Super affordable proofreading

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It is so hard to see the errors in your own writing. You can read something ten times and not see a glaring mistake in the first line.  When I read back over my early drafts, I cringe when I find the mistakes. This is particularly so when I know that I’ve sent that exact draft off to a publisher or agent in the hope of publication.  It makes me feel a bit sick thinking about people that I want to impress reading my work and coming away thinking that I’m a moron (or at the very least a very careless person!) for all of the mistakes it is riddled with. When I was first starting out as a writer, it never occurred to me that it might be a worthwhile investment to get my work proofread before sending it through to an agent or publisher.  I figured that if they were interested in taking on my work, all of the proofreading and editing would be provided.  Why should I bother paying for it? Nowadays, I wouldn’t send anything out without having it thoroughly checked first.  Getting a manuscript proofread by a professional makes sense to me now. I want to send my work through looking as good as it possibly can do and part of that means forking out a little bit for editing up front. The only problem with this is that my budget doesn’t extend very far.  At all. Late in 2013, I used Fiverr to fund the illustrations for Ruby Marvellous. This was easily the most affordable way to get high quality, unique, hand drawn illustrations with a fast turnaround time. It worked so well for me and it has been a site that I have been recommending ever since. Today I put the finishing touches on a short story, which is part of a series I’ve been working on over the summer break.  I think it is ready to show a publisher, but as I only just finished writing it, I know that it will need someone with fresh eyes to look over it before I send it off. Enter Fiverr – again.  For $5, I am getting my early draft of 1500 words edited and proofread by ‘Mr Proofreading’. (I even upgraded to a 24 hour turnaround for $10, bring the total cost of the proofreading to $15 or $1 per 100 words!)  He comes highly recommended by previous clients – 2355 people have reviewed his services and he has maintained a 5 star rating. I’m looking forward to receiving my draft back tomorrow with his feedback/corrections (and, at that price, my bank account is going to be super happy with me too!)

Update (Not even 24 hours later):  I received my draft back and the feedback was accurate and thorough.  I received a ‘Finished Clean’ copy with all of the suggested changes made and a ‘Highlighted’ version that showed what changes had been made. That’s a big thumbs up for Mr Proofreading! So worth it!

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So I’ve written my manuscript … now what?

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I can’t believe that it has been just over a year since I made the decision to self publish Diary of Penguin-napper.  It has been such an amazing/full on/stressful/engaging/rewarding/bewildering/exciting adventure and I’m really excited to be able to do it all over again this year.

Right, so where to start?  Well, Step One is finish your manuscript!  There are lots of things that I can help you with, but writing your book for you isn’t one of them.

Right, so where to start after that?  Well, after I finished writing Penguin-napper, I really wasn’t sure if it was a good first draft or if it was downright awful. (Truth be told, it wasn’t my first attempt at writing a book and after I wrote the first one, I left it for a few months before I looked over it with fresh eyes.  And, when I finally did, it stunk! Yep, it was truly awful.)

Anyway, I decided that wanted a second opinion and not just from my mother who would mostly only say nice things about it.  That’s where a manuscript assessment came in.

StepOne

A manuscript assessment is essentially paying someone to go through your manuscript and point out all of the flaws/potential problems/gaps in the plot.  A manuscript assessor isn’t like an editor or a proofreader.  They don’t actually touch your writing.  They just read it, think about it, perhaps read it again and then send you a report pointing out the positives and negatives of your story.

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My suitably coffee cup ringed ninth draft of Ruby Marvellous and a copy of my manuscript assessment from the Writers’ Centre.

What are the pros of a getting a manuscript assessment?

The Diary of a Penguin-napper manuscript assessment was done by The Literary Consultancy in the UK.  At the time it was completed (back in 2010) and for the length of the manuscript, this was the best deal that I could find.  They did a fantastic job.  The final report back from them was detailed, lengthy and, best of all, really useful!  It both highlighted points in my manuscript that need clarifying and confirmed that my manuscript was on the right track.

Fast forward two years and when I finished writing my new manuscript in June, I knew right away that I would definitely be booking in another manuscript assessment.  This time, the best deal I could find for Ruby Marvellous was with the  Writers’ Centre of Victoria, right here in Melbourne.   Whilst their final report was much shorter than the TLC report, they still made some valid points and gave some positive feedback too.

