My Short Story is Out With CPs

I’m happy to say I managed to finish writing my IWSG short story in time to send it to the awesome people who’d volunteered to give it a read-over.

Most of them already sent back feedback. (I mean seriously. How’s that for speed?)

So now, I’m planning to sit down and do the critiques I owe them.

I have to say, though, I love my story. The character has been sticking in my head ever since I edited The Heir’s Choice, so I was happy to get a chance to write something for her. Fingers crossed that the judges also enjoy the story.

How are you doing? Sending in a short story for the IWSG competition too? 

On Word Targets

It’s the strangest thing how psychological this writing game is. 

People (and by this, I mean non-writers) always assume that writing is such an easy thing. After all, they write hundreds of words every day with e-mails and texts, right? 
Sure. The thing is… It’s easy to just jot a few words with no particular word-count goal in mind. Ten words here. Twenty words there. 
Easy. 
But get told to write a 1500 word article. Or a 3000 word to 6000 word short story. Or just think and realize that the novel you’re working on needs 150,000 words to get finished. 
Suddenly, a task that seems simple becomes much more complicated. Especially when you’re starting out and wondering if the thing you’re writing will actually hit the word-count target. 
Last night, I wrote an article, and about 700 words in, I couldn’t imagine where I would find the remaining 800. 
When I started drafting my story for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group competition, I liked the idea, but I just felt like the word-limit was this insurmountable mountain to climb. 
Odd to think it, but I find the 150k goal less intimidating, because if I come in under that, it’s not like there will be repercussions. And that is actually the reason why I don’t like setting a target for the length of any story I write. It just adds extra pressure I don’t like feeling. I mean, I already give myself some steep deadlines to chase. 
The challenge is good for me, though. It’s nice to know that, yes, I could actually write to demand and actually hit those targets. 
And you know the funny thing about my short story? I’m at 3500 words now, and wondering if I’ll be able to wrap the story up in 1500 words or less. 
So that just goes to show you the importance of just writing. Even if we feel like we’ll never make a word-count target, we can always surprise ourselves if we try. 
Are you writing a story for IWSG competition? How’s it going?

Changing Things…

As you ladies and gents might or might not have picked up, I’ve been struggling to write. With my life as it is, I just found it difficult to almost impossible to sit down and focus on what should be going into my stories.

I have to say that I’m relieved to say that this is changing. Not my life. That’s pretty much stuck in hurry-up-and-wait mode until next month at least. However, changing my perspective into being more proactive about my writing career has made a huge difference to my ability to write.

More than that, it’s changing the way I look at a lot of things. Yes, my priorities still largely focus on getting the next book finished. But at the same time, I’m having to do things right now that will bring in enough money for me to publish in the future.

Which means I’m doing a lot of different things. Trying new things. This includes, you know, being more active on social networks. And setting up a WordPress version of this blog. Right now, I don’t think I’ll leave Blogger entirely to go over to WordPress, but a lot of my WordPress blogging friends kept saying that blogger swallows their comments and I just can’t have that.

It means changing the way I’ve been approaching my writing sessions. Usually, I basically sit down and write until a scene is finished. The problems to this method have been twofold.

First: I haven’t been in the right headspace to sit down for two to three hours on end. So I’ve been waiting for that to right itself because I wanted to sit for two or three hours to churn out a chapter.

Second: My scenes have become longer than anticipated. See, with The Vanished Knight and The Heir’s Choice I had a lot of 2k long scenes that I ended up combining in order to create longer chapters. I think my longest chapter is 7k long, but the average is about 4k. Book 3 is different. Maybe it’s because my point-of-view characters are simply closer together so I don’t have to jump between them as much, but at the moment, the average chapter is about 5k long. So now it’s not a matter of writing for two hours and having a finished scene. Actually having a finished planned section would probably take me an entire working day.

Which I don’t have available. Oh, you thought “being a full-time writer” meant having more time to write? Nope. Not yet, anyway.

