Stephen King: The Writers Voice 

Across a long and prolific career, Stephen King’s works can be shown to evolve alongside the author. This special feature discusses how a writer’s voice in their work is tied to the writer’s personal experience and explores the risk of literary influence by examining specific entries in King’s canon… 

stephen-king_author

Stephen King’s personal experience and views on writing have defined his works of fiction. His works, and his writing practices and methods, are reactionary to both the changing landscape of the literary field around the length of his career and also a tumultuous personal life, saddled with substance addiction and, later in life, a near fatal accident. As a burgeoning writer, King’s early works can be examined as works of creative expression, Carrie and Salem’s Lot are unrestrained and evidence of a writer merely wanting to tell a good story. As his fame rose, subsequent novels such as The ShiningMisery, and The Tommyknockers were written under the influence of alcohol and cocaine addiction – to the point where their content reflects and begins to speak out against King’s personal demons. After he became sober, King’s newest novels such as Doctor Sleep and the forthcoming Revival, reflect on addiction from the perspective of a recovering alcoholic, while other works, such as Duma Key, run parallel with his recovery from a near fatal car accident.

King takes large writing risks, with works written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, and his genre-less collection Different Seasons, showing a writer trying to play with his own public perception by attempting to create works that operate outside of the literary influence attached to his brand. Through these pseudonym authored books, the importance of voice is amplified, and we can also examine the reader’s connection with his works – that a reader can feel they are reading a Stephen King book, despite it not being “written” by Stephen King. As society evolves, King’s works also exist in the contemporary moment, to the point where he renounces particular works as dangerous in light of a rise in school shootings in the early 2000’s. Finally, King’s cultural influence and work as a writer can be seen as he rose in fame and has morphed from a genre pulp fiction writer to be, sometimes grudgingly, accepted by the literary elite. The esteem also affects how his works are both written and received by the public.

Stephen-King

Stephen King was born in 1947 in Portland Maine.[1] His father left the family in 1949, leaving King to be raised in borderline poverty by his mother. He wrote short stories and a satirical newspaper while attending high school, and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1970 from University of Maine. In 1971 he began teaching high school English while he attempted to carve out a career as a writer. His first fiction sale came in 1967, and was a story called The Glass Floor which he sold to Startling Mystery Stories.[2] While he worked on his novels and taught classes, he sold pulp stories to Men’s magazines such as Hustler and Playboy. In 1973 his first novel, Carrie was sold to Doubleday for publication in 1974 with a pittance of an advance. In 1974, Signet bought the paperback rights to Carrie for $400,000 and King’s writing career was born.[3] Now, Stephen King is simultaneously one of America’s most popular and acclaimed writers. He has published 55 novels since 1973 – including novels written under a synonym, non-fiction, and short story collections – and sold over 350 million books.[4]

With such a long career and a consistent output of new novels, King’s writing process is important to define and understand how and why he works. King advocates a dedicated and structured writing process, whether or not he is stung by creativity or not, he forces himself to write every single day.

I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to about 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three month span, a good length for a book. … On some days those 10 pages come easily; I’m up and out and doing errands by eleven-thirty in the morning … Sometimes, when the word’s come hard, I’m still fiddling around at tea-time.”[5]

This kind of strict regime goes some way to explaining his massive output over the years. He expects that a first draft of a novel should take him no more than 3 months or the characters and the situation begin to go stale. King is a writer of routine; every day he wakes up, goes for a three and a half mile walk to clear his head, rereads the last page he worked on to enter back into the world he’s writing in, and then reaches his 2,000 word target for the day. The afternoons he reserves for editing, instead of writing fresh copy.[6]While he admits to writing slower in his old age, lamenting that he used to write more and faster, it is the routine he clings to that is as close as he gets to acknowledging the secret to his success.

By putting himself in same writing mindset every day, King believes he opens himself up to creativity, “Don’t wait for the muse,” King says in his memoir, “Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going be every day from nine ‘til noon. … If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.”[7] Writing to King is a craft over an art[8], and while he does advocate some degree of natural talent to be a great writer, his overwhelming attitude is that creativity and writing talent is a muscle to be honed and refined by learning and discipline. How King writes will be further examined in the context of both a drug addiction and his slow recovery from a near fatal road accident in 1999, as his methods were forced to change. In the midst of his large body of work, it is evident that society and circumstance has shaped his work.

stephen-king-books4

King’s first novels, Carrie – about a young girl with murderous telekinetic powers, and Salem’s Lot – which focuses on a vampire coven preying on a small town, are spawned from his love of old pulp novels, including H.P. Lovecraft, that he found in his father’s things. As well as 40 cent paperbacks and horror films that he would see at the cinema with his brothers.[9] King admits that as a child, he just liked to be scared, citing these influences as heavily shaping the early works in his oeuvre.[10] This contemporary moment of his childhood still pervades his work, with hard crime novels, The Colorado Kid (2005) and Joyland (2013), intentional throwbacks to the pulp pot-boiler detective mysteries of his childhood, published by an independent paperback press (outside of his regular publishers, Bantam Books or Hodder and Stoughton) with 1950’s cover art to match.[11] He has absorbed and is re-expressing his childhood culture through both of these novels.

