It’s nearly time for us to pack up, gather all our summer produce and return to the UK after our annual six months in beautiful Tuscany.
Whilst doing so, I harvest my thoughts. I think you know I live in a remote river valley, far from my writer friends but, I have to thank social media for keeping me in contact with a whole bunch of supportive, friendly authors who help me along the way, sharing tips, bolstering confidence, providing great books for me to read on the Kindle I never thought I’d own… I have actually met three of these writer friends this summer in Italy. Two live in Tuscany and one came all the way from Switzerland for our first Write Away in Tuscany
week in September. We rant about social media and algorithms and the way a certain huge company doesn’t seem to trust writers to review other authors… I shall say no more… but, apart from this aspect and the occasional mad troll, I say a huge thanks to SM for my new friends.
So, I’ve invited a handful of authors to my end of summer party. I could have invited a whole load more, but I’ve chosen a variety who write different genres and live in different places and I wanted to pick their brains on things writerly. It’s a bit of along chat – so you might want to plonk yourself in a chair and pour your favourite tipple. But, it’s been a long summer…
First up, here is a collage of where we write. See if you can link them to each writer as we go on to chat. (Answers in the comments box! The first to get it correct, receives a signed copy of my new book, Mavis and Dot
– on pre-order now.)
Jessie Cahalin arrived first. Blogger extraordinaire and debut author of You Can’t Go it Alone . She was my first blogger ever, so very precious to me – and to loads of other authors too. She has quickly built up a large following, and you should check out her quirky Books in my Handbag blog site.
I asked her for her views on social media.
Jessie: Eighteen months ago, my phobia of social media was influenced by professional training in education. Twittersphere has led me to wonderful people. Angela, you rolled up on Twitter with my first review request and I haven’t looked back. You introduced me to Patricia Feinberg Stone and Rosemary Noble, the Ladies that Launch, and you have become my role-models and voice of reason. I connected with Patricia Furstenberg because I send a message to her rather than Patricia Feinberg Stoner. Through Twitter, people have discovered the Handbag Gallery and my blog. I have also connected with other blogs. Who would have guessed that I would connect with an American who would receive my book with a fanfare? Thank you, Jena! Twitter enables me to move in and out of conversations, share my thoughts and help others. Tweeting positive messages attracts like-minded people and the word limit disciplines me more than Facebook. I now have over 10k followers on Twitter. It is also a great place to displace thoughts whizzing around in my head. Last week I asked people where they find ideas and over 130 responses arrived in a couple of days. Positive interaction on social media lead me to the best people. I make a point of commenting on points of interest because this goes much further than lots of likes and leads to connections. However, I must force myself to disconnect. The downside is I now suffer from RSI from tweeting via my phone. Ouch. Facebook Groups are great for longer conversations and writerly support.
Jena Henry chipped in – my author friend from America. I offered her a glass of vino, but she is on a health drive (Jessie chose a cup of strong Italian coffee). I couldn’t find any pumpkin spice coffee, but Jena had brought along a case of root beer to the party. (Not sure my Italian friends will like this, but I can try.)
Jena: Social media has ended up being a blast for me. I prefer Twitter because I can connect and interact with so many amazing creatives, who I value as friends. 💯 I have seen beautiful book posts on Instagram and there are many book groups on Facebook, but I prefer the ease and speed of Twitter. My best tip is to find what channels you like and be yourself, be available on regular basis, and make friends. Check out Jena’s interesting web site and blog.
Audrey Davis, from Switzerland, agreed about Twitter.
I’m a bit of a Twitter addict these days, and proud to have grown a 2,500+ following in little over a year. I even brass necked it recently and asked a well-known chick lit author if she’d consider reading/reviewing Hattie Hastings. And she said yes! Otherwise, I’m a member of a lot of FB groups which offer great support and advice.
I’m now racking my brains as to who this famous author is, so I’ll just go over to @audbyname and have a snoop around. I agree about Twitter – it can seem like a merry-go-round, but I wouldn’t have gained my two-book deal without my twitter account.
Kathryn McMaster aka Kathryn Bax arrived a little late – trouble on the sheep farm she runs, amongst other entrepreneurial activities. (Meet Bossyboots)).
I was immediately in her good books, as I’d managed to unearth a bottle of her favourite raspberry gin. She sipped at it gratefully – the journey to me over the mountains is a bit tortuous. Some of you may know Kathryn’s excellent One Stop Fiction Facebook site for author resources – She is less of a Twitter fan.
