jadewritesbooks · On Writing

Writing Is Hard And Other Obvious Things

When I first say to people that I want to be a writer, it’s met with one of two reactions –

“Oh, cool!”

or

“Nice, you know my friend/my boyfriend/someone I met randomly on the tube one time wrote a book, it’s 270k words but it keeps getting rejected, publishing doesn’t recognize genius”.

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Granted there’s a few “I couldn’t write a book” responses or “I’ve always wanted to write a book” thrown in there, but it’s more the first two options that I experience.

(FYI If you want to be a nice, supportive person, go with the top option. “Oh, cool!” is a safe response to most writers, but if followed by the scariest question of all time — “What’s your book about?” — be prepared for the author to shrivel up and cry rather than actually be able to tell you cohesively what they are writing about.)

The second option is one that many writers get, and it’s often soul-destroying. It insinuates that writing a book is something many people are doing, and doing well, and clearly because they have not got ahead in publishing us poor souls must be wasting our time.

Second Option Responders rarely recognize the sheer amount of hard work that actually goes into a book. The amount of tweets that are out there with the up and down cycle of falling in and then out of love with what you’re writing multiply by the minute. There are gifs, painfully accurate in their portrayal of a writer’s suffering, because if writing books were easy —

* EVERYONE would write one.
* The market would NOT be as competitive as it is today
* We would have way more whinging observations about how Life Is Hard for straight white males with money
* There would be no need for contests like PitchWars or mentoring systems

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I’ve struggled with writing my 4th MS for the past year. I can’t remember when I first started writing it — probably around the time President Grump was inaugurated – but I’m only just finishing the first draft. During this first draft I was finishing up my 3rd MS, entering PitchWars 2017, being mentored in the contest, doing extensive edits, querying, going at it tooth and nail and forcing all thoughts of 4th Book out of my head until finally, around March of this year, I decided to go for it.

It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. Even with an outline I struggled to get past scenes I wasn’t interested in writing, or figuring out why I didn’t like this scene here, or switching chapters, or just making my writing not suck. I read books on craft, I watched YouTube videos, I shoved so many nuggets of information into my head I looked like a 20 box at McDonald’s.

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Life got in the way as life often does, with money issues, illnesses, and the pesky inconvenience of having to keep the house in a functioning condition. Distractions were at every turn, a devil when I was actually 100% committed to my writing hour.

I had writing sprints with my darling CP, I focused on getting a word count goal for the day, and then finally – FINALLY – today I reached my 70k word count. I may not be finished, but it is book-shaped, and it has enough words to be considered a novel.

The finish line is in sight – I can see it – and I’m striving towards it. But next time someone tells you writing isn’t hard, or they want to write a book in their spare time, when you’ve buried the instinct of throwing water in their face please ask them why they haven’t written one.

Their answer may be because they haven’t had an idea, but I bet you it’s because “they haven’t found the time”.

Books aren’t made overnight. Books take care, and time, and graft, and sweat, and their fair share of tears. Writing is not easy.

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Be proud of every word you write, because each one is one more than those who’ve never written that book in their head have managed to do, and it’s a step closer towards your goals ❤

 


 

Have an MS you need editing? I can help! I have spots open all summer for developmental edits, query critiques and proofreading. Email me – jadewritesbooks@gmail.com – or visit Cover to Cover Edits for more information on how to reserve your place!

Random Musings · Writing Advice · writing process

Query Breakfast – A (weird) Analogy

I was making my breakfast this morning when – either out of hunger or sleepiness – I likened queries to cereal.

By the time I sat eating I’d gone off on a completely new train of thought to do with queries, but all about food (I was REALLY hungry).

So here is a (probably weird) post about queries, what’s needed within them, and what you can do to make sure yours stands out.

CEREAL

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As if you don’t know what cereal looks like. I mean.

You don’t want to give someone a cereal query. This is where it’s just the grains of your story and nothing else. Even if it’s something fun with a free toy (ok I might be going a little overboard with this analogy…) the grains of story doesn’t give whoever is reading your query a strong idea of what your book is about. If you just throw in the basics, chances are it won’t be the most interesting cereal query in the world. For example –

“17 year old Jessica Lisa Eisenstein wants to win a talent show. If she wins the talent show, she’ll get a crown and £100. A boy, Marcus Orelio, thinks Jessica is too much competition so he ruins her dress. To get her revenge Jessica thinks up a huge plot to ruin him – publicly – in front of everyone.

We know the characters, but it sounds pretty boring – it doesn’t really GRAB people’s attention and say READ ME (unless you want to read about Jessica’s revenge). WHY is the talent show important to Jessica? Why does Marcus want to win so much and think Jessica is competition? What happens if Jessica fulfils her revenge?

STAKES, PEOPLE.

Ooo, Steak.

TOAST

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This is the play-by-play, read my book, I’m doing this but I don’t think I have a shot query. You can dress it with marmalade or chocolate all you want but it’s still burnt bread – dry and without flavour. If you’re not inspired when writing your query, they won’t be inspired reading it. Where there’s no personal lilt to a query, it can come across as bland as toast.

THE BEST BREAKFAST / QUERY

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In my view, the best thing you can give to me as a query-breakfast is the staple hotel morning welcome;

ORANGE JUICE /  CROISSANT /  CEREAL.

