Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Working with beta readers








I've used these before and I am now using them again. The first time was for The House onSchellberg Street. On that occasion I asked a few of my creative writing colleagues, another English colleague who specialised in the Holocaust, a colleague who loves all things German  and some young people. I had labelled this novel young adult and now although I think it can be and has been read by young adults, it is possibly more accurately an historical novel featuring feisty women.
I'm now working with beta-readers on the second book in the Schellberg Cycle, Clara's Story. I'm not sure I have the title right yet and indeed that comment has come up.

 

When is the text ready

I think the text should be as polished as you can make it before you send it out. I tend to write a novel within three months but spend up to eighteen months editing it. I will also have shared a good deal of it with a critique group. The better it is before it goes out, the nearer to perfection it will be once you've reacted to what your beta-readers tell you and the less work any future editor will have to do.  

 

What I want to know

I want a gut reaction to the text. What have the readers understood? Does it work for them? I'm not here looking for an in-depth critique and I certainly wouldn't expect beta-readers to annotate the text.
Is anything puzzling?
Is there enough pace and tension?  
If they have some form of expertise in the era written about I'm more than happy to have any mistakes pointed out to me and to listen to their further suggestions.  
Whilst I don’t expect full annotations I'm grateful if the beta-readers point out any overuse of words or phrases or a general fault with my writing that comes up frequently.  Also I'm happy if they point out the over-occurrence of bad writing habits – telling when I could show, shifting point of view, using clichés, not varying pace, sentence-length or tension. If they spot a typo and point it out, even better, though I'm not expecting this.

 

How to react

You don't always have to rush off and make alterations where the beta-reader has suggested they're needed. Certainly though if two or more have mentioned the same thing it's probably worth taking them seriously. You can ask yourself whether they have a point, though. Sometimes they may suggest something is wrong and offer a fix.  There may be something wrong but the fix they've suggested may not be the best answer. You may need to find a third way.    

Dream team

I'm putting together a dream team of beta-readers, reviewers, illustrators, designers and editors.  Would you care to join us? Find details here.   

   

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

News 1 August 2017

Now out of plaster, thank goodness.  


News about my writing

I'm pleased to say that my arm is now out of plaster and making good progress. I've now cooked, baked and ironed successfully. My typing speed is back up. I still can't drive though and won't dare until my right arm is thoroughly reliable. So there's still a lot of desk time but I'm beginning to get out a bit more.

Canned Stories

I talked a little about this last month. My ideas are firming up on this and I'll be putting out a call for submissions soon. Thank you to those of you who've given me ideas. I see some interesting stocking fillers emerging.   

I originally got this idea from the Ministry of Stories where they sold limited editions of stories by well-known writers. I adapted this to use with my creative writing students at the Create Festival at the University of Salford last year. These were limited editions – five copies of each story. It's another interesting way of publishing.  
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Patreon

I’m selling some of my work via Patreon.  You can find details here. As the name suggests, you would in effect become a patron. I think I’m offering real value for money, with something for both readers and writers. And you can take both if you happen to be both.  Check it out if you’re interested.   

 

Dreamteam

My Dream Team of reviewers and beta–readers and for my publishing and self-publishing projects, editors, proof-readers, illustrators and designers is beginning to take shape.  
This is a personal recommendation. Initially I intend to use my Dream Team a lot myself but gradually I would add in people that friends and friends of friends had recommended.

What happens?

You sign up to a mail list and every time a request comes in we mail it out to you or the enquirer contacts you directly via my web site. The conversation then carries on between you and the person making the request. You may also have a page set up on my blog and you may update that once a year. 
Interested? You may sign up for more than one category. 
Beta readers sign up here.
Reviewers sign up here.
Editors sign up here.
Illustrators sign up here.
Designers sign up here.
Proof-readers sing up here.   
DO REMEMBER THAT AT ANY TIME YOU’RE APPROACHED AND YOU’RE BUSY IT’S PERFECTLY FINE TO SAY NO.   

