Thinking Ahead by Buffy Greentree

Start thinking ahead.

If I could give one piece of advice to new writers, it is to think ahead right from the beginning. Stop your writing and take an afternoon to think about all the things you want to happen, and what you can be doing now to make them happen. Here are just a few examples that I’ve learned over the last year since bringing out my first book, things I wish I had known earlier.1. Call Yourself A Writer From The Start
The sooner you start calling yourself a writer, the sooner you will start seeing the world is full of opportunities for writers. If you introduce yourself as an office worker, your conversation will start off focused on what everyone knows about office workers, which is not much. If, however, you start by saying that you are a writer, people will immediately think of all they know about writers, which often leads to them offering you surprising avenues of help. And it is at the beginning of your career that even the smallest bit of hep is welcome. I’m sure Stephen King is no longer excited when someone says that their brother owns a bookstore and would be happy to host a book signing, but I would be over the moon. So start working your magic.2. Know Your Market
As sad as it is if you want to write for a living, then you need to write what people want to read. Simple as that. No one is going to pay you to write something that no one wants to read. And as you are writing, you will come to scenes that can go in a multitude of directions, with many of them suitable options within the story. However, knowing how you plan to market the book can save you from taking inappropriate directions. For example, the reader’s expectations for a romance with a touch of suspense are quite different to those for a suspense with a touch of romance. For example, if it’s a romance, you can’t kill off the love interest, though in a suspense you might be able to. Having worked with self-published authors, I can tell you that trying to squash a round book into a square market after it has been written is a horrifying ordeal which you should do your best to avoid.

3. Promote As Soon As You Know What You Have To Promote
With my first book I saw making the book cover as one of the last steps before I published. I now realise that this is a mistake. As soon as you know basically what your book is about, you should be thinking about book covers, because this is your promo poster for your book. It is just like how cinemas put up ‘coming soon’ posters that make you excited about a movie months early. So getting a professional book cover done and displayed on your webpage, sent out with emails, and used it to start a Goodreads pre-release giveaway all before you’ve even finished the book will save you months of promotion after you publish.

I’m coming to believe that pre-launch publisizing is worth twice post-launch, especially if people can sign up to buy pre-release. Why? Because if you can sell the same amount of books within a week as you do later over a few weeks, you will go higher in the Amazon ranking. And the sooner you start scaling on the rankings, the better. Moving up the ranking is a self-perpetuating cycle, more people find you, so they buy you, so you go further up the rankings. But there is a critical point you need to get over first, and the faster you do that the easier it will be.

4. Think Five, Ten, Twenty Years Ahead
Finally, remember that you are in for the long haul. Often I feel like a failure because I have only done an hour of writing that day when I said I would do five. Or worse, there are the days when I struggle to sit down at all, and argue with myself that twenty minutes of writing won’t make a difference. The best remedy for this is to think ahead to the end of your career. Think of where you want to be in twenty years time.

In twenty years, if I have done twenty minutes a day, what will that have gotten me, compared to if I’d just given up? Well, 20 minutes x 5 days a week for 50 weeks of the year (see, I’m letting you have two weeks holidays as well!) is a total of 5,000mins, or 83.33 hours. If you write at 1000 words per hour, that’s 83,000 a good size book. After twenty years, even if you didn’t do any more, you would have 20 books available. And with twenty books, you are starting to get somewhere.

So think ahead now and don’t stop, because you are going to be huge.


When You Become A Real Writer by Buffy Greentree

When I become a real writer, then I’ll… What? What will you do? What is the difference between someone who wants to be a writer and someone who can confidently claim they are a writer?

Is it the number of books published? Or sold? Whether you have a traditional publisher? Do you need an agent? Will that make you a ‘writer’?

There are only 2 things that make a writer: continuing to work on your craft, and not giving up.

You might be an author if you have published books, or a best-seller if you sell more, more recognised if you have a traditional publisher, more promoted if you have an agent, but anyone who has all that is still only a writer if they continue to write.

So lets look at these two things. First, continuing to work on your craft. Despite a lot of opinions, it is my belief that you actually need to write, if you want to be a writer. Nearly everyone has a great idea for a novel in their head, some might have even planned the whole thing out, but unless you have words on paper/screen, you aren’t a writer. Words are the only medium you can express yourself in to be considered a writer.

I want to further qualify this because in today’s society the majority of people do have to write something most of the time, even if it is just To Do Lists. To be a writer, you need to be interested in the craft of writing. I don’t believe it should be just a means to an end, but an interest all in itself.

