Full Cover: The Book of Learning

I’m currently visiting London on book business but here’s a very short post to update you all… this is the full cover for The Book of Learning 🙂 I hope you like it!

BookofLearningFullCover-1

I’m delighted with all the hard work Mercier Press have put into the book; they’ve been so supportive and amazing, and have worked with me closely every step of the way which feels really special. I met a bookseller in London a few days ago that was raving about how wonderful Mercier are, and I have to agree!

Trying something different… what do you think of video?

I’ve been on retreat in the south of France for the last three weeks and it’s drawing to an end. It’s been an invaluable visit (I’ll write about it properly in my next post) and, as well as being productive in my writing, I’ve also increased my headspace and enjoyed some thinking time.

One of the things I’ve been considering is my website and what interests its readers, so I compiled a list of most frequently asked questions. What I found was that they fall into two general categories:

  • What is it like to be a writer?
  • What is your writing process?

Both of the above are personal and different for every writer, and that could be why it’s so fascinating. I’m always delighted to hear about other people’s processes, experiences and routines; because you need to respond to your own body and brain to get the best from your day, it’s amazing how differently writers approach their craft.

I remember when I was a child, authors were mystical beings that you never saw or heard about. I love that the internet has helped to bring readers and writers together – but I believe that a writer’s online content should be just as appealing as their books.

So I was trying to come up with ways that give a more personal, rounded, and reachable view of a writer’s life. One of those options was video – and with today’s wonderfully advanced phones, I feel it’s an accessible form to try out. I’m hardly being innovative – just think of all the amazing YouTubers out there – but it’s something new for me.

To do video means overcoming a couple of things:

  1. Getting over seeing yourself on video (I look too pale/short/my hair’s not good enough/what was that face I pulled? etc etc)
  2. Getting over hearing yourself on a recording (oh god, my accent, *cringe*)

This said, I’ve given it a go and I’d like to know what you think. (I kind of cheated on problem 1 above, but hey, baby steps, right?)

What I’d like to know is…

Is there any value in short videos like this one? Does it feel any more accessible than a written post? Does it give more of a glimpse into a writer’s life?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts…

The Book of Learning Book Trailer

So, here’s my book trailer for The Book of Learning, Book One of my #NineLives trilogy. I’m super excited about this and I hope you love it as much as I do!

Massive thanks go out to author, Alan Early, for making this happen. I only wrote the script; Sarah O’Flaherty at Mercier Press designed the fantastic cover, and Alan did all the rest. Isn’t he amazing?

How to Keep Going & Get That Book Deal!

(This article was originally written for Writing.ie, but I’ve had a very positive response, with lots of people saying it’s really helped them to sit back down and write…So I’m posting it here, just in case it’s of use to even one more person. Apologies if you’ve already seen it! Otherwise, happy reading & happy writing!)

Just six months ago, I was sat in front of my computer, feeling like I was banging my head off the wall. I hadn’t written just one book to a publishable standard, I’d written two – different genres and for different age groups – and although I had faith in them both, it felt like I was never going to succeed in getting them on the shelves.

I had the agent, I’d put the work in (twice!), but other than sell my soul, what the hell did I need to do to actually get a book deal? And if it didn’t happen soon, how was I going to keep going and face more disappointment?

And so, I opened my computer, took a deep breath, and started another book.

The Book of Learning by E.R.MurrayThis was seriously the most challenging time in my life. I’ve had my fair share of tragedies and difficulties – who hasn’t? – but this was different. It was something I really cared about, something that I believed in, that I was desperate to make happen. I’d developed skin like a rhino, but after four years of writing every day, that toughened skin began to wither. Every slight knockback felt like an actual physical blow and I began to wonder – what if the truth of the matter is, I’m not good enough? Sound familiar?

Well here’s the good news…

After much frustration, several false starts and meltdowns, I received an offer from Mercier Press in autumn 2014 – a three-book deal for Nine Lives, my Middle Grade fantasy trilogy, and Book One, The Book of Learning is due out in August this year, with sequels to follow in 2016 and 2017.

And this week, less than six months later, I signed a deal with Alma Books for my other book, Caramel Hearts; a Young Adult novel about a girl with an alcoholic mum, that will be out in May/June 2016.