But King’s environment and personal place really began to bleed into his work when he struggled with substance addiction in the late 70’s and 1980’s. At first it was a struggle with alcohol. Once his success had started to flow, alcohol was an indulgence that he discovered himself reaching to every night. He defines the moment he thought he was an alcoholic, realising after he’d finished it that his third novel, The Shining – about an alcoholic writer who loses his mind and attempts to murder his family – was actually about himself[12]. It’s not uncommon or particularly hidden that King inserts himself into his novels – the protagonists in The Shining, It, Misery, Bag Of Bones, Secret Window, 1408, Lisey’s Story, Salem’s Lot, and The Dark Half, are all novelists – but The Shining is more direct than that, it’s an effort by King to serve as an exorcism through print of his own demons with alcohol.

stephen-king-books3

But King further degenerated into addiction, by the mid 80’s he had added cocaine to his long list of addictions. He managed to finally kick the drugs after an intervention in the late 1980’s, but again the seeds of his addiction while he was both high and drunk found their way into his writing. In many cases, King acknowledges that he is unaware how serious his problem was, and that it began to manifest itself into his books,

Yet the part of me that writes the stories, the deep part that knew I was an alcoholic as early as 1975 … began to scream for help in the only way it knew how, through my fiction and through my monsters.”[13]

To further his point, The Tommyknockers concerns aliens who grant people superb clarity and energy at the cost of their soul, much like the drug cocaine. Cujo is the story of a big black dog torturing a mother and child trapped in a car, a surrogate for King’s own addiction and its growing impact on his family. Misery is about a nurse (Annie Wilkes) who kidnaps a writer and forces him to write for her. King acknowledges that novel as the turning point in both his writing and addiction, acknowledging that his own writing was a slave to a similar master.

Misery is a book about cocaine. Annie Wilkes is cocaine. She was my number one fan.”[14]

King has been sober from drugs and alcohol since Misery was published in 1987, his characters started to take on a more reflective quality. King’s more recent fiction deals with the long road to recovery he endured, the primary characters in two of his latest novels – Doctor Sleep, and Revival – are recovering addicts. In Doctor Sleep the protagonist is a recovering alcoholic, while Revival chronicles a chronic heroin user. It is clear that King’s writing is influenced by the context and experience of his life, either recalling the passion and literature of his voice, struggling in the throes of addiction, or looking back on his road to recovery. King’s fiction deals with devils and demons, both in the supernatural horrors that stalk his books, and the demons that pervade his own life.

The societal influence and impact of King’s work is not a one way street. While King expresses his own experiences and demons within his work, his work is also worked and shaped by the culture in which it is read. As society evolves, King’s works also exist in the contemporary moment. They are well known for being laden with pop culture references. With regards to his international readership, King “is synonymous… with what they know of America and the extent to which they can identify with it.”[15] That is, when reading King’s work the reader gets a cross-section of “King’s America”. He is credited with understanding and expressing the people that populate contemporary America, Walter Mosely praising him when awarding the National Book Award in 2003 as having an “almost instinctual understanding of the fears that form the psyche of America’s working class.”[16] Magistrale writes:

Supernatural vampires and monsters may be the great popular attractions long associated with King’s art, but at the heart of his best work is a deep-seated awareness of the very real anxieties about how Americans live and where we are going.”[17]

It’s incredible that a writer who specialises in filling his pages with monsters, magic, and aliens, is so frequently praised for his realism, and it demonstrates that “King’s America” is so rich that many of these mythical creatures bring out and demonstrate a cultural relevance for a reader. This is because King’s supernatural world exists within a painstakingly crafted portrait of suburban America over the past 50 years. But King also branches away from himself, pushing the boundaries of his own genre by writing under pseudonyms, to escape the preconceptions a book with Stephen King on its cover brings with it.

King’s volume of work is so large that his works interact with each other in many ways. The Dark Tower fantasy series dips in and out of much of his genre oeuvre, featuring characters and events from other novels – and even features third person appearances by the author himself, and much of King’s genre fiction is set in the fictional area around Derry, Maine. This ties all of King’s work together along a familiar seam, bringing his novels together as a life’s work, despite significant differences between the novels.

The most interesting are the books that King deliberately chooses to isolate from his canon, by writing them as Richard Bachman. Richard Bachman was the pseudonym King used to write five novels – Rage (1977), The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981), The Running Man (1982) and, Thinner (1984) – with King finally announcing that Bachman had died of “cancer of the pseudonym” in 1985.[18] While the jaded and prevailing reason touted by critics for Bachman’s existence is that King was over publishing the market with his own name, King himself gives several reasons for writing under a pseudonym in the introduction to The Bachman Books. He suggests that the fame of his early novels was impeding his creativity and voice, and that “I feel like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. I knew enough to get the brooms started, but once they start to march, things are never the same.”[19]

stephen-king-books2

He reflects upon his own publishing success as a great amount of luck or an accident, so he began to doubt his own writing in the books he was publishing as Stephen King. He stated: “maybe you try to find out if you could do it again. Or in my case, if Bachman could do it again.”[20] King was countering his own doubts in his oeuvre by using Bachman to validate himself. Further to validating himself, King used Bachman to step outside of his genre and find a new voice. Only Thinner is a serious horror novel in the brand of King – it is no coincidence that it is the novel that exposed the ruse – while the rest are attempts to prove that King could write serious fiction novels. In this way he rebels against his own catalogue of writing.

I think I did it to turn down the heat a little bit; to do something as someone other than Stephen King.”[21]

After Bachman was exposed was not the last time King consciously reacted to his status as a commercial horror writer – his 1982 collection Different Seasons was a collection of novellas which had a high focus on dramatic plots instead of King’s standard monsters and mayhem formula. In the introduction, King discusses talking to his publisher about wanting to do a serious collection and his publisher attempting to talk him out of it. A deal was struck that he could put together the book if he included one story with horror elements. Again, King rebels against his own writing, over time continually pushing himself to redefine his writing as having a value outside of the commercial horror novels he was known for.[22]

King also brings a high level of self awareness to his work, able to look back on works in his own oeuvre with a critical eye and, often, lament. This also demonstrates the life experience that King was pouring into his books, with his view on his work often complementing his state of mind at the time. He says of the books he wrote while he was high that he doesn’t remember writing Cujo[23], and that his least favourite book is The Tommyknockers which he acknowledges as “an awful book… there’s a really good book in there, underneath all the cocaine.”[24]

After he was involved in a serious car accident he was doped up on Oxycontin to deal with the pain. This impacted his writing of Dreamcatcher, and he rebukes that as “another book that shows the drugs at work.”[25] In an open source interview he laments the books he wrote before he quit drugs and alcohol, “As far as dope and booze goes, I’d like to have some of those early books back.”[26] But he also acknowledges the contemporary place that his literature has in both his own canon and the world around.