As Ernst Hemingway said, ‘I am an apprentice to a craft in which there are no masters.’ You need to be constantly looking around you for inspiration and new, better ways to express yourself. Act like the exam is always just tomorrow, and study that little bit more. I recommend for this that you read books on the art, attend conferences, join amazing groups like ROW 80, and talk with other writers. This will make sure that you are always focused on the craft.

So, if you are a member of ROW 80, meeting some of your goals, then you are halfway towards being a writer! The other, just as important half, though, is to not give up. The moment you decide to stop writing, stop trying to get published, stop trying to improve, you stop being a writer.

I used to believe that I could only call myself a writer if I was supporting myself by an income from my work. However, many great writers continued to work a day job nearly all of their lives. There are other fabulous writers who only earn enough to supplement their income. Some writers give their work away for free, and others just haven’t made money with their work yet. Which is why you just can’t give up.

Think of the many famous authors that had to keep trying after hundreds of rejections before they received their first dime. Were they not still writers during this period?

(Great article in ‘Writers Circle’ of 9 famous authors who were not only rejected, but given very rude feed back, if you want to feel better.)

C.S. Lewis, one of my all time favourite authors (‘Chronicles of Narnia’, and other great works such as ‘Til We Have Faces’) was rejected 800 times before a single piece of his work was published!

If at any time he had given up, even if he had given up after the 799th rejection, then he wouldn’t have been the writer we know (and love!) today.

So, at times we all feel discouraged, feel we aren’t good enough to make it as writers, and might even take a break from it all. However, in the end the only thing that differentiates you from either the ‘real’ writers or the rest of the population is whether you end up coming back and trying to write all over again. Then you can confidently call yourself a writer. Welcome to the club.


Buffy Greentree

Unusual Drawbacks of Being A Writer by Buffy Greentree

All you ROWers are such a hard working bunch. I visit your blogs and you have another edit down, or completed another chapter. It sometimes feels like you hardly need a pep talk at all. In fact, I often go to you when I need a bit of pepping! So, while you are all hard at work writing, I thought I would take this opportunity to mention some of the drawbacks to being a writer, just to make you think about why you are doing all this.

When I say drawbacks, I don’t mean about the ones everyone is always telling you about: it’s hard work, very few people make it, you can’t make a living, etc. – those are just foolish.

The need for writers right now is greater than it has ever been. New content is always being created and posted online, and entrepreneurs are desperate for great writers to make their websites shine. More people are reading, devouring books, with whole new markets opening up regularly. Almost every industry needs technical writers, and copywriters are sought after. Yes, it is going to be hard work, but so is anything worth achieving. And yes, you might need to broaden your mind to less traditional concepts of writing, and you may not write the next great best-selling novel first time around, but that is no excuse to give up.

These are not the issues that I want to talk about today. The drawbacks I want to look at should not discourage you from being a writer, but rather point out considerations that you need to be aware of when you make the decision to become not just someone who writes, but a writer.

First of all, in calling yourself a writer, people expect you not only to write, but also to have been published in a medium they know, which I think is vastly unfair. Still, this is the way the world is, and people will look at you askew if you have nothing to show them yet. Therefore, well done for starting up a blog. It is a great place to point people as evidence of your writing. It will save a lot of embarrassment at Christmas parties, and allows you to start building up your readership.

There is also the problem that writing can be a rather lonely business. It shouldn’t be very surprising when you consider you must spend a good portion of the day staring at a screen and another good portion staring off into space. However, as the majority of people appear to do this at desk jobs anyway, and don’t have the novels to justify it by the end, don’t let this should worry you. Terry Pratchett says, ‘writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.’ Which is true, if you let it.

While being lonely is a matter of choice, becoming a bit strange is more difficult to avoid. This happens for a number of reasons. The most immediate effects come from taking on too much of your characters or bubbling over with strange facts.  However, if you spend eight hours writing in the mindset of an evil genius, it can hardly be surprising that you might come down to dinner with just a slight facial tic and a tendency towards manic laughter.  I say: embrace it. It makes your writing a lot more interesting, and your life.

Giving off the sense that you are sizing everyone up is harder to conceal, because, in fact, you are. Do they come up to scratch? Could they make a reasonable character in your book, or would they just be filler? Killed off in the second chapter? These are important questions. Much more important than insipid questions such as ‘how do you do?’ That won’t tell you anything interesting.

