Tag Archives: Writing

IWSG: Are we jeopardising the indie book industry by being ‘nice’?

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“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

For this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post, I’d like to discuss something that’s been on my mind a little bit lately, thanks to Andrew Leon’s two-part post titled, Is It Better To Be “Nice” Or Honest?

You can read the full post part one and part two by Andrew (and I recommend you do, it’s very thought provoking), but in the interests of time, I’ll give you the extremely abridged version. Essentially, what I took from Andrew’s post was that we are doing the indie book industry a disservice every time we write a positive review for a self published book that doesn’t deserve it. Why? Because reviews are the only currency independent authors have, and if we discredit that, then readers will assume all self-published books are as rubbish as each other and stick with traditionally published books, which have been judged as worthwhile by someone they trust (mainstream publishers).

I agree with Andrew on this point. Writing a good review just to be nice doesn’t do anybody any favours. It tarnishes your reputation as a writer/reviewer, it tells the author they don’t need to grow, and it turns readers off the indie book industry.

However, I’m not entirely comfortable with the extension of this argument, which says that we must write negative reviews for books that deserve it. While I agree this would add to the overall credibility of the industry, I just can’t bring myself to publicly criticise another author’s work. If they asked for my opinion, I would give it to them – in an email, not a public forum. I would rather recommend the books I enjoy and not mention the ones I don’t. I guess this is because I understand what it’s like to be an insecure writer, and I don’t want to cause others pain.

But maybe I’m just soft and my reluctance to criticise is actually harming the industry. Almost every self published book you see has a handful of glowing reviews, even those that clearly don’t deserve the praise. I assume these reviews are written by family and friends who would love whatever the person wrote regardless of the quality. By not balancing these reviews with honest, critical ones of my own, am I contributing to the erosion of review credibility, thus diminishing the indie publisher’s only currency?

I’m really keen to hear your take on this. Do you think I(/we) should be tougher and write critical reviews of self published books? Do you write reviews like that? What would you think if you read an ultra-critical review on my blog? And what effect do you think the absence of these reviews has on the industry as a whole? Let me know what you think!

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!


Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Self publishing, Writers, Writing

Insecure Writers’ Support Group: review-phobia

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

It’s time for this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post! I’m going to preface this post by re-stating one of the key reasons the blog-father, Alex J Cavanaugh, founded this support group:  “Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak.”

So no teasing! Cos I’m about to tell you one of my real, genuine fears.

Now that I’ve decided to indie publish my first novel The Big Smoke, I’m faced with the fact that people everywhere around the world will be able to purchase my writing and then tell everybody else what they think about it. That’s AWESOME but it’s also FREAKING TERRIFYING.

I fear that, soon after The Big Smoke is released, my Amazon page will be swamped with bad reviews by people who absolutely hated my book.

Thumbs down

Bad, bad, bad.

Now, I know that bad reviews are par for the course. I know that every book is bound to get a few negative reviews in its time. But what if they come first? What if the very first reviews that appear on my Amazon page all say my work is rubbish? Then no one else will give it a chance – including the people who just might love it.

Don’t get me wrong. I have confidence in my writing. I do. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have decided to put it out there. But that confidence doesn’t negate the fear. And I think indie publishing perhaps makes that fear a little stronger. If I had the tick of approval from a publisher, I don’t think I’d be as concerned about reviews. But for indies, reviews really are the make or break. Hence, the fear.

I know a lot of you reading this have published your own work – either traditionally or independently. Did you fear bad reviews too? Have you had any? I don’t mean luke warm, I mean reviews where the reviewer seems to believe your fingers should be chopped off so you can never write another word. Any advice on how to quell those nerves?

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!


Filed under Creativity, Fear, Insecure Writers Support Group, Self publishing, Writers, Writing

Why I’ve decided to go indie

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been leaning towards indie publishing my novel, The Big Smoke, for more than a year now. Well, I’ve finally decided for sure – I’m going to do it. I’m flying solo.