One of his Bachman novels, Rage, centres on a teenage boy taking a school classroom hostage with a semi-automatic pistol. He shoots two teachers dead throughout the course of the novel, and threatens to kill many of his classmates for various reasons – a major theme is the girls who refuse to date him. Rage was linked to 4 real life school shooting incidents between 1988 and 1997, where the shooter either admitted to being inspired by Rage, or a copy of the novel was found in their possessions.[27] King decided to remove the book from print and from bookstores entirely – including subsequent editions of omnibus collections. “I pulled it because in my judgement it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do,”[28] says King. Rage reflects the contemporary moment of modern America and King, over time, became uncomfortable with his work’s cultural impact and so removed it from the shelves. In this way, King is able to look back upon and redefine his own oeuvre over time.

stephen-king-books-collection

King’s work not only interacts with his own oeuvre, but also with other works of contemporary fiction in the literary sphere. King’s place in literary culture and history is an interesting one, seeing him morph from a pulp writer into a respected elite literary figure. Partly this is due to the fact that those that grew up reading him “under the covers with a flashlight at summer camp,”[29] are now editors, writers, and judges on awards panels. King has slowly been turning around his presence as a genre writer in the eyes of his peers, getting sick of being asked at dinner parties by the literati, “so when are you going to write something serious?”[30] This is in part due to his attempts at serious fiction collections – such as the previously discussed Richard Bachman novels, or Different Seasons, but also more recent efforts that have tended towards literary – such as Lisey’s Story or Hearts in Atlantis.

The New Yorker, writing in 2014, states, “here’s an interesting fact about King: he’s not really, or exclusively, a horror writer.”[31] And King was rewarded the respect of his peers and the industry in 2003 when he received a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to Letters from the National Book Association. There was much dissent over the giving of the award to King, and King himself has often and audibly rebelled against his most outspoken critics – in one novel, It, the main character is chastised for writing a horror story, when he storms out his class saying “Why does a story have to be socio-anything… Can’t you guys just let a story be a story?”[32]. Kings mocks such literary criticism in his memoir,

Even if a writer rises in the estimation of an influential critic or two, he/she always carries his/her early reputation along, like a respectable married woman who was a wild child as a teenager… A good deal of literary criticism serves only to reinforce a caste system which is as old as the intellectual snobbery that nurtured it.”[33]

Receiving an award from the National Book Association was a major moment in King’s career, especially among his peers and being placed among other works deemed “important” in the literary sphere. King himself saw it as an extremely positive omen, allowing him to rebel against the caste system that he believes literary criticism enforces.

Giving an award like this to a guy like me suggests that in the future things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been. Bridges can be built between the so-called popular fiction and the so-called literary fiction,”[34] said King in his acceptance speech.

Here he identifies what makes his place among his peers so valuable, that he bridges the gap between the high literary elite and the popular authors, and, slowly, through a lifetime’s work, he is deconstructing that barrier. Meanwhile, respected critics like Harold Bloom were extremely outspoken at King’s award, calling King “an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis,”[35] of which King says:

Bloom pissed me off because there are critics out there, and he’s one of them, who take their ignorance of popular as a badge of intellectual prowess… It was the assumption that if fiction was selling a lot of copies, it was bad. … That’s elitist. I don’t buy it.”

The argument rages on even now on either side of the literary sphere, but it’s undeniable that the role his novels play in gaining respect for other contemporary writers who may be dismissed as “rich hacks”[36] such as Michael Crichton, John Grisham, or Tom Clancy is an important one. King’s placement in the literary sphere as a bridge between popular and literary works, and the acknowledgement of his contribution to American literature is “a step in the right direction,”[37] and a major driving force behind much of his later works.

King’s influence as a brand, instead of just a writer, is a strong one. Many of his critics use this to influence their judgement of him as still being a pulp novelist, pointing out the many unsuccessful adaptations of his work as an example, or criticising that his writing pace – one or two books a year – must be evidence of lacking quality. While it’s true that schlocky or inadequate films or television series of King’s work serve to expose flaws in his storytelling and dilute the brand of his name, King sees it differently, preferring to sell the rights and allow the filmmakers to have their own interpretation of the story. He distances himself from both the successful and the unsuccessful adaptations:

The movies have never been a big deal to me,” says King, “The movies are the movies. They just make them. If they’re good, they’re terrific. If they’re not, they’re not.”[38]

Stephen King’s work as a writer exerts a major cultural influence over the last forty years of literature. He demonstrates strong discipline and application to the way he approaches his writing, sticking to a schedule and forcing himself to write every day, thereby maintaining a prolific publication rate. His novels reflect parts of who he is, and through different eras represent him as a new writer dedicating tributes to the novels of his youth, to a cocaine and alcohol addict, to a recovering alcoholic and injured writer. His works also examine contemporary American society, absorbing and revealing a true realism underneath the supernatural forces in his works.

His work as a writer with respect to his own oeuvre is a dedicated one – he has sought to push himself out of the boundaries of a genre writer by operating under a pseudonym and publishing bold creative choices, while he also acknowledges the outside social influence of his novels and their interaction with culture, to the point of renouncing novels that he sees as dangerous. He also publicly decries the books he wrote while under the severe influence of drugs. King’s work interacts with the literary sphere as a bridge between elitist literary circles and popular genre fiction. It’s a battle he has not won, but he exerts a significant literary influence that is beginning to develop a grudging respect on both sides.

