Freelance Writing and Creative Writing

Author Annette Young

The advice given to new writers is often to carve out a niche area and stick to it and they are right…. to a degree. But  I remember when I took my first serious steps towards writing, I didn’t know what niche area to focus on – freelance writing or creative writing, frankly, I wanted to do it all. I was brimming over with ideas and just loved the experience of writing and learning. I tried to focus on just one project, but it was impossible.

I tried writing poetry and won some writing competitions so that was exciting and I loved writing fiction, managing to have some of my stories published, I enjoyed plotting and planning novels but, I also enjoyed the research aspect of non-fiction and the analytic approach. So, dilemma.

I couldn’t narrow the remit because I enjoyed it all. I found I had to work on several different projects at a time because it kept my motivation and enthusiasm sharp. It did dilute my ability to quickly complete projects but I was able to enjoy my writing, to learn lots of techniques and to make sense of the whole creative writing process. I believe that working in this way played to my strengths, I was good at organising and juggling my workload on a daily basis anyway and this sort of frantic pace prevented me from getting bored.

Years later, I still work this way. Admittedly, I write full-time so it’s much easier but I have lots of different writing projects through clients as well as my Creative Competitor work, but this is how I work best. I do work feverishly on some of my own writing projects in between others, but I can dip in and out of these niches to suit my needs. Freelance writing gives me the variety I need because I can be working on any number of projects – from articles, books and even scripts and then when I get some downtime, I try to indulge in creative writing because it’s pleasurable and relaxing.

So, from this, you can see  it is possible to cultivate a career in both freelance writing and creative writing. I do both professionally and I love it. The variety keeps my brain stimulated, my experiences in life fuel my writing in a creative sense and I get to live where I want in the world. I’m chained to a very portable desk.

You do have to be determined and dedicated to the craft of writing to make this work for you and not against you, but it’s possible. I work very long hours, I’m single, my daughter is grown up,  so I don’t have to do set hours and devote time to family needs but I work to suit how I feel. If I feel like taking time off, I schedule it. For me though, writing is more than a career, it’s an aboslute passion. I care about the end result and give 100% to each area of my career. I do think that you have to work to your strengths in life. You may like to focus on one project and learn everything about it you can, that’s great, other people will dip in and out of different niche areas and gradually learn and many will change their focus in time. I just choose to absorb myself in the projects to hand (I often cherry-pick the freelance writing projects so I enjoy them) and dip in and out of the required mind-set.

In short, you can enjoy freelance writing and creative writing if that’s what you want, but whichever writing endeavours you choose, commit to it and give it everything you have. It will mean juggling your writing time if you have lots of projects, but you will learn to be efficient and you’ll learn what suits you. That’s the real secret.

Creative Writing – Never Give Up

Don't give up

Author Editor Annette Youngby Annette Young

It’s all too easy to give up on your dreams in life – whatever they may be. Achieving any desired goal is…well,  hard work and it takes dedication. In creative writing terms, the road to publication may seem a long and arduous one filled with little traps to keep you from succeeding. You can be forgiven for having self-doubts and wondering if you will ever learn all of the essential elements necessary to write well. Each technique after all needs to be effortless and it has to be fluid.

But although it can be difficult, achieving your creative writing goals is possible. It’s about tackling each technique, understanding it and then using it regularly. Little by little you will add these techniques, all polished up, into your writing toolkit and suddenly, your dreams will not seem unrealistic.

Writing can be frustrating – true. It can seem impossible to bring characters to life or to create  a completely unique story – true. But, it can happen providing you harden your resolve and remain focused.

  • Writing every single day will make a big difference.
  • Thinking like a writer will improve your potential.
  • Developing targeted and achievable creative writing goals will put you on the right track.

When writing is hard, remember why you do it. After all, don’t you just love the written word? When the words start to flow or you have battled with a difficult paragraph, isn’t it the most satisfying thing to have shaped it into a powerful fictional scene?

The more you write, the easier it gets…providing you learn the relevant lessons as you go. There is no point continuing to write if you don’t learn and use all of the techniques. It’s about extending your skill-set and stretching your abilities. Spending time on the more difficult aspects of writing will improve your confidence and help you to realise that writing professionally means absorbing new skills and having fun using them. Think about the skills learned within the work-place. At one time any aspect of your job might have seemed difficult, until you learned how to do it properly. Creative writing is no different.

When you polish up your technique, you give your creativity free rein. Each day will bring new creative challenges, new skills to learn, but you’ll enjoy being able to pick and choose when you want to write, to be able to decide what to write and what techniques to use. Creative writing may be frustrating at times, but it’s also richly rewarding. Own your dreams, don’t give up on them.

Creative Writing – When the Words Come Tumbling Down

Words

Author Editor Annette Young

by Annette Young

Creative writing can be a wonderfully relaxing pastime but more than that, it can be therapeutic too and used to enrich your writing in ways than you cannot imagine unless you connect with your buried emotions. We all have moments of sadness and emotional pain – whether through grief, relationship breakdowns or simply moments when life frustratingly goes wrong. Trapped emotions can be damaging – we can remain stagnant if not careful.Life throws a myriad of obstacles and often unwarranted events in our way and this pain can intensify and remain trapped within.

If you want to use creative writing as a type of therapy, then pour your heart out, get every emotion and frustration out of your system. Don’t worry about the result, it doesn’t have to read well and it shouldn’t. You are capturing every ounce of feeling, releasing the injustices, the pain, regret and anger. The moment may be intense, it might be painful, but afterwards comes exhausted release whether your emotions are newly raw or, have been contained for years.

When you are finally done, read back over your writing and try to make sense of it. Note the words used, any disjointed sentences, the purity of feeling – good or bad. Not only will you feel a sense of release, you will have every aspect of your inner turmoil captured on paper. It may not make for comfortable reading, but believe me, it is better out than in. Place the paper to one side, hide it away and leave it for a few weeks or months until you feel ready to review it.  When my mother died some years ago now, it was the single most wounding moment of my life. She’d battled for years against illness after illness, but I was convinced she was invincible. When she went into hospital for something minor, (or so we’d thought) and never came out again, the shock was overwhelming. I remained in a blocked state for at least 6 months. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel, I simply went through the motions of life.  I had been her carer for a long time so the bonds were strong. Suddenly, I had so much time on my hands yet I was trapped in a bubble of disbelief.

Friends told me to not write, they said I would always relate my writing with the pain of that time, but, I had to.It was the only release I had and something that I could tap into easily. Initially, it enabled me to block out the feelings even more, I went back to work, I took on new writing projects – it was my job, but my emotions were carefully shut away. I wrote with the confidence of one who could do a job without giving too much of myself. I got by.  One day , suddenly, out of the blue, I felt ready and then the words came tumbling out, they flowed for page after page. I felt the anger release and the healing begin. So you see, I strongly believe that by capturing pure emotion in its rawest form, it is so beneficial to our health, well-being and sanity, but more, by being able to feel so deeply, it makes us able to write with heart.

Creative writing when done well, can bring tears of sadness or joy to the readers’ minds. Beautifully crafted words written with sincerity evoke deep feeling in others, I don’t think I have ever written so well following the release of my emotions. Now when I write emotional scenes, I give myself up to it, so each word carries a little bit of me with it. It’s the only way to write with conviction.

Whether creative writing is a hobby or you would like it to become a career one day, you need to allow your experiences, painful or joyous, to come out – never keep feelings trapped inside. Not only can writing be your therapeutic friend, your emotions will enable you to connect with your readers on such an intrinsic level that they will never forget your words.

Keeping the Creative Writing Ball Rolling

creativity

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

Picture the scene, your imagination is burning bright, ideas are cascading into your conscious mind one after another and the words rush in thick and fast….isn’t that just the greatest feeling? The moment when you are in the zone and your story and characters behave.

No-one enjoys having to wrestle with a stray word or a stilted sentence, we’d all give anything to have the creative floodgates open on a single command, but of course, it doesn’t always work that way. So what’s the best way to keep the creative writing ball rolling?

Really, it’s quite simple. When the writing processes are oiled and operating at optimal levels, don’t stop, even when you have finished with any current project, get started immediately on another, capitalise on that creative energy. It could be that you start planning the next day’s writing project, or, you create the opening paragraph of a new story, there’s nothing worse than blank page syndrome when creativity has packed up and left. Use the creative flow to fuel new projects so that it saves that ‘pulling hair out’ sense of frustration.

Equally, the more that you write and train your brain to respond to your simple commands, ‘stop procrastinating and write,’ the easier you will find it to slip into that imaginative state more regularly. Dragging those reluctant words out from your brain and capturing them onto paper becomes a little more effortless each time.

There will always be days when writing is tough,but sometimes it’s worth working through the pain, because the results can be far better than you can imagine. So keeping the creative writing ball rolling means optimising your potential while creativity is fluid or, assuming a dogged determination and working through it on those days when inspiration is nowhere to be seen.

Sending Your Precious Bundle Out into the World

Letting go of your manuscript

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

I always think that sending your writing out into the world for professional assessment is akin to sending your child out to school for the first time. You worry about that moment of arrival, whether the manuscript looks good and if the assessment will be kind and if your work will hold its own among all those other manuscripts.

