in the end product of my writing–and more about attempting to be expectations I’ve set up for myself of what I think others can do–or think I should do.

It’s a theme that has followed me throughout my adult life working first in restaurants, then as a teacher, and later in insurance.

A theme I didn’t truly understand before learning I’m autistic.

I’ve always needed to demonstrate my abilities at work. Striving to be the best. Not to overshadow others, but more to appear capable. I’ve had a fear of seeming unable to manage: work or life.

And as a result, I work myself to the point of exhaustion.

It’s a trend that followed me into writing.

Setting schedules and deadlines I can’t possibly manage.

Overachieving.

It’s not a bad thing, necessarily.

It is when you’re ignoring your health.

Autistics, at least from my personal experience as one, tend to battle inner ableism. This little voice that tells me I’ve not only got to be at the same level as non-autistic authors but better. It’s poison.

It really is.

The same inner voice that tells me I don’t need help or accommodation when I do.

It eats away at your accomplishments and makes missed goals or deadlines seem like monumentally massive failures.

This year, I managed to almost double my word count.

Brilliant, right? Except not, I didn’t take the breaks between projects that I usually do. I’ve ended up not enjoying writing as usual.

And the last two novels I’ve worked on have been a painful slog until the bitter end.

Next year, one of my biggest focuses will be to enjoy myself with writing.

Deadlines are important and so are word counts, but I can’t write myself into a serious health issue again.

 

 

Nope, No, Never.

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Everyone has advice on how to manage your social media. Everyone. People sell books, hundreds (just do a check on Amazon.) And like tips on writing, tips on book selling/promoting can often be contradictory. And, I’m grumpy enough to usually avoid jumping on the bandwagon.

One: I hear quite frequently is that you should always link all your social media accounts, mainly FB, Twitter, and Instagram, for crossposting.

Here’s why I disregard that:

  1. Linking accounts creates a nightmare if you are ever hacked.
  2. 50% of the time the hyperlinks created via crossposting wind up not functioning correctly.
  3. Each social media platform has a distinct vibe. Things I post on FB don’t necessarily reach a Twitter audience.

Having said all of that, I will occasionally copy/paste posts between FB and Twitter, but very rarely.

Two:  People often recommend an app that auto-shares a post to all your FB groups.

I’m not a fan, personally. I prefer having control over what posts where.  You also run the risk of promoting in a non-promo group or promoting the wrong book. For example, promoting a non-paranormal novel in a paranormal group.

Three (or maybe Two B): Another App is an Auto-Retweeting on Twitter one.

Here’s why I think that can have disastrous consequences. You’re surrendering control of what winds up posted on your account. What happens if you wind up retweeting a post about someone’s personal grief over the death of a loved one?  Or, retweeting one you actually disagree with?

Also, I’m a control freak.

I want to know what I’m sharing.

Four: Don’t be too personal. (Or transversally, always be yourself.) I’ve heard marketing/promoting experts offer both schools of thought.

I firmly believe, for better or worse, you should always be yourself.

Readers will be drawn to who you are. And if they aren’t, they probably won’t enjoy your book. Books are an extension of ourselves in many ways.

Last but not least, Five: Creating Teasers.

Granted, creating teaser images doesn’t quite fall into the same category as all the others. It’s an important one. If you’re going to use images to promote your book, be sure you have the right/permission to do so.

Seriously.

It can save you a world of hurt if you get sued.

Also, it’s disrespectful to the photographer if you’re using their work without permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Bad Reviews Taught Me.

Bad reviews taught me not to read them. Seriously. True story. I do my best to avoid reading bad reviews. Not always successful but I try.

Here are a few reasons why:

– I don’t want it in my head. It’s a case of ‘author know thyself.’ I’m not someone who thrives on criticism, I know some people do, not me. It’s crushing. So, I just don’t see a need to push that into my brain.

– Reviews are for readers–not authors. End of story. Once my precious word baby goes out into the wild, the response to it is out of my control.