A lot of readers say they read to escape themselves, while this may be true for King’s avid fans, it is just as true of the author. King writes to set himself free. For King, the work writing of novels is not the challenging part of his job, “Not writing is the real work.”[39]

***

For all references follow this link: https://writersedit.com/4750/authors/stephen-king-writers-voice/

33 Things You May Not Know About J.K. Rowling

J.K.Rowling-Facts

1. She has wanted to be an author ever since she can remember: “As soon as I knew what writers were, I wanted to be one. I’ve got the perfect temperament for a writer; perfectly happy alone in a room, making things up.”

2. When she was extremely young, she would sit and copy words from books “without knowing what the words meant”.

3. She wrote her first story – called Rabbit – age six, and wrote her first novel at age 11. It was about “seven cursed diamonds and the people who owned them”.

4. She was head girl at her secondary school, but doesn’t consider it much of an achievement.

5. One of her teachers, Steve Eddy, remembered Jo as “not exceptional” but “bright, and quite good at English”.

6. She applied to study at Oxford, but was rejected, and instead studied French at the University of Exeter. She said she did “no work whatsoever” while she was at university.

7. Her eldest daughter, Jessica, is named after Jessica Mitford, who was an author, investigative journalist, and civil rights activist.

8. It took Jo five years to plan all seven books in the Harry Potter series. Most of her plans were written by hand on odd scraps of paper.

9. She wrote the last book’s epilogue in 1990, before she had mapped out the series as a whole or even had a publisher.

10. In 2000, she said she’d hope to be placed in Gryffindor, but that in reality she’d probably end up in Ravenclaw. Later, the official Pottermore quiz sorted her into Gryffindor.

11. She has described Hermione as a combination of herself and her younger sister, Dianne: “that sort of annoying person who underneath is very insecure”.

12. When asked why Harry’s scar was shaped like a lightning bolt, she said, “To be honest, because it’s a cool shape. I couldn’t have my hero sport a doughnut-shaped scar.”

13. The “only time” she consciously put someone she knew into the Harry Potter books as a character was as Gilderoy Lockhart. She says she “barely exaggerated” what he was like in real life.

14. In 2003, her father sold a first edition copy of Goblet of Fire – which included a handwritten inscription reading “lots of love from your first born” – at auction for £27,500. They had stopped speaking earlier that year.

15. The three-year publishing gap between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix was a direct result of the pressure she felt because of the series’ success. She became so overwhelmed that she found it difficult to write, and told her publisher there “wouldn’t be a book next year”.

16. She maintains that she never truly finished Order of the Phoenix, saying she didn’t do her usual final edit before handing it over to her editors, “and it definitely shows”.

17. She almost called the final book Harry Potter and the Elder Wand and Harry Potter and the Peverell Quest, which she quickly decided against because the word “quest” was too cheesy.

18. Her favourite chapter from the entire Harry Potter series is Chapter 34 of Deathly Hallows, “The Forest Again”. Her favourite from the first book is “The Mirror of Erised”.

19. Her worst fear – like Mrs Weasley’s – is someone she loves dying. For that reason, she understands why Voldemort is so obsessed with conquering death.

20. If given the choice between all three Hallows, she would be tempted – like Harry – to choose the Resurrection Stone, but ultimately believes that “the greatest wisdom is in accepting that we all must die, and moving on”.

21. Her favourite funny line from the Harry Potter books is at the end of Deathly Hallows, when Ron responds to Peeves’ “Voldy’s gone mouldy” rhyme with “Really gives a feeling for the scope and tragedy of the thing, doesn’t it?”

22. At the height of the Potter craze, she had people going through her bins, stealing her post, and attempting to bribe her friends in order to find out information about the upcoming plot.

23. She briefly considered not publishing The Casual Vacancy – her first novel after Deathly Hallows – because she felt uncomfortable with the attention any book of hers would inevitably receive.

24. In 2011, Lifetime aired an unauthorised J.K. Rowling biopic called Magic Beyond Words, which she hasn’t seen because “the thought of watching it makes [her] curl up like a pretzel”.

25. In the same year, it was announced that she had become the first female billionaire novelist. She was removed from Forbes’ list the following year after giving around £100 million to charity

26. She once bought an expensive pair of earrings but felt guilty afterwards for spending the money, so wrote a cheque for the same amount to give to charity.

27. In 2013, she donated £10 million to help open the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic at the University of Edinburgh. The clinic is named after her mother, who had multiple sclerosis.

28. She read aloud from J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, but initially said no, because she thought she’d “wet herself or faint or something”.

29. She was once invited to visit South Africa by Nelson Mandela, but had to say no because she was pregnant.

30. In 2006, she revealed she had written another children’s book, meant for a younger audience than Harry Potter. She called it “a political fairy story” and it was about a monster.

31. Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies wanted her to star in an episode where her “imagination becomes real” and the Doctor has to “battle through a world of witches and wizards and CGI wonders”, but David Tennant refused the idea because it would be “too spoofy”.

32. She said that the author she identifies with most is E. Nesbit.

33. Her favourite drink is gin and tonic.

Via: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jkrowlingfacts

How I Got Published | Louise Beech

Louise-Beech

Today, an article all about “How I Got Published” by Louise Beech, which I hope you will agree is a very interesting read. Enjoy!

How did I get a book deal? It’s one of the things I’m frequently asked about at book events and festivals. How did I get published?

Unless the person asking – usually a hopeful writer, like I’ve been most of my life – has five hours, the determination to still keep writing despite my reply, and a pretty thick skin, I can’t respond fully. Time and a desire not to dishearten them prevents me answering in detail. Because my journey was long. Ten years long. People serve less time for serious crimes. It was littered with rejection upon rejection upon rejection. There was no satnav to tell me which way to go so that I arrived more easily at my destination.

