Tag Archives: writing advice

WriteFoxy: A New Spin on Book Terms

I’ve had enough of beating myself up as a writer.

I don’t know about you, but the constant lurching between confidence and doubt is exhausting. I think I’ve conquered it and then, right in the middle of writing a new book – when I’m mired in first draft sludge around about 59k words, or going through a line edit where I’m losing sight of the story, it hits me:

Kaablaamo! Dastardly Doubt muscles in and ruins everything.

It’s worse when you hear people dismissing books with well-worn terms: ‘an easy read‘, ‘a holiday book‘, someone read it ‘in one sitting‘, a ‘guilty pleasure‘.

Shudders. Screaming at reviews. Dreading book discussions on social media. Feeling dismissed, undervalued and possibly in the wrong profession. It’s not pretty. Or even remotely fun.

But I’ve been thinking. What if there were a way to flip these terms to see a more positive version?

Let’s take them one at a time. (Brace yourself…)

ABC blocksAN EASY READ

Ugh. The ultimate dismissive term for the book you have invested a year of your life (or longer) lovingly crafting.

Or is it?

I used to work as a copywriter and there was a phrase we used in the design department: when you’ve done your job properly, nobody notices. I think that’s true of writing books, too. An ‘easy read’ seems like a criticism, but look at it this way: an easy read means the story flowed, the pace was good, dialogue felt natural and the reader easily entered into the world the book created.

When something is written well, you don’t notice the workings of it. You just enter in. And trust me, if the book was badly written, it wouldn’t be easy to read. It would be clunky, annoying, a book to be flung across the room rather than raced through.

To write something that flows and compels readers to keep turning the page is a hugely difficult thing to get right. The best comedy is effortless to watch but hides hours of work to perfect the timing, the rhythm, the punch line. It’s hard to write well. It takes skill and perseverance. But when you’ve done it right, nobody notices the effort. They just see the story.

If readers call your book an easy read, it means your pace, flow, characters, world-building and structure worked. That’s a world away from a dismissive term, don’t you think?

Holiday beach imageA HOLIDAY BOOK

A ‘beach read’. A ‘poolside book’.

Argh!

It conjures up images of cheap, trashy pulp fiction bought at the airport and hastily stashed in hand luggage. Something you wouldn’t dream of reading in your everyday life but, like Sambuca shots and stuffed donkeys, is somehow permissible on your week away in the sun.

Hang on, though.

Holidays are precious. We save hard for them and count down the days to them each year. Our one week away from work, from the concerns of our normal life, is hard-won and much longed for. So the books we choose to take with us have to be good. People agonise over which books to take: the right book can be a memorable part of your time away; the wrong book feels so much more of a let-down.

So, if someone has chosen to take your book on holiday – and invested time in their already precious time away to spend with your characters and your story – isn’t that the greatest compliment? They chose your book. And it was perfect for that moment. Whenever they see your book on their shelf at home, they’ll remember the beach they read it on, the pool your words kept them company by, and exactly where they were when they read your story.

That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Reading pileI READ IT IN ONE SITTING

You spend countless hours – years, even – perfecting your book. The unseen months of heartache, doubt and sheer hard graft are hidden within the pages of your novel. And then, eight hours after it’s published, someone tweets you to say they read it in an afternoon.

What?!

I understand the shudder of loathing that follows a review where the reader says they read your book in one sitting. It feels dismissive. It cheapens your effort. And it makes you wonder if they noticed all the brilliant, hard-fought paragraphs you sweated buckets over.

Or how about this..?

Imagine they became so caught up in the story you created that nothing else mattered. The piles of crockery remained dirty in the sink. The television was dark and silent. They never made it further than their car in the car park outside the book shop because they couldn’t bear to leave your beautiful book world for even a minute. They held their breath. Pages turned at speed as they rooted for your characters, rode the emotional roller-coaster of your story and raced towards the end because they had to know what happens…

You’ve read books like that. I have, too. And just because you were gripped by the story and dashed through it, I’ll bet you’re still thinking about it now. Imagine if someone said that about your book…

Wow.

Go ahead. Race through my book in one sitting, please!

Guilty imageA GUILTY PLEASURE

Okay, I’ll give you this one. It’s a horrible term. Feel free to kick it to the kerb, strap a jet-pack to its sorry back and blast it away from earth into the endless beyond. Nobody should ever feel guilty about reading. Ever.

…Although, if someone does say that about your book, there are two positives to take away from it. Firstly, it says more about their fear of literary snobs than the merit of your book. Secondly, they secretly loved it.

I would far rather someone termed my book a ‘pleasure’ than a chore. And if they are worried so much about what a snobbish lit-splainer might say, they wouldn’t feel guilty about finding a book hard to read. (Because literary snobs believe ‘difficult’ books are the only ones that matter.) The fact is, they loved your book. And they will probably buy your next one to snuggle up in secret with, too…

Being a writer is tough. We pour our hearts into what we do, but that means we wear our hearts on our sleeve, so it’s easy to get hurt. I hope these flipped book terms help you see them differently next time they are used to describe your books.