Letting go of a manuscript after you have been toiling away on it for a long time is hard. You form an attachment to it, you want to protect it and you have to keep pandering to it. But at some point, you have to say that’s it. Package it up and send it out.

So, now that we’ve established the deep connection between the writer and any written material, think about your own feelings towards the novel or book that you may have been working on forever, what’s your instinct about sending it out? Is your manuscript ready? Do you feel ready? This is an emotional hurdle that you have to overcome if you really want to succeed in your writing goals. How will you know how good your writing is unless you take that leap of faith?

Fear of rejection is much stronger than actually being rejected. The reality is never pleasant but if you use it as a tool to get beyond it, you can achieve far more than you have ever imagined. Take it from me, sometimes that all-important first step turns into a huge leap and bound and you suddenly become more confident about your writing. It’s good to nurture, to care for and to put everything into your writing but at some point, you have to take a step back and view it dispassionately and then make the decision to let others read your work.

If you would like a professional opinion on your manuscript, take a look here.

 

 

Killed but Resurrected

Axing a character

Annette Young Author

by Annette Young

Last night I killed a man and then today, I breathed life back into his fictional bones. No, I’m not kidding, I committed the cardinal sin of taking a life –albeit someone that I had made up, sometimes the prospect of being ruthless is just too strong to deny.

But then, the power of the writer is extraordinarily strong; in fact, let’s be honest, it’s one of the perks of writing, having fun with your characters, making them living, breathing entities, watching them fall in love, then dashing their romantic dreams in an instant. You can make them beautiful, vibrant or just plain nasty, you are in control after all. You can even wield an imaginary sword and in one swipe of the ultra sharpened blade…the character’s head will be rolling across the floor.

But should you really kill off your characters? Only you can answer that. Think about your story and those characters that you have painstakingly created, do you want to keep them all or is there someone that you just dislike? What do your characters add to the story? There may be many reasons why you feel it is necessary to eradicate one, but here are some reasons that spring to mind:

  • If the character is unimportant
  • If the plot has led naturally to this point
  • If the character is just driving you nuts

Killing a character can be quite satisfying, I’ll admit it. You can plan the character’s demise in a multitude of ways and it’s easy to imagine that final moment as the character gasps his last. Whether the act is sad, emotional or a sheer relief, a death can actually breathe new life into a plot and perk up the remaining characters.

Axing a character

Fortunately, it’s easy to resurrect a character if you suddenly develop a pang of conscience about this tragic act, or if you realize that you have made a mistake and really, your novel is so much better with this character playing an active role. Don’t kill off a character just to incite a shock reaction or to cause drama for the sake of it, each character has to be believable – whether good or bad, the character should add something to the plot.

If your story is really weak and you need a sudden surge of fictional excitement, re-work the story –something has gone horribly wrong. If you are bored writing the story, then again, you have a problem. Re-write the story or start again. If your character is insignificant and adds nothing to the story-line, then by all means, give him ….or her the chop.

Every character plays an important part in a novel, if they are not pulling their weight, then you know what to do.

Image courtesy of [Boians Cho Joo Young] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No? Forget It! Live Life to the Full

Live Life

Annette Young Author

by Annette Young

When I was a child, I was always told no. Oh, how I hated that word. I saw it as a continuous effort to scupper my plans to explore and to redefine my boundaries.  I may have only been four or five years old at the time, but when you have a determined nature and an adventurous streak, the word no becomes the worst word in the world.

In reality, it meant that throughout my childhood I was held back from escaping out beyond the front gate and unable to experience potentially wonderful adventures with friends and, for my waywardness of trying to sneak out, I was continuously threatened to be sent to my room. This was in my early years and then, subsequently, I learned the meaning of being, ‘grounded’ in my teenage years. As a six year old, I could escape past the newly placed side gate however high my father made it or, irrespective of the number of locks he insisted on adding to it. I was able to clamber over it and to escape. Ah, freedom. It may have beckoned but I never seemed to make it far before being hauled back in.

In my vocabulary, the word no translated to, ‘well, there’s a small chance it’s worth the punishment’. Perhaps climbing out of the bedroom window when I was 15 and running off to meet a boyfriend was over-stepping the mark a little bit, especially since I got caught trying to climb back up onto the front porch in a bid to sneak back into my room. Game over – grounded for two months.

I was a determined child irrespective of my parent’s plans to keep me safe and, in my eyes, tethered to the home base, but worse than their over-protectiveness, was my increasing awareness that there would be things that apparently I couldn’t do. This extended into my creativity.

From an early age, I was constantly writing and drawing. When exciting ventures such as rampaging around the neighbourhood has been stopped, you have to find other fun things to do. So, I would create cartoons and make comic book strips and my creative efforts would be passed around to my friends so they could read with great delight, (sorry if I bullied anyone into reading them) but when you love what you do, you are prepared to go all out and get it and this meant, needing an audience, even if I only wanted an appreciative one. Importantly, I learned that I had a talent for writing and drawing and even more importantly, I loved it.

Most children dream of having adventurous jobs, and I wanted to be both an artist and a writer. My imagination soared with the potential life I could have, but, I can remember categorically being told that to be either required an extraordinary amount of luck and it just didn’t happen for most people. This infuriated me beyond belief – as you can imagine.

I would sit for hours writing and drawing and I knew it was something that I could do. I didn’t want to hear all of the reasons why I shouldn’t do it or, why it wouldn’t get me anywhere. Like most parents, mine wanted me to have a secure future and the messages were clear, study hard – and only view creative pastimes as hobbies. Hmm. That wasn’t going to happen. My dreams of sneaking off to London to go to Art School were firmly squashed however as were my plans to escape to Edinburgh at the age of 16 and become an artist. There were always reasons to say no. Even the best laid plans and creative ventures were too risky.

Now, I know as an adult that my parents were merely trying to protect me from the knock-backs in life. Of course, no-one welcomes rejection and traditional publishing threw a few of those slips my way in my teenage years. But surely, to achieve anything in life you have to work towards it and realise that the greatest achievements are unlikely to come gift-wrapped? Although I was determined to get my work published and the need to do so only increased throughout my late twenties, I often wonder if the concerns of my parents made me afraid to take risks and become a little reluctant to send my work out there.

If we live in fear of something, we ruin our chances of succeeding. I certainly became more aware of the possibility of failure and this unfortunately continued in a creative sense once I indulged in romantic liaisons. Partner’s at that time thought I was mad to even try, in other words, who was I to think I could be a professional writer? Later partner’s saw my determination to ‘make it’ as a writer only as a threat to the relationship.

The rejection letters I received certainly knocked me for six. I do remember crying – and my dreams shattering all around me. But, then I also remember giving myself a talking to and carefully piecing my dreams back together bit by bit and vowing to make it to publication whatever it took. Sweat, blood and tears, I was prepared to go all the way. Now, I have always been a fairly determined character, luckily, but many people may not have the same determination or, stubborn strength of character. If people are continuously told no throughout life, no wonder they give up. If people have a dream, they should go for it. If they fail through their own efforts, or a lack of skill, well, maybe lesson learned, or, perhaps they dig deep, they grit their teeth and they try again and again until they break through that barrier called no.

When you are told that you are just one person out of millions who have similar talents and the chances of succeeding are limited, it’s not conducive to encouraging that person to strive forward. It doesn’t matter that parents are merely trying to protect their children from potential hurts and failures, if you don’t try, you don’t get.

That’s always been my motto.

I say this to every creative individual out there, if you want it, work for it and do your utmost to achieve it. Other people should not limit your potential, however well-meaning. So what if you fail in one area? Take your talents all the way. You’ve achieved far more experience and skills through trying than if you listen to people telling you that you need to be satisfied with your lot. What’s the worst that can happen? You get to dine out and regale your exciting journey through life – mishaps, highlights and all and you can laugh at your own tenacity.

Next time you hear the words no you can’t, stomp on them.

How Far Will You Go To Pursue Your Passion?

by Annette YoungAuthor Annette Young

I have long since considered that to be a success in any field, you have to find that inner motivation and dedicate yourself to the cause. It’s all about setting your sights on the end goal and then making it happen. This means identifying your passions, identifying the route you need to take and learning how you can keep that motivation strong. If you are considering writing as a career or yearn to get your books published, then consider just how far you will go to make your dreams come true.

Inspiration comes in many shapes and forms. For me, touching base with nature is a natural boost to any flagging creativity. I work for a great many clients, on a great many (sometimes obscure) writing projects as well as on my own and sometimes I need to re-ignite that creative spark. Living in the Pyrenees Mountains and watching soaring birds of prey overhead is enough to revitalise my creative energies and despite the biting cold temperatures here, looking out over the snow-capped mountains makes me pinch myself and say, ‘hey, I am living the dream!’

Last night having finished my work for the day, I snuggled down under two duvets, (yes, it was that cold) to watch Snow Wolf Family and Me. Noting the enthusiasm and passion of Gordon Buchanan, a renowned wildlife cameraman who seems totally dedicated to his art and who spends many months apart from his family, isolated and in extreme conditions while recording incredible footage for television, it reminded me how dedicated some people are and the rewards they get for being so committed. There’s no doubt about his passion for nature and you simply can’t fake enthusiasm like that – especially in those freezing temperatures. He may have been lucky getting his big break, (sometimes it’s who you know) but, you don’t grow within your profession unless you are prepared to work your socks off and to be single-minded.