There’s no magical right answer to the question of how to get published. Every single author will likely have a different tale to share. Some might have enjoyed a quick trip from writing a first novel to book deal, some may have got lucky with their tenth book, but most are probably still driving down the motorway, looking for the right exit.

All I can share is my story. And here it is. Are you ready?

I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. I filled notepads and exercise books with entire novels (chapters and contents page included) from the age of nine. Writing was then – and still is – pure joy to me. The place I escape to, the place I feel safest, the only place in the world where I really feel I know what I’m doing, and that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be. As a teenager, I started my own magazine to rival the school one, and told anyone who would listen that I’d one day be a world-famous novelist. (That I’m still hoping for.) Then life took over a bit when I got pregnant at nineteen…

In my early thirties, I sent some pieces I’d written to our local newspaper and was offered my own column, Mum’s the Word, in which I wrote for ten years about being a parent. I also began to write short stories. Lots of them. I sent some out to magazines, entered some in competitions. Rejections came thick and fast. I cried the first time. But only once. I got up, wiped the tears away, and decided I had to improve. I wrote more. Slowly, they began being accepted. First by small ezines, and eventually by national magazines. I shortlisted twice for the Bridport Prize.

That was what gave me the confidence to write a novel. Every bit of advice I’d read suggested a writer hone their craft via the precise art of producing short stories, and by joining forums to gain harsh critiques in order to improve. I’d done both. So, after we flooded in 2007 and I had more time due to giving up work to care for my ill daughter, I started Maria in the Moon. It took me six months. It was a labour of not only love, but of tears. When I write, I give everything, and that can be draining afterwards. I let it ‘settle’ and then edited it some more. Then I sent it out to every agent and publisher. Over a period of a year, every single one of them rejected it.

I took time to recover – it’s hard, there’s no denying it, when your lovingly created work is rejected by everyone – and in 2009 I started a second novel, The Lion Tamer Who Lost. I tried to use all the advice I’d been given on forums, and all the tips I’d read by successful authors, but most of all I went back to the place where I knew I was supposed to be. Writing. Six months later I sent it out to every agent and publisher. They all rejected it.

In 2011, I went back to Maria in the Moon and tried to improve her. I tried a couple of new agents. Success! (Or so I thought.) A lady from United Agents invited me to visit her. Carol really liked it and took me on. She did everything, but – again – all the publishers she sent it to said no. One of them liked the style and asked if I had any more ideas for a novel. I told her about The Lion Tamer Who Lost but she didn’t like it. I mentioned one I had in my head, and she liked the sound of it. So, in 2012, I wrote The Mountain in my Shoe.

She said no. Carol sent it to other publishers. They all said no. Some had positive comments, but the general problem seemed to be what I was. Where I fit. I was that difficult creature – I didn’t fit into a genre. But I refused to conform. When I write I can only write what must be written. I can’t fit into some narrow niche. It isn’t me. But this was only going to make things harder.

Ironically, after being told that not fitting into a genre would hinder me, in 2013 I started the novel that was my most unusual and hardest to define – How to be Brave. This was one book that refused to kowtow to any market. I knew this would be my hardest sell, and yet I had to write it. Just as I finished, Carol told me she was retiring. She did everything to try and secure me another agent, but no one was interested. I was on my own again. I had written four books now.

I sent How to be Brave to every agent and publisher. They all said no. At the end of 2014 it shortlisted for a big competition. This is it, I thought. The prize was a book deal. And I was going to win. I wore my lucky red dress, told husband Joe that I knew someone in a red dress was going to win. We arrived at the prize-giving and another writer had on a red dress. She won. I was genuinely happy for her, because I knew how happy she must be. But I cried all the way back to the hotel. I was inconsolable.

I’ll admit, that was the hardest time. Friends asked how I could go on writing in the face of constant rejection. I said I did because I knew one day it would happen. I really did. But I began to lose my faith a little. I began to wonder if I could write a fifth book and go through it all again.

Then on Twitter I saw that a vivacious woman called Karen Sullivan was starting up Orenda Books. She wanted to publish beautiful books. Books she loved. I cheekily (this goes against all professional advice, folks!) tweeted her and asked if she would read How to be Brave. She said yes. She and slush reader Liz liked it. I had a tense wait for a definite answer, between Christmas 2014 and February 2015.

Louise Beech screen-shot-2017-07-03-at-11-11-45

Then on 9th February 2015 Karen emailed to say she loved the book, and of course it was a yes. I think, having read my journey, you can imagine how I felt. It makes me teary now to revisit. I know now that I only got rejected because I was supposed to be with Karen. She’s the only one who ‘got’ me. Got my books. Two years on, she has published the other novels no one wanted. Next year she will publish The Lion Tamer Who Lost too.

And I’m back to do doing what I love, but without all the tears. Writing. I’ve started book five, loosely titled Star Girl. And it’s exactly like when I was nine and filled notepads with words. It’s where I’m supposed to be. What I’m supposed to be doing. And I’m glad I never gave up.

Via: https://louisebeech.co.uk/2017/07/03/how-i-got-published/

This Is What Disabled Looks Like: Living With An Invisible Disability

AngelaClarke-disability

Angela Clarke is a crime novelist, who also happens to have an invisible disability. Today, on Writer’s Blog, I wanted to share this important article she has written to highlight the plight being suffered by many people who also have disabilities that you cannot obviously see. Let it serve as a reminder that we should not judge a book by its cover!

The young woman twiddled her Edinburgh Festival staff lanyard and gave a loud, frustrated sigh. She was no more than 21, we were three-quarters into the August arts festival that colonises Scotland’s capital annually, and I could tell she’d had enough of unreasonable requests. Except I hadn’t made one.