Two book deals in six months; I can still hardly believe it. And the reason this is good news for you, fellow writer, is because…

If it can happen to me, it can happen to you too.

I’m no different to anyone else; I just kept going. I put in the hours, writing every day for four years (including Christmas, birthdays etc), made some severe lifestyle changes to accommodate my writing, and deleted any form of social life. I attended the writing workshops of writers I admired, so I could learn more about my craft. In short, I gave my writing the focus, dedication, and determination it needed. And if you do the same, I believe you’ll get there.

Writing requires a lot of patience, and a lot of waiting. An irritating fact, I know, but the only way to improve is to sit down, write, rewrite, and rewrite some more. Then, put the manuscript away, pretend it doesn’t exist for a while, and reread it before… you guessed it, rewriting, and rewriting and rewriting…

The two books I’m about to have published aren’t the first two I ever wrote. There is an awful abandoned manuscript no one will ever see (I’d die of embarrassment, I really would), but I’m proud of it because it was my first attempt at writing something of that length. And if you speak to most authors, they’ll probably admit the same.

So don’t give up hope! After lots of practice and determination, the time will come when you know you’re close, that you’ve polished your manuscript to the nth degree and have written a really good book that’s ready to be sent to the agent or publisher of your dreams.

When you reach this point, push the pause button and do some thorough research. Make sure your manuscript fits what your choice of agent or publisher is looking for, and that you’ve matched all their requirements in terms of what to send, formatting etc. Trust me, you don’t want to get this wrong.

You must rein yourself in and stay focused because the worst thing you can do is to send out your manuscript too early, before it’s ready – or to not send it out correctly. You only get one chance with a publisher or agent. Screw it up by being too hasty, and there’s no going back.

That feeling when you hit send is incredible – it’s exciting and scary both. All you will want to do is hit refresh on your email account, ready for that instant reply that tells you how wonderful you are and how the book world will be fighting over you. But guess what? You’re back to waiting. And the rejections will probably come first.

Lots of writers get frustrated at this time. And pushy. I know I certainly did – and I believe that this is perfectly normal. Why? Because you had to believe you were good enough to keep going and write the damn book. And you also had to want it badly enough to have enough staying power to make your manuscript good enough to be published.

But remember – publishers and agents have massive piles of manuscripts to read. Their time is split between finding new authors, and supporting the ones they’ve already published. There are so many facets to the industry, most agents and publishers are overworked and tired; but trust me, they love their jobs and they are looking for new writers. They will get round to your manuscript and give you an honest reply – just not in the five minutes (probably not even in the five weeks) after you hit send!

So, bearing all of this in mind, how do you stay sane and motivated, and keep going when

1) you’re finishing your manuscript, or

2) you’ve been rejected, or

3) you’re waiting to hear back from an agent or publisher?

I’m no expert, but this is what worked for me at all three stages. If it helps you in any way, I’d be delighted…

Multiple Projects: Personally, I can’t bear the waiting process when you’re giving your manuscript some space, so I work on multiple projects at a time. I bring one novel as far as I can, then when it’s time to put it away and let it breathe, I immediately switch to another. I continue by switching between the two projects until they’re fully completed – which, I’ve found, is never at the same time. But that’s part of the fun. Sometimes, I even write another first draft in between, to mix things up a bit, so I can enjoy those feelings of joy and hope and freedom you experience when starting a new project. (I have three more first drafts lurking, waiting to be rewritten – or not. We’ll have to see if they still seem interesting in a year or two.)

Create a Personalized Routine: I’m allergic to actual routine – as in, I can’t even promise myself that I’ll sit down and have a cup of tea every morning before I start working – but you need to establish some form of routine that suits your personality to make sure the writing gets done. This needs to be measurable, so you can see your progress. It could be an amount of time, or a specific daily word count – you’ll probably find you need to adjust your routine when you switch from a first draft to a rewrite/edit – but the important thing is to know how you work best and to set yourself a daily goal. I honestly don’t believe in procrastination, and I don’t believe that successful writers suffer from it. After all, you’re the only person who can write your book – so if it’s your dream, why wouldn’t you just sit down and write?