To be successful, you have to be self-motivated, dedicated and determined, you also have to drive forward bowling over any obstacles that litter the way so that you can reach that finishing line marked success. Believe me when I say I have bent over backwards to be in the position I am in now and at times, it’s been a risky adventure. My journey meant making many sacrifices, leaving my old life behind and setting out for foreign pastures so that I could be a full-time writer and carve out my niche in life. I won’t say it’s been easy, there’s been a few bitter disappointments and set-backs en-route but overall, it has been exciting.

Last night I gained great inspiration from watching that program, it reminded me of all that is important in the world and our place within it. Today, standing on my terrace watching the birds at the feeder with my breath frosted on the air, I viewed my surroundings and it was sensation overload. Who could not be inspired by the green rolling hills, surrounded by hardened mountain peaks, sentry-like and dominating the landscape?  I realised that uprooting my life from good ol’ England was the right one. If I hadn’t made the decision to change my life, I might have still been in my home town of Salisbury, (which I still hold dear) but I don’t think I would have progressed in the way that I was meant to. Sometimes you have to shake your life up and take risks. I loved the work that I did and the people I worked and socialised with but I knew I needed to write full-time and my driving passion was to escape to the South of France and to write my novel and, I did. Since then, I have written 14 books and every word has been a pleasure matched only by the satisfaction that I am living my life my way.

I guess it’s all about ascertaining what you really want in life. If you only have a vague idea, it’s probably not likely to drop in your lap gift-wrapped. You need to create the dream, visualise it, feel it and then express it. Don’t stop there though, work it. Put yourself on the line, let others give you feedback, learn from it, absorb it and then improve it – consistently. You don’t have to endure freezing temperatures and terrifying yet exhilarating situations for your art form like all those amazing wildlife professionals (unless you want to) but you do have to stand head and shoulders above everyone else in your creative guise and you must never rest on your laurels.

I have my inspiration but you simply have to find yours. Don’t just watch life on the sidelines – get out there and live it. Believe me, it will enrich your writing beyond belief and make your journey towards success that much more interesting.

Now think again, how far will you go to pursue your passion?

Looking into the Gorge

 

Writing Courses – Why You NEED to see this!

writing courses

Author Annette Young

If you are interested in improving your writing techniques, an online writing course has often provided a simple solution. Instead of struggling to make a college class, it meant you could study at home and take time with learning.

Due to changes in legislation coming into play from January 2015, it means sadly that we will be discontinuing our writing course service as it would mean a substantial price increase if we kept this service open and we do not wish to do that.

Instead, we are going out with a bang and providing massively discounted writing courses with seriously crazy prices and the offer for all courses will close on December 31st 2014. We will be providing full support and feedback still however long it takes for you to complete the course. We will just be unable to sell courses from January 1st 2015.

With this in mind, do take a look at our list of courses and if you wish to take advantage of our closing down sale, why not buy now and start later at a time to suit you? Or, if you would like to purchase a course as a gift for someone, just let us know.

From 2015, we will be promoting our coaching service instead where you can have one-to-one tuition on any aspect of writing whether by Skype or, if you prefer we can arrange the course via email.

If you have any questions, just shout.

Annette Young

 

Fiction Ingredients – Add a Pinch of History

Fiction ingredients

Author Editor Annette Youngby Annette Young

Fiction may be dreamed up and coaxed out of your imagination, but there are still vital ingredients that can serve to bring your story to life. Think about the characters, would you like them to be larger than life? Would you like to create 3 dimensional beings that incite dedicated followers? I am sure that the answer is a resounding yes, after all, what author doesn’t want to hook the readers with characters who seem living, breathing entities? To do so, it’s good to create a back story for your characters – especially for the protagonist. We all have a history, some of us have a more vibrantly coloured past than others but the great thing is, you get to play God with your characters and you can make their histories as naughty, fun or painful as you like.

I always advocate the creation of profiles for each of the main characters. I believe it helps writers remember what’s happened to a character in the past and why that character might act in a certain way in the present, but it does something else too, it enables the writer to fully connect with the characters on a deeper level and this equates to writing with confidence. Believe me; your readers will love you for it.

You won’t be able to capture (or think of ) all of their histories at once but, your profile should be a work in progress because you can add to it, amend it, delete sections or add interesting snippets capturing elements to look out for in the future. Once you have an idea of your character, just commit to writing it all down, or do as I do now and dictate using Dragon Software. It was a little odd hearing myself initially but after a while, it became much easier to capture all my thoughts or notions and even though I am a very fast typist, I can capture verbal words a lot quicker than thinking and typing.

Don’t worry about spelling or any grammatical errors; you can go back over it afterwards. Let’s be honest, if the words are flowing, just get them down.

Think about your character’s early years:

  • When was the character born?
  • What does the character look like? List any distinguishing features
  • Early character traits
  • Was it a difficult birth?
  • As a baby, was the character neglected or smothered with love?
  • Did the mother resent the character baby because he/she was the wrong sex?

These are just random examples of course but you can do a lot from this starting point and are likely to be more thorough if starting at the creation of life, rather than looking back. Once your imagination kicks in, you may find you end up with a lot of waffle and if so, just delete it. For example:

  • Jimmy likes cheesecake

This is unlikely to be that important to the story unless you know you will be writing a scene where cheesecake plays an important part, so instead consider something like this:

  • Jimmy had always detested wearing odd socks. His mother was a drunk and rarely kept the house in good order; the last thing on her mind was washing and mending clothes. Jimmy remembered how the other children mocked him about his odd socks-it made him feel like he didn’t belong, he became introverted and was bullied. Jimmy hated his mother and the feeling grew worse as he got older. As an adult, her lack of care now made him extra careful with his whole attire – fastidious in fact. Jimmy became a man of extremes.

From this you can see that a simple and seemingly irrelevant act could lead to the character becoming slightly eccentric or, over-the-top in his behaviour later in life. This could even spill over into his relationships if he married someone who was similar to his mother- even divorce, accidental death or murder if he suddenly snapped at his wife’s careless and inconsiderate washing habits. Extreme? Well, yes but who knew odd socks could be so powerful a trigger?

What happens in the past really will reflect on the present and indeed the future. Other things to consider:

  • Allergies – peanuts
  • Parental influences – good and bad
  • Fears – terrified of the dark as was trapped in a cupboard
  • Friends – loyal and those who let the character down
  • Relationships – love, betrayal and inner angst

The more you know about your characters, the more persuasive your writing will become. You don’t have to dish out every bit of information in your novel, sometimes less is more, but you know why you are writing a scene and will be able to portray it convincingly when you have the benefit of history. Writing a novel or any long work of fiction requires an intimate knowledge of your key players so by adding in their histories, you will be adding a sense of richness to the story-line.

 

Why You Should Write An Honest Book Review

Book reviews are important

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

Do you enjoy a riveting read? Do you love settling down with a good book and whiling away a few hours? If so, do you know just how important it is to write a book review once you have finished reading? Whether you loved it, hated it, or, are just plain indifferent, your views count. If you are not a writer, then you won’t have a full appreciation of the energy, dedication and drive that goes into writing a novel or, a non-fiction book. The author has to be totally committed to the end project, it’s a tough job even if the writers who go on to achieving their dreams of publication, love the written word.

In this digital age, there are now millions more books out there. That’s great from a reader’s perspective but it makes it tough for a good writer to progress up the rankings of those publishers such as Amazon or Smashwords. Many people think that a good book will always do well, but, it’s not the case. Even the most dedicated of readers cannot hope to trawl through the thousands of books in any particular genre. People always tend to look at the top of the list, and let’s be honest, how far do you think about scrolling down? You may be happy to read a book from an unknown author, but you may be more confident investing in a book by someone who is well-known and who has manged to transcend the ranks. The books that are lower down the rankings may be absolute gems, but it’s possible and likely, that the author doesn’t know how to market their book, doesn’t have the time to do so, or, does not have the funds for a professional marketing campaign.

This is where the book review comes in. Your opinion counts. It doesn’t matter if you are reading the book and really struggling to get into it, nor does it matter if you couldn’t care less if you ever see that author’s name again, you are entitled to explain your views and to help others make an informed decision about buying the book or not. The number of reviews are so important, they help the author to sell more books, they enable the author to promote their books more on certain sites because some won’t accept books with minimal or no reviews. Hence the importance of an honest book review by you.

I would always recommend an honest but  not cutting review. You may have seen some highly personal and derogatory comments by readers about an author’s books or worse, comments made directly about the author, there’s no need for that. If anything, it shows the reviewer up as being particularly unpleasant. But analysing why you liked or disliked a book can be useful for the author too.  Let’s say you read a book by a new author and enjoyed it, but, you noticed there were numerous spelling or grammatical mistakes, you can mention that in the review. For example; ‘ Great book but I did notice quite a few spelling mistakes which became a little distracting.’ If the writer has any professional pride, they will very quickly make some serious edits to the book before uploading it again ready for republishing. Perhaps you found the characters were not very realistic or the story-line just dragged on and on, you can make your point. It’s your opinion.