Arriving to see a play based on Jurassic Park (if you don’t know the Edinburgh Festival, this is towards the normal end of the programme), I’d discovered the venue was up five flights of stairs. It happens. There are over 10,000 performers sprawling across the capital and it’s impossible to research every venue when you’re packing in five shows a day. No biggie, I just asked if there was a lift.”There is, but I’ll have to ask if you can use it,” the woman replied, before speaking into her walkie-talkie. “Wait here. I’ve called for the manager,” she added.Time ticked towards curtain up, and my friends were looking nervous.

“Can I just go in and use the lift myself?” I said hopefully.

The girl scowled at me.

I told my friends to go. My husband waited with me.

“Is anyone actually coming?” I asked the girl again.

“The disabled entrance opens directly onto the stage,” she replied as if in answer.

With a minute ’til the show started, I sent my husband running up the stairs to catch it. My door guard was still huffing and puffing. I knew what was coming. I’d had this before. Her whole reaction had been as if I were asking for something outrageous. With a triumphant look, she said, “You’ve missed the show. No late admittance.”

“I’d still like to speak to the manager,” I said, feeling myself blush. Alone on the street, I didn’t feel so confident asking for my rights.She gave me a long look up and down. I’m 35. I was wearing Zara denim cut-offs and a Marc Jacobs jumper (sale bargain). My hair is highlighted, and I’d blow-dried it. I wasn’t wearing much makeup but my nails were gel manicured. She thought I was a diva. A Mariah Carey wannabe who didn’t do stairs. Some kind of blagger. She raised an eyebrow and with pointed emphasis said, “Can I ask exactly what is wrong with you?”And I felt sorry for her. “I have a degenerative connective tissue disorder that, among other things, means I injure and dislocate easily, and my mobility is compromised. I find stairs very difficult.”

A FEW WEEKS AGO, A BARMAN REFUSED TO GIVE ME A KEY FOR THE DISABLED TOILET UNLESS I PRODUCED MEDICAL PROOF IN FRONT OF A PACKED PUB. SERIOUSLY, WHO THINKS HAVING A GO IN AN ACCESSIBLE TOILET IS A WINNING SCAM?

The moment the word ‘degenerative’ came out of my mouth, her face fell. She was mortified. She’d made a wrong assumption about me. She was young, she didn’t know better. It’s possible she’d never met anyone like me. Or more likely she had, and never realised. I am one of the 11 million people in the UK estimated to be living with a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability. There are no statistics on how many of those 11 million have an invisible condition – the term used to describe a wide spectrum of hidden disabilities or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature. But based on similar data studies carried out in the US, we could estimate that 74% of those who live with severe disability do not use either a wheelchair, a walking stick or a cane. In other words, they, like me, often don’t have a visual “tell” that they are disabled. And that is at odds with what many people think someone with a disability looks like.

The Edinburgh Festival worker wasn’t the first to treat me as if I were trying to cheat the system. It happens all the time. Just a few weeks ago, a barman refused to give me a key for the disabled toilet unless I produced medical proof and history in front of a packed pub. (Seriously, who thinks blagging a ride in a lift and having a go in an accessible toilet is a winning scam?) People may think they’re doing a good thing – protecting services for those who they believe truly are disabled – but it’s time for greater awareness. It’s humiliating to have to share personal information just so you can pee. It marks you out as ‘other’. People look at you differently. You quickly become someone to pity, when all you wanted was a glass of wine and a whizz. Able-bodied people aren’t required to give intimate details about their health in front of strangers. Why should I have to justify my need to use a disabled bathroom or the lift? If someone has gone to the bother of queuing at a bar to ask for a disabled toilet key, as opposed to just nipping downstairs to the main toilets, chances are there’s a reason. You shouldn’t be made to feel as if you’re taking the piss when you’re simply trying to go for one.

NEWSFLASH: DISABLED PEOPLE AREN’T SOME DICKENSIAN THROWBACK STEREOTYPE. WE’RE CLEAN, WE TAKE PRIDE IN OUR APPEARANCE, WE LIKE GOING OUT FOR A DRINK AND A LAUGH.

As disability cuts are rolled out, and politicians talk in the rhetoric of “strivers” and “skivers”, there’s an increasing sense that those with disabilities are only ever a drain on society. In 2015, an open letter from Sam Cleasby to a woman who tutted at her using a disabled toilet went viral. Sam is a glamorous 33-year-old who suffers from the invisible condition ulcerative colitis and wears a j-pouch bag that collects faecal matter. In the same year, Corinna Skorpenske’s online response to this note left on her car went viral: “You should be ashamed!! When you take a handicap spot an actual disabled person suffers!” Corinna was with her 16-year-old daughter, who has the invisible but debilitating and painful condition lupus, which severely restricts her mobility. This was the third anonymous note Corinna had received.

Anyone with an invisible condition will recognise this attitude all too well. The reason the Edinburgh Festival worker couldn’t get her head round me being disabled is the same reason why people doubted Sam Cleasby, Corinna Skorpenske’s daughter and countless other sufferers of invisible conditions across the country. People expect those who are disabled to look like victims. Newsflash: disabled people aren’t some Dickensian throwback stereotype. We’re clean, we take pride in our appearance, we also like going out for a drink and a laugh. We have careers, deadlines, lives, loves, and family. We look just like you. Living with an invisible disability throws up enough challenges; don’t let your attitude be one of them.

***

Angela Clarke’s new book Trust Me is out now. You can get your copy here.

Via: http://www.refinery29.uk/amp/invisible-disability

Writers and Authors: 5 Reasons to Drop the Word ‘Aspiring’

Aspiring-Author

There is no such thing as an ‘aspiring writer.’ You are a writer. Period.” – Matthew Reilly

The term ‘aspiring author’/’aspiring writer’ is thrown about in literary circles without anyone giving it so much as a second thought.