If you’re new here, you’ll probably assume that I’ve already tried my hand at getting a traditional publishing contract and clocked up countless rejections. But that would be incorrect. I’ve decided to skip that part.

‘Are you crazy?’ I can hear you saying. ‘Don’t you at least want to give traditional publishing a shot before you make the decision to indie publish?’

Short answer: no.

Why? Because, as we all know, it’s incredibly difficult to get an agent and publisher, even when your manuscript fits the narrow window of what traditional publishers are looking for. And The Big Smoke doesn’t fit that window. Based on my research, traditional publishers are unwilling to take a risk on young adult fiction by new authors that’s over 90,000 words. The Big Smoke is about 140,000 words.

That doesn’t make it unsellable. It just means that the risk for a traditional publisher to take it on is higher, because they would earn less profit for each book sold. Why? Because big books cost more to print, but you can’t necessarily charge much more for a big book than a thinner book. There’s only so much readers are willing to pay for a book, after all.

I get that. And I don’t blame traditional publishers for avoiding projects that have more risks, especially not in today’s market. But that doesn’t mean The Big Smoke isn’t worth reading, or that it won’t find an audience out there. I believe it’s good enough to publish, and so do my beta readers. So that’s what I’m going to do.

There are a few more reasons why going indie appeals to me:

  • The Big Smoke will be available to readers a lot faster than if I waited for a publishing offer (which in all likelihood would never come).
  • I’m a bit of a control freak, so the idea of having ultimate control over the whole project really appeals to me
  • I probably won’t sell nearly as many copies, but I’ll get much higher royalties for each book sold.

Where to from here?

Once I get feedback from my second group of beta readers (in early July, hopefully), I’ll make any required changes then send the manuscript off to be professionally edited and proof read (if you know any high-quality Australian freelance fiction editors, let me know!).

While that’s happening, I’ll also be commissioning a professional cover designer to produce an awesome cover that will work for both hard copy and e-books. Once all of that is done, I’ll release the book through Amazon, Smashwords and Createspace Print on Demand.

And then the blog tour and celebrations will begin! 😀

As you can probably tell, I’m feeling pretty excited about all of this. I’m not expecting to be the next Amanda Hocking by any stretch of the imagination, but just the thought of my book being available for readers makes me feel all warm inside. And if I can make back the money I spend on publishing and a bit more, that’d be awesome too.

Stay tuned, because I’ll be keeping you up to date every step of the way!

Your turn

What do you think about my decision? Feel free to be honest! What are you plans for your work-in-progress? Are you hoping to get a traditional publishing contract or does going indie appeal to you too?


Filed under Progress update, Self publishing, Writing

Bring on beta reader round two!

You may have noticed that it’s been ages a little while since I’ve blogged about my progress on my WiP, The Big Smoke. That’s because, well… there hasn’t been much progress – until recently. Don’t get me wrong, I was doing a lot of thinking about my book and the feedback from my first group of beta readers, I just wasn’t making many hard and fast decisions about what changes to make. I guess I just needed some time for the ideas to percolate.

And percolate they did. Last week, I finally got my butt back in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard and made the hard decisions. And you know what? I’m really happy with how it’s come together. My beta readers helped me to see my work through different eyes and gave me some awesome ideas about where I could push things just that little bit further to really ramp up the tension.

So now that the changes are done, the manuscript is off to beta reader group two! My original plan was to get it to this group in December last year – hah! What high hopes I had. 😉 The last group received The Big Smoke in three chunks, whereas the new group will get it in one hit, so I’m looking forward to their feedback in terms of overall consistency and repetition that may not have been apparent to the first group (plus their opinions on anything else, of course).

I’ve asked the second group to give me their feedback within six to eight weeks, and while I’m waiting, I’ll be doing a lot more research into the Australian self publishing market (more on this soon) and starting to plot my next book. YAH!! How exciting is that?! I’ve been working on The Big Smoke (previously Tangled, previously Entwined…) for SO long, I can’t wait to create some new characters. My next book will still be young adult, but it’s going to have some historical and science fiction-y elements too. Can’t wait!