I hate giving bad reviews myself but I am always honest. I understand the hard work that has gone into writing a book so my reviews are never about making the author feel bad. I may say:

  • I did not feel a connection with the characters
  • I felt that their actions were unbelievable
  • The opening chapter was a bit weak but the book picked up the pace later
  • The ending was very obvious
  • The writing was repetitive in places
  • It was well-written but the story-line was not really engaging enough

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel a connection with other writers. I know how tough it is to work so hard on a project and then to have  a review that is more than a little upsetting. When I had my first books published, I lived in fear of a bad book review. My first ‘less than glowing review’ was extremely upsetting, I couldn’t believe how the reader could have failed to notice that I sweated blood and tears while writing it, but when I have compared that review to those received by other authors, I realised I got away lightly. Some people sadly enjoy the power of giving poor reviews, but honest ones would be welcomed by most authors.

You may think that most readers will leave reviews but I had a conversation with a friend recently who is an avid reader and she told me that she never comments on books if she doesn’t like them. I was horrified by this. A writer – whether the book was well-received or not – deserves to have some feedback. Out of courtesy, the book review should also be written in an honest but not unkind manner. A well-written book review is really useful for the author and as much as we all want readers to sing our praises and say we are the best writer in the world (or something like that) we know that writing is a craft and we never stop learning, so sometimes, a less than glowing review can be useful.

The main thing to remember is this:

  • If you liked the book – say so
  • If you would read more books by this author – then tell the world
  • If you didn’t like the book – say why
  • If you noticed any terrible mistakes – point them out

But do not, under any circumstances think it’s acceptable to vent a personal attack on the author.

A book review really is so important and it can make a huge difference to the book becoming popular and being found or, languishing way down at the bottom of the rankings. So you can see that your opinion really does count.

 

Shed Real Tears When Writing Fiction

Crying

Author/Editor Annette Youngby Annette Young

Nothing pulls at the heart strings of a reader more than well-written, emotional angst.  When you are next writing fiction, try to build in an emotional scene that makes you dig deep into your own experiences so that you can use your personal memories and emotions to fuel your writing.

Characterisation is all-important. If you don’t create engaging and convincing characters why would your readers care if you steered one towards a cliff edge or placed them bang, smack in the middle of a busy motorway? If you haven’t built in that integral connection between the reader, the story-line and the character’s development, you’ve wasted your time.

When I was writing my first novel, I purposely wanted it to be emotional. I was focussing on the deep emotion that I would feel if my best friend suddenly died and I was plunged into a dangerous situation, I am pretty certain I would have real tears. I am also pretty sure it would take me a long time to come to terms with her loss. This brings me to the point that as the writer, you have to be able to feel it if you want to portray it. Blubbering helplessly while typing is OK, even if it does make the mascara run or make you feel miserable for a short while.

I did smile when I read one review which said that she had no idea that a character could weep so much and it’s true, there’s a lot of heartbreak in the story, but isn’t that the point? When writing fiction, you need to encapsulate real life, the good and the bad. My story is about a murder, it’s not going to be sugar coated, it’s raw, emotional and poignant and believe me when I say I felt every word of it. I’ve also had feed back from readers to say they cried too. At that point I wanted to whoop with joy, I had created a deep connection and pulled the reader into the story. In essence they were hooked. Will everyone feel the same way? No, of course not. Those who prefer a different style of writing and less emotion are unlikely to have the same connection. But that’s all about personal taste in reading matter.

Growing up, I would say I’ve never been particularly an emotional person, but following the sudden death of my mother some years ago now, I have to admit, it was like turning on a tap with a faulty valve, the slightest thing would cause my resolve to wobble and I’d feel real tears welling up. Aside from feeling an emotional wimp, it’s been an absolute bonus in my writing and now when writing fiction, I really get the importance of putting my heart and soul into every word. I feel it, I live it and at times a story-line can threaten to overwhelm. Sometimes when writing, you can find yourself in a dark place. The story can take you into the depths of misery and it can impact your mood, even if you know that at some point, you will emerge and start writing that happy ending.

I’m not a sugar coated fan. I like to create a fictional world that mirrors the light and the shade of real life, I want to pull my readers into that place too and let them experience a multicoloured and multidimensional world that holds them tight and keeps them turning the pages. Knowing what you want to achieve when writing fiction can lead the way to a much more gripping fictional outcome and even better if you are prepared to share your experiences and shed a few tears along the way.

If you want to see examples of emotional writing or learn more, here’s a couple of books to start you off:

Murder Mystery

 

 

 

 

 

Available on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

How to Make Your Character Cry

 

 

 

 

 

 

Available on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

How to Get What You Want

Writing success

Author Annette Young

By Annette Young

Cast your mind back over the year and to any resolutions or goals that you may have set earlier (yes, even if that now seems like eons ago). How did you do? Did you achieve all that you wanted to achieve? The chances are there are things that you still desire in life and maybe there are some niggling doubts or feelings of disappointment that you didn’t push yourself a little more. If so, don’t worry, here’s how to get what you want:

1. Release the fear.

It’s true, sometimes fear holds us back so what if you could just have absolutely anything in life? What would you chose? If there was no risk of failure, would you go all out for it? As a writer, I was initially terrified of sending my work out to be assessed the first few times. No-one wants to hear bad things or to face rejection, but the joy of success well and truly overcomes the fear of failure. If I hadn’t started sending out my manuscripts, I wouldn’t be a full-time writer today.

2. Embrace your passion.

If you really want to achieve something, you will invest your time and energy in it. If you really enjoy writing and want to take it to the next step, you have to let your passion consume you. Surprisingly, it’s not all about the word count although writing regularly is important. The thinking process is crucial to your writing efforts and success. Think it, live it and do it.

3. Believe

If you have doubts about how good you are, stop. Your doubts will just chip away at the confidence levels that you have. Instead of thinking negatively or worrying, why not just congratulate yourself on the fact that you have goals, you write and you have the desire to improve. These are the magic ingredients for success. Sometimes all it takes is a little self-belief and a lot of re-writes. You are not alone, even the most successful writers struggle at times.

4. Visualise the outcome.

The more that you can visualise your creative goals, the easier it will be to manifest them. When I go to bed at night, I think about what I want to achieve and how good it will be to succeed. I picture myself writing the last word, posting a manuscript or receiving a nice letter and cheque confirming publication. You get the idea. I am very target specific. I visualise myself achieving and I believe in my abilities to do so. I find using affirmations a powerful resource at this point. Tell yourself that you WILL achieve your goals and ALL will go well.

I have learned over the years that life doesn’t  hand you anything on a silver platter. You have to know how to get what you want in life and to follow the trail determinedly, the harder the goal, the greater the reward. If you really, really want to get published, learn the relevant skills, write as much as you can, fire up those creative juices and keep the imagination burning bright. The desire to achieve comes from you, the hard work comes from you and the self-belief too. Sometimes it will feel like an uphill battle and fear will raise its ugly head, but, don’t give up on your goals, instead, harden your resolve.

 

Annette Young

Creative Writing – Use It or Lose It

Jugglingby Annette Young

I am the first to admit it’s not always easy to plan your creative writing pursuits and to fit them into a busy schedule but with creative writing, you have to be able to keep the techniques fresh in your mind and to allow the words to free up and flow regularly. It doesn’t matter if it’s only ten minutes a day or a couple of hours a week, if you don’t write on a consistent basis, you will stop improving and your skills will plateau out. It may be tough finding enough time in the day to blink let alone to write, but seriously, to enjoy creative writing and to improve your skills, it really is a case of use it or lose it.

Here’s some quick tips to keep your desire to write strong:

1. If you don’t have much time spare, make the most of your time by thinking about your creative ideas during those moments when it is impossible to indulge creatively. Turn that walk to the shops into an idea generating one or, if you are sitting on the bus or on the train, take a sneaky look at some of your fellow passengers and imagine what their day will be like or, where they are going. If you are called into a long and boring meeting at work, imagine something funny – perhaps a slap-stick moment and try to picture the scene. If nothing else, it will make  you smile at the thought.

2. Turn your lunch hour into a timed fiction fest. Give yourself 10 minutes of fast writing on a single idea and just let the words pour out onto the page. The end result may be excellent or, you may want to scrunch the paper up into a ball and throw it in the waste paper basket, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve opened up the creative channels.

3. If you have trouble sleeping, think of one key word – or a sentence and try to create fictional scenarios around it. If you take your mind off trying to sleep and bring your creativity to the fore, you will soon start drifting off but not before you have created some lovely ideas. If you get any really imaginative ideas, write them down quickly.

4. If you are struggling to find something to write about, invest in a copy of Challenging Creative Writing Projects (shameless plug) and you will be able to dip in and out of it at will while your brain starts pulsating with fantastic new ideas.

5. When your time is really limited, you might need an extra push to make you sit in front of a blank screen, so consider entering one of our writing competitions – here’s the latest list for you to download and peruse and spend a few minutes each day crafting an imaginative entry. Who knows, you could find that your spare hour turns into a productive and lucrative session.

6. Set yourself a serious challenge. Devise a specific word count per day or per week and make yourself sit down and write – start with 500 words a day which can be easily done in a lunch hour or before or after work. This keeps your brain oiled creatively speaking and you can increase the word count if you find that you are enjoying these sessions. Or,  join our Write, Learn and Publish membership and set yourself a challenge to learn new skills and, enter as many competitions as you like without worrying about numerous entry fees.

