I received very good news recently. I applied for study leave next year to get my Masters in Creative writing. My study leave application was successful and so next year, I’ll be out of a classroom filled with little people and back into the classroom filled with big people. To say that I’m excited is an understatement. This is a significant step in my writing journey. By completing this course, I will (hopefully) become a better writer and as an extension to this, become better able to teach it.
It’s only recently that I considered myself a proper author which is a little sad – especially after 50 chapter books and 7 novels. As such, I think I need some of the trappings of a proper author. That’s when I decided I needed a business card. One that says ‘author’ somewhere on it.
So I did a little research. Here in New Zealand, two of my writer friends suggested a good place. It’s called Vista Print.
I got 250 business cards for $30 which I considered a bargain.
A couple of friends in the states recommended this place. Printing Peach. They do business cards as well as booklets and a whole lot else.
Of course, now I have to hand out my business cards. Not really sure of the etiquette of this. I don’t even know 250 people. Gotta start somewhere I suppose.
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Got this email out of the blue a few days ago from a student I taught around six years ago. As a teacher and writer, this made my day.
"...continued my fascination with writing, which you encouraged me in from the get go. I won a few competitions and met some pretty amazing people thanks to you.
And guess what thanks to you I'm gonna be a teacher, yep you inspired me. I would really love to keep in contact since you have become such an extraordinary writer. It really gives me some hope that my little ideas which you loved so much all those years ago, might be good enough for people to read too.
I just wanted to say a massive thank you to you. Because you really did make me believe I could do things. These really are 'the best years of my life'."
At the time of writing this, I have just completed my seventh novel. This is on top of the fifty odd chapter books I have had published.
Most of my novels fall between 70k to 110k words. This is a lot of words. Even if you typed ‘and’ 70,000 times, you’d find that it would take you a while.
Writing a novel is a serious undertaking. It involves a great deal of commitment in terms of time and energy – time and energy that many people simply do not have. I read a recent blog that stated that 97% of writers never finish their novel. I understand why.
Whilst I may have written several novels, it’s not to say that I’m an accomplished novelist. In fact, I still think that in many ways I am still at the prologue of my career. Not all of my novels were successful. In fact, not all of my novels were that good (I think five of the seven were, but that’s just me).
Saying that, I have become better with practice. Not only that, I have become better at planning – or not – but I will explain further in a moment. Coming up with ideas is the most important, however.
This is where my top tips come in. The idea or premise is crucial. Your agent (if you have one) won’t be pitching your amazing writing. What they will pitch is the idea. Without a good premise, who cares about your writing (not entirely true, but I’m trying to make a point here). Sure, it’s going to come under scrutiny later, but you have to intrigue people first with your idea.
A good idea can be summarized into a couple of sentences. If it’s good, it will immediately get people’s attention. It’s like being hit by lightning. Perhaps you’ve taken an idea that’s been done before and put a twist on it, perhaps it’s something completely fresh and different (unlikely – as Bono said ‘every artist is a thief’) – it doesn’t matter, it just needs to be good. You’ll know it when you hear it or read it. I often lie in bed at night just thinking of ideas, taking any situation and imagining ‘what if.’ I know straight away when I’ve got a good idea. I feel it in my bones.
Without a good idea, you really don’t have a novel. Your writing might be exceptional but without it being scaffolded around an excellent idea, it won’t matter much. Most people read a book because they like the story idea. If the writing is terrible, they will probably not read any other books by the same author, but at least you hooked them for a moment. Besides, a writer might have shockingly clumsy sentence structure for one or two novels, but after that, it should improve. Being a good writer takes time and practice. In spite of any internal or external limitations, it will get better.
Planning is also vitally important. I’ve heard that some authors don’t plan at all. I think that’s bollocks. If they’ve come up with an idea, that’s planning right there.
I’ve recently discovered a new word for writers who write by the seat of their pants with little or no planning. They’re called ‘Pantsers’. Even pantsers have planned to some degree. They have a premise and an idea where the story might go. They have to have a central protagonist. See? More planning.
I consider myself a combination of both a planner and a pantser. Once I come up with a premise, I think how the story will end. So I’ve got an idea, a beginning and an end. I just have to fill in the gaps from point A to point B in the most entertaining and interesting way possible. Sometimes, I write chapter breakdowns but these are just a guide – sign posts if you will, noting events that I think are important in the development of the story. Most of the time I ignore them. Once I’m into a novel, it tends to take on a life of its own and write itself. Often, things will happen that even I didn’t foresee.
What I’m saying is be flexible. Give the story freedom to move. Give it some air. Don’t restrict it by over planning. If the story goes off on a tangent, it might be a good thing. Just keep your ending in mind. Even if you get sidetracked, it might still be moving the story forward, inexorably heading towards the final scene that you envisaged when you first came up with the story idea.
But that’s me. That’s how I work. It works for me, it might not work for you. It’s up to you to find a method that suits your style. Your goal is to produce a novel – hopefully a good one – and you need to put measures in place that will help you reach your goal.
You don’t want to be one of those writers that starts a novel and never finishes it. When all is said and done, you don’t want to be on your deathbed thinking ‘I wish I’d finished that novel.’
Just finished new novel. Argos, the story of Odysseus' dog who waited twenty years for his master's return. Told through the eyes of the dog. Been playing around with cover ideas (for my own benefit) before I send it to my agent. And of course there will be proofreading, editing and then more proofreading.
"Next is Rapture (from the Rapture Trilogy) by Phillip W. Simpson, an intriguingly different take on the apocalypse. Avoiding the cliches of instant conversion and the earnest threat of so many other Christian novels, this story sets up its own mythology. It's enticingly Biblical without being didactic. And it's a great teen adventure, with all the thrills of the journey, the soul-searching of the outsider, the pains of loss and rejection, and the dreams of forlorn hope. Half-demon Sam might be denied the joys of heaven, but he's not denied love, and he will love and save all those he can. Enjoy this rich, elegant tale with some 4-star complex coffee, but keep a bold dark 5-star brew to hand for the darkest hour."
Click here to read other reviews on her site
"The Rapture trilogy holds together really well. The world is built on biblical mythology and stays faithful to it throughout all three books, while weaving in its own unique legend. The characters grow, but remain true to their origins. The promise of the first book is realised in the last. Sam’s part in the war is creative in a way that I wasn’t expecting; his mother is brought into the novel finally and more of the ideas of Heaven and Hell are explored."
To read Joelene's full review on Marianne de Pierres' website, go here
Joelene has also been kind enough to read and review the other books in the trilogy.
Click here to read her review of Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1)
Click here to read her review of Tribulation (Rapture Trilogy #2)
"Of all the end-of-the-world novels I’ve read recently, this one is clearly the best. The author’s not trying to convince me of any particular scriptural interpretation. He’s not trying to convert me and change my life. And he’s not just jumping on a popular bandwagon either. Instead he offers a well-plotted, intriguingly different tale, with a fascinating teen protagonist, left behind in a desperate world."
Click here to read the entire review
phillip w. simpson
Phillip W. Simpson is an author of YA and children's books.