So lately, I’ve decided to follow Cherie Reich‘s example and setting a time goal for my writing. Instead of setting a word count goal, she decides how much time she wants to devote to writing and then she sets a timer, which she races to write as much as she can.

I’ve adapted her method a little. She did away with her word-count goals. I can’t. I want to finish Book 3 this year. Which means I have to write between 1 and 2 thousand words every day. I have found, though, that timing myself means that I take about 90 minutes to write 1800 words. (So far, I break my writing into 5 and 10 minute sessions which I add up later.)

In other words, timing myself is speeding me up, which is good, because I don’t have enough hours in a day.

How are you doing? Have you tried timing your writing sessions? 

Some More Perspective on the Full-Time Writing Thing

So lately, I decided to approach my writing like a business. And I’m calling myself a full-time writer, which has a few of you guys confused and worried.

Worried… might be somewhat accurate, although you guys are worrying for the wrong reasons. My other business(es) that I started to recover from the last SNAFU have entered the dreaded hurry-up-and-wait stage. Which is… Yeah. That bit worries me, and you’re welcome to worry/pray with me. (Although I find that, upon praying, I worry a little less.)

The thing is that, while this hurry-up-and-wait phase is ongoing, I have hours and hours worth of time that I can use more constructively. And I decided to use those hours to be a full-time writer, because I’m basically working 40 day weeks at this writing thing (even, by the way, while I’m doing the day-job too.)

So really, this foray into full-time-writerness isn’t new. At least, the time I can spend on it isn’t. The major difference is that I’ve decided to set myself up better. Instead of saying I’ll wait for quiet time and then waiting for an hour or two in case day-job work comes in, I’m asking if there’s anything I have to do that can be done right now.

If there isn’t, I’m immediately going into full-time-writer mode until such a time that something does come up at the office. (This happened on Wednesday, which I was super grateful for. But now offers have been made and we’re waiting for clients to come back to us.)

In other words: No. I’m not refusing to do anything else that could bring me a more stable income just so I can write. 

It’s just the case that, since I have to wait for my income anyway, I might as well spend it furthering my writing career instead of sitting around and doing nothing, waiting for the hours to pass.

Admittedly (as mentioned on Monday), pushing my writing career on a shoe-string budget is a pain in the ass.

That said, I’m not sure that it’s a bad thing. 

Yes, I’m stressing about money. Yes, I have to literally turn every cent I get over twice in order to make this thing work. Yes, I’m currently having to do 90% of EVERYTHING myself and there are never enough hours in a day.

But.

Turning cents over twice is good business practice. Even when I do have money to splash around on my writing venture.

It’s making me so sad to think how much money I wasted being inefficient with my time and money just because I assumed there would be another salary next month.

So yeah. EVEN if — ahem — WHEN my clients come back and my other job brings in some money, I’m only going to put back the royalties I’ve earned and used to other purposes. And IF I need more money for something, I will do so on a strict loan basis and keeping track of everything.

Because I want this thing to work. And it’s not going to work if I’m lackadaisical about my writing business.

Business is a serious thing.

And I think, in retrospect, that saying “oh I’ll make a career of writing someday when I have money” is bad business. (Sorry not sorry.)

So I’m putting my foot down right now.

I’m saying: Writing is my career now, regardless of my other jobs/obligations/present circumstances

I will approach it with the same seriousness with which I approach all of my other business activities.

Writing will support my writing.

And I will support my writing by writing even more.

Which is to say:

I am building an empire, even if I have to do it with my bare hands.

IWSG: A Little Perspective Change…

Today is the first Wednesday of September, so it’s time for another round of Insecure Writer’s Support group. For those of you who are wondering, IWSG is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. A whole lot of us have signed up for this bloghop and once a month, we share our insecurities and our encouragements.