Creative writing is meant to be enjoyed, it’s a great stress reliever, it can be fun for all the family and is great for children to  be able to utilise their imaginations, and even when time is of a premium, if you set your mind to it, you will find that it is still possible to embark upon a creative activity and subsequently, you will feel the pleasure of your writing skills growing ever stronger.

My Secrets to Fiction Excellence

Writing Fiction

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

If you are looking for the secrets to writing good fiction, it’s all about expanding the mind and utilising the experiences within. Fiction has to be based in realism even if the fabrics of the story are borne from your imagination. Sometimes, it’s about breaking the rules and letting your imagination take over, it’s about taking risks, learning and anticipating the techniques that work and those that don’t.

I knew that I wanted to be a writer from the time that I could pick up a book. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write and my brain was constantly overflowing with ideas. During my younger years, I wasn’t thinking that each piece of writing would be published, I knew I had to bring my words to life and I was never satisfied with the work completed.

As I grew older, I learned the joys of research, settling into a comfy chair and curling up with a never ending stream of good books. I began to analyse what worked and what didn’t. I learned a lot. We all have our preferences when it comes to reading or writing and for me, nothing beats a good murder mystery or an intense psychological thriller, (blame my counselling background for the latter) but it’s a good idea to step outside of your chosen niche sometimes and to dissect and inwardly digest a variety of techniques.

When I seriously began writing, I tried to put all my knowledge into a practical application and then realised, you just can’t or shouldn’t, emulate someone else’s voice, it’s theirs alone, yet you can still learn from other published authors, using their ideas, their words and techniques as a springboard. Developing your own voice is essential.  Once this falls into place, writing becomes even more enjoyable, it becomes a gift.

I have always been a people-watcher. We are all so fascinating and the fact that people are inherently flawed, this is a wonderful resource to the fiction writer and I absolutely revelled in creating characters that are so deep they are almost  unfathomable.

There is no doubt that real life provides a never-ending source of inspiration. From the nosy, curtain twitching neighbour to the desperate for attention woman or the quiet, surly individual that lurks on the edge of society and who never reveals much, yet deep inside, there are murky, secretive depths to them all.

In fiction, you have to understand the human condition and embrace it, utilising it throughout. Characters can drive a story forward by their actions and desires and snippets of information should be revealed little by little but it’s important to never give too much away.

Writing fiction is akin to playing God. You create, you tease, you explore possibilities, you design events, tragedies, mysteries, drama, chance meetings, love and passion and then, can whisk it all away in a whim. It’s good to make your characters suffer, let them experience the highs and lows of reality, use your own experiences as a starting point and then let the fictional senses take over. It’s important that the reader gleans much through the actions of those characters rather than you laying it all on the line.

There are many secrets to writing good fiction, but enjoyment of the writing process is paramount. Think about it, do you give a piece of yourself every time you write? You should. If the character cries, feels alone and desperate, you need to share those emotions as deeply. Feel it, live it, write it.

The world doesn’t stand still and neither does your story. Your characters must evolve as the plot develops and changes. This fluidity can be appealing, a reader can recognise confident writing and mastery of the written word. Build tension, suspicion and doubts, make the reader think, wrap up your story in an evocative guise, allow the readers to be enveloped in the richness of glorious multi-coloured content, then let in darkness and shade when you need the reader to feel the starkness of your words and the futility of the characters plight. Evoke the senses of all who read your words and provide pure escapism irrespective of genre.

These are some of my secrets to fiction excellence. Over the years they have become an integral part of me and I keep these techniques firmly at the fore, ready for when I need to tap into them. When you understand people, when you are not afraid to dig deep and to lay your own emotions bare and when you write for the sheer love of it, the power of the written word becomes a tangible force.

Inspirational Creative Writing Tips

Tips for writers

Author Annette Young

By Annette Young

If you are considering a new fictional project, stop for a moment and scan through these creative writing tips first as they just might help you to increase your connection to the reader before you’ve even written one word. It pays to really consider what you are trying to achieve before you start out, spontaneous bursts of creative writing might feel wonderful but if you want the outcome to have a more professional edge, then a little contemplation can make all the difference.

These creative writing tips may seem commonsensical but put them together and consider them throughout and your fiction will be creatively stronger as a result.

1. Creating a dramatic opening is essential if you want to hook the reader but it doesn’t always have to be an action scene, instead why not consider starting with tension? The opening could be a life-threatening revelation and the reader is instantly aware that the clock is ticking and the character may or may not make it. Tension is interwoven in our lives, we all fight against it but when we use it in reality, (like using a deadline for increased inspiration) it can serve to give the story a sense of realism.

2. If you are going to start with a sense of drama, it’s good to end each chapter with a hook. This will keep the reader turning the pages as they will be desperate to see what happens next. If you are writing a short work of fiction, you can still build tension towards the climax and make it a memorable ending.

3. Don’t reveal everything to the reader. When you settle down to read a book, you don’t want to know everything at the start. You want the opening pages to be attention-grabbing and to pull you into the story, but if the writer gives it all away or makes it so predictable, why read more? Tease the reader with some carefully chosen snippets of information that will have them mulling over this news and they will become absorbed, anticipating the outcomes. Keep it fresh but believable.

4. When you craft your characters, do you know what they really want or need to achieve? If you don’t, you will just have them treading fictional water. There’s a huge difference between characters that have an aim, and those who just mill around. Think about the people you know in real life. Those who have a cause and who are determined to achieve will stand out, they may  not always be likeable in some aspects but they are memorable. Your characters  need to incite interest in some way or another. Don’t make it too easy for your characters to achieve either, throw in a few obstacles to make it interesting.

5. No characters are the same throughout. We all have layers that make up our personalities. Some people sulk when they don’t get their own way, others work harder to achieve, some people attract the wrong personality types, others create incredible friendships. Past actions and learned behaviours can make your characters act in very different ways  than might be expected. People are not always logical or in control of their emotions, but their actions are usually as a result of something.How well do you know your characters?

Find a good starting point and let the words flow with a flourish. If you have conviction in  your writing and your story, your technique will improve dramatically and so will the end result. These creative writing tips are useful but only valuable if you use them each and every time. Eventually, these tips will become instinctive and you will develop an intuitive approach to storytelling.

 

 

 

Writing a Novel – Stereotypes and Boundaries

Writing a novel

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

When I started writing my novel Who Killed September Falls, I had the image of my two main characters firmly planted in my mind. I knew that I wanted September to be wildly beautiful but flawed within her own personality and she had to have the perfect foil, Arianne Tawnison who was the loyal friend, the side-kick who recognised her role within the friendship but who gave willingly and gained much as a result. I wanted September, (Sepi) to have a Latin heritage although she was British, so she could be feisty, passionate and indiscreet, and by contrast, Arianne was sensible, sensitive and transparently honest.

I am a firm believer that you should write about what you know or have experienced, and base your story on solid foundations, pushing back the barriers in ways that stretch the imagination, extending those characters, yet still allowing them to be natural and realistic in their thoughts, feelings and actions.

By the time I came to write my novel, I had lived and breathed both characters for quite some time and had played out various scenarios in my mind. I knew the novel was going to be a murder mystery, but it couldn’t just be that. It had to be about the people who played their part. The characters had to be larger than life, they had to  be emotional, to be able to feel raw pain and to be unable to hide it.

I  also wanted to break down the stereotype that many people have of us Brits, and I say this tongue in cheek because I am sure that there is a definite perception of the  stiff upper lip and that we muster on despite intense heartbreak and emotional turmoil, our lips may quiver slightly but that’s all.  In my mind, I just knew that Arianne wasn’t going to be able to be that tough. She was facing the shock and terror of hearing that her best friend had been brutally murdered. I put myself in that situation wondering what I would feel, how I would cope, questioning how I could recover from such terrible news. As I sat contemplating my writing plan, there was no doubt that I was going to put her through the mill and she was going to feel alone, isolated in her grief and would shed never-ending tears the more that she learned. Arianne suffered the pain of suspected betrayal, faced acute fear and experienced the purity of love which served to comfort and shield her, but throughout, she stuck to her mission with dogged determination and resilience.

I suppose writing those types of scenes made me really consider my own emotions. I don’t like to cry in public and I have never liked to show if someone has hurt me, so I had to turn the tables on Arianne and make life so raw for her that she had to grieve and experience the multitude of emotions that threatens to envelop when someone close to you dies. As she cried, I sat at my desk and cried too. Since the novel was published, I have had many people tell me that there were times in the novel when they cried over the intensity of the emotions and I’ve had others tell me that Arianne certainly didn’t seem like their idea of a British woman and that she seemed to really struggle to get over her loss, so maybe I achieved what I set out to do.

My novel became the murder-mystery with emotion. I created a slice of real life and took two very different women, threw them both into a very dark place which resulted in dire consequences and created a complex mystery with a myriad of twists and turns that took Arianne into emotional places and situations in which she floundered. My ethos was that no-one truly knows how to deal with grief in real life, so I wanted to capture all those dark emotions as a result.

When I started writing my novel, I had no idea of how powerful those emotional scenes would be for me as the writer. I think that Arianne Tawnison really came to life for me because I stripped back the barriers and allowed those raw emotions to live. I think that breaking down the stereotype also enabled me to move more freely in a creative sense. Although September experienced hatred and tragedy, Arianne has evolved and her character has become so powerful that she lives on in a fictional sense in my latest series, Secrets at Cranridge Manor. It’s good to be able to bring her back from those dark depths and to give her something new to focus on.