    

Bridge House

We have now finished reading the entries for Gliterary Tales. There were a few more submissions this year and some very good writing. And what with my broken arm and Debz moving houses we were a little delayed.
The standard was very high this time and we've had to reject some very publishable stories but I've encouraged those writers to submit to CaféLit  or consider one of our single author collections. See below.
Here is the list of writers and stories, in no particular order, that have been offered a slot in Gliterary Tales:
The Stuff off Fairytales L.G. Flannigan
Storm in a Teacup Deborah Rickard  
The Party's Over Sharon Zjadman
Pictures in an exhibition Stuart Larner
To wish upon a star Paula R C readman
Snow Storm Catrin Kean
The Crystal Gazer Cathy Leonard
Silt Christopher Bowles
Self-Improvement  Michael O Connor
The Lone Valley Clare Weze
The Litter in the Glitter Linda Flynn  
Pamb Bwark Glitter Chick Dianne Stadhams
A little Bit of Sparkle Liz Cox
A very Unseelie Act:Kate Lowe
All that Glitters Theresa Sainsbury
The Girl Who Sings for her Supper A J Humphrey
Brighter than Jewels Gail Aldwin
Her Coronet Weeds Yasmina Floyer
Kitsune David Trebus
Magpie Sally Angell
Following the Thread Dianne Stadhams
Footwork Mary Bevan
Moe L F Roth
Note, we are one short as one writer has withdrawn and we're still waiting for the next on the list to reply.  
We’re getting plenty of interest in our single-author collections. These are for authors we’ve published before and they may include stories we’ve already published, ones they’ve had published elsewhere and new ones. The description for this is now on the web site. We’ve already had some enquiries and we’re currently working on several anthologies.  You may recycle stories we’ve already included in another anthology, and you may reedit these if you wish. You may also add in new stories. We’re aiming at a total word count of between 30,000 and 70,000 words. 
If you’re interested in this, contact me here.    
Already in progress are collections by Paul Bradley, Phyllis Burton, Jesse Falzoi, Dawn Knox, Jenny Palmer, Dianne Stadhams and Paul Williams.
We now working on edits of Citizens of Nowhere, with the theme of the global citizen. We’re commissioned just over half of the work from known authors and there has been room for a few open submissions.
     

CafeLit

Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here.  I’ve been encouraging my students to submit. I’m beginning to see some of their work appearing. I've now made the selection for The Best of Café Lit 6. Here it is:
Janet Bunce An Alternative Halloween
Bite Marks 
Alan Cadman Let it Snow  
Patsy Collins Walk a Mile
Helen Combe Have You Seen My Wife?
                        Schrödinger's Data Stick 
Hannah Constance Confessional
David Deanshaw Shadow
Alyson Faye Treasure Hunt
Linda Flynn Poppy, a Puppy for Remembrance  
                        Wake Up Call
Angela Haffenden Emphereal
Michael Hennessy In Deep
Jasmin L. Jackson Push
Vicky Jacobson Ruby's Luck
Gill James All Things Wise and Wonderful
Predictive Text
                        Recognition
Lloyd Jenkinson Pirates' Island
Dawn Knox Christmas on the High Street
The Queen's Labour
                        Still No Room at the Inn
                        Wishing Well    
Helen Laycock Pumpkin  Soup with a Dash of Magic
Roger Noons Clean Breaks
Performance
                        Resolutions
                        That Friday Night
                        Sport for Fun
Stuart Page Play Fair
Jenny Palmer The Visitors
James Phillips Cider and Chalk
Z. L. Porter Elvis's Son
Paula R  C Readman Chimes at Midnight
Penny Rogers Green for Danger   
Allison Symes Pressing the Flesh
Alun Williams Chalk
Lisa Williams An Affair in A-Z
Milk Snatcher
Ruby
Robin Wrigley Dinner for One


The Best of CaféLit 5 is still available. There are some lovely stories in this. I’m very pleased that I have a story in this collection. Order your copy here.      

