Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Why interview a novelist if I'm advising non-fiction authors?

Yes I'll hold my hand up and say there was a certain amount of self indulgence in my choice of R J Ellory.

He's a thriller writer and I'm a long time fan. But there was a more altruistic reason too.

You can learn from him.  Why? Because he's a master story teller.

Confession time now - yes he knew I hadn't read any of his books before I met him last year. When I did read, A Quiet Vendetta, I wouldn't say it was the happiest choice for me. Full of blood and guts, yes lots of them and a great deal of other kinds of nastiness.

However, what it had that kept me reading was the parallel stories of two men whose lives collided, accidentally once and deliberately once.

Think about it. Your favourite novel. Maybe one you reread. What is it about the story that takes you back to the book, especially when you already know what happens.

Now think about the non-fiction book you want to write. What's the story in it that will keep people reading?

I tried something the night before I talked to Roger Ellory. I opened the book at random and began to read to see what would happen.

Bang! I was straight back into it. In this particular instance, making my way through a swamp on my way to commit a crime.

If you've watched people look at non-fiction in bookshops, what's their behaviour? Yes they'll look at the front cover, read the back, maybe the contents page. But often they'll dive in at random. Not read logically.

That's one of the tests your book needs to pass with flying colours. Hold the reader's interest no matter where they enter.

Hm. Maybe needs a good story?

To listen to the interview with Roger, go to Click on the Conversations about Writing page.

To find out more about him, go to  On both occasions he was charming, encouraging and interesting about writing and the writer's life.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

June update

I just looked at the date of the last post I made here. Can't believe it's almost three weeks ago. Still it has been a very hectic few weeks.

So what's prevented me from blogging. Apart from lack of discipline of course.

It would be too long, to go through the whole month but let's take a look at my last week.

I'm in the middle of a new enterprise. Hosting a telesummit. Decided in April to have a go and am taking a training with Sharon Crawford of Spiritual Messengers Worldwide. Fabulous decision to have made.

Already the support I've received from Sharon has far outweighed the purchase price of the whole package. Why?

Well I've had an hour long one to one Skype session with Sharon, helping me become very clear about the reason for doing the telesummit, the title and the speakers I wanted to attract.

That in iself, the speaker selection, is such an intense process. Yes I need some big names to attract the audience but that's not the only reason to choose people. Sharon and her co-host on the package Tamra Fleming have some great advice on the first audio call in the package.

And the documentation you need. Without the templates they provide, I'd have been tearing my hair out.

That's only one part of the whole enterprise. As I go through it I'll post updates with my ups and downs.

So I have been occupied with that. Plus my normal work which included an article proof read. Since it was a medical article destined for a prestigious journal it had to be done with especial care.

Then there was getting the new website up and going. I got myself in a real technological muddle about that. When everything is finally sorted out I might confess to what happened. But the site is live, including the first of a series of audio and video interviews that I've titled Conversations about Writing.

Gives me all the excuses I need to be nosy about all aspects of writing, publishing and marketing.
Take a look at the site and let me know what you think. Sign up for the monthly newsletter. Who would you like me to interview? Can't promise I'll manage it but I'll certainly try.

Added to all the other excitement this week, I almost invited a virus on to the computer, I ricked my ankle and broke a tooth.

Life certainly hasn't been dull this month.
Speak to you again soon.
As you can see June's busted out all over in all kinds of directions.


Sunday, 3 June 2012

What stops people writing

Last week I took a trip over to Creative Coffee at the Phoenix Arts Centre at Leicester.

I had a fun time meeting other writers... and would be writers.

Did more listening than talking which is as it should be. Listened to one person who was moving from an IT career to being a freelance editor and proof reader.

But most of all I listened to people who wanted to write but didn't, couldn't or wouldn't.

Their woes were centred round five problems.

  1. I haven't enough time.
All the people I met were in business. They're efficient goal setting and achieving professionals. What makes it different with the writing is that treat it as something 'separate'. Creative. Needing that moment of inspiration to start off.

The more I write and the more different things I write, the less I believe in writer's block and this inspiration stuff. Yes you need the initial ideas. But... once that is there, the rest is steady determination and application.