So when you start writing your novel, consider carefully where you want your characters to end up. How can you break down barriers to make your characters believable? They need to feel real to you so that you can portray them convincingly to others and if they are strong enough, you may be able to breathe life into them at a later date.

Who Killed September Falls?

 

Interested in reading Who Killed September Falls?

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or take a look at the new series starring Arianne Tawnison…

 

 

Buy Part One here:

Series - Secrets at Cranridge Manor

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eternity’s Shadow

by Annette YoungScience Fiction Book

 

It’s rare that I wax lyrical about a book but I do so today because not only have I had the great pleasure of working with the author for a few years, but I think that his books are an absolute master class in fiction writing.

 

I must confess that while I do like sci-fi, it’s never been my chosen genre when I’ve had time to read. My time is limited, so I have always chosen my favourite genre for those rare moments when I can completely switch off and become absorbed in a novel. But, also, I believe that it’s a difficult genre and it takes great imagination and technique to bring it to life, and many authors don’t quite achieve this – in my opinion.

 

A few years ago, I was approached by author Mark Whiteway who wanted me to provide a manuscript evaluation on a book in his Lodestone series. When I started reading, I was hooked. Even though I had started the book well into the series, his writing was poetic, dramatic, insightful and yes, just a little compelling.  Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have been involved with subsequent books in the series and they continue to delight.

 

His latest book(pictured here) is probably his best yet. It brings all of the favourite characters to the fore, but also, he does something quite difficult in Eternity’s Shadow, he introduces new alien beings into the plot which not only have to be accepted by the reader, but must also fit in with the existing central characters. I am happy to say that he does this effortlessly. More, the new characters evoke emotion from the reader, and I found my opinions changing rapidly as he threw them into a variety of complex and dangerous situations. This book has so much in it. There’s deception, lies, secrets and even a little humour. There’s even the only and only human, McCann, who can often be found, ‘slightly inebriated’ in the alien bars, he is a great character but one who is viewed with much suspicion on this strange world.

 

This book is gripping, its entertaining, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. If you just want to escape the mundane and fancy curling up in a corner and being transported to a strange new world filled to overflowing with vivid imagery, then this is the book for you. Equally, if you want to enjoy a novel that has been beautifully written so as to gain an insight into the techniques used, then you will learn a lot.

 

Eternity’s Shadow is available to pre-order here with Amazon, but you can check out all of his books including his first in the series:

The Sea of Storms

 

Writing Tip – Go Back So You Can Move Forward

Writing tips

Annette Young - Authorby Annette  Young

We all need a little help and encouragement sometimes. Even with all of my years of experience writing for myself and for clients, it’s still nice to get some really positive feedback.  A few of my more recent clients did just that, they rated my work and said that they absolutely loved the articles I had provided for them. A little bit of encouragement goes a long way and I have to admit, it’s a good feeling.

But if you haven’t published any work yet or, if you have not started writing for clients, how do you know if your work is good, or, if it is getting better? Well, of course there’s my evaluation service which gives you a comprehensive breakdown of your fiction, articles or book, but here is a writing tip that most of you will be able to utilise even if you have limited experience;

Take a look back at your first pieces of writing and analyse them. I can almost guarantee that you will see a massive improvement if you compare it to your recent writing samples.

I did this a few weeks ago. Having moved house, I had the joyous task of sorting through some boxes that had been stashed away and as I did so, I uncovered my trusted case which holds all of my early writing samples. These date back to the 1980’s and continue into the ’90’s so you can imagine, it’s easy to look back and compare. I spent a few hours taking a trip down memory lane and each piece of writing, now faded and fragile, brought back sharp memories of those times.

Now, I always (modestly) thought I could write and write well but when I look back at those early stories which were submitted to women’s fiction magazines, I can quite see why they were returned to me with a no-thanks. The same with my articles.

Although I didn’t see a drastic improvement at the time, I can now. That’s a great feeling by the way and it confirms your belief in your writing abilities. So, my tried and tested writing tip is to rummage through your old manuscripts and take a long, hard look at your early efforts, now compare them to your recent writing attempts and you will see just how good you are.

What better incentive is there to carry on writing?

 

High Quality Content? I’d Love a Bowl of Peanuts!

Writing for peanuts

Annette Young - Authorby Annette  Young

Every now and then I feel the urge to stick up for writers everywhere and to tell potential clients to pay up if they want high quality content. You’d think it would be obvious.  You get what you pay for you don’t you? Apparently, in the world of freelance writing, top notch writers are still getting lumped in with those who can hardly string a sentence together. Quite frankly, it’s not the reason I went into writing, and I’m sure many freelance writers out there would agree.

I really get sick when I see job adverts that express the importance of hiring someone with excellent skills and yet want to pay them peanuts. In fact, for some of the payments offered, I think a writer would struggle even to buy a large packet of peanuts from their wage. It’s ludicrous that a professional writer is expected to write for next to nothing. I suspect that for some people, their earnings per hour is less than the national minimum wage. Scandalous.

I’m not greedy. When I quote for writing projects, I put in a fair offer and ok, sometimes do reduce my rate, it depends on the job – little research, very quick job, or if it gives me a new string to my bow, but my low side, compared to a lot of writers, is vastly different. So come on clients! I can appreciate that the economy is tough right now, I’m a business woman, I know that the figures have to tally but if you want good quality writing, then please pay up.

I’m lucky, I get repeat work from clients and I don’t work anymore for people who are rude, who let me down or, who keep me waiting for my payment. I am not keen on hourly rates,  because if I feel like taking longer and slowing my pace, then I’m not over-charging my clients. I do not write manically for anyone. I do not apply for jobs that say ‘ Fantastic Job! We want 400 articles and pay an AMAZING 800 USD! What? Then the others that say, LOW BUDGET but MASSES of  WORK! Are we supposed to be grateful that we can work for very little but get to juggle our little shirt buttons at the end of it?

I have written about this topic before, moaning at writers about getting some self-respect and charging what they are worth, but I see that nothing is changing.

So this time, my heartfelt plea goes out to clients the world over, please, please, please consider that you are hiring professionals. You are hiring someone who can make a huge difference to your own financial income by writing books, web content or articles for you. Don’t advertise for a high-quality writer but say, ‘It’s an EASY Job and expect to pay little. If it’s easy, why are you NOT DOING IT?

Don’t offer a writer revenue based on sales thereafter, because if the marketing is not good following on after the job is completed, sales will be next to nothing. Instead, do the decent thing, pay a reasonable wage, one agreed by both and look after your writer, even if you are only working on minimal projects together. Decency and kindness goes a long, long way and you can be confident that the writer will work even harder for you if you appreciate their skills.

I firmly believe that you get what you pay for. You may be lucky and pick up a good writer who happens to have a low self-esteem and does not know their own worth, but what are you going to do when they burn out through writing long and hard and not being able to pay their way?

I know that businesses are struggling right now, but if you wanted to get a receptionist or a secretary, wouldn’t you have to pay the going rate?

Sometimes writers don’t have a voice, so I’m standing up on their behalf. Look after your writers and they will create the high-quality content that puts your business on the map.

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Success – Imagine It, Touch It, Feel It.

Writing success

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

Do you dream of being a successful author imagining your very first book signing or, about clasping that first copy of your book in your hands? Perhaps you just want to see your name in print or to win your first writing competition? Everyone who engages with the written word creatively has some idea of where they want their writing abilities to take them, and writing success is possible if you can imagine it with conviction.

I know that when I started out, I wanted to become published, I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to write, in fact, I tried just about everything. Going from one project to the next, ideas cascading in as I devoured each writing technique, hoping that with each new skill-set and a bit of luck, success was bound to be mine. Naive I may have been to think publishing success would drop gift-wrapped into my lap but, determination kept me striving forward.

Some of you will relate to that inner drive, that integral something that makes you need to create imaginary scenes, and dynamic and charismatic characters. I know that almost all my actions translated into how to conjure up scenes that were not only imaginable but that seemed real.

Visualising your goals is so important. It has to seem real to you before you can even start to make it happen. If you have doubts about your own potential, then you are as good as slamming the door in your own face. Everyone has doubts that holds them back but you have to put it into perspective. How much do you want writing success? As a creative writer, your imagination must be strong, you have to be able to picture success so acutely in your mind’s eye that it becomes almost a tangible thing. The more you see it, the more you can feel it and want to taste success.

What equals success for you? Everyone’s journey on the creative path is uniquely different but every obstacle is surmountable if you can approach it with determination. I used to see these stumbling blocks as a way of testing my resolve and that certainly worked for me. I surpassed my earlier goals but each day, week and month, I create new creative goals and imagine them becoming a reality too.

There is always a way to achieve your dreams, be it a book, a story or a film script. It might not be the easiest path but the harder the route, the more satisfying the taste of success.

 

 

Writing – When Less is More

The fiction writer

Annette Young - AuthorBy Annette Young

There’s no escaping from the fact that writing well means writing regularly. The craft of writing needs input but funnily enough, sometimes writing for a very short period of time can make you more productive. Blank page syndrome can often scupper your best intentions to have a productive day at home and it’s just typical when you have carefully arranged time to write, that those are the moments when the well of creativity dries up, packs up and leaves.

