Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Giveaway & Guest Post: Writing Tips with Author Andrew Goodman

A Writer’s Armour – Dealing with rejection

Why a writer needs to accept rejection
The ‘R’ word - such a difficult pill to swallow, yet one which we all have to get used to.
The rarified few who seem to magically attain success without having to make a detour into 'Rejection City' are, on the face of it, the lucky ones. But isn’t it through strength of character, the sheer doggedness of human nature to continue to strive against what appear to be overwhelming odds which makes us better people? It’s said that our destination in life, whatever that may be, is not important – it’s the journey that matters.

Standard form rejection
For a writer that journey of a thousand miles to success often begins with a single form rejection slip - impersonal, uninformative, unhelpful (in regard to your work), but the first in what may be many pieces of your Writer's Armour. And we all need a Writer's Armour - when your spouse is berating you for spending too much time on your 'hobby' and not taking an equal share of the domestic chores, when your friends make light of your unpublished efforts and your pipe-dream of becomming a successful full-time writer, when your boss piles more and more work on your desk - we all need this Armour to help us keep the determination and focus alive to continue writing.
Rejection doesn't always mean that your work is poor - sometimes it will - but it may be as simple as down to timing; a manuscript similar to yours has just been accepted, or the agent/publisher thinks that the particular genre you write in has 'had its day'. Fine. Move on, adapt, overcome. Where would we all be in life if the greats of industry had dgiven up the first time someone rejected their work or ideas? We would probably still be living in dank caves staring in awe at the miracle of fire.

There are anecdotal tales of some writers who post their rejection letters or slips onto the wall of their writing room, and every time they reach a difficult section of their work where they are not sure where to go, they look to those rejection slips and take heart. They are not endorsments which hold them back and belittle their ability, but are beacons of encouragement which drives them forward. JK Rowling - one of the most successful writers of all time - received rejection after rejection before her work was taken on. How do you imagine her family regard her strength and determination now?
Use the rejection slips you may recieve - use them to encourage you to greater heights, to improve your writing, to reach the goal you have set. Then set a new one; higher and more difficult, and look back at those rejections and laugh, thanking them for helping you to become the writer you are.

A Writer’s Armour – Designing a writing plan

Why a writer needs to create a plan of writing
"Fail to plan and you plan to fail" - this simple time-honoured adage sums it all up. For the vast majority of us writing is something we do in our spare time, crammed in between work, family and any other commitments we have, and as such it can easily slide into the realm of procrastination with the cries of 'manyana, manyana!' Most people write because of the love they have for it, but if you make it a chore, then a high percentage will stop. Unfortunately it's human nature to shy away from the things which are hard, and we follow the path of least resistance. Don't turn your writing schedule into a chore.

Joining a writers’ circle/group
Many writers find the blamket of support that many writers’ circles offer helps keep them going forward. Writers’ circles offer constructive feedback and encouragement which has helped many writers continue to improve their writing. Writing is often a lonely business and by being part of a community can help enormously. 

Setting your own writing targets
Whatever form of writing you choose to do you should always have a set plan of goals which you want to reach. If writing a novel is your thing make a plan on how to go about it. Determine that a certain period will be set aside for determining the plot - lets say two weeks, by which time the skeleton of your novel will be done. Then set the goal of writing, say, five hundred words a day, every day. No editing, no re-working. In eight months you'll have one hundred and nineteen thousand words. Fantastic. Now the hard part. Self-editing.
Set a target that for the next fourteen weeks you'll hack and slash your way through the jungle of your first draft manuscript, tightening up the prose, losing some characters who offer nothing to the story, cutting out whole sections of prose which don't push the story forward. Now let's say that after that time - one year from starting the plot plan - you have a second draft manuscript which may, I repeat may, be suitable to send out for submission. But on the other hand it may not. One of the most difficult things to judge accurately as an un-published writer is when stop editing. A new writer can edit their work six, seven, eight times and still not be happy with it. The key is to know when to stop and send it out into the big scary world.
In the above scenario, an author developed a writing plan to have a submission-grade novel writen and finished within one year of starting. But only if the targets that were set were met. How many people each year make a resolution to go to the gym? Some go once or twice, some not at all. Simply making the statement or setting the goal is the easy part, sticking to it is the tough bit. Make the goal achievable by doing small amounts of work on a regular basis.

Submitting your work
For most new writers this is the one most fear-inducing element writing has to offer. Sending your work out into the big scary world, where other people will judge and comment on it, is often a hurdle too many. Bite the bullet, anyway. If you think that your work is as good as it can get, then what do you have to lose except some postage and printing costs?
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you write a novel? One word at a time.