Your turn

How’s your writing going? Hit any major milestones recently? Or, avoiding making any hard decisions? 🙂


Filed under Beta readers, Editing, Writing

Insecure Writers’ Support Group: perfecshunism

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"Let's rock the neurotic writing world!" Alex J Cavanaugh

It’s time for this months Insecure Writers’ Support Group post!

I have a bit of a problem, and I have a feeling I’m not alone. I have a feeling this problem is shared by many writers. So here it is… I want everything I write to be perfect. No errors. See, the onley reason I feel comfortable with this going live is becuase I figure you’ll cotton on to what Im doing.

But what about you? DOes this post make your eyes bleed? How would you feel if you discovered that a post you’d published had multiple errors in it? would you be horrifyed? would you be worried what the people who’d read it thought of you? I would. Because writing is what I (try to) do best. Writing is my profesion – both paid and unpaid.

But maybe my fears are a little OTT. I mean, I’ve read posts with errors in them before. I noticed them, sure, but I didn’t assume the author was a terible writer. I just assumed they were in a bit of rush that day and hadn’t been as thorough as they could have been.

What do you think when you see errors in a post? Do you write off the author (pardon the pun)? Or just assume they were in a hurry?

SHould I be as paranoid as I am about making mistakes? Are you? Any tips on how to get over the fear (other than write a post riddeled with them)? 😉

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!


Filed under Creativity, Fear, Insecure Writers Support Group, Writers, Writing

The beauty of subjectivity

Last week, I posted about my lack of motivation to make changes to my work-in-progress The Big Smoke based on my beta readers’ feedback. I’m pleased to report that I spent quite a number of hours on the weekend reading through all of the feedback and deciding what to take on board.

I received feedback from seven beta readers and overall the comments were amazingly positive and encouraging. But one of the most fascinating things about the feedback was the huge variance in readers’ opinions. Each person enjoyed a different aspect of the plot, preferred different characters, and took something different from the story overall.

Here’s some of the feedback to show what you mean.

About Ceara’s story line

“There’s a lot going on in her story but you’ve set it all up well so it’s very believable and not at all difficult to follow.”

“Right now there are a lot of underlying plot threads, and I’m not sure how they contribute to the overall character arc.”

About Seb

“It seemed like you took a little while to settle comfortably into Seb. His first scene at the dam felt a little clunky and forced.”

“I really enjoyed the scene with Seb and his dad at the dam because it was so well described and well written. The reader gets a really good understanding of their relationship. Love it.”

“I enjoyed EVERY MOMENT of Seb’s narration. You did an amazing job narrating as Seb. He was witty, and very realistic.”

Who is your favourite character so far and why?

“I love Seb. He just seems so… tortured. Trying to be adult, but kind of sucking at it.”

“I like Ceara because I can relate to her.”

“Seb. He’s a bit of alright and I’m female so I should like the hero. He is a bit of an underdog and I’ll always barrack for an underdog.”

“This might surprise you, but Ceara by far.”

About a passage comparing two girls

“Wow, this is really good. Such an imaginatively descriptive passage.”

“Love this comparison.”

“I would cut this, it’s a little too insulting.”

Is there anything you would cut from what you’ve read so far?

“Not at all”


“No, keep it all as it is.”

“I feel like some subplots need to be cut, and others expanded.”


As you can see, there’s a LOT of varying opinions there. Originally, I found this really confusing. I mean, how was I supposed to know what changes to make if all of the feedback I got was conflicting? GAH!