Of course it only returns when it is too late to try again.

If this sounds familiar, or, if it’s just impossible to invest too much time in your writing currently, do yourself a favour and keep inspiration afloat by setting up ultra fast, highly pressured mini-sessions. It doesn’t matter where you are either, find ten minutes before work, in your tea break or at lunch time, simply watch the clock and then write furiously for ten minutes until you run out of time.

Initially, your writing might not be as free flowing as you would like. It might be a little disjointed or less than perfect, but that doesn’t matter. You will be amazed at how much you can get done in just ten minutes and you are training yourself to respond creatively on demand. It works because you  know you only have a limited period of time to perform and that’s it.

Of course you can adjust the time to suit your schedule but everyone can manage ten minutes, whether on the train, on the bus, in a cafe or before collapsing into bed at night.

Incidentally, these little writing sessions can really boost your connection with the written word too.

 

Writing Tips – What To Do When Your Brain Says Go Away!

Brain

Annette Young - Authorby Annette Young

I love writing for a living. It’s not always the easiest job, but for me, it is the most satisfying. Even on those days when the words fail to come, I know it’s just a temporary lull in my creativity. There are days though when you may start to wonder whether a stick of dynamite might be the only thing that will explode your brain into operating again. I know from experience that there are a number of things that can stop productivity – too much stress, too much alcohol, not enough sleep, and, perhaps surprisingly, a lack of deadlines nipping at the heels.

There have been times when I have pinned myself to the chair, gazed in desperation at my blank screen, rubbed my head furiously, and even growled at myself a few times, all to no avail. Eventually, I have moved away from my desk, resorting to a last method, relinquishing the hoover from its cupboard prison, preferring the mundane action of cleaning, to the desperation of trying to write.

So sitting down waiting for the words to come, is not really the answer. It’s not writers block per se, it’s as if the brain is taking time off, but often when you need your creativity the most. Like today, I knew today was going to be tough. I woke up with a headache, I didn’t feel energetic or creative but I had so much work to get on with it, I wasn’t even sure where to start. I hate days like this when even the slightest task is like climbing a mountain.  Annoyingly, I even turned down the chance for a day out in the French countryside because I  needed to get my head down and to get on with it. In reality, the day out would have probably done the trick, but I knew that I couldn’t spare the time.

My tricks of the trade to overcome that fuzzy, foggy headed feeling include this selection of writing tips:

  • Switch projects, choose a different writing task and this will free those words.
  • Write a to-do list. Works well if you are overwhelmed with the workload.
  • Edit. If you are writing a book this is easy. Spend time editing a previous chapter and this will have you buzzing with ideas in no time.
  • Drink water. You might be dehydrated and fuzzy minded as a result. Have a bottle of water next to you on your desk.
  • Get outside. Just a change of scenery can click your brain into gear, breathe in some fresh air and let the oxygen revitalise your brain.
  • Exercise. When I can’t think, I go out onto my terrace and practise my yoga and switch off the creative process, when finished, I feel better, more in control.
  • Pick up the hoover, nothing will make you want to write more than having to do a bout of cleaning.
  • Read. Flick through a magazine, look at the reader’s letters, imagine writing a reply or actually do so if it gets those words onto paper.
  • Write down all the reasons why you love to write. By the end of your list, you will at least have remembered your attachment to the written word and feel more motivated.
  • Watch the news. Write a torrent of words that describe how you feel about the latest atrocity.
  • Visualise.  Think about your story, your article or your book, try to bring it all to life, but don’t think about writing.

You will find that once you have stopped the, ‘ I can’t think’ thought process, the words will come. Sometimes, the brain just needs oiling so that you can get those words out. Your brain might say go away, but you need to try to trick it to make it perform.

You may  have many more tricks to overcome those stagnant writing moments, feel free to share them in the comments section.

Winning Writing Competitions – Yes You Can!

Competition Success

Author/Editor Annette Young

By Annette Young

Writing competitions – they are a unique way of firing up your enthusiasm for the written word and sending your skill level to crazy new heights. Receiving notification that you have won a writing competition is pretty special. It’s like having your Christmas and birthday presents wrapped up in one sensational moment. You feel good. No, you feel great. More than a boost to your self-esteem, more than an eureka moment – what am I going to spend all that cash on? It’s confirmation that your writing skills are pretty good.

You can be a prolific writer and you can have the best technical writing skills in the world but it doesn’t mean you are going to win any writing competitions – why? Because to win writing competitions, you have to enjoy it. You have to look at the competitions that are on offer and think wow, I really want to have a go at that. Those with a theme are often easier if you are just starting out, or, if you just like having a trigger to springboard your creativity to new heights.

Having a passion for the written word is vital. Enjoying that brain pulsing moment when you take an idea and run with it and find out that hey, it’s a pretty good idea, well, that’s a great moment. You have to be able to live and breathe writing. To stand at the sink tackling the washing up when really, your mind is far away solving mysteries in the Caribbean, or enjoying an illicit preview of your characters clandestine affair.

But more than excitement, you have to be prepared to knuckle down and actually do the work. You have the ideas, you’ve narrowed them down, then you need to find your starting point. Depending on your word count allowance, your starting point might be very close to the end, but decide on this first of all and then let the words flow. Make the opening sentence dynamic. Choose your words carefully, make every one count. Just because you are a competition writer, it doesn’t mean you don’t embark on the whole re-writing element of the game. Change it, shine it, polish it. It represents you but don’t sit on it, doubting it until after the closing date.

Entering writing competitions enables you to put yourself out there. You are endorsing your work and saying, here I am. This is what I am about. Although your work undergoes a judging process, you, the writer are not judged. We know all about the writing journey and often, it starts with writing competitions like ours. The main element to winning is to enter in the first place. It’s as simple as that. You will never start to know how good you are until your work is circulating, doing the rounds. If faced with rejection, take another look at your submission. Could you have improved it? If yes, tweak it, save it and then submit it to another writing competition -assuming the story-line fits. When you write with determination and dedication, you will see  your work progress in leaps and bounds.

So can you win writing competitions? Yes, you can, you just have to dream up a captivating idea, enhance it, write it and then send it.

Marketing Your Author Website

SEO

Author/Editor Annette Young

by Annette Young

As an author, it is imperative that you have a website and start building your brand, but it’s easy to fall foul of unscrupulous marketing practices if you are not 100% certain what you are doing. Having fresh content added to your website regularly is important and will help keep your dedicated readers coming back as well as ensuring that Google and other search engines will start to notice your site.

For any author, there is no getting away from social networking and as many authors are going the indie-route these days, any marketing falls solely at the feet of the author. Even with traditional publishing now, the more the author can do to get the word out the better.

As an author myself, I know the importance of having a popular website. Take the Creative Competitor site for instance, in the last few months, visitors have trebled. I am sure this is because I promote the site and content regularly and I always try to make the articles and posts informative. If you are designing your author website, think in terms of simplicity. Marketing and design are both important but I know authors who have spent a fortune on having the most whizzy of designs but in user terms, frankly, it’s too annoying to wait for pages to load. Think always of the user experience. This will also stand you in good stead for search engine placement. Why? Because Google, (who let’s be honest runs the show) change their algorithms regularly with the visitor in mind.  So, fresh content, easy to read and informative equals quality in their eyes.

If you have searched the web in recent years you may well have come across poorly written articles all geared up towards high density keyword placement and it ruined the articles. If you are not sure what high density keyword placement is, good. Don’t bother. Just write your blog posts with your readers in mind. Keep it fresh and entertaining. Some people will mention back-links to you and will offer you their services, do not fall into this trap. Some savvy but not so honest marketers went the way of the paid back links but they were not genuine links and Google soon saw through this new little ploy to beat their latest rules.

Also worth considering is whether people can view your site easily on their mobile devices and tablets, so if you are looking for a website theme currently, keep this in mind. Mobile access is likely to exceed  access via the traditional desktop or laptop devices.

For 2014, Google has specified that good quality content written by authors with specific expertise will be a main focus (my words, not theirs) so in which case, become an expert in  your area and, if necessary, pull in the services of other experts to write pieces for your blog.  Content always has and always will be king, but fresh and quality content will always beat tired, old recycled articles- even if they are well-written. When you have your website in place, make the decision to add new content several times a week. If you start with a dedicated plan of action, write blog posts, or add excerpts from your books and do this each week, your site popularity will soon build. It doesn’t have to be just blog posts or articles of course, use video, PowerPoint and social media clips to keep the content fresh.

Never forget why you are setting up your website and what you are offering to your visitors. You are a writer, so enjoy the craft of writing for your readers. SEO – search engine optimization is important, but just as important is having your vision and providing tantalising snippets of information that will keep your readers coming back. Make your site a popular one and you can bet that the search engines will find you.

If you need help promoting your books, ask us. We provide a professional but affordable marketing service for authors globally.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Author/Editor Annette YoungWith the sad demise of actor/comedian Rik Mayall recently, it got me thinking about how we conduct our lives and play out our dreams. We think that we have all the time in the world to achieve our goals but the harsh reality is that we don’t. Although it’s easy to see that Rik Mayall more than achieved in his 56 years, many of us don’t and we need to question why.

Some people have a passion in life and strive forward determinedly, others may have opportunities presented to them but even so, the secret to success is that these people clutch those opportunities with both hands and do not let self-doubts or time restraints hold them back.