Kathryn: Social media can be a big time-suck and as authors we don’t have time for that. However, it is also a necessary evil. So, find a platform or two that actually work and concentrate on building an audience and make connections rather than trying to conquer all of them. It is also not all about selling. It is about networking and being active in a community of like-minded people without being that sleazy salesperson no one likes. As an author I have found Pinterest and Instagram the best social media platforms. I only recently started my Instagram account and enjoying the experience. However, the most important aspect for any author is to have a website to showcase you and your books. You must have an opt-in page to build a strong subscriber list. This is far more valuable than any social media out there because those who sign up want to hear from you and are already dedicated fans.
I so agree about the “sleazy salesperson” approach. I would not have invited any of these authors to my party if they had shoved their books down my throat. But, marketing is an inevitable part of being an indie author. It’s finding the balance that is the secret. I still don’t have a subscriber list.
Roger Bray from Australia had been very quiet up until now, nursing his glass of bourbon as the sun started to slip behind the Apennines, but he agreed about Twitter.
Roger: I’ve met some amazing people! On Facebook, I’m a member of a few groups and it is a fantastic way to get to know other authors and bloggers.
I have read Roger’s books (I found him on Twitter – that word keeps cropping up) and I have his new psychological thriller, Blood Ribbon ,on my Kindle. I’m keeping it for when I return to the UK, sitting by our log burner on chilly evenings. I need to be cosy indoors to read anything slightly scary. Roger is another writer who hosts a very inclusive, supportive blog and web site.
I lit the lanterns on the terrace and asked Roger for his writing tips. (See one of mine below).
His books are page-turners, by the way.
Roger: Difficult to answer because people write in different ways. I am linear. I start at the start and write to the end. Without much planning before I start except for a rough idea of where I am going. Funnily enough I think the ending is the most important starting point to know where you are going. Other writers plan and develop their stories, story boards for each chapter detailing each one and where it takes the plot. My only real advice, regardless is to write, simply that, write. Sometimes when I am stuck I will push myself to keep writing and have always found it will take me passed the blockage. If you are waiting for inspiration, it’s coming, just behind the unicorn.
Everybody started to chip in then. There must be a collective noun for writers. A chapter? Volume? More like, a chatter of writers…
Jessie is more of a planner. I’m not surprised as she manages to keep us all entertained with her frequent , interesting blogs. I would be mixing up the wrong books with the wrong authors.
Jessie: Write and write then cut, cut, cut ruthlessly. Oh dear, I need to follow my own tip NOW. If something bothers me then I write a note to myself to refer to later. At the moment, I can’t see my desk for a mountain of post-it notes. Maybe, I should put them in an envelope and post them to someone.
Audrey is less of a planner and agreed with Roger. I poured her another glass of excellent Montalcino that we buy down in the valley. Just write. There’s no magic formula or quick fix. Write as little or as much as you can, whenever you can. And don’t stress if you get stuck or go for days or even weeks feeling uninspired. Nowadays I often write out of sequence, if a particular idea comes to me.
I wasn’t surprised at Kathryn’s comments as I poured her another glass of gin. (I offered her the spare room to save her the drive back over the mountains – and, anyway, I wanted to hug these new friends to me for as long as possible).
Kathryn: My first thought was keep writing. My second thought was, write to market. And then I realized that both of those could be in juxtaposition to one another for some authors. There are authors who write what they love, and if they are fortunate, write what people want to read. There are others who do the same and what they write has no market. Then there are others who write to market but hate what they are doing. In the end, whatever you write, you have to love what you are doing. Life is too short not to. I eat, sleep and breathe true crime and I enjoy researching cases and finding those that inspire me to write about them. Luckily for me, true crime is a growing market, and I am never short of interesting cases to write about. However, if you can, write what you enjoy and write to a market where people will buy your books. Don’t expect to become a millionaire through your writing. The chances are you won’t, but you can make a living from your books if you write to a market ready to buy your books, and you keep on publishing regularly. Also, I suggest you learn everything you need to know about book marketing and what is working now, and to do something for each of your books every single day.
Jena wanted to know about Kathryn’s new crime book .Kathryn then managed to do her marketing bit, without putting us off.
Kathryn: My latest book was published 12th October, called Kids who Kill: Joshua Phillips. It is the harrowing story of the murder of an 8-year-old, Maddie Clifton by her 14-year-old neighbour, Joshua Phillips in Florida, USA. After he kills her he keeps her body under his waterbed for a week before his mother discovers her grisly remains.
The book has been very well received. It is also the first in a series about children killing other children which sadly is a rising trend in today’s society.
