The Ups and Downs of being a Writer

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It’s tough being a writer. We are constantly putting our work out there and peeking from behind laced fingers as the reviews roll in, fearing that stray comment that might cut us to the quick. Writers need the hide of a rhinoceros and if you don’t have one yet, you’d better develop one because the life of a writer is not an easy one.

Climbing a mountain

It’s human nature to want to compare yourself to others. It’s also a less attractive part of human nature to want to do better than others. I’m all for having a plan of what you would like to achieve but plans should be adaptable to life’s twists and turns and if you have the basics heat, food, love is the rest really so important?

That said we all chase the figures – numbers of sales, amount of money earned, the number of likes on a page, the number of followers etc., and if we are not too careful this obsession can get out of hand. I’m not saying these things aren’t important but we need to be careful not to obsess over them. I know writers who are constantly logging on to track their sales. The trouble with this is that their mood then tends to be dictated by whether the figures are good or bad. If the figures are good they are at least temporarily happy but if the figures are bad they then start obsessing over why the figures are bad, why don’t people like their books, are they a bad writer and so it goes on.

Figures

Sales go up and down. That’s market forces for you. It doesn’t mean you are a bad writer and your books suck it just means someone else is doing better than you. It’s not you, it’s them. They are having their time in their sun. They have worked hard. They deserve it so don’t begrudge them and don’t catastrophise the situation and dramatically declare you are quitting like one of my friends did recently. Just get back to the keyboard and write. One day, with a bit of luck, it’ll be your turn.

I have always taken quite a sanguine view of the peaks and troughs of my writing career. I find a good sense of humour goes a long way. Here’s a great example, recently I have been trying to build my Twitter followers. I’m doing this organically, no bought in follows or automated this and that. I don’t bombard people with direct messages and I play nice. I’m really pleased at how well it’s been going. I’m not setting the Twittersphere alight but that was never my aim. As I ticked past another milestone I allowed myself a few moments of satisfaction. Then I spotted a basset hound with their own Twitter handle. Every part of my being told me not to look but of course I could not resist. The basset hound had at least 1,000 followers on me (probably double that by now). It was one of those laugh or cry moments. I chose to laugh loudly at the absurdity of it all. And so should you.

Mad world

Happy writing!

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White Lies by Ellie Holmes http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

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Being Social

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Writers today, whether trad, indie or both, need to have a social media presence. It’s another thing on the stuff to do list but hopefully more enjoyable than doing your filing or your tax return.

Before I launched my writing career I had no social media and it was a sharp learning curve. I opted for the main players – Twitter and Facebook and chose to add Pinterest into the mix as well.

I had thought Pinterest would be my favourite because it allowed you to be creative, producing Pinterest boards for various subjects, people or themes. I had thought Twitter would be my least favourite. I’m a 100k kind of girl. I don’t do short. I thought Facebook would fall somewhere in between.

Social media2

What did I know?

I do love Pinterest but I find it time consuming so tend to create boards in spurts and then have a break from it. I daresay I’m doing it all wrong but hey that’s part of the fun right? I don’t take my social media too seriously as you may have guessed. Life’s too short and there are too many other important things to be getting on with like writing.

Pinterest is great for creating boards as companion pieces for my books, however. That is a piece of escapism I enjoy after the hard graft of a book is done and it makes you see your book in a purely visual way which adds an interesting dimension.

Facebook has been a bit of a drag for me. I have lots of friends. I have a page that many people like so that’s nice. I don’t engage with it anywhere near as much as I should because I find it boring (oops! Did I actually write that?). It is not my social media of choice. I try to energise myself to get on there and take part but I never seem to be able to sustain it in a meaningful way.

And that leaves Twitter. Ah, Twitter. Remember I said I thought Twitter would be my least favourite? Ha! Turns out, I love it. I am on it most days and find it the easiest platform to use, the most engaging and interesting to be a part of and most importantly, for me at least, it’s fun.

Twitter

I put up links to my blog on Twitter – some of you may have found your way here from there. I put up articles that I find entertaining and so am keen to share. They don’t always relate to writing in fact I would say it’s a pretty even split between writing and non writing subjects. I tweet about the things I enjoy and which interest me and yes I do put up tweets about my books but they do not make up the majority of what I share with my followers, they probably account for less than a third of my content.

There will be lots of writers out there who, with very serious faces, will tell you how you should sell, sell, sell on all these platforms. They will probably tell you that you should be on at least another three I haven’t mentioned and possibly double that. Yeah, well. As I said above life’s too short etc.,

Don’t go on social media expecting to sell books. Go on social media to engage with other people, get caught up in debates, have a laugh and a joke, ‘meet’ interesting people, reach out to someone who is having a hard time, share the joy of someone who is celebrating an achievement and most of all have FUN. Enjoy the human interaction and you never know you may just sell a few books along the way, too.

Being social

Happy writing!

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White Lies by Ellie Holmes http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

 

Making a note…

Writers love notebooks, right? We have various designs and colours, some with pens, some without. Diaries and planners also feature widely in our collections. We are magpies when it comes to stationery – always searching out the latest, brightest designs.

coffee-flowers-notebook-work-desk-162584

But it doesn’t really matter what the notebook looks like. As a writer, what really matters is how you use it.

A few weeks ago we had a spell of snowy weather in the UK. The temperature dropped but felt colder still because of the wind chill factor. We do not often get snow as deep as the falls we did this year and whilst we are used to cold temperatures, the howling winds from Siberia were a new and unpleasant experience. I had forgotten how hard it is to walk through deep snow. I had forgotten the craving for carbs that takes over in cold conditions. I had forgotten the harsh sting of a biting wind and the ruby red glow of entering a warm house; the simple joy of consuming a mug of hot chocolate. All of these things have made their way into my notebooks now.