I would have put bacon etc on here but I’ve turned vegetarian so my piggy friends will leave it off this list.

ORANGE JUICE – the refresher

Orange juice is a wonderful, refreshing taste which just zings up your mouth and gives your tongue a little dance. This is what you want your query to do – zing with the tang of your story, your voice and your style to whet the appetite.

CROISSANT – the thing which makes your book UNIQUE

If you think of a croissant chances are you will associate it with France. It’s one of the most uniquely identifying things of France around the world bar the Eiffel Tower. That’s what you want for your book – something which will identify your premise as UNIQUE, what makes it new?! Exciting, bold? Is it the characters, is it the layering of plots? SHOW US YOUR CROISSANT.

…. there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

CEREAL – GRAINS ARE STILL NEEDED, PEOPLE

You can dress up your query with Croissants and OJ but you need to also have the basis of your story, except in this case – with the help of the above – your cereal is like little bits of bread, creating a little trail for query-readers to follow while you ensnare us with your writerly-wiles.

So there you have it – my thoughts on how to write a query based on breakfast foods.

 

 

Book Things · positive posts · Random Musings · Writing Advice · Writing Method

Top 3: Tips For Making Your Writing Life Easier.

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Now, a lot of these things will just be general common sense, but I understand as a writer, we can sometimes lose sight of what is reasonable. We put so much pressure on ourselves, even the slightest slip can seem like we’re doomed to failure. So here is my top 3 list of things which has worked so much for me, and which you can use to hopefully feel better about your writing journey.

 

1. Find a routine that works for YOU.

There’s a lot of hoo-haa about having to write every day. It’s true, if I write a little each day it keeps the mental demons at bay, for if I go a few days or longer without putting fingertips to keyboard or pen to paper, I feel like there’s a backlog of words trying to get through. This does not make for a happy Jade, but the second I write again, it’s like someone removed the grey clouds and everything goes back to being normal.

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But writing every day sometimes isn’t plausible, and writers shouldn’t feel guilty if they’re unable to do 500 words or so each afternoon. There’s so much additional stuff to worry about in today’s society, more responsibility which divides our attention, it can be really difficult to maintain a groove which allows for savoured writing time.

While you shouldn’t ignore the hard work which goes in to writing, it’s probably going to work a lot better if you put in that effort at a dedicated time where you know you can manage an uninterrupted hour to focus on your MS. For instance, if you know you generally have a quiet morning on a Wednesday, or that most of your errands take up your Saturday morning, work around it.

Short version: Don’t worry if you can’t make it every day. Do what you can. A stressed writer is not always a good one, so give yourself a break, as long as you keep going afterwards!

2. Create a System for Recording your Ideas.

Now – this can take many forms and it depends on how you get your ideas. Some get them by asking “what if?” scenarios and writing a concept, other writers may just have flashes of inspiration and have to write it on a napkin. Personally, mine can strike any time, without warning, like lightning, and often I’ve had recent ideas in my sleep. But whatever your method, try to figure out how you can record these ideas without losing those inspired tid-bits of story.

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My main advice is, don’t be like me and have 500 separate word documents (okay, maybe an exaggeration, it’s like 100) per project with single paragraphs, sentences, speeches, ideas for scenes, linking passages of time – and then name them something which doesn’t make sense, and worse – don’t put them in a folder all together, meaning you lose hours trying to find that one bit you remember writing months ago.

Ideally, if you write an idea on your phone, put it with the rest of the stuff later. Or create a ideas pile where you can easily flick through to see what your brain told you yesterday. If you have an idea while napping, keep a dream diary.

3. Create REASONABLE Goals.

Unless you are some form of far superior being who turns coffee into words at a rate of 100 per minute, you will not be able to write a cohesive novel of 70,000 words in 5 days.

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That’s why NaNoWriMo gives people a month to do 50k, and even then not everyone makes it.

As mentioned before it’s easy to feel pressure to perform well, and to the best of your ability, or else feel like you’ve failed. So, the only way to keep the demon of self-doubt at bay is to make sure you’re not stretching yourself, and within the routine you’ve already procured, see what you can achieve.

Start small, maybe? A chapter completed in 2 weeks. 100 words before you shut down the computer and go to bed. Then you can see how far increasing it gets you, like 1000 words a week, or something similar.

It’s better if you sort of leave timing out of agenting, editing, etc while you’re writing because there is no guarantee at all how long any of the process afterwards takes place. Focus on what you can control, and that is definitely how much you want to write by such and such a day.

I had the unfortunate thing of moving a deadline for myself, not because I didn’t put the work in when I could, but because Real Life had decided to throw everything at me in one lump sum. So prepare for life’s little surprises by reducing the amount of stress you’re creating for yourself. If you miss a day, you won’t feel like you’re missing “finalize 5 chapters” and have to rush to catch up.

Be kind to yourself!

OH! AND A CHEEKY 3.5

Talk to people. Other writers, ideally. Build up a tribe of like minded individuals who get you, acknowledge your struggles, support you, and support them in return. This is invaluable. What you’ve experienced, you can share your wisdom. Vice versa. Writing careers are solitary only when you’re *actually* writing. The rest of it requires a heck of a lot of patience, and understanding friends to make it bearable.

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The writing community is amazing, supportive, and there for you. Reach out if you need to! ❤