But then I realized something: I was looking at it entirely the wrong way. The fact that everybody took something different from my story demonstrates that it’s complex and multi-layered (which I want it to be), and also shows that each person brought their individual perspective to the reading experience. And really, isn’t that one of the coolest parts about reading? i.e. finishing a book then discussing it – maybe even arguing about it – with friends who’ve read it too? That’s the beauty of the reading experience: the beauty of subjectivity. If everyone had the same taste and opinions, there wouldn’t be such an amazing variety of genres and plot lines out there for us to choose from. So really, if I only wanted one opinion, I should’ve only asked one person, and that wouldn’t have been nearly as enlightening in the long run.

And on another note, as I sifted through the feedback, I realised there was very little about the story that more than one reader didn’t like. Meaning, while most readers provided feedback about parts of the novel that didn’t totally blow them away, their criticisms didn’t overlap much (with one notable exception – corresponding dreams, anyone? ;)). So, looking at that from a positive angle, I think it means there’s very little about the story that completely doesn’t work – and that’s got to be a good thing, right?

While my beta readers may not have provided me with definitive solutions about what changes I need to make, they’ve definitely helped me see the novel in new ways and given me a multitude of suggestions to mull over.

So how will I decide what to take on board? Good old fashioned instinct. I’m going back to what I set out to achieve with this novel – if a suggestion helps me take it in that direction, then I’ll adopt it. If not, I’ll respectfully put the suggestion aside. I know I won’t please everyone with my final version, but what book does? And, really, as if we’d want that. Because that would take away the beauty of the individual reading experience: the beauty of subjectivity.

Your turn

Have you received contradictory feedback from beta readers? Or, have you read a book and had a completely different take on it than a friend? Please, regale me with your experiences! 🙂


Filed under Beta readers, Editing, Writing

Insecure Writers Support Group: meh

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

"Let's rock the neurotic writing world!" Alex J Cavanaugh

It’s time for this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post, and I must admit, it took me a while to decide what to post about. Not because I couldn’t think of topics, but because I was struggling to summon the motivation to write a post. Just like I’ve been struggling to go through my beta readers’ comments and decide what comments to take on board. I’m totally excited about finishing the edits, I’m just not that pumped about actually doing them. Hence, my headline: meh.

I know I’ll come out of this slump and get back into my writing groove, but I also know it will take some hard work to get there. Because, in my experience, the only way out is through. Meaning, the only way I’ll get motivated again is by continuing to chip away until my mojo returns. Because, as someone famous once said, success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

In saying that, I’m keen to know if you have any hints or tips for other ways to get out of a motivation slump, both with blogging and with writing. Who knows, maybe I’ll summon the motivation to try one of them! 😉

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!

P.P.S. If you haven’t read my Creepy Hollow launch post yet, make sure you do – it’s spruiking Rachel Morgan‘s truly awesome novelette!

P.P.S. In totally un-related news, I’ve got a guest post on my friends Koren and Alana’s blog, Food Without a Face. If you like the sound of Asian dumpling, veg and noodle soup, go check out my very own (adapted) recipe!


Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, motivation, Writers, Writing

Insecure Writers Support Group: procrastination

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

"Let's rock the neurotic writing world!" Alex J Cavanaugh

It’s time for this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post! First one for 2012 – whoop whoop! 🙂

I have a confession to make. Lean in so I can whisper it in your ear. That way, not everyone will hear. Okay, here goes…

I’m a procrastinator.

Phew, feels so good to just put that out there.

Now let me explain. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I am a hard worker, both at work and with my writing. But I don’t necessarily always expend my energy in the right places. If something seems particularly hard, I’ll put it off and keep myself busy with other tasks. For example, when writing, I might edit an existing scene rather than plough ahead and write the tricky scene that I’m not quite sure how to handle. And at work, I might file my emails or do my time sheets rather than start brainstorming how to write a difficult report.

And while I’m putting off that difficult task, I’m usually worrying about it in the back of my mind, building it up to be even harder than it is in reality. Quite often, once I get my act together and start the tricky task, it turns out to be not nearly as hard as I’d imagined. Which makes me wonder why I ever put it off in the first place!