 

Again we need more reviews for this. Have you read them? Could you write us a review? And again, I’m offering free copies as PDFs or e-mobi files.

 

Chapeltown

Neil Cambell’s Fog Lane is out now. Again, reviewers very welcome. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fog-Lane-Neil-Campbell/dp/1910542083/  I can get the e-mobi or a PDF to you if you're willing to review.   
Christopher Bowles' Spectrum, a challenging but very satisfying read. Again reviews welcome. We've not yet done a Kindle version of this as the layout is challenging and getting e-mobi technology to behave is testing all of our resources. I can send you a PDF. Be warned: there is some adult material in this. There is also a lot of beautiful writing. If you would like to buy the book, see details here.      
Chapeltown has now successfully published its first picture book. Colin Wyatt’s Who will be my friend? – is a delightful story about friendship and accepting others. Yes, Colin is Debz’s dad. He is a Disney licensed illustrator and his previous publication is The Jet Set. We feel very honoured to be publishing him.
The book is out now and available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Who-Will-Be-My-Friend/dp/1910542121/  Reviews welcome. We can provide the PDF. 
We’re very pleased with this book and now aim to publish more picture books. We're working on an illustrated book by Philippa Rae and we've offered two more contracts for picture books.   

Creative Café

We’re always looking for new cafés.  If you visit one of the cafés in the project and would like to write a review of between 250 and 350 words – nice, too, to have a couple of pictures – send it to me here. Do the same if you find a new café.
I’m now sending out welcome letters to each new café that’s added. This will also offer them the opportunity to join the mailing list.  
I’m also now proactively encouraging cafes to stock The Best of CaféLit. Do you know anyone who might like to stock it? We can offer a 35% discount to retailers. Query gill at cafelit dot co dot uk.     

 

The Red Telephone

I am now working on Richard Bradburn’s Evernrood.
Our mentoring programme is now full. I’m now working quite closely with three very different authors: Charlotte Comley, Dianne Stadhams, and Nina Wadcock. They are all presenting some fascinating material. University of Salford graduates Lauren Hopes and Christian Leah have also joined our happy band.        

Book tours

If you’re a Bridge House / Red Telephone / CaféLit / Chapeltown author and you want to get serious about book tours, consider our author’s kit. We provide twenty or so books (exact number is up for negotiation) you take to the bookshop and the bookshop can put these through the till. We then invoice the bookshop, with a 35% discount for any sold and top up your supply to twenty. At the end of the tour you can either pay for the remaining books at cost + 10% or keep them until you’ve sold them and then pay the normal price of 75% of RRP. The latter can in any case be set against royalties. You need to allow at least ten days between events. Contact me here if you’re interested in this.           

School Visits

I’m proactively promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’ve now developed a whole workshop for this. It starts off with a board game, includes some role play and creative writing and ends with a discussion.
Costs= travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Two schools near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.       
I also offer a free half day visit, though you pay my travel expenses, if you allow me to promote my books.       
I’m also continuously adding materials for schools to the site that are different from the ones I use for the workshops. I’ve recently added in resources and books to do with the topic. See them here:       
Query for a school visit here.
I’m also happy to tailor a visit for your agreed donation. This can be for either a Schellberg Cycle visit or a creative writing workshop. Any monies raised this way will go specifically to a project I have for a non-fiction book about a journey that will follow the footsteps of Clara Lehrs. I’m hoping to do the whole journey by train, including departing via my nearest Metrolink station. It’s important to feel the rails beneath my feet.       
 I offer as well standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.
It is now also possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.
Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.