Plus, if you’re keen to get on with taking your manuscript through to being published, a manuscript assessment can also save you some time.  The moment I finished both my manuscripts, I sent them both off to be assessed. Three t0 six weeks went by before I received the report back and that was a good amount of time to get some distance before tackling future drafts.

And what’s the downside?

In short, the cost. Manuscript assessments can be pricey.  I’ve been quite lucky because I write for children and my manuscripts have both been just under the 25 000 word mark, which makes an assessment affordable.  I have also found combining a manuscript assessment with some really nitpicky beta readers and then a paid proofreader to be a great way of preparing a manuscript for self publishing.

And that’s my first step towards publication.  It’s only 10 weeks until my new book is coming out and each week I’m going to share a new step that I take when trying to get my book to a place that means it is the best possible book I can produce!

In the meantime, have you used a manuscript assessment before?  Would you?  Or have you got any other recommendations to share?  

A quick hit of inspiration

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So today is the day that I am meant going to be finishing the draft of my new book that has been in the pipeline for a very long time and that I’m sick of having hang over my head for so long.  Naturally, when you’re working towards a deadline, everything else that is on your ‘To Do’ list looks infinitely more exciting than cranking out more words on your manuscript.

As a bit of an incentive, I’ve been allowing myself 15 minutes every two hours to browse the internet (and leaving it turned off the rest of the time) so as to limit the distractions.  In my 15 minute browse just now, I found this super cute poster in the Brown & Barkley Etsy Store.

 

When I’m having doubts about my writing, I usually come back to something like this – what would make my book more interesting/exciting/gripping/compelling?  Or what can I add/change/improve in my story to turn it into something that my 8-10 year old self would want to read!

Anyway, my time is up so I’d better get back to work (manuscripts don’t write themselves – who knew!) …

See how easily you can keep writing – even when you are away from your desk!

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This first quarter of 2013 has been absolutely frantic for me. At the end of January I started a new job which has been totally full on. There have been a lot of nights when I’ve arrived home and just crashed out on the couch/the bed/starfished with a cushion on the floor. Socially, things have been pretty hectic too. Over the past 3 months, I have been to three lovely weddings, two hen’s parties and a 21st birthday party (And yes, you can totally sing that sentence to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas!) Almost all of these have been outside of Melbourne, so instead of having time to relax on the weekend and get some writing done, I’ve found myself on flights to Canberra and Hobart or driving to Warrnambool, Winchelsea and Sorrento for the weekend. Plus amongst all of that I had a week away with my class on school camp. Whilst I’ve loved celebrating these special occasions with my friends and wouldn’t have missed any of them, it has been pretty tough trying to fit in some time for writing my next book and for promoting Diary of a Penguin-napper. I’m a creature of habit. I like writing at my desk, in my flat, with my giant cups of chai and I can sometimes find it difficult to get into ‘the zone’ if I’m not in a place that I feel comfortable and inspired to write in. Having said that, I’ve had to make a real effort to commit to being a writer these last 12 weeks – in any place, any time – as I haven’t been home very much. I’ve had to find a way to fit in writing life despite all of my frenetic activity and I’m pleased to say that I have still managed to fit in some time for writing and marketing.

But how?

One of the things that has had a huge impact on my ability to keep up with my writing when away from home is that I have achieved this is by purchasing a hard case, bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. When I first bought my iPad back in July, it came with a leather look case with a soft touch keyboard. I was really excited about this keyboard at first, but it quickly became apparent that trying to type with any speed on that soft keyboard was like trying to run a marathon on sand. It was really hard work! By September, I was already researching different keyboard options and by the end of October I had settled on the Logitech Ultrathin iPad keyboard. It is awesome because it essentially turns your iPad into a portable notebook computer and I’ve been able to take it with me on my travels. The combination of iPad and keyboard weighs next to nothing (I carry it in my handbag no problems!) and it is totally worth the $88 I paid for it on sale. It is up the pricey end as far as iPad keyboards go, but it has totally changed the way I use my iPad – from an occasion device for browsing the web to an everyday writing tool. 100% worth it.