It certainly seems like a harmless enough phrase. You’ve no doubt used it yourself, I certainly have. But harmless as it may seem, the term ‘aspiring writer’ is actually quite problematic, and could even be holding you back in your writing career. So the sooner you quit employing the phrase, the better.

Here’s five reasons why you should never refer to yourself as an ‘aspiring author’ ever again:

1. ‘Aspiring’ is an abstract term

Aspirations exist only in thought, not in actuality. To ‘aspire’ is to think, not to do. In this way, the term ‘aspiring writer’ allows for a state of inactivity. Or, as author Chuck Wendig puts it,

“Aspiring is a meaningless, null state that romanticises Not Writing.”

By dropping the term ‘aspiring’ and stating instead ‘I am a writer,’ you confirm to yourself, and to the world, that yes, you are actively working on a writing career. You are writing. You are a writer.

2. ‘Aspiring’ takes the pressure off

By describing yourself as an ‘aspiring writer’, you are essentially stating ‘I am not a writer now, but I would like to be one at some vague point in the future’. In doing this, you are reinforcing the notion in your head that all your writing efforts – all your physical, and actual hard work in pursuing your dreams – all lie beyond the present moment.

The pressure is taken off to write right now. In other words, what you are doing is permitting a ‘diet-starts-tomorrow’ mentality for your writing. But as a little, redheaded orphan once reminded us, ‘Tomorrow’ is always a day away.

Thus, ‘tomorrow’ never comes. So, if you truly want to be a writer, don’t wait until tomorrow, start today.

3. ‘Aspiring’ undermines self-esteem

Think of all the times you have described yourself as an ‘aspiring writer’. How often have you employed the term out of a lack of confidence or self-belief? Because you didn’t feel ‘qualified’ to call yourself a writer. But even if this is not the case, the term itself could be eating away at your self-esteem, without you even realising it.

As we have already established, ‘aspiring’ implies that the state of actually being is a thing of the future. In other words, stating you are an aspiring writer implies that you will not actually be a writer until some, unknown, future date.

In this way, when you use this term to describe yourself, you nurture the subconscious belief that your goal of becoming a writer will always lie just beyond your grasp – just out of reach. Such a belief is extremely demotivating, and can thus undermine your self-esteem.

So the next time you describe yourself, try using a more reaffirming phrase. Don’t say ‘I’m an aspiring writer.’ Say ‘I’m a writer.’

4. ‘Aspiring’ is a term to hide behind

Writing is a very difficult profession. Unfortunately, not all who turn their attentions to the written word succeed. For this reason, those of us who do feel the yearning to construct worlds out of words carry a great deal of anxiety.

We fear failure. We fear others seeing us as failures. And if we admit that we are writers, we must then own up to how much or how little success we have actually found.

Therefore, when we are faced with the judgemental eyes of a long lost acquaintance, probing us with the question, ‘And what do you do these days?’, we feel the need to apologise for the fact that we are not J.K. Rowling. We fear being labelled a failure or pretender, simply because we haven’t sold a million copies of that novel we’re drafting.

So we hide. We hide behind the term ‘aspiring.’ Because if we are merely aspiring, it’s okay if we haven’t found success yet. Because ‘aspiring’ means we aren’t necessarily trying. We are thinking, not doing.

But here lies the problem: if we never accept our title, if we do not stop hiding from our passions and begin at last to pursue them wholeheartedly, we will never find the success we so long for. It’s time we admit what we are. We are writers. No more aspiring. No more hiding.

5. Take yourself seriously

The moment you stop calling yourself an ‘aspiring writer’ and start calling yourself a writer, is the moment you begin taking yourself seriously. This is extremely important, as writers are constantly required to make others believe in them.

We must convince agents, editors, publishers, and readers that our writing is worth their time – that they should take us seriously. But this, of course, is impossible to do unless we take ourselves seriously, first.

So the next time you need to explain to anyone ‘what you do’, don’t shy away and hide. Have confidence in your abilities, and never refer to yourself as an ‘aspiring writer’ ever again. You are a writer. Period.

Via: http://writersedit.com/5-reasons-drop-aspiring-aspiring-author/

Author Interview: Allison Tait

Allison-Tait

Allison Tait describes herself thus on her website:

“I’m a freelance writer, author and blogger, living large(ish) in a small(ish) town. I write a lot. I combine my day job (feature articles & non-fiction books), with my night job (fiction), and my 24/7 job (family). Fortunately, I gave up sleep years ago!”

A professional writer for over 20 years, Allison started her career as a staff writer for magazines and newspapers, and in recent times has added online publishing to her list.

Allison’s latest incarnation is writer of children’s fiction. Her first book in a series – The MapMaker Chronicles – Race to the End of the World – is published by Hachette Australia, under the name A.L.Tait and was released in October 2014. It is the first in a trilogy that is already garnering her a legion of young fans across the country.

Congratulations on the release of the Mapmaker Chronicles. You changed your writing name for this novel. What was the motivation behind this decision?

I didn’t so much change my name as abbreviate it! I wanted to differentiate between the writing I do for adults and this book, which is for kids.

When did you decide to write children’s fiction? Or did it choose you? Can you outline the start of the creative process behind this project? Was there a light bulb moment?

I think The Mapmaker Chronicles chose me! I never imagined I’d be an author of children’s books. When I began writing fiction, I wrote women’s fiction (which I still write, and so far have completed two full-length (90,000+ words) manuscripts, one of which went very close to publication and the second of which I am redrafting).

But I have two boys, now aged seven and ten, and they are both fans of the ‘head-hurting’ question. We have long-and-involved conversations about where space ends, how high the stars are, whether there are any places in the world that remain unexplored, which dwarf from The Hobbit I would invite to a dinner party… you get the idea.

Several of those conversations, close together, led to one of those ideas that make you tingle all over.

