Norwich Writers' Circle

Writing for Children Online Workshop

Yesterday evening we ran a free online workshop on writing for children. The workshop was put together by Amanda Addison, author of Boundless Sky. Over 140 people registered their interest to attend this event.

This event was originally part of our programme of in-person meetings at Chantry Hall, but with COVID-19 and lockdown, we had to cancel all of our in-person meetings. We wanted to offer something for people to do during lock down, so we decided to offer it online. While we do miss our little get togethers at Chantry Hall, it was wonderful to meet so many new faces from all over the world.

The workshop was broken down into a series of videos. Each video was posted at a specific time. Together, we worked through the exercises, all from the comfort of our own home.

It was wonderful to see so many amazing ideas for children’s stories! We hope you will continue to work on them.

If you missed the workshop, we’ll be keeping the videos up until the end of the week, so you have time to go through them and take part in the workshop.

https://www.facebook.com/events/389643338660205/

After, we’re looking into uploading them to YouTube so they can be taken any time.

We’d like to thank everyone who took part and made the event as fun as it was. We’d also like to thank Amanda for collaborating with us to produce the workshop.

We may be considering running more workshops throughout the summer. To stay updated, be sure to follow our blog, and also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Self-publishing panel

By popular request from our members, on Tuesday 5th November, we held a panel on self-publishing. Our panellists were:

  • Brenda Gostling, Marketing Consultant and author & publisher of children’s book Sister Poppy at the Front.
  • Stuart Walton, copywriter, publisher and web designer from GetProCopy Ltd.
  • Kathy Joy, from Fine Tune Your Fiction critique service and author and publisher of Last One to the Bridge and Shop of Liars, and is currently self-publishing a horror book series.

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Our experienced panellists gave some essential advice to anyone thinking of self-publishing. Here is a summary of some of that advice.

Should you self-publish?

Self-publishing is an equally valid option to traditional publishing. Both come with their own pros and cons. The important thing is to go with the option that best suits you and your current project.

Self-publishing comes with many benefits. You can set your own schedule. You keep all the profits instead of getting only 10-20%. It also offers you more control. You have the final say in the cover, the editing, how you market your work etc. However, all the control also means all the work. You will be responsible for finding a cover artist and an editor, you’ll be responsible for making sure you book comes out on time, picking a release date, advertising the book, and running promotions. While you do make more profit, you’ll also be the one footing the bill for the cover, editing, and advertising and promotion.

These days when you traditionally publish, you’ll still be responsible for promoting your work, especially on social media. Unless you’re one of the publisher’s big-name authors, you won’t get much help. The only difference is a traditional publisher often has more connections with booksellers, newspapers and so on. However, it’s not impossible to make these connections yourself.

Should you have a website or a social media account?

All three panellists unanimously agreed that an online presence is essential. You need a way to get the word out about your book. You could spend hundreds, perhaps even thousands on ads in the paper, or billboards, but it is so much easier and cheaper to reach people across the globe online.

One attendee asked that if they decided not to open a social media account or website, where could they sell their books.

“Exactly,” Brenda said. “Where would you showcase them? You wouldn’t have a platform to advertise them.”

“Even if you want them in bookshops, you often need to have sales figures, and if you’re not selling, book shops won’t take your books, and those that do often take a huge cut – to the point where it actually costs you money,” Kathy added.

Stuart added that it is easy and cheap to set up websites.

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As a minimum, our panellists agreed that every author should have a website. Kathy suggested that authors should also as a minimum have a Twitter and Facebook page too.

“Facebook is most there for information, to give specific updates like release day, give-aways, and book launch events. Twitter, however, is great for networking. You can use it to engage with people, make connections, which in turn might lead to more connections. Hashtags are especially useful if you can get the hang of them,” Kathy said.

You can clearly see what hashtags are trending every day. If you can ‘piggy-back’ off them, it can be a great way to get your posts seen, but be sure it’s appropriate. For example, Kathy used a lot of trending Halloween Hashtags to advertise her book and her Halloween give-away. However, it might not be so appropriate to use Memorial Day Hashtags to advertise a horror book. Think carefully about any hashtags you use. If you’re not sure, search them to see how others are using them. Some useful common ones are:

  • #WritingCommunity
  • #AmWriting
  • #AmEditing
  • #WriterLife

If you ever want to check how effective hashtag is, use a website called Hashtigify.

https://hashtagify.me/

Simply input a hashtag and it will tell you how popular a particular hashtag is, and will suggest other connected ones.