Secondly, I have spent a lot of time thinking up story ideas. I often find that some of my best ideas come to me when I’m out for a walk or run or even driving longer trips in the car. I love having time to myself to just think and dream, so I have found that my time away over these last few months has been great for my plotting and planning. To make the most of this time, I try to make sure that I have some way of taking notes – whether it be writing into notebooks, onto Post-Its, typing ideas into Notability on my iPad or even recording voice memos on my phone when I’m out and about. There’s nothing worse than having a totally scorching brainwave of an idea and then having lost it by the time you go to write it down a few hours later or the next day.

Another way that I’ve tried to work smarter when I can’t be sitting at my desk at home is to use scheduling tools. On WordPress, for example, I can schedule my blog posts to go live at their usual times on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, even though I had written them all on the weekend before. When I was away on camp for a week back in the first week of March, I had zero internet and phone reception (like absolutely nothing – it was both liberating and annoying!), but at the end of the day it didn’t matter because I had my upcoming posts scheduled and ready to appear in my absence. Similarly, using Buffer (which I know I go on about a lot, but that’s because it is seriously awesome!) meant that I could have tweets and Facebook posts ready to appear at various times – without me even having to lift a finger.

Finally, time away from your desk can be a great time to research. When I’m away, I love visiting new places (and collecting information leaflets) and trying new things that often make their way into my stories. I try to visit writer’s centres when I can and love a good exhibition (like those at Seven Stories in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK and those hosted at the State Library of Victoria, Australia). Being out and about means that you see or hear different people talking, which can be a great way to gather and develop new characters. I don’t always have time to read the paper during the week, but being away on weekends has meant that I’ve had more waiting time and more opportunity to sit and learn more about what is going on in the world. I’ve also had more time to listen to writing podcasts whilst sitting in the car on long drives (check out The Write Lines and The Creative Penn for writing podcasts) and to listen to the stories of others (try The Vinyl Cafe to meet one of my favourite storytellers – Stuart McLean. He has a great sense of humour and seriously makes me want to holiday in Canada!)

Being a writer on the run (so to speak) may not be as perfect as sitting at your own writing spot at home, but time away from your normal routine doesn’t have to be wasted time. So today I want to know: Where do you write? When do you write? And how do you survive when you’re out of that routine?

10 steps for editing your writing

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When I’m not playing at being a writer, I actually work as a primary teacher and part of teaching writing to children is to teach them how to edit their work to make it even better.   I spend a lot of time at work going over editing checklists and different activities with the students to guide them through the process of being a writer.  As a teacher, I’m really particular about editing and really make it a big focus in my English lessons.  Yet, as a writer, I’m never quite sure about the editing process.  Sure, I know the process that I should probably go through, but editing is one of those tricky things that doesn’t really have an end point.  There always seems like something new to be fixed or improved!

Today I’m lucky enough to be joined by the lovely Sandra Miller,  a freelance edtech writer from Brooklyn.  A few weeks ago, Sandra pitched me her idea for a guest post about editing and I thought it would be fantastic to get another perspective on the process.  Here are her suggestions to guide you through your next edit!

10 steps for editing your writing

Editing work is much more laborious than writing itself for most writers. Much time is spent during editing whether the article or essay is fiction, nonfiction or poetry writers should evaluate their own writing and transform it from something that is complete but nothing more to something that is completely compelling. The following tips will give you a head start in professional editing:

1. Take a break

One should step away from the computer and relax fully for a few hours or day’s .instead writer can pursue another writing project, perhaps, or catch with family and friends before circling back and manipulating his/her manuscript. After the break the mind is able to capture everything and editing is done very fast. Writing of a synopsis or an abstract is also good before revision.

2. Hands Off

This is reading the entire manuscript without changing anything or making notes about major fixes or other key corrections for later attention. The writer shifts to a reader setting. Read from cover page to conclusion. Some people print the piece out in hard copy as it’s easier for them to notice the details more when in print.

3. Parts of Speech

Focus, one type at a time, on the parts of speech: Notice nouns, and choose more precise terms and employ elegant variation. Use of a dictionary with synonyms listed, or a thesaurus or a synonym finder is better. Writers should not go overboard especially with variations and sentences should be constructed in active form.

Adjectives and adverbs should not be omitted without justification. Lastly use of terms is also very important be sure of the precise meaning of the words used in writing, newly acquired or long since adopted terms.