A Writer’s Armour – Creating sub-plot in fiction writing

Why a writer of fiction needs to introduce sub-plot to their story
Fiction writing without any subplot would be about as interesting as a postman who has a letter to deliver then ... delivering it. BORING! It is the side detail of any fictional character's journey which provides the lasting interest in a story. No? Don't believe me? Okay, here's a quick example. Harry Potter finds out about Lord Voldemort in his first year at Hogwarts, they meet that year, fight and Harry finishes him off for good. The end. How interesting is that? Certainly of no interest to Bloomsbury or JK.

Ogre have layers, stories have layers
It is the subplot which not only helps drive the story on but also rounds out the main characters or those connected to them. Some subplots may even sometimes even over shadow the central storyline, which sometimes may not be a bad thing. Let's take the postman idea I brought up earlier to demonstrate. Delivering a letter is not the most exciting thing in the world to read about, but his journey might be. Subplot possibilities may be: who is the letter for? is the letter to be delivered to someone he knows? what does it contain - information or an item? is there anyone who would want the letter to not be delivered? With just those four simple questions about the letter and either what it contains or why is needs to be delivered throw up a whole ream of possible subplots which would make the act of letter delivery a whole lot more interesting. The reader would find out more about the central postman character; is he a good guy or a bad guy? If someone doesn't want the letter delivered is it because it contains details of an illicit affair? Is the affair with the postmans wife?
Subplot helps an author immensely by rounding off characters. It gives depth to a piece of fiction - no one wants to read a two dimensional story and it maintains reader interest. And it is spossibly that last point which is most crucial. Reader interest. If a reader is bored and fed-up with a story early on then they will simply close the book and move on. A good subplot where maybe not everything is black-and-white, where it throws up questions in the reader's mind and makes him or her want to continue reading is just as important to a piece of fiction as the over building blocks: characterisation, plot, pace.

A Writer’s Armour – Correct spelling

Why a writer needs to be able to spell correctly
A writer should not solely rely on their computer spell-checker.

A standard computer operating system spell-check facility will not save those who cannot spell correctly from rejection after rejection. Including ‘there’ instead of ‘their’ or ‘they’re’ will pretty much guarantee a form rejection slip winging its way back to you. Some publishers may forgive or overlook one or two small errors, but most will not, so why take the chance?

How to improve your chances through the ‘Filter Process’
Submission editors are extremely busy people and will look for any excuse to shorten their workload by adopting a ‘Filter Process’. The first step may be simple presentation – old or scruffy paper, or not presented in the particular way they have requested, or large blocks of text which will give the piece a sluggish, heavy feel. Coming soon after will be ‘correct spelling’. If the author has made a number of basic spelling errors on the first page, sometimes even within the opening paragraph, many of the initial submission readers will pass the work to the rejection pile and move on to the next manuscript.

Why would they waste their time reading the first three chapters of a submitted book when the author has made mistakes in the opening page? What optimism or credibility will the reader have in the work if the author cannot be bothered to ensure their story is error free?

The same is not only true for creative writers, but also article writers and journalists, perhaps even more so owing to the tight time-scales which print publishers work to.

The importance of self-editing
Self-editing is one of the most useful skills a writer can have, and perhaps one of the most difficult to learn. A writer can become too close to their work to notice small errors. After going through the second or third re-write the author will know, almost by heart, what has been written and his/her brain will often fill in the blanks or overlook the incorrectly spelled words, because it will tell them what they want, or expect, to read.

One method which will help in overcoming this is by printing the work out and read it from the bottom up, covering each upper line with a piece of paper. Doing this will break the pace and flow of the work and the author will be able to ‘see’ what has actually been written. The small spelling mistakes, the grammar flow errors will be easier to spot and correct.

About the Book
On his sixteenth birthday Daniel Henstock's parents are murdered and he discovers that his life, so far, has been a lie. He's been genetically engineered and those responsible want him back.
To survive Daniel has to run. And run hard. But it was never going to be easy or simple.
When his liberator is captured Daniel returns and puts his life on the line to re-pay the debt.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. This is an immensely helpful post! Thank you Andrew for posting and to Cricket for hosting him!

  2. An absolutely amazing writer and man!!!

  3. What a great post! Thank you for all the information. Also, thank you for the great giveaway!

  4. Wow, many of the tips in this post could be applied to other trials in life as well. Thanks for yet another giveaway :)

  5. Wow. I'm blown away by the kind reaction to the article.
    Keep writing and stay positive.

  6. Makes me want to revisit stories I have never completed. Thanks for the tips and giveaway.

  7. The tips are just awesome and enlightening. Really, it always seemed to me that a writer will never be happy with the final work... and I have edited my book like 6 or 7 times so far... it gave me the courage to keep on writing and finally trying to make my work see the light of day. Thanks for the tips xD


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