It does this in two ways. First, it will show you the hashtag and related ones together. The bigger the font, the more widely used a hashtag is.

Hashtigify

In this example, ‘#writingcommunity’ was searched. As you can see, this hastag is quite small, and #amwriting is much more popular. You can also see other examples of hashtags you could use.

It also tells you how the hashtag has been performing:

hashtigify 2

Before using a hashtag, always check how effective it will be with Hashtigify.

In short, social media is a great, free way to spread the word about your book and you should have some online presence.

There are other platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn. Whether you use these will depend on what you are writing. LinkedIn is good for building connections but it requires a lot more work than Twitter of Facebook, however it can be worthwhile.

Stuart advised he’s gotten a lot of web design jobs from LinkedIn.

Should you do all the work yourself or hire a professional?

As already mentioned, if you self-publish, you have organise everything. Should you design your own cover, do your own editing and proofreading and marketing? Brenda Gosling commented that it depends on your skill. If you’re good at designing things, do everything you can. Otherwise, hire a professional.

However, Kathy warned that you should never skip getting a professional edit. No matter how good you are, you will always miss errors in your work. You’re too close to your work. You should always hire and editors and if possible a proofreaders. You only get one first impression. If you release a book riddled with typos and poor sentence structure, chances are nobody will want to read any future books you publish.

Both Brenda and Stuart reminded everyone that your book is a product. It might be a creative endeavour, but at the end of the day, you want people to buy it. The only way to get people to buy it is to treat it as a product. If you know exactly what product you are selling, you’ll know how to sell it to people.

Brenda, however, cautioned that you should always be confident. If an editor suggests a change that you really disagree with, be brave enough to push back. Kathy added that when looking for an editor, or cover designer, or anyone else who might help you with the process, shop around. Look for somebody who is right for you. Not all editors are the same. You want to be sure the two of you are on the same page. Ask for testimonials and examples of past work so you can get an idea. Don’t go with somebody who can’t offer either. If they have an option the edit a small sample of your work as a sample, always go for it. Never go with the first editor you find, or even the cheapest, but don’t go with the most expensive either. Money is not always an indicator of quality. Even if you find an editor you love, keep looking. You wouldn’t but the first house you saw. You’d keep looking to find the one that was right for you. The same is true of an editor or a cover designer.

Kathy went on the share an experience she had when looking for a cover designer for her upcoming horror series: “I reached out to a lot of cover designers and they sent me their portfolios. I had narrowed it down to three who I liked, but I chose my cover designer because they suggested something which I had in mind but hadn’t actually mentioned. I gave all the designers the same brief of what I was looking for. I knew then that we were on the same page and had the same vision for the cover. I chose them over the other two who were just as good.”

Where do you find editors and cover artists?

Kathy detailed where she looked for cover designers. First she did a Google search. She also joined several Facebook groups.

“I got the best results on social media. I was able to interact quickly with prospective cover artists. There was one group in particular that I would recommend is Book Design Cover Marketplace. It is a community where authors and designers can connect with one another. Writers can post jobs where they specify what genre their book is, what their budget is, and what sort of style they are looking for, and designers respond, often sharing examples of their work, or links to their portfolio.”

There are lots of places you can find editors and designers online. You can also look locally. Ask your friends and family for recommendations. If you see a cover design that you like on somebody else’s book, ask them for the designer’s details.

When should you start marketing and promoting your work?

 

Kathy advised that you should start promoting your work as early as possible.

“If you leave it until release day, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” she warned.

You need to build hype, get people excited about your work so that come release day, they’ll buy a copy or better yet pre-order.

“Think about it this way: films aren’t just advertised the day they come out. They put out trailers and posters months before release – sometimes even a year in advance if the movie is big enough. The same is true of your book.”

Don’t be afraid to promote your book even as you’re writing it. You’ll need to enlist beta readers after all. Share details of characters, small excerpts, early versions of the blurb, and also don’t be afraid to share when you’re editing. Kathy has had great success sharing funny typos she’s found. Not only does it help people relate to her, but it shows she’s actively working to make her book the best it can be.