 

Upcoming events

         
Note also for your diary: the London Bridge House / CafeLit / Chapeltown / Red Telephone celebration will be 2 December at the Princess of Wales again. Last year we “sold out” – the event is free but ticketed. We shall have:  
  • general mingling
  • cash bar
  • an opportunity to buy lunch
  • an opportunity to buy books at an advantageous rate    
  • “speed-dating”  where you get to speak to as many people as possible in the room i.e. promote yourself to readers, swap tips with other writers
  • author readings
  • latest news from me  
  • collection for a local charity
  • big book swap (bring one of your other titles and take something else home – hopefully all will be reviewed. If you bring a non-writing friend they can just bring a book they love)  
This has now been released to everyone who has been published in 2017. 31 out of 50 tickets are already "sold". I'll be releasing it to the whole of the Bridge House Authors list on Friday. Not a Bridge House author yet? But you'd like to become one and get an invite to the event? Sign up for that mailing list here.      

Writing opportunities

Remember I keep a full list of vetted opportunities on my writing blog. See them here. New ones are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I go through it and take out all of the out of date ones. At that point I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.    

 

Current reading recommendations

I've recently read a volume of very short stories by one of our own writers, Dawn Knox. She has put together an impressive collection of 100 stories each exactly 100 words long, each about the Great War. Read my full review here.   

 

Giveaway

This month I’m giving away an e-mobi file for your Kindle of On This Day Download here.
You will also find in this dropbox:
·         An extract from Clara’s Story
·         Some seminars for schools about The House on Schellberg Street
·         Some fiction writing exercises
·         The opening chapters from my manual for writing the young adult novel  
Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage, sell for anything form £0.99 to £10.99, with most on Kindle being about £2.99 and the average price for paperback being £7.00. We have to allow our writers to make a living. But we’re offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy. 

Current reading recommendations

I've recently read a volume of very short stories by one of our own writers, Dawn Knox. She has put together an impressive collection of 100 stories each exactly 100 words long, every one about the Great War. Read my full review here.   

 

Happy reading and writing.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Me and my email




I actually love my email. Even though like today it sometimes brings me a rejection. There was a time, especially when I was still employed, when I used to be a little afraid of it, a little bullied by it.  Then, however, I remembered it is here to serve us as a tool rather than to rule us. Now it has become like a magical box, full of treasure.     

Snail mail all but gone

I really do get very little snailmail. I've opted to have pretty well all bills, statements and invoices delivered electronically. That means I can pass them easily on to my accountant. It requires a little organisation but if something gets misfiled, it's fairly easy to do a search on the computer and find it again.
I get a lot of email – far more that I ever used to get as snailmail and in fact none or at least very little of it is junk. I have got a good spam filter for that. I'm on several mailing lists and even though I don't always have time to read very post I like to keep them coming because occasionally I do read them and I find a few gems.

Limiting time

It could take me several hours to monitor my email if I read every single one. So I don't. I allow just half an hour a day.
I sweep through starting from anything from the day before. I select anything that needs a reply and reply very quickly if I can – otherwise, it goes on to my "to do" list and I then give it all the attention it needs later.
I'll then go back to the start of the list and delete or file any thing I can for three days' worth or again to the start of yesterday.
I spend the rest of my half hour enjoying some of the non-urgent posts- newsletters,   book recommendations, sales and personal news etc.

Proactively sending email

Yes of course I do this pretty well daily. This comes up as part of my "to do" list and often includes submitting a text for publication. It's not about using email for the sake of it – it's more that email is the most effective way to achieve certain goals. It's a tool not a ruler, remember.  

Actually inviting more email

Yes, I'm actually trying to get more people to connect with me by email. Yes, of course, that is for me to be able to email people my newsletter, news about my books and details of my events.  That will generate more replies for me and more emails to deal with. But I'm confident my system will still work and I'll be able to deal with them in half an hour a day.

Final tip

Think very carefully before you unsubscribe form a newsy email list. Remember, you don't have to read it every time. The delete button on your computer is very useful. Occasionally you will find something very exciting there.

And a warning .....

I broke my arm badly as a result of checking my email whilst on holiday.
"That'll teach you," said my son. 
Do remember the handy "out of office" automatic replies you can put on.