Lastly, let’s not forget the physical issues with writing. If we don’t exercise care, writers either become on the large side, or slip into a wraith-like figure.  This depends on how you have connected eating with your writing.

I admit that I started my writing journey with a block of chocolate firmly beside me at every session. However, I soon realized the road that this was leading down, and so replaced it with jasmine green tea. However, not eating while writing can lead to just not eating at all. You sit down just before lunch, and suddenly an idea of such brilliance comes to you and by the time you look up it is already 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Might as well just wait for dinner.

On the same physical lines, there are the consequences of sitting down all day. Without a conscious effort to include exercise in your day, it is possible to move no further than to the kettle and back for days on end. If you start finding the kettle hard to lift, it might be time to do a series of gym reviews for your blog.

Family and relationships become dangerous ground. With families, despite all the protestations about making sure you keep your day job, families often love having one member as a writer, as it means at least one person is always free to do whatever they need whenever they want. There is a certain logic that they miss. Relatives who would never think of asking you to take a day off from your day job to help them move, will decide that since you were sitting around at home doing nothing anyway, surely you can write some other time?

Children can also be quite demanding, and I believe partners only have a right to complain if you started writing after you got together. These are issues that each individual needs to navigate for themselves. Just remember that murder is only an option if you think you could write well in the jail environment. It’s a personal taste thing, really.

Life becomes much easier if you get other friends who are writers, though they then tend to want to talk about their books, which can be a trifle dull when all you can think about is your book. However, these are the sacrifices you must make if you want to keep appearing even slightly normal.

So keep blogging away, ROWers, because we all know that in the end, it really is worth it.


Buffy Greentree

When Everything Else Deserts You, You Still Have Your Will Power by Buffy Greentree

So, you have set up some amazing goals and carefully listened to Kait’s advice to make them sustainable and measurable. Perhaps for the first week, maybe longer, maybe not so long, you found you were going well. You were excited about what you were writing and what you were achieving and everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Ah, how well we all know that feeling. Like starting a new exercise program, or diet, or even trying to become a domestic goddess. However, we also all know that it fades much sooner than you think it should. Sometimes within a day or two your motivation is gone, and then what are you left with?

So, today I’m not going to sugar coat things for you, not going tell you that everything can always be sunshine and puppies. Instead, I’m going to deal with the nitty gritty of writing, what you are left with after enthusiasm has walked out on you: Will Power. When motivation and inspiration abandon you, and no matter how much tempting and teasing you do they won’t come back, all you have left is plain old will power. So you had better treat it right.
But, you cry, my will power deserts me as well! I have accidentally breathed in a whole block of chocolate and mainlined five episodes of Glee instead of writing!
Well, that’s easy to fix.
Will power doesn’t need tempting or teasing, but it does need some common sense steps on your part to make the most of it. Follow these guidelines and you will find your ability to just sit down and write increase to the point where you might even think you have your motivation back.
There are three things that drain away will power faster than anything else: Hunger, Stress and Sleep Deprivation.
Remember how your mother told you never to go shopping when you’re hungry? Why? Because you have no will power when you are hungry and will say yes to everything that takes your fancy. Yes, it is stronger with food, but trying to make yourself do anything when you are hungry is an uphill battle. Therefore, save yourself the angst and make sure you have eaten something filling and nutritious before sitting down to write.
Second is stress. Have you ever had to apologize for snapping at someone with the excuse, ‘I’m sorry, I’m just a bit stressed at the moment?’ Long-term stress kills will power. Therefore, if you want to be an effective writer then you need to look at all the different stresses in your life and see which ones you can reduce. Throw in a bit of time for meditation and relaxation, a few good, deep breaths, and you will find that reaching your goals is a whole lot easier.
The final one is sleep deprivation. By now we should all know that it is bad for us not to get enough sleep. Your body becomes cantankerous, your concentration goes, you put on weight and crave bizarre things, and can’t say no to chocolate if your life depended on it. Then of course it is also going to be affecting your ability to write. If you do manage to resist the temptation just to flop in front of the TV, you will find your mind wanders from your writing, and sometimes leaves completely.
Therefore, do all your other goals a favor and add these three into the mix: I will eat a banana (or healthy food of choice) before starting to write. I will take 10 minutes a day to practice relaxation and meditation, and I will go to bed early every week night.
After that there are more things you can do to increase your will power, such as temptation proofing your life, but get these three under control, and you will be making leaps and bounds in your goal achievement.

Good luck!


Buffy Greentree