Which means giving it time. At the moment I'm rewriting a draft of a book I worked on about eighteen months ago. I've set myself the goal of finishing the draft by the end of July. So I need to write about a thousand words a day to hit that target. I've worked out it takes me under the hour to do it.

For me the trick is just to write it and not look back. That's fatal. When I've done the draft I'll take a week's break then start to fix it.

   2.   I'm stuck in the research stage.

This applies to many academic people one of whom I heard about last week. Got a brilliant idea, loves research, now can't find his voice for the book.

There really is only one answer. That's to write. Once you're into the writing, especially as he's writing non-fiction, the voice will come.
  3.  I can't find a publisher.

This is the first question people ask me. And it's often from people who haven't started to write their book.

These days, the question's become more irrelevant for many people. Self publishing has lost its crummy image and turned respectable. Digital printing has brought down the cost to manageable proportions for most people. And social media has opened up the world to promote what you do.

It's the most exciting time to be an author.

4     I can't get it out of my head onto the page.

Fear. That's what causes this. I know because I've suffered from it.

While it's in my head my book is perfect. Absolutely perfect. Any publisher would snap it up in an instant and turn it into a worldwide best seller.

On the page it might lack something. So I'll leave it where it is.

Shame because only once it's on the page can somebody help you with it. And the thing about writers and people in the industry is that they're helpful. They love everything to do with writing and books. They're passionate and committed.

So if you're at that stage, take your courage in your hands and begin.

 5. I can't find the right shape for the book.

This seems to be bound up with finding your voice and wanting to rely on the inspiration. I've been in groups where there's always at least one person with this approach to writing.

Without fail the tutor tries to persuade them to do some planning on the structure for the book. Simply because if you have a road map, it becomes easier.

I've heard stories of some writers who plan meticulously and never deviate from the plan. Some who plan then revisit the structure if they get stuck.

There are as many ways of completing a book as there are writers and you do have to find the way that suits you.. But that initial structure does seem to make sense - at least to get you going.

What I've realised in the ten years I've been writing for business and writing fiction and non-fiction for myself, is that if you're willing to accept help, there's no shortage of avenues to find that support.

Arts organisations, paid assessment services, writers' groups, courses, author events.

What's needed though from the writer is their participation. If you sit at home 'wanting to become a writer' but doing nothing about it you' ever will. Just as I'll never run a marathon because I don't run.

And it's a shame, because your book, could be the one that makes a difference to others.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Eileen Parr; new writing resolutions in June

It's a month since I blogged. Part of me can't believe that a month has passed since I did this. But when I look at what I've put my energy into over the last month I can see clearly where the time disappeared.

Since the beginning of the year I've given a lot of thought about where I want my business to go. I have let it run down somewhat over the last couple of years. Taken a break from the fee paying work and paid attention to writing fiction.

At the moment that effort hasn't offered me any concrete results. No publishing contract or link with a literary agent.

It's improved my writing though. Sending some off for a professional review in January I was pleased with the assessment. Showed distinct signs of my having worked to some effect.

The thing is that I don't think I'm just a writer. Like it or not I have that something inside of me that wants to help others progress. Came out all the time when I was employed even when I didn't label it as mentoring. And after years of my profession being guessed as teacher, I did go into teaching.

Only when I had something I was passionate to share though. At that time aromatherapy and reflexology.

So it seems I can't get away from that and I've decided to give it another whirl, this time to help writers.

One of the fun things I've done in the last month is to record some video interviews about writing. I've started a series Conversations about Writing which will begin to go live when my new website goes live next week. There'll be some podcasts to; I recorded the first of those with Farhana Shaikh in Leicester last week.

And that was another thing that demanded my energy. The website. The writing of it is no problem. It's the technical stuff that drains my energy. Getting all the bits to work together.

Still I'm improving at that too. Taking responsibility for it. Been bad at that in the past, relying too much on others to sort it out for me.

So all in all, it's been a hectic, but productive May. Here I am ready to go with a new website... and a new plan.

Let's see where it all leads me!