Keep doing what you do, lovely author. Keep caring. Because it matters.

Lessons from Anna Browne: Write the book YOU want to write

I hesitated about whether to post this or not. But having spoken to so many writers during this year, both through WriteFoxy and via Twitter, I think this is something that could help fellow writers to follow their hearts…

I had the initial idea for A Parcel for Anna Browne about four years ago. Like many ideas it sat sparkling away on the sidelines of the books I was writing, trying to distract me when I had deadlines and waking me up in the middle of the night to whisper in my ear. I loved the idea. I even wrote the first chapter to see what it might look like. But I didn’t propose it to my agent or publisher for one simple reason: I didn’t think I could write it yet.

A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson

A Parcel for Anna Browne

Writing is about taking risks when you’re facing The Fear.

You would think, after writing six Sunday Times Bestselling novels that have sold almost 1 million copies worldwide (eek!) I would be completely confident in my writing. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Every year I ask myself if I’m up to the challenge of writing another book and telling the story I’m dreaming of in the way I want to tell it.

What I found really comforting is that when I spoke to my writer friends it turns out that all of them regularly do battle with what has become commonly known as The Fear. Writers I admire, whose words flow onto the page beautifully, who tell stories that amaze, thrill and inspire me, have all at some time during the writing process of their incredible books doubted their ability to do their idea justice. What made the difference between those ideas remaining in the wings and being brought onto the page wasn’t confidence, but courage.

So, after four years of hesitation, I decided to go for it.

Writing A Parcel for Anna Browne has been one of the scariest and most exciting experiences of my writing career – and I am so proud of the result. Writing the book has taught me to follow my gut instinct and tell the stories I’m dreaming of telling. Where I’ve felt my vocabulary is lacking, or encountered obstacles I’m not sure how to overcome, I’ve held on to the inescapable feeling that Anna’s story is one I want to write.

So, this is what I’ve learned: if the idea has come to you, then you have everything you need to tell it. All you need is the courage to begin.

Miranda Writes 38 – writing tips, changing publishers and sequels

All this year, I’m vlogging about writing and publishing my seventh novel, A Parcel For Anna Browne. This week, the latest news on my book, plus I answer more of your wonderful questions!

Would I consider writing any more sequels? Why did I change publishers? And what’s my advice for new writers about planning a novel and staying focused? It’s all in the vlog this week!

Questions this week come from the very lovely Wendy Kerridge, Daniel Riding – check out his new vlogs – and Carla.

Enjoy!

p.s. This week’s YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, ‘Finding this script HILARIOUS, love!’

Miranda Writes 11 – Book 5 characters, tenses, writing rituals and more!

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I’ll tell you about one of the supporting cast for Book 5 and answer your questions on everything from writing rituals, good vs evil characters and which tense to write in…

With the sun finally appearing, this vlog is in my very sunny garden this week. Apologies for the blustery wind and couple of edits (I got rather carried away nattering to you in the sunshine!)

Thanks so much for your amazing questions, which this week come from the lovely Kirsty at the awesome bookish site Novelicious (click the name to visit), Dot from the equally fabulous Dot Scribbles Blog (click the name to visit), together with twitter lovelies @RosieBBooks and @Rachel_Fusion.

So, without further ado, may I present my very sunny vlog!

p.s. This week’s YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, ‘Here comes the sun…’

Miranda Writes 5: Advice for aspiring authors and a big trip!

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I announce the third of your suggestions for Book 5! Which piece of VINTAGE CLOTHING will Nell be buying from a store in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district and who will be mentioned in my acknowledgements for suggesting it? Plus, I give my top tips for aspiring authors and tell you where I’m off to very soon

Well, it’s been a bit of crazy week writing-wise, but Book 5 is coming together well. I’ve been writing more about Annie’s neighbourhood diner, where quite a few scenes will be set and some fab supporting cast characters have appeared, each with their own stories. Like Marty and Frankie who dole out their wisdom over enormous pancake stacks, and a pair of star-crossed lovers who don’t even realise their stars are anywhere near each other! There’s also a a bit of a mystery that intrigues Nell – but when she solves it she’s in for So much more than she bargains for…

In this week’s vlog I’m also talking about my advice for aspiring authors, sharing how I came to be a published author and my top tips for getting the most out of your writing. I’ll even give you a bit of sneaky info on my Writing Inspiration Course that I’ll be launching in May this year!

So, ready to discover if your piece of vintage clothing has made it into the book? OK lovelies, sit back, relax and enjoy!

p.s. This week’s You-Tube nominated freeze-frame is entitled, ‘Half-asleep’…