4. Sentence Structure

Simple sentences and understandable are the best. The person reading the article will save much time as he/she will easily understand its meaning. Long Sentences that last an entire paragraph need to be snipped into palatable pieces.

Sentences come out best in an active form as more passive sentences structure produce an enervating effect. Insertion of parenthetical phrases is better inserted mid-sentence as they save the last position for the impact. And unless you’re consciously incorporating iambic pentameter, beware of sentence rhythms that may subconsciously sap readers’ energy. Too much alliteration or assonance can weary the most dedicated reader.

5. Deemphasize Emphasis

Writers should reduce much emphasis of something and reduce the use of italics, scare quotes and exclamation points as they weaken the cumulative impact.

6. Tone and Voice

During writing maintain authority and austerity and appraise your writing for its personality. When writing a how-to, be conversational. If writing a period fiction, be alert for anachronisms.

Word check is required to notice the words used too often, search the words and get to know how to use them and make them appear more reasonable frequent.

7. Reconstruction

Reconstruction of sentences during revision is frequent as one may develop new details and decide to discard a statement. Revisions are so much significant it does not matter how much tie you will take getting your manuscript right.

8. Keywords

Grammatical mistakes are checked in the manuscript by the writer to make sure the audiences that will read the article don’t find grammatical errors.

9. Recite Makes Right

Read the manuscript one more time and aloud. A recitation lets you listen to the rhythm of the writing and catch any clunky or laboriously long sentences missed out or   words omitted.

10. Editor’s Notes

An editor will give a guide and directions during publishing and may request for another revision of the writing .after that your work is ready to be published and go online.

Sandra Miller is  a freelance edtech writer from Brooklyn and uses professional editing regularly.  She has PhD in English literature. You can reach her at Google+

If you’ve got a great idea for a guest post, I’d love to hear from you.  Visit the Collaborate section of Frankly Books to find out more!

Five apps for writers that I love (and you will too)

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At the beginning of December, my iPad became my sole computer.  As a teacher, I’m given a computer through school and as I was leaving one school and starting at another, there was a gap between the two contracts where I didn’t have a laptop.  I decided that rather than purchase a new one for personal use, I would try using my iPad as my primary (and only!) device.  I’d be lying if I said that it was an easy switch.  At first I was frustrated by the things that I couldn’t do on my iPad that I was used to being able to do on my laptop.  Install fonts, is one example.  Or install anything that wasn’t an Apple app is another.  But slowly I came around to enjoy using my iPad on a daily basis, rather than just once or twice a week.

Today I thought I’d share with you five apps that made my life easier as a writer working just on an iPad.

1. Pages ($10.99)

This one is a bit of a no-brainer really.  It is the word processing app for all Apple devices and it is one of the easier apps to use as you don’t lose too many features from the desktop version to the iPad version.  You’re able to open documents from Dropbox which is also great, as not every app will let you do this, and I like that I am able to email the most recent draft to myself as a back-up too.  Very intuitive and visual to use.

2. Notability ($1.99)

As a teacher, I was introduced to this app at a professional learning session as something that could be used in the classroom.  I’ve found that I get just as much use out of it as a writer because I can either type into it or take notes using my finger to write (or a stylus pen – which I recommend you hunt down.  They’re only around $20 and make using this app and many others a treat!)  It is a great way to organise your notes and ideas as you can add images, highlight, change the type of paper you are writing on, colour coordinate and even record sound.  It is just brilliant.

3. WordPress (Free)

Although I usually prefer to write my blog posts directly into the web browser version of WordPress, I do like the WordPress app for publishing posts from my iPad when I’m away from my desk.  It is really just a simplified version of the online version (like so many other apps) and it is a handy tool to have if blogging is part of your author platform.  I tend to write into it and publish, then when I get home, I’ll check it over on my laptop and add things like images or more complex formatting.

4. Kindle (Free)

I used to think that I would never fully embrace the e-Book, but that was before I found Amazon’s Kindle app!  I love it because it means that I don’t need to carry around an additional device with me (such as a Kindle) to be able to read.  I often carry my iPhone (with the Kindle App) and/or my iPad (with the Kindle App) and the books I buy appear on both. The two automatically sync as well, so that if I’m halfway through a book on my iPad and then I decide to read on my iPhone (say, if I’m waiting for the train), my iPhone will know where I’m up to.  If you don’t have a Kindle, but would like to get into e-Books this is a great free alternative.  And great readers make great writers, right?