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At present, I don’t have a character I am planning to expose to similar weather conditions but when I do, I won’t have to rely on unreliable memory banks for the thoughts, feelings or sounds of winter.

When going somewhere new, I always try to carry a notebook with me. Whether I am visiting a far flung country or a local beauty spot, there will always be new things to see and experience, depending on the season and the time of day.

We shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking only special things should be recorded in our notebooks. Simple pleasures have their place, too. Think of sitting on a beach in the summer and scrunching your bare toes into the sand or walking through a forest surrounded by falling leaves on an autumn day.

We enjoy these little moments and if we do, our characters should too.

You wouldn’t normally build a story around any of the things I have mentioned in this post but all of these things occur in our everyday lives and so should also make an appearance in our characters’ lives when appropriate. If we identify with the pleasure of eating an ice cream on a hot day, so will our readers. If we can put on the page the drama of a thunder storm, our readers will remember a similar storm. If we can record the beauty of watching the snow fall when we are warm and safe indoors and do not have to venture out, our readers will recall such a time as well.

Cornfields on a windy day, the smell of the sea, the beauty of an unfurling rose. These snapshots of everyday life will appeal to readers because they will be familiar to them. A few sprinkled across your novel will give it the ring of truth because you recorded them shortly after you experienced them and wrote them down both from the heart and with a memory of all the senses.

 

deckchairs

Notebooks used in this way will not carry the root and branch of a story but they will carry within them the kind of bonus material that will bring colour, texture and life to your work.

So remember, notebooks are not just for looking pretty on the desk or shelf, they are for writing in. Take them with you, get sand in them, have the fat raindrops of a summer storm spatter the pages, let them live as you live and they will reward you for many years to come.

white lies
White Lies by Ellie Holmes http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

Artist’s Dates

As some of you will be aware I have recently been reading Julia Cameron’s ‘The Right to Write’ book which I highly recommend to all writers. There are nuggets to be enjoyed in every chapter. You will, inevitably, recognise yourself in Julia’s wise words, nodding and smiling wryly as you read.

Right to Write_
Julia Cameron’s ‘The Right to Write’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Right-Write-Invitation-Initiation-Writing/dp/178180981X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1518280756&sr=8-1&keywords=write+to+right

One of the concepts that Julia introduced me to was the idea of ‘artist’s dates’. We are all familiar with going on dates but we don’t normally take ourselves on one – alone. Here, you do just that.

Romance rose

You choose a day that suits and an activity you know you will find interesting, fascinating or stimulating and off you go. Just you alone. This is a special time for you to commune with your inner self or as Julia puts it you are ‘romancing, wooing, courting your creative self’.

Date Time

You could go to see a play or a movie. You could visit a museum or take in an exhibition. You could go to or take part in a glass blowing demonstration or a workshop on how to make mosaics. You could knit, sew, crochet, draw or paint. You could listen to a talk on a subject of interest or visit a historic landmark. Take a walk in an ancient wood or along an unfamiliar coast line. The only limits are the ones you place on yourself.

Museum

Julia suggests going on these excursions once a week to refill the creative well. With a busy schedule, once a week is a little optimistic for me but I have been achieving an artist’s date once a fortnight and it has been an uplifting and inspiring experience. We’re in the grip of winter in the UK so my activities have been largely based indoors: an exhibition of black and white photos, a mindfulness meditation session, an exhibition of landscape paintings and a past life regression. I am looking forward to the spring when I can widen my horizons further.

Whilst I have no definite plans to include any of the things I have done or seen in future stories I am pretty certain they will filter down into a work in progress at some stage and I will be excited to see how that turns out. In the meantime, now that I know the joy and freedom of an artist’s date, they will remain a firm addition to my calendar.

Autum open road

Why not give them a try and see where they take you?

Happy writing!

white lies
White Lies by Ellie Holmes http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

Putting the FUN back in your writing

Following on from last week’s blog about remembering that writing is meant to be fun, I took a look at my own writing world – several works in progress at different stages of completion, a desk covered in notes about Pinterest boards to be created, advertising campaigns to organise, podcasts to listen to and articles to read. A tsunami of to-do-lists and to-finish-lists. Is it any wonder that I’ve lost touch with the joy that used to sit at the heart of my writing?

frustration2

Fun, Fun, Fun!

I decided enough was enough, it was time to put the fun back into writing. When I catch myself being far too serious I find the best way to jolly myself out of it is to write. Not the work in progress. Not even something that might become a work in progress but something completely new, of the moment, to be created, enjoyed and left.

Fun3

Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction usually does it for me. I have a dictionary of phrase and fable (a guaranteed rabbit hole to disappear into if you want to lose an hour) which I open at a random page, stab my finger down and whatever it points to, I give myself 500 or 1,000 words to write a piece of flash fiction that incorporates it. If the dictionary isn’t near at hand, I’ll use a magazine instead. It’s amazing the kind of subjects you can find yourself writing about when a copy of Cosmopolitan is close by!

The beauty of this exercise is that you are free – forget genres, forget writing styles, forget targets and plans. Just flex your creative muscle and see where it leads you. You might be a romantic novelist who writes in the third person by day but for this exercise you might find yourself writing gothic horror in the first person. A literary heavyweight could discover their comic alter ego, a chick lit aficionado could let out her gory crime other self. The point is to let yourself go, to have FUN.

Forget the rules, forget who you think you are as a writer and just write. You will be amazed where it takes you and when it’s time to put the games away and get back to the work in progress you will hopefully find having let your creative self off the leash for a bit, you return to your work energised and re-engaged.

Happy writing!

white lies
White Lies by Ellie Holmes http://Author.to/EllieHolmes