Most importantly, people need to see you had fun writing it. If you didn’t have fun writing it, it won’t be fun to read. Show people how much fun you’re having.

Kathy commented, “Every time I share some fun detail about the process or working on my book, I gain a trickle of followers. I’ve even had two offers for publicity. ”

Brenda added that when you make posts on social media, even to promote your work, try to make it personal – show some personality. People aren’t just buying you’re book – they’re buying into you.

Stuart added that you shouldn’t be afraid to put things other than writing on your author website. Add things that show some of your personality.

Kathy gave an example: “As a hobby, a friend of mine likes to learn ‘forgotten arts’ like book binding by hand, or paper making. She posts all her projects on her author website. This has led to people commissioning her to create hand bound notebooks for them, but it also gives her more personality. She’s a fantasy writer, and showcasing these hobbies sets her apart from the countless other fantasy writers out there.”

However, as with anything, you still need to be careful about what you post. You need to select specific elements of your life to share. Not everything is going to be appropriate. For example, it might be appropriate to share photos of a holiday or day trip you went on, but not pictures of your children. That said, it all depends on what you are writing. If you were writing a book on parenting, then that could be appropriate. Think carefully about what kinds of things you share on your author platforms. There are some things that work for any writer – such as sharing the occasional photo of a pet, or an inspirational photo, but some content might only be appropriate in specific circumstances.

“I’ve shared articles on my on-going writing process, but I also share funny stories I have from my days in retail,” Kathy explained. “I’ve also written a few articles on issues around customer service. I also plan to write articles on things like my top 5 horror movies, just for fun.”

These work for Kathy because although she is writing a horror series, they take place in locations like the local supermarket, and she combines the horror of working in retail with supernatural horror.

Remember, as our panellists have advised, your book is a product. Think about what your product is and who you’re selling it to. For example, if your book is a sci-fi novel, you know your readers enjoy sci-fi, but they might also things like comic con, Star Trek, and be interested in technology. In this case a blog post about your love of stargazing, or photos of you and your family cosplaying would be great additions to your blog, but pictures of your kids in the bath would not be quite so appropriate to your product.

Where can I self-publish my book?

Brenda explained that she produced the book herself. This is because she wanted a specific paper quality and for the book to have a specific format that online print on demand services just couldn’t give her.

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If you are printing a book with an unusual format, this might be something to consider.

However, if you are thinking of publishing a book, be it a novel, novella, anthology, comic book, or graphic novel, there are free online services.

“I use KDP,” Kathy advised. “Both for the group anthologies and for my books. When we first started producing the anthologies, we used a service called Lulu but we had some problems with it and switched to KDP. It seems to have been a much smoother experience. Plus, KDP have a free piece of software called Kindle Create, which allows you to format your book ready for Amazon easily.”

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GUGQ4WDZ92F733GC

There are other services like Smash Words or Scribd. Which one you use depends on which you prefer. Do your research. Check our each one and decide which is right for you. Amazon is the biggest and most well known, but it’s hardly the only option available.

“Just remember, you should never have to pay somebody to get published,” Kathy warned. “If somebody asks you to pay in order to get your work published, do not go with them. It’s a scam. They’ll take your money, and produce your book, but they won’t do anything with it.”

Remember, prints on demand services are free. The only time you have to pay is when you want to purchase author copies. You have to pay an editor, and a cover designer, but you should never pay to actually publish your book.

Useful Links:

Our panellists have provided a list of useful links to help. These are by no means an extensive list. Just things they have found helpful:

Cover Designers:

Marketing:

https://placeit.net/

Allows you to make mock-ups for book covers or other merchandise. Simply upload your book cover and it will apply it to an number of different mock-ups that you can use to advertise your book.

www.canva.com

Allows you design graphics for a variety formats including a book cover, social media posts, and bookmarks.

Other links:

www.skillshare.com

This is an online learning community with thousands of courses, including on how to design book covers, social media, and marketing. It also has classes on creative writing, as well as courses on sewing, knitting, painting, and anything else creative that you can think of. Each class is broken down into small parts that you can easily fit into even the busiest schedule. Classes are taught be experienced individuals.

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Prepare Yourself.

Our first manuscript evening of the season is on the 6th November. It will be led by Kathy Joy of Fine Tune Your Fiction, a professional critique service.