5. Dropbox (Free)

Of all of the apps I’m talking about today, Dropbox is probably my favourite.  It is a pretty simple concept – you sign-up for Dropbox and get 2GB of storage for free.  You then install Dropbox onto any of the computers that you use (mine is on my MacBook and my iPad) and you can then save any documents, photos, etc straight into your Dropbox, just like any other folder on your computer. The Dropbox is constantly syncing and updating, which means that you can access any of your files on any computer that you have Dropbox installed on, plus you can also access all of your files via their website. I love it because if I’m out and about with my iPad (say writing at my local cafe in the vicinity of a nice hot chai), I can access the files that I may have been using the day before to plan my blog posts or get the most up to date draft of a new story I’m working on without actually having to transfer any files.  I still back my files up on a hard drive from time to time but it is nice knowing that my Dropbox files are also backed up online.

The best thing about these apps, Pages aside, is that they are free or low cost. You could even just use Notability alone instead of also buying Pages if you are on a tight budget.  (And, strangely enough, they are all a pretty blue colour. I wonder if there is some theory behind blue being associated with writing!)

So, have you tried any of these apps?  Or do you have other apps that you love using as a writer?  Let me know below!

5 DAYS UNTIL LAUNCH: What The Big Bang Theory teaches us about researching our writing

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I have a confession to make.  I really (reeeeally) enjoy watching The Big Bang Theory and have done for some time.  It’s nerdy, it’s funny, I’ve watched a large number episodes multiple times and I like it a lot.

There, I’ve said it.

Anyway, the reason I’m bringing it up today is because I’ve been pondering the idea of writing a post here about why thorough research is important in creative writing and it just occurred to me that the reason I think it is so important is because I believe that it is the details we include in our writing that turn a story from something fictional into seemingly more real.

The somewhat loose connection to The Big Bang Theory here is that Sheldon also thinks that the details (when telling a lie) are a really important part of making a lie or story seem more real.

For example, as taken from S1E10 The Loobenfield Decay:

Sheldon: (Knock, knock, knock, knock) Leonard, (Knock, knock, knock, knock) Leonard, (Knock, knock, knock, knock) Leonard, (Knock, knock, knock, knock) Leonard, (Knock, knock, knock, knock)….
Leonard: Oooaw. This would be so much easier if I were a violent sociopath. (Opening door) What?
Sheldon: I was analysing our lie, and I believe we’re in danger of Penny seeing through the ruse.
Leonard: How?
Sheldon: Simple. If she were to log on to www.socalphysicsgroup.org/activities/other, click on upcoming events, scroll down to seminars, download the pdf schedule, and look for the seminar on molecular positronium, well then, bippidy-boppidy-boo, our pants are metaphorically on fire.
Leonard closes door.
Sheldon: Well, sir, my trousers will not be igniting today.

When it comes to writing realistic fiction, in particular, detailed research helps writers to draw readers into the story.  These days it is easier than ever to set your story anywhere in the world, thanks to Googlemaps, images, Facebook holiday snaps and so forth. You can quite easily describe the Eiffel Tour in Paris, Buckingham Palace in London or Central Park in New York, just from looking at the pictures.  But I believe it is the finer details, such as street names, the feeling you get when you first see one of these landmarks, and the local knowledge of different neighbourhoods and culture that really helps to place a reader right in your story.

With Diary of a Penguin-napper, a lot of my research was centred around (no surprises here) penguins.  I researched different species, different zoos in Australia and different habitats found at these zoos.  I went to several Penguin Feedings, I interviewed a penguin keeper at Taronga Zoo and I did a lot of fact checking online. At first, I just made notes here and there in various notebooks, but as the facts and ideas piled up, I needed a better way of keeping track of what information I had and, just as importantly, where it was coming from.

