A very special announcement

I’ve been wanting to say this for quite some time: A is for Angelica, my first novel, will be published on 1 September 2012.
Yes, it’s true. Last week, I signed a contract with Legend Press and I’ll be working with them over the next few months to get the novel ready for the big day. It’s all terribly exciting. I have my own Facebook page and everything.

You should like me. I mean really like me.

And then there’s this…

Introducing The Broome Cupboard

To help promote Angelica, I’m launching a brand-new-completely-free mailing list. It’s the place to be for:

  • exciting news before anyone else in the whole wide world
  • exclusive content available nowhere else on the internet
  • occasional offers, competitions and giveaways.

Be one of the first to sign up by heading over to my mailing list page. Updates will be occasional but substantial. I won’t send you any old nonsense. Promise.

Thank you, thank you!

That’s it for now, apart from to say a giant thank you to everyone who reads this site and who has kept an eye on my writing journey over the last three and a bit years. I really appreciate the support and I look forward to sharing this next stage of the process with you too.

1 September can’t come quickly enough. I can’t wait to show you my book.

Any questions?

Finally, if you have any thoughts, questions or nice things to say about any of the above, feel free to use the comments section of this post or say hello to me through Twitter.

Why great writing takes great sacrifice

I believe that at some point, if you’re to write that great novel or complete your half-finished manuscript, you will have to make some sort of significant sacrifice. You will have to make writing your number one priority.

And that’s not easy to do. Life is a funny old thing. It presents all manner of opportunities, but the more you get, the less able you are to make the most of them. If you take on too much, no single thing will get your full attention, which means that you will either never a) do yourself justice, or b) complete anything.

Start saying no

The solution is sacrifice. You have to start saying no to things that you really might not want to say no to, and sometimes that means making difficult decisions. Before I give you some examples from my own writing experience, I should try and explain what I mean by sacrifice.

It is simply, in this context, a period of time where you put elements of your personal and creative life to one side so that you can work intensively on one project. Your primary project. The project that really matters.

To return to my first sentence, I think this is how great work is generally done. Rarely does eternal multitasking lead to a writer’s best material.

I’ve always had various projects on the go, but whenever it’s come to the crunch, I’ve put everything to one side and focused on the one thing that means by far the most to me: my novel. It is, so far, my life’s work. I’ve never thought about it like that until writing that sentence. But it’s true.

‘Just a simple word’

A is for Angelica took me several years to write and no small amount of sacrifice. Since starting work on it with the simple line, ‘Benny paints pictures with his eyes closed,’ I have, in no particular order:

  • fallen in love
  • moved house five times
  • become an uncle (twice)
  • started Write for Your Life
  • attended at least 10 weddings
  • hosted a successful spoken word night
  • lost my auntie and two grandparents
  • got married
  • gained a Masters (for Angelica)
  • got an agent (also for Angelica)
  • owned a cat (was owned by)
  • started a podcast
  • had two jobs
  • lots of other things too.

You’ll notice that some of those are project-related and some are personal. That’s because, at various points over the years, I’ve sacrificed both for the sake of my novel. Sometimes I’ve had to hit a deadline. Sometimes I’ve simply decided that enough is enough. I’ve needed to focus. Something has had to give.

Some examples

  • My Masters cost a fortune. While friends got jobs or, considerably better, travelled the world, I worked in a bar and learned everything I could about being a writer and what that means.

  • Despite not being able to at all afford it, I took two months off work (unpaid) to try and get from 10,000 to 50,000 words. I barely reached half of that. A cruel, early lesson.

  • I stopped doing something that I loved, Words Aloud, the spoken word night. We’re doing a one-off special this year and I miss it terribly. But it had to go.

  • For weeks on end and on numerous occasions, I worked during the day at my job and then wrote at night until the early hours. I had an understanding girlfriend. She is now my wife.

  • I stopped posting to Write for Your Life for a few months. Not that big a deal, I guess, but it was when the site was starting to take off. I knew it was taking up too much of my time and energy. I do things differently now.

  • In a total panic about a deadline, I didn’t go to my best friend’s 30th birthday party. I regret it deeply, even though it didn’t affect our relationship. It was the wrong decision, but it was still a sacrifice. I hit my deadline.

