A Facebook Q and A session!
At the end of April, I ran a question and answer session for readers. Read them here:
How do you get your ideas?
I work on a new idea gradually, first making a list of possible characters, then deciding on what might happen to them.
Each character should have a character arc. That’s the way that the character changes as a result of events in the story. A lead character might learn to turn their back on monetary success and to value family, or they might stop pushing people away and learn to trust.
This stage shouldn’t be rushed. During the course of everyday life, a new and improved idea might occur to you. The key is to write down new ideas, you’d be surprised at the way they come into your head and then disappear again.
Do you ever consider having an unhappy ending?
I’ve considered it but I like endings to satisfy the reader. It would work best where the lead character does consistently bad things, then an unhappy ending for him or her would be well deserved. The character could learn the error of their ways.
What happens when you approach publishers to publish a new book?
I self-publish. I write to please myself so I can write the length of book that fits my plot and I have control over what cover is used.
The way to a publisher is to first approach agents. Authors who go down this route send out a sample first chapter and a synopsis. They need to understand what is currently selling well and they need to stick to the accepted word counts for each genre. Nowadays traditionally published authors are expected to do a lot of their own marketing, just like self-published authors.
Which of the characters in your books are most like you?
It’s easy to model the protagonist of the first book on yourself, so I can see a lot of myself in Imogen. She is cautious in her approach to life but also ambitious. My first book, ‘The Boatman’s Daughter’ was written as a type of cautionary tale for young girls.
Writing children’s books and stories?
There are many similarities in plotting books for adults and children’s books. You need to invent interesting characters for each and have them go on some sort of journey, either physically or emotionally.
It helps if you have children yourself as you understand what interests them and you know what level of complexity they will be able to cope with. There is an excellent website https://thejohnfox.com/2019/02/how-to-write-a-childrens-book/ that gives you key information like how long the book should be according to the target age and there is a diagram to help with plotting.
You might need to add illustrations. If you are not an artist, you could co-create the book with someone who has artistic skill. Traditional publishers may engage the illustrator themselves but if you are self-publishing and selling through Amazon. They have produced a Kindle Kid’s Book Creator Tool, which allows you to add illustrations.
Towards the end of the process of writing the book, trusted readers are given an early copy so that they can comment on what they liked and what didn’t work for them. They are called ‘beta readers’. You would need beta readers of the same age as your projected audience to check that the book will appeal to them.
Children’s book authors do a lot of readings and organise visits to schools as a way of marketing their books.