This time, we’re going to try something different.

As usual, you can bring along six double spaced printed excerpts of no more than 1000-1500 words of a current or past project, be it poetry, prose, screen play, non-fiction, or a blog/journal article.

However, if you don’t have anything ready to be critiqued, we have some other options.  Do you have a blurb you’d like to get some feedback on? Or a book cover? Or both? Bring 6-8 copies, double spaced, to the meeting and work in small groups and get constructive feedback.

Are you stuck somewhere in your current project and need to bat ideas around? Do you have questions like:

“My character needs to find a piece of evidence but I can’t think of a believable way to do it.”

“I can’t decide between these titles. Which do you think works best?”

“If my protagonist does this, would they still be likeable?”

“Should I write this in third or first person?”

“I need to find a title for my work/can’t decide between these titles.”

You can ask your fellow writers in the group and bat ideas around and see if they can’t help you fill in some gaps or overcome hurdles you are experiencing. Bring excerpts of your work to give context, six copies, double space, but not more than 1500 words.

We hope to see you there!

Norwich Writers' Circle

Slanting The Truth

On Tuesday 7th March we welcomed Sally Craythorne (S. E. Craythorne), author of How You See Me, to give a talk on reliable narrators.

SallyCraythorne

Her talk was informative and fun and everyone learned that no narrator can truly be trusted.

“We want things to make sense.  So if something doesn’t make sense we kind of pull it into the schema of our knowledge …  Memory is an active process and can be therefore unreliable.  If you’ve got a first-person narrator recounting a story, it’s their story, it’s probably not truth, even if you’re making it up.  They will be fallible.”

– Sally Craythorne

Sally went on to describe the five main types of unreliable narrators:

1. The Picario:

A narrator who exaggerates and brags.

Example: Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

2. The Madman

A narrator with a mental impairment.

Example: Before I go to Sleep by S. J Watson.

3. The Clown

A narrator who does not take narration seriously and deliberately plays with the subject of the narration.

Example: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

4. The Naive

An immature narrator with a limited POV – this could be a child.

Example: Until I Find You by John Irving.

5. The Liar

An in-tune narrator with a sound knowledge who deliberately lies and misrepresents events, usually events or actions they don’t want to reader to know about.

Example: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

“… traditionally all narrators are unreliable to some extent and that’s part of the joy of reading them – that you get carried away with the story and then you go ‘hang on, do I know this person at all?’.  But … if you do want to make your narrator unreliable, which is really good fun, you have to believe in them.  You have to think about the fact that your reader has to read that book all the way to the end … Their unreliability is to make them real rather than to make them completely unreadable.”

– Sally Craythorne

With this in mind, we then discussed our fourth competition of the year: The Ivy Ferrari Cup.  Traditionally, this contest was for romance fiction but in recent years it evolved to focus on strong, central female characters.

So, what is Sally looking for in winning entries?

First, all entries must follow the theme of motherhood.  This can be a mother, either biological or foster/adoptive.  It could follow somebody with motherly qualities who cares for another person who does not have to be a child or even related.  This person could be a grandmother, or friend, or even a nurse.  It is up to you to explore and bring out the fullest of this theme – the only stipulation is that the character must be female.

Sally is specifically looking for:

  • Diversity
  • Believable characters
  • Good story

The story must also be fiction but it can be any genre.  Although Sally is looking for realism, she is happy for any genre ranging from contemporary to sci-fi.

Your narrator does not need to be unreliable either.

As the word limit is only 2000 words, it is advisable to stick to a minimal cast of characters.

The deadline for the contest is 4th April. Entry is free to NWC members, or £3 for non-members.  For full details of the competition, please visit the competition page.

The NWC would like to thank Sally for her thought-provoking talk and excellent advice.  We would also like to thank everyone who attended.

Our next meeting is Tuesday 21st March at the Anteros Arts Foundation.  Phyllida and Gill will announce the winners of the Impressing the Publisher competition.

We hope to see you there!

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Norwich Writers' Circle

Manuscript Evening

WordPress Writing Brown Pen

We’re having a manuscript evening on Tuesday 21st February.  Attendees will be able to read their work in small groups and receive constructive feedback.

You can bring poetry, fiction, non-fiction – whatever you’re working on, we’d love to read it!