  • When my dear auntie was dying from a brain tumour, I somehow found a way to get my manuscript edited and returned to my agent (who couldn’t have been more understanding). It didn’t feel like a sacrifice. It was probably cathartic.

If you’re going to do it, do it properly

The point is this.

In every case listed, I made the sacrifice because somewhere deep in my heart, I’ve always wanted to write a novel and get it published.

I’ve always weighed up the options and come to the conclusion that, at that particular moment, if I was to go on and write the best novel I could possibly write – If I was to give myself a fighting chance in an increasingly difficult industry – I had to do it properly.

It had to be my everything. My one and only.

Sacrifice seems like such an awful word for me to use when talking about writing. But it doesn’t have to be. If you have the support of friends and family, they will give you the space and understanding you need. And as for other projects, well, they are other projects. Almost anything can wait.

Because in the words of Patrick Rhone, an internet friend of mine, saying no to one thing is saying yes to something else. All I ask is that you think about your writing and how much it means to you.

Then give it everything you’ve got. Be prepared to sacrifice.

Be mindful about your writing

Valerie Douglas guest posting on Emily Chand’s site, Novel Publicity:

There are people out there more than willing to prey on our hopes and dreams, and many authors will pay almost anything to realize those dreams. I know one writer who put thousands of dollars of his own money into a print version of his books. I don’t know how many are still in boxes. Print books are much more difficult to sell. Getting bookstores to take a chance on giving precious shelf space to an unknown, independent writer is difficult. So many authors do that and their garages are filled with broken dreams. Many walk away, their hopes dashed.

And:

That’s not to say that the traditional way is wrong, but unless what a publisher offers you makes your life easier, what do you need a middleman for?

The thing about self-publishing is that it gives writers options. If you want your book out quickly, or if you think you’ll make more money without a publisher, then you know that, with an awful lot of hard work, you might be able to make it happen.

My only advice is to really think about your book, including who it is for and what you want to happen to it. Consider all of your options.

That middleman (or woman, of course) that Valerie refers to could be the person who transforms your good novel into a great one. They could be the one who gets you on national radio instead of just some friendly blogger’s podcast.

Don’t believe the myth that publishers and agents do nothing. It’s nonsense.

I’ll say it again, consider all of your options. Then whatever you decide, do it with gusto, determination and only after carrying out some solid research. Which is what Valerie’s article is really all about. Being mindful about your work and what you do with it.

Thinking about blogging

I’ve been thinking about blogging recently. How others do it. The things I’ve learned.
Writers create, write and keep up blogs for a number of reasons. Many do it to help promote their work or to build an audience while they’re working on a novel, play, magazine or whatever. Some do it for money, others do it for the sheer heck of it.

For me, Write for Your Life is a place to reflect on and think about the challenges I’ve faced (and continue to face) as a writer. It’s not about saying, ‘Ooh, look at me, aren’t I special.’ It’s about sharing and caring. ‘This is my experience. This is how it affected me.’

I say this because, in this day and age, it’s extremely easy to start a blog and dish out advice without ever pausing for thought. In the endless hunt for comments and pageviews, too much opinion and personal experience gets passed off as fact, when actually, us writers are in a very subjective business. There are few certainties and plenty of options.

I didn’t (really) make any blog-related resolutions for the year, but I have reaffirmed a few personal guidelines:

Write from experience.

Tell the truth.

Be helpful.

Enjoy it.

And finally, when there is something to sell or promote, which inevitably there will be, I’ll aim to do so with thought, discretion and infinite politeness.

Creation always trumps consumption

David Tate writing at Certain Extent:

If the world overwhelms you with its constant production of useless crap which you filter more and more to things that only interest you can I calmly suggest that you just create things that you like and cut out the rest of the world as a middle-man to your happiness?

I think most of us who have made the web an integral part of our everyday lives can at times feel overwhelmed by the constant input of information. I’ve often looked at the clock in the corner of my screen and wondered where the heck the previous 60 minutes have gone.

I first read and enjoyed David’s article before I had my temporary internet hiatus last week when I moved house. It seems that every time I have an enforced break from the internet I realise that a) the world does not end, and b) it’s good to monitor the balance between taking stuff in and pumping stuff out.

Because in a straight fight, consuming never feels anywhere near as good and as satisfying as creating.