Try Shorter Pieces & Submissions: Give stories, poems, or flash fiction a go. Writing something else keeps your brain interested and lets you enjoy a separate sense of achievement. I find short stories extremely hard to write, but there’s something magical about them – and about the idea that you might actually complete something sometime soon! Entering competitions or submitting to magazines gives you achievable deadlines, so you can feel like you’re enjoying some measure of success. There’s a great sense of achievement when you hit send on a magazine submission or competition entry – and an even bigger sense of achievement when you get longlisted, shortlisted, or published. Successes like these are a great way to build your profile, and possibly even get noticed, and any writing you do will improve your skills. As for rejections; don’t worry, they’ll help toughen your rhino hide for when you’re facing agents and publishers.

teaching Cambodia rural living

Volunteering in Cambodia for a month certainly helps you get perspective!

Get a Life: this might sound like counterintuitive-advice, but I believe it’s really important that you do something other than writing so you can restore your energy levels, enthusiasm levels, and stock up on ideas. Work, family duties, gardening, exercise, theatre, films, travel; these will take time away from your writing, but in truth, you can only write well for a certain amount of time anyway. All writers are different, but it seems the average daily word count is between 1000-2000 words. And besides, lots of the important stuff really does happen when you’re not at the computer. I find walking and gardening particularly meditative – and I often figure out plot issues or characterisation flaws when I’m absorbed in these activities. This ‘down time’ is the area I really didn’t give enough credence to when I started writing with a view to getting published and it’s still the area I find hardest to maintain – but it really is worth it, so I’m giving it a damn good try.

Every few weeks, I hear about another friend signing a deal with a publisher or an agent, and it makes me so happy. It also goes to show that achieving your publishing goals is not impossible – though it will probably take a lot longer than you initially hoped for or expected.

None of the above suggestions are particularly difficult or original, but they do require dedication – and balance – and they really did work for me.

It’s not long since I was feeling the heartbreak of wondering whether I was ever going to be good enough, so I’m writing this in the hope that if there’s a writer out there feeling as stressed and frustrated as I was, then maybe something will resonate and help to alleviate some of the suffering so you can keep going and get one step closer to your book deal.

 

Banshee: New Literary Journal Seeking Submissions

banshee140x210There’s a new literary journal on the block and, knowing the people behind it (Laura Jane Cassidy, Claire Hennessy & Eimear Ryan),  this is going to be good quality stuff. Everything from the ethos, to the organisation, to the work accepted and the overall presentation, promises to be top notch – and they’re open for submissions. Personally, I can’t wait to see the results.

Over on writing.ie, Claire explains a little bit more…

We’re all writers; we know that talking and dreaming and hoping only take you so far. We also know what anything creative in any way is like – it is almost inevitably more work, and takes longer, than you imagine it will be.

But we’re doing this anyway. In part because several great outlets for Irish writing, such as The SHOp and wordlegs, are now closed; in part because there are lots of marvellous newer outlets, like The Penny Dreadful  and The Bohemyth  and Colony  and Gorse , going from strength to strength. In part because there are longstanding outlets like Hennessy (no relation, alas) New Irish Writing, now in The Irish Times , and The Stinging Fly , continuing to do a great job; and in part because there is always a need for new blood, for new editorial eyes, in anything creative. And mostly because we love words and language and what people can do with them.

Fair play to the girls. There can never be enough great journals as far as I’m concerned.

The first submissions window for Banshee is open until March 31st, and they aim to reply to all submissions by the end of May…

You can read the full details here: http://www.bansheelit.com/

 

A quick story… Discrimen on 1000Words

thai decoration gardens

This is how happy I’ll be when I finish my book edits 🙂

I’m currently editing my book, so things are quiet on the blog front. I hope to get back to my Thailand adventures soon – especially with a Cambodian adventure booked for January – but as I’m sure you’ll understand, these edits have to take priority.

After having read through my editors comments, I should also copy Mel Sheratt and expose a few of my blunders via the blog – there are some corkers in there! What do you think? Would you like to hear some of the most embarrassing ones?

In the meantime, here’s a piece of flash fiction that I wrote, ‘Discrimen‘, kindly published by 1000Words. If you’re a reader, they have lots of really good, bite-sized fiction for you to read. If you’re a writer, why not consider submitting?

I hope you enjoy the story – thanks for reading if you get round to it – & I’ll be back with more blog posts soon.