If you are interested in joining us, please bring a sample of no more than 750 words of your work.  You will need to bring six printed copies so they can be handed out for feedback.

If you do not have access to a printer, Phyllida Scrivens, our chair, has kindly offered to print them out and bring them to the meeting.  Please email them with the subject ‘manuscript evening’ to:

phyllida.scrivens@icloud.com

Please include your name and the title of your work in the email to make it easier to hand them out on the night.

Our meeting will be at 7:30pm at Anteros Arts Foundation on Fye Bridge Street in Norwich, opposite The Mischief Pub.

anteros-map

We look forward to seeing you.

Norwich Writers' Circle

19th April 2016

WordPress Shoe Collection

Everyone is welcome to joins us on Tuesday 19th April when we will be launching our second Olga Sinclair Open Short Story Competition. This time our popular competition has the theme of shoes.

The launch will feature a whole handful of speakers, including Rachel Hore, who is judging this year’s entries.

Other speakers on the night will be local historians Michael & Frances Holmes, Ashley Stokes from Unthank Books, plus Simon Goodman from Van Dal Shoes, who are sponsoring the competition.

The evening starts at 7.30pm (doors open from 7.00pm) at Anteros Arts Foundation. Refreshments will also be provided.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Norwich Writers' Circle

Different Perspectives

WordPress Benjamin Scott Author

Tuesday March 1st:  Hosted by children’s author and creative writing tutor, Benjamin Scott aka Max Chase, members are looking forward to another entertaining workshop. This Tuesday is Benjamin’s return visit, and he is all set with a series of exercises sure to inspire and unleash our hidden potential. We all know how good it is to experiment and succeed in genres we might not otherwise try.

Visitors are always welcome. Please be reminded that there is a door /admission fee for room hire. We look forward to seeing you at Anteros Arts Foundation at 7.30pm (doors open 7.00pm).

Norwich Writers' Circle

Proetry

WordPress Ejike Ndaji

The first meeting of 2016 buzzed with enthused chatter as we all caught up with each others’ news. Christmas is a bit of a Marmite time of year. Most either love it or hate it. The 19th had us all reunited and welcoming visitors and new members in our love of words. The festive period had not gone without successes.

James Dimelow has had one his scripts accepted by Fine City Magazine; the EDP has given coverage to Phyllida Scrivens and her recently published book; and Gill Blanchard had news of her own forthcoming book.

And then to the main business…

A big thank you to Ejike Ndaji for an entertaining and very informative evening. Ejike is no stranger to the power of poetry. In his voluntary work for the Red Balloon charity his performances encourage. And as he demonstrated with us, poetry allows subjects such as Martin Luther King to be delivered with a passion less carried in an essay or novel.

For a large number of our members less practiced in the art, the power of Ejike’s “proetry” as he likes to call it (being a rhythmic narrative spoken aloud) was an inspiration. Which is just as well. Ejike has also kindly agreed to adjudicate the in-house Colin Sutton Competition for Humour.

Ejike had taken time to prepare a handout for the evening which included, in addition the history of the spoken word and recommended spoken word artists, tips not only on writing but dealing with nerves when performing.

Details of our next meeting and other forthcoming evenings and events can be found on our programme page. As always we welcome new members and visitors.

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Words & Women Competition

Words And Women’s annual prose competition is now open for entries, and we’re proud to announce that this year’s guest judge is the Sunday Times best-selling novelist Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth Is Missing.
The competition offers a first prize of £600 and publication for the winner and twenty commended iWords and Women Competition 2015n our anthology Words and Women: Three
Entry is open to women writers over the age of 16 who live or work in the East of England.  Short works of fiction, memoir, life-writing and creative non-fiction are all welcome. Entries should be 2,200 words or under.    See www.wordsandwomennorwich.blogspot.co.uk for further details. 
Please spread the news!
Norwich Writers' Circle

Mustard Competition Thanks

WordPress Thank You

A big ‘thank you’ to everyone who has entered our inaugural Short Fiction Competition.

The entries are currently being adjudicated by Unthank BooksAshley Stokes.

Discover if you have won our competition prizes of £500.00, £250.00 and £100.00, and hear a selection of entries, at a Gala Evening on Tuesday 20th Tuesday October.

We hope you can join us for what should promising to be a highly enjoyable evening. Watch this space for further details of this exciting night in the coming months.