So I’m making a New Year’s resolution: no more procrastinating. Whenever I realise that I’m putting something off, I will call myself on it and tackle the task. Bring it on, I will say! So that’s the plan. Feel free to ask me in a few months how I’m going with it, because I may need a friendly reminder every now and again! 🙂

How about you? Are you a procrastinator? How do you stop yourself from putting things off? Have you set yourself any writing-related New Year’s resolutions? (or non-writing-related ones, I’m interested in those too!)

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!


Filed under Fear, Insecure Writers Support Group, Procrastination, Writers, Writing

Beta readers: a change of plan

Earlier this evening, I had the great pleasure of sending Part 3 (the final part) of  The Big Smoke to my beta readers. This is only a week behind the original deadline I set myself back in August, so I’m pretty happy with that.

However, in my original project schedule, I allocated time in between editing parts to go back and consider feedback from my beta readers on the previous part and make changes. That didn’t happen, mainly because it felt more natural to continue on with editing in a linear fashion rather than backtracking, and also because editing took longer than I’d expected. Especially Part Three. Part Three was a slog.

Don’t get me wrong – I did read the feedback from my beta readers, I just haven’t processed it fully yet. Now that Part Three is in the hands of my beta readers, that’s exactly what I plan to do.

I already know I’ll have some difficult decisions to make because my readers had quite different opinions about what works and what doesn’t, but I’m happy to say that overall my readers have really enjoyed what they’ve read so far (phew!). They’ve also had some fantastic insights about how I could make the story even better so I’m looking forward to mulling those suggestions over and deciding what to take on board.

In my original project schedule, I planned to distribute the whole manuscript to my second group of beta readers at this point too, meaning I would receive feedback from my first group on Part 3 and my second group on the whole manuscript at roughly the same time. Obviously, that’s not possible any more because I haven’t made changes to parts 1 and 2 yet.

But even if I had, I think that I would’ve decided to wait until I received feedback from my first group on Part 3 before sending the entire manuscript to my second group. Why? Because if there are major doozies /deal breakers in Part 3, I’d want my first group to let me know so I can fix them up before my second group starts reading. That way, my second group will (hopefully) get a much more polished version of the entire manuscript, rather than two-thirds polished and one-third good but ‘flawed’.

This means my beta reading stage will take longer than I’d first hoped, but I think it will be more valuable this way. Fingers crossed that’s the case!

Your turn

What do you think? Do you agree with my thoughts about drawing the beta reading process out or do you think I’m just trying to make myself feel better for not sticking to my original plan? (Feel free to be honest!) Have you done something similar with beta readers? If so, what were your experiences?

P.S. If you’re part of my second group of beta readers, expect an apologetic email about the delay coming your way soon! 🙂


Filed under Beta readers, Progress update, Tangled

Insecure Writers Support Group: rejection

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

"Let's rock the neurotic writing world!" Alex J Cavanaugh

It’s time for this month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post!

Something that feeds many writers’ insecurities is rejection. Whether that rejection comes from an agent, a publisher, or even a beta reader (in the form of highly negative comments), it always hurts and can make us question whether we’re cut out for this writing caper.

As much as rejection sucks, it’s pretty much inevitable that every writer will experience it at some point in their journey. In fact, most published authors were rejected by publishers before they were accepted. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel a little better when I hear that best selling books by authors like J K Rowling and John Grisham were rejected multiple times – not because I’m sadistic, but because it reminds me of the subjectivity of the reading experience. Just because one person (agent, publisher, reader) doesn’t connect with my work doesn’t mean others won’t. And it also doesn’t mean my work is rubbish (although it may mean that it needs more work).

If you’d like to read more about big name authors’ battle scars, check out this awesome post Ann Riley wrote for Aimee Salter’s The Write Life. It definitely helped me to put things in perspective, and I plan to revisit it whenever I feel glum about my own rejections!

P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!


Filed under Creativity, Fear, Insecure Writers Support Group, Writers, Writing