If you would like more information or to sign up, click here
I’ve been mostly quiet, lately, and you don’t need to scroll back far to see why. Things haven’t been going well. It’s been so bad, in fact, that I’ve started to think that my dreams of making a living as a writer will never come true. 
I’ve been completely without hope for weeks now, because it just seems that everything I’ve tried (including finding a job, or doing anything to build up my business again) comes to nothing. 
Which means that, all in all, my dreams of turning writing into a day job seemed so far away.
And that just made me sad. 
Something’s been happening, though. A tiny seed of a thought have been planted by various friends saying various little things. A tiny thought that’s been growing more and more every day until a tiny royalty payment put things into perspective for me. 
And the thought goes something like this. 
Suppose…
Suppose that, for all the hours I’m putting into my business, I just am not able to get to the point where the business stands on its own. Or suppose that it’s just a few months away, but nothing I can do now is going to make it happen faster. 
Suppose I’ve done everything I could to find and contact possible clients for my available products and now it’s a matter of waiting for them to come back. 
Do any of the hours I’m currently wasting waiting for feedback help me? No. 
Do I have to sit there staring at nothing while I’m waiting for feedback? No. 
Do I have anything else I could be doing that could actually add value? 
Well… 
Actually…
The fact that I’m getting any income at all from my writing means that it’s actually adding more value to my life than hours spent at the office. 
In fact, this income, small as it might be, actually could be what pays the Internet so we can keep doing business. It could be a small bit towards trying something that could become something bigger. 
It could be a start. 
And I’ve been overlooking all that for the stupid reason that my year just didn’t look the way I wanted it to.

I keep griping and moaning about not writing full-time, but if I keep in mind the idea of flexi-hours, I could have worked 40 hour weeks as a writer for WEEKS now. 

But I haven’t, because somewhere in my head is this idea of all-or-nothing. And also, the idea that I needed to stabilize my business so I could use that to pay for my writing in order to become a full-time writer. 
Which is great in theory, but not if my writing income actually out-strips what I’m actually getting out of my business. 
Because if that happens, doesn’t it make more sense to double down and figure out a way to 1) write more and 2) generate income for writing-related activities and 3) generate income to fund further writing and publishing endeavors? 
To me it does. 
And to me, it means I’m actually a card-carrying full-time writer as of now. 
But. 
Since “Staving Artist” is a bad look on me, I need to be more than a writer. I need to be a businesswoman who writes. 

And as a business woman who writes, I know I might have some products and services that might interest you: 

1) My writing.

If you’re a reader, you might be interested in my books. Right now, all of my available writing is speculative fiction of some sort. But I have a wide variety of other genres waiting to be released as well. My books are also available at iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and other places.
Want exclusive sneak-peaks of my writing? Then there’s Patreon, where you can find out first if there’s any publishing news from me, see any excerpts I post first, and even read stories I post there, all for as little as $1 a month. 

2) My knowledge.

As part of my writing and publishing journey, I’ve gathered about 15 years’ worth of experience in what works and what doesn’t in a story. 
I’m sharing advice on Patreon when asked for (as part of my $1 subscription reward) and will be posting regular vlogs about writing, which you can watch and enjoy while I (eventually) earn revenues from advertising. 
Then, I am also offering my services on Fiverr. I am offering critiques of short stories, novellas and novels. I will also help you polish your query or back-of-the-book blurb. Or your synopsis. I can even go through your query package (query, synopsis and up to five chapters) to help you find possible weaknesses in your submission. 
Right now, I’m trying to build a track record on Fiverr, so I’m offering Query/Blurb, Synopsis or critiques of up to 10,000 words, all for $5, even if you need one of the premium packages on offer. All you have to do is go to my profile, click on “Contact” and follow the instructions to get in touch with me. 
So yeah. I actually have a lot to offer people. Now it’s a matter of getting the word out… 
How are things going on your end? Have you had a bit of perspective change for one reason or another? 

Annalisa Crawford on Reasons to Enter Writing Competitions

Hi everyone! Today, I’m welcoming Annalisa Crawford to my blog to tell us a bit more about entering writing competitions. Also, I want to congratulate her again for placing third in the Costa Awards. I’m so proud of you!