My top five research tips for creative writers:

– Don’t assume you’ll remember everything (or anything) from a particular experience. When I spoke to the keeper at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, I was so nervous that I wouldn’t have remembered anything without …

– The voice memo tool on my phone!  I recorded an entire penguin feeding and then the Q&A with the keeper afterwards.  It goes for about 15 minutes altogether, but listening back I picked up on lots of things that I didn’t catch the first time.

– Make lots of notes and organise them. My inner nerd likes to have them organised with the date and place at the top of the page and plenty of dot points.  Write down key words you used to find certain information, names of people and web addresses. All are very helpful when you are trying to fact check later!

5 days until launch: What The Big Bang Theory teaches us about researching our writing

– Take lots of photos  Whenever I visit a zoo or aquarium I always try to take my camera (and have my phone as a back up) and take lots of photos.  I now also take photos of signs around the place with pictures or facts on them, as these can often be useful later too.

– See what you can find online When I was writing my very first draft of Diary of a Penguin-napper, I hadn’t seen a penguin feeding since I was a kid.  This was one of the first videos that I watched and if you watch it and read the book, you’ll quickly pick up on the research I collected from watching it many, many times.  It is a bit dated now and the penguins in Melbourne Zoo have since had an amazing new enclosure built for them, but there are still a lot of similarities.  I guess the way penguins are fed hasn’t changed too much. I wonder if this keeper knows that her penguin feeding was in the inspiration for the character of zoo keeper Sasha doing a penguin feeding?

And whatever you do, think of Sheldon and remember that details will make your story more believable and hopefully more real to your readers! Happy researching (and don’t forget, it is only 5 days until you can check out all of the great penguin stats in Diary of a Penguin-napper for yourself! Enter the free book giveaway while you are waiting!)

6 DAYS UNTIL LAUNCH: 6 ways to get pumped about your writing

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Sometimes it is really tough to get motivated to write and, if you’re anything like me, I find that the more I avoid it because I think it is too hard, the harder it actually becomes!  Now that I’m only 6 days away from the launch of Diary of a Penguin-napper (in case you didn’t already know!), I’m really pleased that I managed to push through those days when writing was tough because that is how I ended up with a finished book.

So today, I want to share my ideas to help you to get motivated, stay focused and achieve great things in your writing.

Image courtesy of scottwills via Creative Commons.
  1. Set an extraordinary goal – one that is both exciting and has a deadline.  It is much easier to get yourself writing every day if you have something that you are working towards.  Don’t just pick something that will be easy for you to achieve or something you’ve achieved previously, step out of the box and choose to strive towards achieving something exceptional.
  2. Get into a routine and make writing part of your life.  Get up earlier and get your writing done while you are still waking up.  You’ll get a first draft done in no time and you’ll hardly notice the word count growing!  Or if early mornings aren’t your thing, aim to get your writing done before your favourite TV show each night.  Write first, reward later.
  3. Find a writing buddy to work with.  Writing can be a really solitary pursuit.  Find a writing buddy that you catch up with on a regular basis to share stories and ideas.  Or make some friends on Twitter – there are loads of interesting people out there with similar interests.
  4. Plan for success. Ever heard of the 6 Ps? (Perfect preparation prevents piss poor performance!) Come up with a plan for your writing and stick to it.  In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell mentions the “10, 000 hour Rule” which explores the idea that the key to success is based on spending 10, 000 hours practising a specific task.
  5. Prioritise your writing. If you don’t prioritise your writing, nobody else will.  Set aside time and let everyone in your household know that your writing time is sacred. You don’t need a long time to write, but you do nee dot use the time you have efficiently.  Turn off the internet and turn up your word count.
  6. Treat yourself. Buy yourself some nice coffee, lovely stationery or something special that you only get to use when you are working towards achieving your writing dreams.  I have a lovely red teapot that I like to use to make myself a fresh pot of tea before I start writing.  The tea making ritual is a great way for me to get focused and thinking about what I’m about to do when I sit down at my desk.

What do you do to motivate yourself to write?  Do any of these strategies work for you?  I’d love to hear your feedback!  Leave me a comment below …

Should you keep your rejection letters?

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We’ve all been there.  You’ve printed a copy of your manuscript, added in a cover letter and stamped, self-addressed reply envelope, then you’ve posted it off (along with all of your hopes and dreams) to a publisher who is currently open for submissions.

