Why must the best “new writers” always be under the age of 40? Asks The Guardian


An article in the book review section of The Guardian from November 14th 2014, points out that lists of “best new writers” or “writers you should read” tend to be full of writers under the age of 40. What about more senior writers, asks Joanna Walsh.

Is it impossible to be a new writer after the age of 40? Are the best new writers always the young? Walsh points out that there are many mature writers who have been slowed down in the writing process by careers or bringing up children. Should their voice be silenced because the are over 40?

I should admit to a vested interest here. I published my first novel at 50 and at the tender age of 54 am still going strong. When I was younger I was too busy travelling, getting qualified and building a career. On my writing course, I am one of the youngsters. Many of my colleagues have taken up writing and only one has yet to see 40.

Enough of the youth obsession, I say. Let’s look at older writers, value them and their work. Crafting a good novel, poem or play is a tremendous achievement at any age and should be recognised as such.

Does a writer need a website?


Does a writer need a website? Absolutely. It represents you and your writing to the world. You can control what is on your website and how you reach out to your audience. It is your homebase. As Kimberley Grabas puts it, your website is “a marketing and networking hub and a portal that allows communication to flow between an author and his or her readers.” (http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/author-website-elements/) Kimberley has some tips to pass on.

What should the webpage be about? The writer and writings. This is where you sell yourself and your writing. It is not a place for sharing family photos.

What is the purpose of the website? To promote the writer and writings. The website promotes you, it promotes your books and it promotes your ideas.

Who is the target audience? Current and prospective readers. Readers might want to find out more about you and your books; prospective readers might check you out and then be encouraged to read your books as a result.

What should be on the website? Writer bio, book info, contact info, events etc.

Website or Facebook page? Possibly both though people seem to find out more about books by doing web searches and reading websites (http://www.thebookdoctors.com/does-an-author-really-need-a-website-the-book-doctors-interview-annik-lafarge-on-how-to-be-a-more-effective-author-online). Some authors have author Facebook accounts in which they only write about their books and connect with their fans. It sounds like a really good idea.

How often should you update your website? Ideally, monthly. If people return to your website they want to see something new and some evidence that you are engaging with your readership. If you post something new on a regular basis, then you will get return traffic. I bought a template for my website which I have been busy adapting using HTML and Javascript. I have total control over my website, which I think is essential for writers.

What about a blog? A blog is a good way of communicating with a wider community on a regular basis and getting feedback on what you are writing. There is some good information on setting up a blog for writers on  this website: http://www.everywritersresource.com/writers-need-website/.

How expensive is a website to run? If you can do a bit of the HTML stuff then creating a website is actually cheap. Notepad comes free with Windows and you need a little coding knowledge to use it. Professional, and easier, software is Dreamweaver. This is expensive, but you can download a free trial. Dreamweaver allows you to have design view (for non-techies) or coding view (for techies). You can create beautiful website with a little persistance. Alternatively, you can buy and template and adapt it, get someone to make the site for you (very expensive) or build a basic site using Blogger, WordPress or any of the other free alternatives. It will cost a few pounds to buy a domain name and around £30 a year for hosting, depending on the package you buy. I am currently trialling a new version of my website (www.fromthefrozennorth.co.uk) which is a template I bought on the Internet and then adapted using Notepad.

Does a writer need a Twitter account? Not unless you are really really famous and people are going to follow your every word or you have a brand new book out and you want to publicize it. Then, I would consider have a book specific Twitter account.

Indie writers need all the promotion and marketing tools they can get so a dedicated website has to be a must, in my opinion.

 

 

 

Formatting a manuscript for ePublishing


A few days ago, I was asked to explain my experience of ePublishing and how I went about preparing my novel to be published as an eBook. The process, as I explained, is not very complicated and can be easily accomplished in a few minutes. The snag is, of course, that the manuscript needs to be formatted correctly for an eBook before you begin the process. I thought I would share my ideas with a wider circle. So, here goes.

The most important thing you do, apart from write the text, is to format the manuscript so that it can be easily converted into an ePub file without a lot of HTML errors. I find that the easiest and best way to do this is to set up the formatting before I begin typing. Reformatting a huge manuscript after you have written it is a major headache. I know this from experience. This is what works for me:

  1. avoid all fancy formatting, styles, headers, footers, footnotes, table of contents, line breaks, page breaks, different colours and page numbering;
  2. create your cover separately as a PowerPoint JPEG but put a smaller image into the text at the beginning;
  3. set up the document before beginning typing using Word styles (this is the formatting bar at the top of your screen under the ribbon) and having this as a default setting so that all writing is done on the same template – this saves lots of hassle;
  4. have clearly defined styles: I use Heading 3 as my chapter headings so that the converter can easily pick them out to create the table of contents and my body text is written in the Normal style with a line spacing of 1.5;
  5. this is what it says under the modify button: Font: 14 pt, Bold, Line spacing: single, Space,  Before:  14 px, Keep with next, Keep lines together, Level 3, Style: Linked, Hide until used, Quick Style, Priority: 10
  6. have body text paragraphs setting up so that as you type Word automatically indents your paragraphs;
  7. I have a hanging first line of 36px;
  8. keep an eye on your use of the Enter button on your keyboard and minimize the black spaces between paragraphs and chapters;
  9. test out small texts on different e-ink devices to see what works best for you;
  10. do not use fancy fonts as they do not convert well.