Reasons to Enter Writing Competitions 

by Annalisa Crawford

I love entering competitions – I like the idea of having my stories out in the world without having to do very much market research, and I like the anticipation when the long- or short-lists are released, followed closely by the winners. And, occasionally, I win… which I also like. Okay, I lose, as well; it’s a bit of a lottery. But that’s not a reason not to enter.
There are several regular comments people repeat when I talk to them about competitions. It’s too expensive. It’s a waste of time, you’ll never win. Contests are scams.
You might have your own reasons for avoiding them, but I’ll take the ones above one by one, and answer any others in the comments.
1.      It’s too expensive.
oYes, some of them are. I’ve actually paid £17 for a single entry before. I don’t pay that much often, but I weight up the prestige of the competition, the overall judge, and the prize money – and then I decide whether I have a story/can write a story that is worth £17.
oSome are completely free – such as the Costa Short Story Award. But you have to bear in mind how many people will enter a free competition, which will make your odds of winning reduce.
oMost of the competitions I enter are between £5 and £10.
2.      It’s a waste of time.
oI tend to enter stories that I have hanging around, those that I don’t know what to do with or have been rejected by a couple of magazines. Competitions usually have a looser idea of the type of story they are looking for – whereas a magazine will have a definite style.
oThe story can be tied up for several months, but as long as you build this into your submission plan, it won’t be a problem.
oThe discipline of writing a story, refreshing it, submitting it to a deadline is important. It gives you something to work towards.
3.      You’ll never win.
oWell, firstly, someone has to – why not you?
oOn the other hand, you probably won’t. You’ll be frustrated and angry, but you’ll get over it, and you’ll write something else. If you’re sensible, you’ll try to work out why that story didn’t work but the 1st/2nd/3rd place entries did. You’ll learn without even trying.
oA lot of the larger competitions these days are being judged by literary agents and publishers. They are not just judging the competition, they are looking out for good writers. Even if you don’t win, they might see your name, and they might be interested in you.
oYears ago, when I was just starting out, I’d see the same names on the long-lists and short-lists, then I’d see them placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Then I’d see them publishing their first novels. One name I remember seeing was Helen Dunmore.
4.      Contests are scams.
oI haven’t heard British writers complaining about this quite so much as US writers. But, if in doubt, don’t enter – or spend some time researching.
oRead the terms and conditions – I know most people don’t, but in this case it’s very important. You need to make sure you are following the rules so you won’t get disqualified, but you also need to know what happens to your story if you win – do you retain copyright, will the story be published. The terms will also flag up areas where it feels scam-like, in which case, don’t enter!


How about you? Do you enter? Have you won? Do you have doubts that I haven’t covered above?

Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, a dog and a cat.
She writes dark contemporary, character-driven stories, and has been winning competitions and publishing short stories in small press journals for many years. She recently won 3rd Place in the Costa Short Story Award 2015.

I can’t believe I did it again.

I don’t know how or why this keeps happening to me, but I always seem to realize that a book in my War of Six Crowns series is done after I’ve finished it.

Last week, I’d decided to renew my focus on Book 3 in order to complete the rewrite. So I reread the whole thing again to pick up all the loose strings I’d left in November, when I’d stopped when my writing had lost momentum.

And… well… the story felt done. It had a rising action. A twist, climax and an ending.

And half of my planned plot remaining unwritten. (Which was annoying.) But since the other half felt like I’d be shoe-horning it into my story, I decided to split the book. Which means that:

1) Book 3 is done. (Yay!)
2) The other half I had planned will now go into Book 4. (Also yay. Rewrite is already prepped.)
3) Revisions for Book 3 will probably involve significant revisions to compensate for the structure being slightly wonky due to me having planned most of it to be the introduction to the other (unwritten) half. (Eh… okay. I can live with that.)
4) I need a new title for Book 3. I had a title, but now the events referred to in the title happen in Book 4. (Sigh.)
5) I’m going to start revisions to Book 3 at the end of this month. (Yay!)
6) The War of Six Crowns will now be a six-book series. I was planning on five books, but hey, the more the merrier, right?

Have you ever been surprised to discover you completed a draft after-the-fact? Or is it just me?