You’ve waited (and sometimes waited and waited and waited) and then you open your mailbox to find a familiar envelope addressed in your own handwriting.  It’s the first three chapters (or every single chapter) of your manuscript being returned to you, along with a letter.

A letter of rejection.

(Insert some kind of noise here that they’d play on gameshows when a contestant answers a question wrong.)

Now, I’ve had my share of such letters and they’re just awful.  They make you want to stop writing, shout, cry, drink and, at the very least, they make you want to rip up the letter into teeny tiny pieces and throw it into the bin immediately (Then set the bin alight and perhaps kick it for good measure!)

And I used to do the same.  But then, one day, I decided that I should start keeping my rejection letters. Admittedly, the reason I decided to keep them because one day, my manuscript would be bought and I’d be massively successful and someone from the newspaper would ask me how many times my book had been turned down before it had been sold and I’d be able to say a figure with accuracy (and I’d know the names of the publishing houses who were now kicking themselves, naturally.)

So I started keeping them and there has been an unexpected positive about being able to look back on them, after the initial sting has worn off.  And that positive is that they actually contain positive things about my manuscript and my writing in general.  Things like:

Right, so 
I can see that you’re a talented writer and I would really like to read further work from you – I just can’t get behind this particular story 100% I’m afraid.


And:

It’s a complete pleasure, I think that your writing style is fantastic, really pacy and engaging – I’m loving it so far. Whatever happens with this one you must keep writing you are clearly a natural. 

And:

While I like your writing, Sally, and I enjoyed reading this funny adventure story, unfortunately I don’t have a place for it on the <Insert Publisher’s name here> children’s list.

So, as a self-publisher, I’m really pleased that I’ve kept my rejection letters.  They’re evidence of the journey that I’ve been on so far (the good and the bad) and they’ve also given me the confidence to put myself behind my writing and go ahead with self-publishing.

What’s your opinion? Do you keep your rejection letters?  And do you believe people should?

Who should read your first draft then?

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So, back here I talked about 3 people who I don’t think should ever read your first (or early) drafts and when I wrote that post, I promised I’d come back to you with who I think should be reading your initial drafts.  And here they are:

1. People in your target audience
Back in 2010 when I first had the idea for Diary of a Penguin-napper, I wrote the first chapter one Sunday afternoon and took it in to school with me the next day.  (I’m a teacher, as it happens, not just some weirdo who turns up at schools!) Anyway, I read the first chapter to my Year 4 class and they both laughed and wanted to know what happened next in the story, which was a good indication that I was on the right track.  After the school holidays, I then read them the rest of the story and made notes/tweaks/amendments as I went along, hearing the story out loud for the first time and hearing the kids’ reactions to it.

Letting people in your target audience read your manuscript is a great idea because

2. Critique partners and beta readers
In essence, you just find yourself a writing buddy (probably someone in a similar genre to you) or writing group who you can have read your work and who will provide you with some feedback on it.  In return, you do the same for them.  I haven’t really been involved in a critique group or partnership myself (as I always imagine it can be a bit time consuming), but there is some great information the role of the SOCP (Strictly Objective Critique Partners) here at YA Highway.

Whilst I haven’t been part of a critique group, I do have some ‘beta readers’ of sorts.  These people who I send my early drafts to and who have provided thoughtful, solid feedback on different manuscripts.  They are an invaluable sounding board for me and even though I don’t read work for them, I do try and reward them in other ways (like cake or lunch), so they’ll be happy to keep helping me out.

3.  Manuscript assessment critique services
After I had finished writing Diary of a Penguin-napper and had read it to my classmy next step was to send it to a manuscript assessment service. I had never used one of these before, but I decided that even though it would be a cost, it would be valuable to get a professional opinion on what could be improved in my manuscript.

I ended up going through the Literary Consultancy because I found that, even with the GBP to AUD currency conversion, they were still the most affordable for a manuscript that particular length.  I was extremely happy with the editorial feedback they provided, as it was detailed, thoughtful and gave me specific things to work on to improve my manuscript.  And I felt like I got value for money, which is also important.  This feedback gave me a direction for future drafts and has definitely helped to shape the final manuscript.

And there you have it.  Leave your comments below – I want to know: Do you have anyone in particular that you like to share your writing with?  Or anyone that you don’t?