 

A converted documented which can be read an e-ink device is basically a html document similar to the kind of page you see on a website. Text wraps around so if you press Enter or Return at the end of each line you will mess up the text.

I generally save my documents as a doc file but you can save them as HTML files and RTF files depending on the conversion program you choose.

Formatted Doc

Formatted Doc

The case for ePublishing


There are some writers –and readers – out there who do not see the point of publishing eBooks or even having an eBook at all. I know from my own experience there are many people who prefer to read a printed book. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there are some books which work better when printed than as an eBook. However, ePublishing is on the rise and there are a large number of people who read books on an eReader. I went to the London Book Fair 2014 and there were a huge numbers of print book publishers but also a large number of ePublishers and eAuthors.

To give some statistics to confirm why writers should take into account the eBook market:.  According tot he people behind the London Book Fair “in 2013 the number of self-published titles increased by 16.5% to more than 450,000 – and this is excluding titles published through Kindle Direct Publishing and Nook Press,” ( http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/en/Library/Blogs1/Snapshot-of-the-Week—17-October-2014/#sthash.FRJqDG6n.dpuf). That means there are a lot of writers out there ePublishing and they are your competition for readers. It is also worth bearing in mind, authors, that readers are reading on a variety of devices such as eReaders, tablets and smartphones. The growing market trend at the moment seems to be reading eBooks on an iPad (41.9% of the market) rather than on a Kindle (37.9%) according to the FutureBook Digital Census of 1,100 eReaders (http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/en/Library/industrynews/FutureBook-Census-shows-shift-to-tablets/). If you do not publish digitally you are missing out on a large market.

The next point concerns where eReaders buy their books. Dominant, of course, is Amazon. Their Kindle books can be read on e-ink devices, tablets, phones and laptops thanks to the Kindle App. Lower down the list is Apple’s iBook store and way down is Kobo with only 8.8% of the market. (Source as above). This is not to say it is not worth formatting your manuscript for other e-ink devices, but the Kindle App is still the market leader.

It seems to me that the eBook market is changing and authors need to keep an eye on the changes. The case for ePublishing, alongside print publishing if that is possible, is large. Digital books are not going to go away but the platforms they are read on is going to change. That is the new challenge for authors.

 

Writing Historical Fiction


It has been an interesting couple of weeks in my writing head.

For the last few years, I have been battling with the idea of writing a novel set in the Baltic Region in the not too distant past. My first attempt to write about this was called “You Can’t Bury the Past Forever.” This novel was based around a young English girl who inherited a house in Tallinn and then wanted to find out more about her grandparents who had owned it. The plot followed the investigation into her grandfather’s near arrest and subsequent escape to Sweden, then America. The protagonist was able to track down the informer and expose him. It was, I think, an interesting novel but one which failed to say what I wanted to say.

That novel is still sitting on my hard drive waiting for the moment when I have the idea which will rescue it.

In the meantime, I have been investigating former KGB sites in Estonia and Latvia. I was greatly moved by two visits to the former KGB headquarters in Riga, that I came away wanting to tell the story of the events of that building in fictional form. I have plotted out the novel and done quite a lot of research into the events I am writing about. I have even written the first chapter.

A quick Google search has thrown up several websites and blogs which deal with historical but they all assume you are going to be writing about something way back in time not near-history. As Emma Darwin rightly says, the key thing to remember is not that you are writing history but are writing a story. (http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/Historical-Fiction.html) Erika Sanders lists the required elements of writing historical fiction are: doing extensive background research, creating factually accurate characters, having a theme which is still relevant to today and basing the setting of the novel on research (http://www.ehow.com/list_6927820_requirements-historical-fiction-writing.html). All good advice.

The internet makes it both easier and harder to write historical fiction. It is easier because so much information is at hand for the writer. It is harder because so much information is at hand for the reader and any errors will be quickly picked up.

Is it worth pursuing? I think it is. There are a lot of stories from our near-history waiting to be told. They need people to find them and tell them. That is what I hope to do.

 

Lynn

How long should a chapter be in a novel?


This is a really good piece of information, so I want to share it will all my readers. Thanks, Kathrine.

Scribbling on the Computer

It’s a confusing thought. Your first draft may have chapters of radically different lengths, or no chapters at all. When you come back for a second draft, you have to make sure your chapters are the right length! But just how long should a chapter in a novel be?

What’s normal?
Strictly speaking, 10 to 17 pages is normal. But this “norm” is flexible (yes, another “it depends” answer) and based off the following principles:

In One Sitting
Granted, the Utterly Fantastic Novel of the Century would probably have readers up all night. But a more realistic idea has readers going chapter by chapter. Try to make your chapters good bight-sized lengths, small enough to read in one setting but long enough to contain enough interesting information and events to last a day. (If you’re writing a thriller, of course, you can ignore this. Aim for the page-turning effect.)

Think…

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