(And don’t get me wrong, good reviews are lovely. I’m always thrilled and beyond grateful if someone loves my work. But, writing is an art and art is subjective. Not everyone will enjoy my style of putting words together. *shrugs* The world doesn’t end when that happens. Though, I will eat a lot of ice cream to feel better. Don’t judge me.)

Watching other authors react to their reviews has also taught me something important.

Never. EVER. Respond to a negative review.

Seriously.

Ever.

Nothing good can ever come from it.

How about you? If you’re an author, do you read bad reviews or avoid them?

If you’re a reader, are reviews important to you when selecting books?

 

A Bridge for Sale in Brooklyn

A week has passed since the RT Convention. My thoughts have settled. Well, at the very least, I no longer want to hide from people forever. Large conferences aren’t the natural habitat of an autistic like myself.

I managed it, somehow, at the very least.

Workshops were a large aspect of the convention, many geared toward writers. It’s taken a week for my thoughts to clear. I’ve come to the conclusion that my opinion on advice on writing remains unchanged.

Whenever ask for my advice on the subject of writing, I usually say: “Take all advice on writing with a healthy grain of salt.

I might have to expand it ever so slightly.

Take all advice in general with a grain of salt.

Why?

I went to multiple workshops every day of the convention, barring maybe one day when I’d just reached my limit of sensory input. Just on the subject of series vs. serials vs. standalone, everyone had their opinions on what every author should do.

Author A believed writing a series to be a waste of time because no one read them anymore. Author B insisted that readers hate standalone novels and only want to read long series.  Author C suggested a serial worked much better than a series.

Then there was of course suggestions on how to write in general.

Write what you know.

Write what you don’t know.

Write what you love.

Write what you fear.

For fuck’s sake, just fucking write. I often wonder if the adage of ‘those who can’t, teach’ isn’t a tiny bit true with writing. I’m always wary though of people who try to sell me their tried and true method as the ‘God’s honest truth.’ All the sage experienced author wisdom can occasionally amount to nothing more than pissing in the wind, particular if you never actually put words on paper.

If you’ve got a story in you, all the writer tips from others won’t get your words out of you. They can’t put your pen on your manuscript and bleed for you. You have to do the work.

Is all advice on writing shit?

Of course not.

Should you listen to everyone?

Of course not.

There are brilliant resources out there if you want to be a better writer. I even learned a bunch from some of the RT workshops. The key, I believe, is to be selective on what you allow to influence you.

I’m a sceptic in the body of an optimist. Whenever someone has the best ever shiny new way to do something, I’m always immediately hopeful yet equally distrustful.  The trouble is, if you wait six months, someone’s going to have a new shiny to sell to you. It’s never ending.

So what to do?

Trust your gut instincts. Write what and how works best for you (not for someone else). Be open to advice, but not so open you begin to morph into someone else. Readers can sense inauthenticity (and they don’t like it.)

 

Neil Gaiman says it better than I do:

“The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” — Neil Gaiman

 

Writing Advice.

TheEnd

When asked for writing advice, I usually say ‘take all writing advice with a grain of salt.’  The reason for this is that as a good friend of mine would say, ‘mileage may vary.’  As with just about everything in life, writing is not a one size fits all endeavor.  Watching the #writetip hashtag on twitter is always fascinating–insightful–humorous.  Within less than an hour, I was advised to:

  1. Write what I love.
  2. Write what I know.
  3. Write what scares me.
  4. Write what I don’t know.

Perhaps, the best advise boils down to one simple thing–just write.

Doesn’t matter how you do it (as long as you aren’t plagiarizing, because that’s bad–and also illegal), for who or why.  The words on paper (or keyboard) are what matter.  I’ve said this before I’m quite sure I have.  But it doesn’t hurt to repeat it.

If you want to be a writer…write.

Nothing more or less complicated than that to it.

There are a multitude of courses, books, retreats which will make you a better writer.  I have no doubts about it.  We can always learn something.

But it will..in the end…come back to one simple thing.

Words. On. Paper.

So…how do you become a writer?

You sit your arse in a chair and write until the story is finished.