The book is available at all Amazon stores. Reviews are good – 5 stars all the way, so hopefully some of you may be tempted to download it too. For the time being the price will be at 99c but I am increasing the price shortly to $3.99.
Jena then chipped in with her important tip for writers.
I’m going to be the bossy mom here- make sure you have an adequate budget. Buy the best editing, cover design, and marketing that you can. Buy the best technology you can- it’s frustrating when your computer glitches and your internet gets balky. 😭 Writing and producing a book is a big challenge- don’t skimp. You want to produce the best product you can. ✅
I suppose this is true of everything in life – we should aim to do the best we can. Not everybody has funds galore to splash out – but, I have to admit I’ve learned as I’ve gone along how important Jena’s point is. I stop reading books that are poorly presented, so why should I expect other people to read mine if they’re a mess?
Honestly, I didn’t invite everybody here to buy each other’s books, but Jena’s and Audrey’s details just had to be swapped, seeing as we’ve seen all the others.
Click here for Jena’s Facebook page, with her film clips.
And, see what ghostly goings-on Audrey has created, with Hattie Hastings
We were very mellow by now – and I’d found beds for everybody. (I’d stocked up with breakfast as it was always my dastardly plan to keep everybody a few hours longer).
I wanted to know why we all write. Money? Because we can’t help it? Vanity? Escape?
Jessie had moved on from coffee to wine. I laughed when she slurred over the word “lollygagging”. A new one for me. I quickly jotted it down. Who says you should be friends with an author?
Jessie: I was a nosy child and used to stare at people. My mother distracted me by getting me to describe the world around me. It worked! I imagined the people in all sorts of stories. I write to displace the images and stories in my head. If I don’t write, then I become agitated. Recently, I have done everything to avoid writing thus I have been in a foul mood. Social media friend Patricia Feinberg Stoner told me to stop lollygagging and get on with writing. I love this word so much I have been trying it out for size. The garden is neat, and I have pruned everything in the name of creativity. I have been chasing ideas around in these places but haven’t written then down. I should be pruning words rather than trees. Help!
Roger: I have a vivid imagination and enjoy putting ‘what if’ questions to myself. I love to develop a character to the point where they take on a personality of their own, when sometimes I need to stop myself, thinking ‘No, he/she wouldn’t do that’. I think that keeps the characters realistic. I also enjoy building story lines which intersect and feed off each other. The shorter answer would be I enjoy telling stories that people may enjoy reading.
Roger: I have a vivid imagination and enjoy putting ‘what if’ questions to myself. I love to develop a character to the point where they take on a personality of their own, when sometimes I need to stop myself, thinking ‘No, he/she wouldn’t do that’. I think that keeps the characters realistic. I also enjoy building story lines which intersect and feed off each other. The shorter answer would be I enjoy telling stories that people may enjoy reading. Kathryn: Writing is in my DNA. I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember. However, it was only two years ago that I decided to take my writing more seriously and to publish. I love playing with words and putting my research in ways that will convey the scene, bring the characters alive, and move the story along.
Audrey: I write because I enjoy it and I’m not really skilled at much else. Well, maybe cooking, but not in a professional sense. Since both my boys flew the nest, I needed something to fill my days. Taking care of a large house and being on my own a lot means I need something to occupy my mind. And since publishing my books (and getting some lovely feedback), I feel happier about myself.
Jena: I love writing. I particularly love the challenge of writing.
Writing is a jigsaw puzzle. ✍️ By turning over words, searching for one that looks like it will fit, and then when it doesn’t slide in, putting it back and trying again to find the right word, I work to connect letters and words. Piece by piece, word by word, I create a sentence, a paragraph, a word picture out of scribbles.
And bring on the literary techniques and rhetorical devices! 👏 Give me the chance to season my writing and I toss in the anaphoras, asyndetons, and allusions. Epizeuxis sums it up – create, create, create. This is why I write.
⁉️But, if you ask why do I write books or blog posts, then the answer changes. I write to connect, to inform, to entertain, to make readers smile and to share my view of the world. (did you detect a whiff of hypophora just then?)
Writing is what I can give to others and that creates another wonderful challenge for me- creating books that people want to read. Readers want entertainment, and truth- a mirror and a window. Not a string of literary devices, even though they are fun! I lovingly try to create characters and a story that readers will find engaging and enjoyable. 🎯
Ha ha! Jena – love the complicated terminology – and after two or three beers! You get the medal! I had to stop Jena from jumping on the table next, everybody!
So, there you have it. A harvest of thoughts and tips from a handful of writers. I hope you find some useful points from our little party. And some new books to read.
(And nobody suffered a hangover)…