“How far does space go?” asked Mr10, one night.

“Nobody knows,” I answered.

Then the next night: “How did they map the world?”

“Well, they had to go out there and find out,” I answered, distractedly.

“They must have been brave,” he answered.

“They were,” I said. “They would have felt exactly as we feel looking out into space, not knowing how far it goes or what’s out there.”

And just like that, in my mind I saw a race to map the world, and a boy who really didn’t want to go.

You have many writing projects on the go at any one time. How do you manage to delve in and out of genres and characters, fiction and non-fiction? Does one writing style provide relief for another?

Over many years of freelance writing, I’ve learnt to juggle lots of projects. I like to have one long-length manuscript on the go, and then I work on articles, corporate work, websites and other things as they come up, using the deadlines as the best way to prioritise work. I really like to work this way – it means I’m never bored and I don’t get writers’ block because I simply move on to something else for a while if the words aren’t flowing for one project. I don’t work on more than one fiction project at a time – I just push through until I have it completed, putting aside any other ‘brilliant ideas’ for later.

With so much on your calendar how do you manage your writing time? Do you have a strict routine? Do you have to make personal sacrifices?

I have a mammoth To Do list and the paid work always comes first. When you have so many deadlines, it’s a simple matter of prioritising what needs to be done each day to ensure those deadlines are met. I don’t have a strict routine for writing in that I just do what needs to be done each day – but I’m at my desk while the boys are at school and I often work at night.

What advice do you have for starting out writers when it comes to pitching stories and managing deadlines? How do you deal with rejection?

Oh, this is such a massive subject. I have a lot of information on my blog at allisontait.com that’s full of advice for freelance writers and my eBook Get Paid To Write: The Secrets of Freelancing Success is full of tips and tricks of the trade. But as a starting point:

  • A pitch is not just an outline of a subject you’d like to write about. You need to find the angle of the subject that is new and exciting and you need to sell it. It’s a real art form and it takes a lot of practice. I often suggest to my students at the Australian Writers’ Centre that they open a magazine, read a story and then try to write the pitch that got the story published.
  • Reliability is essential for any freelance writer, and to be reliable you need to be organised. When you get commissioned to write an article, start making phone calls and lining up interviews that day – even if your deadline is four weeks away. Things don’t always go to plan and you need to allow yourself time to change interviewees or find a new case study or hose down any other disaster that arises.
  • Rejection is part of the game. It’s no fun and I don’t think anyone ever grows to like it, but you do get used to it (sad but true). Remember that the editor is not rejecting you – it’s just that the particular idea you’re pitching is not right for that publication at that time. Have a look at your pitch, rethink it with a new publication in mind and try again. Don’t just send out one blanket pitch to six publications – that will result in a lot of rejection.

Do you have any remedies for writer’s block? (taking your cheeky puppy for a walk?)

Everybody deals with this in their own way. As I said, I don’t really get writer’s block per se, but I do allow myself a lot of thinking time when I’m writing a manuscript. I find that my mind works best when my body is involved in some kind of mindless, repetitive activity, so I walk (not with the puppy though – he’s too distracting!), I wash dishes, I weed the garden, I hang out washing… And I usually find that if I do that for a while, my mind busily unravels whatever plot problem I’ve struck.

Do you find the self-motivation and the discipline required difficult?

Honestly, no. I never struggle to motivate myself to write fiction because I love it. I’d rather be doing that than just about anything else. When it comes to the freelance work, my day job, I have been a fulltime freelance writer for more than 10 years now and I know how to get an article written. Yes, some days I’d rather faff about on the internet and tweet, but that just means that I sit down later that night and get the story done. If I don’t write the article, I don’t get paid – that’s a great motivator!

Writers these days have to be very technically savvy and keep an online presence. How do you juggle your social media commitments with writing?

I think that this comes down to time in the game, as well as time on the field. I have been blogging for nearly five years now and have worked through several different social media platforms to accompany that, whittling it down to the ones that I like. Over the years, I’ve built up an amazing community across my blog, Twitter and Facebook. I do a bit on G+ and Pinterest, but mostly I go to the others because I really like them. My advice to people in this area is two-fold: do what you like and, most importantly, what comes easily to you so that it doesn’t feel like work, and secondly, don’t expect miracles overnight – it takes time to find your networks and create a community.

Do you find writing a lonely experience? It can also be an anti-social exercise. How do the people in your life deal with that?

I like spending time by myself. I have a busy family and social life outside of my work, and I’m more than happy to be alone in a quiet house during the day. I don’t write when my boys are around – or try not to (there are occasions when deadlines need to be met) – and I don’t work on weekends.

Do you have a routine / a particular place and time when you write?

I write in my study. I’ve tried writing in cafes but they’re too distracting. I work while the boys are at school and at night after everyone goes to bed.

Who /what inspires your writing? Who are your favourite authors?

I’m inspired by everything around me. I’m inspired by the joy I get from bringing a story to life. I have so many favourite authors and favourite books that I don’t think I could even begin to name them.

Why writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I think that writing is something that chooses you. I wanted to be an actor for a long time, but then I realised that the stage fright would kill me. I fell into magazine journalism and it kept me happy for a long time. And then I decided I was going to write fiction, so I sat down to give it a go. My first attempts were woeful, but you learn with every manuscript you write.

Do you have any further advice for starting out writers?

My main advice is to stop talking about writing and actually write. You’ll never get a book written if you don’t make the time to sit down and write it.

What is your next major writing project now that the Mapmaker Chronicles is released?

I’ve just completed the third manuscript in The Mapmaker Chronicles series, and I’m redrafting an adult novel that I’m hoping might be my first published in that area. That should take me to the end of the year. After that, who knows?

***

If you’d like to learn more about Allison Tait, you can check out her website here.

You can see the original article here