We are all guilty of procrastination. There are times when I feel the urge to do anything bar write. Tiredness, stress or even the enjoyable social aspects of life can actually all get in the way of our true path. This post isn’t a stark reminder of our mortality rather, a reminder that if you have a dream, don’t wait, get on with it.

There is nothing more painful than regret and knowing that you could have done so much better. Although my passion is writing, the message here can relate to all goals in life. No-one knows what lies ahead of them. Life is rosy and longevity may seem certain when your health is good, but health and circumstances can change rapidly. As much as it will be terribly painful for Rik Mayall’s family, he leaves behind a multitude of visual reminders and he will stay alive in the memories of all who admired him, what aspects of your life will you leave behind? How would you want others to remember you? If you have a dream, writing a novel, a play, or even getting a short story published, don’t think about it, or dream about it, do it. Start now and know that you put your heart and soul into something that is important to you.

None of us want to think ‘if only’ when our time is up.

Calling All Competition Writers

Winning a prize in a writing competition
As much as we hate to burst the bubble of creativity, here is a heartfelt plea to all competition writers everywhere. Please, please, please do read the rules. We see some wonderful submissions but of late, many do not adhere to the rules. We try to keep the rules as basic as possible but they are there for a reason. They provide a level playing field for all writers irrespective of publishing experience – so that everyone has the same chance.
This is just a reminder that the full rules are published on each competition page, please do check that you have read them before even starting your entry. We often provide you with photos for inspiration or, have a tricky little word count to adhere to, but whatever the rules, they are there to be followed and we hate having to exclude well-written submissions.

 

We advertise our competitions across the Internet including on social media sites such as Twitter, so if you have stumbled across one of those adverts, you may find that only partial rules are added. This is dependent on the information requested from the website and so, we are unable to always provide every bit of information. On Twitter for example, it’s impossible to say much, but we always, provide a link directly to the relevant page, so don’t miss out on a prize simply through not checking.

 

We know that time can be limited and you might have to rush to meet a deadline, but please do give your submission a fighting chance and not let it fall at the first hurdle.

Writers – Why You Should Sweat the Small Stuff

Author/Editor Annette Youngby editor/author Annette Young

As a writer, you have to build up a vivid picture for your reader. You might have a definite plan in your mind, but unless you can transfer those thoughts and paint those images with words, capturing them forever within the plot, your reader will not grasp the story as comprehensively as you would like.

I am lucky where I live in that the Pyrenees Mountains provide a huge source of inspiration for me. I look out of my window and I see snow-capped mountains, I turn my head in a slightly different direction and I see the rising tower of a church spire peeking from the green shrouded scenery of a small French village opposite me. I am surrounded by the picturesque scenery that provides me with the inspiration I  need, someone else might become inspired by being surrounded with people, or dynamic architectural designs that form complex concrete structures. It doesn’t matter where you are or the things that you see, being able to immerse yourself in your own environment is the most important aspect as is, having the technical skills to relay this information in a compelling way to those who read your work.

I went for a walk the other day, climbing higher into the foothills and I followed little roads that meandered through farmland and valleys. Having re-developed my love of bird-watching, my idea was to see as much wildlife as I could but as typically happens when I walk, I start think. I think about new characters, settings, possible locations and create descriptive scenarios in my mind. At one point, mesmerised by the clusters of striking flowers that adorned the hedgerows, I thought about the work that goes into creating just a small passage in any book. Importantly, it has to be accurate and revealing. There’s no point my just writing about yellow flowers, it means nothing to the reader really, I would have to say the clusters of vibrant flowers that rose on stalks from the rough and tumble grasses and how the Great Yellow Gentian draws the eye to its significant form.

A writer should always check their facts too.Find out what month a particular flower blooms and to ensure that they do actually grow in the location chosen. It’s important because someone is bound to know and as a writer, you can lose credibility if you get it wrong. Similarly, if I say I watched as a kestrel hovered high over the freshly cut crops hunting for prey, I have to ensure that in my area, kestrels are resident. Although this is a fairly safe bet, there will be examples that are revealed as obvious mistakes if you are not careful.

This is especially important if you are writing about a particular place. I remember providing published novel samples to my writing students at college one day. The excerpt was  from one of my favourite authors and I loved her descriptive passages that held the power to conjure up balmy summer nights, or dreamy beach scenes in tropical island paradises. At least I did until one student said that those particular flowers described did not bloom during those months. She knew the area well and was adamant as a gardening enthusiast that she was right and who am I to argue the point? It certainly gave me food for thought. Creative licence goes a long way but for a little bit of research, a fictional novel can still be accurate and actually come alive for the reader.

So do I think writers need to sweat the small stuff? Absolutely, especially if they want their work to seem credible. We all want to possess the writing skills needed to paint vivid imagery with our words, so why not take inspiration from the world around you, or at least, do the necessary research if you are writing about an area that is unfamiliar to you? It can make all the difference.

Want to Publish? Then Publish Something Good

Author/Editor Annette YoungI have been known to rant a bit, but then I believe passionately in writing and those wonderful feelings of satisfaction achieved after writing and publishing something worthwhile.  Being an author is not easy. Your best work is often the result of laboured productivity where you have to wrench painful, emotional or difficult experiences from deep within and to share them with the world. You put your heart and soul on the line every single time you have something published.

Writing is hard work, you face rejection, you feel the brunt of reader feed-back, you are filled with doubts at times about your own skill-set, oh and the road to making a million is a long and trying one. In short, there are mistakes and set-backs waiting to be made every step of the way.

Self-publishing is a wonderful resource and although some still shy away from self-publishing, I say accept and embrace every single opportunity to get published that you can. If you make mistakes, accept them but don’t stop writing or publishing your books. There’s a global audience just waiting to read your words.

It’s important to be clear however that indie publishing is not a ‘get rich quick scheme’ or, a way to haphazardly create books that have not been created with love, care and attention. If you are going to publish, then publish something good. Why would you not spend the same time and effort with an ebook as you would with a traditional book? The only difference might be that you have a smaller word count with an ebook, the quality of words should be the same.

Understanding why you want to write as well as who you are writing for will certainly help you to have a definite plan of attack. If it’s just some fuzzy idea of being an author, then forget it. Have some pride in your work. Plan your book, live and breathe those words, and have a definitive message to share.

Having work published is akin to leaving a part of you behind long after you have given up your grip on life.  It’s a way of being alive forever, at least in the eyes of the reader who will want to know more about you. Just imagine your book being read 50 years from now, new dedicated readers who desperately wish you were still able to write….or not, depending on the quality.

So think about the end result. Do you want the reader to put your book down and think wow? Do you want them to feel informed and satisfied by the content? If you think about your book from start to finish then they will. If you are an author who thinks that using indie publishing is just a way to churn out any old rubbish or to make a bit of cash then you will simply leave the reader feeling disappointed and cheated.

What type of author do you want to be?

Writing Success – Ten Minutes A Day

successful writingby Annette Young

Ten minutes a day, that really is all that is needed for writing success. In fact, I would say that the more time you have, the less productive you may be. I know it can be difficult to juggle work and family demands, I did just that for many years. I had a husband (ex now) who was grumpy if I disappeared into another room, laptop tucked under my arm and, who did not (would not understand) my need to write.

I had a full-time job and a part-time job teaching and I had already taken the first tentative steps towards writing professionally. I also had a disabled mother and as you can imagine, there were times when I had to drop everything to be with her as her health fluctuated up and down. Believe me when I say that I juggled profusely to fit everything in.

This is why I can honestly say, hand on heart, that ten minutes a day will do wonders for your writing. If you are a morning person, get up that little bit earlier and write then. I did my ten minutes during my lunch hour. I would get away from my desk and eat my sandwiches sometimes in the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral. I would spend a few minutes first absorbing the life that moved around me. I soaked up the atmosphere of the ancient building, I relaxed in the beautiful grounds and I would shrug off the stresses of the day. Then, I would write as fast as I could, timing myself to see how many words I could capture.

Were those short paragraphs perfect for publication? No, of course not. Sometimes I even struggled to read my own handwriting.

On rainy days, I used to try to find a quiet corner at work and to blot out the noise of a busy office environment and to let ideas flood through me. Sometimes the words were like a hard knot in my head, at other times they poured in fluidic motion out onto paper and I felt creatively satiated.

The point I am trying to make though is that a mere ten minutes a day of concentrated writing will be enough to train your brain and to make you ultra productive when you need to write. On those days when you sit at home and have hours at your disposal to write, isn’t it typical that those are the times when words do not come? Do you imagine them deliberately resisting your desperate pleas, knowing that the more stressed you become, the less likely that they will appear. Ten minutes of successful writing is worth more than an hour of hair pulling, head scratching and lots of screwed up efforts in the waste-paper bin.

If you find that ideas do not come on demand, write down a few enticing titles the day before, even allow your mind to mull over the words, teasing out new ideas and creating a series of what-if scenarios. Spend your ten minutes writing opening paragraphs to exciting new stories and then the following day, continue to write the next paragraphs and so on. Keep your brain challenged and don’t be afraid to push yourself creatively. If you can find just ten minutes a day to write, you can be successful. You just have to make yourself work at it.

“Image courtesy of [David Castillo Dominici] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.