Posts Tagged public speaking

The Questions Asked of Writers

Earlier this week I gave a talk to a local neighbourhood forum group. They are a mixed bunch of people who meet every couple of months principally to discuss what should be done to improve our locality. But before their business meeting they often have a speaker – hence my visit with my pile of books to speak about my experience of self-publishing.

When I’d finished my spiel there was time for questions. This can be the point when things go awkwardly quiet because no one likes to be the first to speak. But the forum chairman was great at getting things started. He’d been scribbling as I talked and had noted several points to raise with me. His questions got the audience relaxed and soon everyone was asking things.

I’m pleased to report that no one came up with the old chestnut ‘where do you get your ideas’ but here are some of the things I was asked:

  • What do you think of ghost writers? (in relation to books by celebrities)
  • How many words can your write in one hour? (I’d told them about NaNoWriMo)
  • Could your book be made into a film?
  • How many books have you sold?
  • How much did it cost to have the novel professionally edited?
  • Would I consider writing a historical novel?
  • Could I make my book available in Waterstones?
  • Did JK Rowling and EL James find it difficult to get published?
  • Would I be willing to go and talk to two reading groups that a couple of the attendees were members of? (Yes!)

It was great to get people engaged, pass on the message that self-published books can be just as good as traditionally published works and sell some copies of Bedsit Three.

Author copies of Bedsit Three

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A Disappointment, An Award and Kobo Writing Life

A few weeks ago I told you I was on a shortlist of eight for the Kobo-Silverwood Books-Berfort Open Day Writing Competition. I heard this week that I didn’t reach the final three. Congratulations to those who did: Phoebe Powell-Moore, Edward James and Sarah Channing Wright. Curiosity will definitely make me buy the winning novel when it’s published later this year.

It’s not all bad news though. As some of you may have seen on Facebook, I was awarded the Hwyl Stone (pictured) for Most Improved Speaker by Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ ClubSutton Coldfield Speakers' Club.  This was a nice confidence boost. The stone is supposed to have similar properties to the Blarney stone and was collected in Wales and made into a trophy by a former member.

Finally, to show I’ve no hard feelings against Kobo, here’s some interesting stuff from Kobo Writing Life:

  • A useful blog post looking at Goal, Motivation and Conflict – the three essential things for every character. Without these it’s difficult to move the story forward.
  • There’s also a good post on why you should enter competitions. Take a look at it if you’ve been dragging your feet lately and not submitting anything.
  • Kobo are now running a Romantic Novel competition. It’s free to enter and the winner gets a publishing contract with Mills and Boon. Closing date July 14th 2015.

Kobo do seem to do more to help and motivate writers than Amazon KDP. Or have I just missed the Amazon stuff?

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It’s the taking part that counts

‘It’s the taking part that counts’ is a phrase often bandied about to make people feel better if they don’t win or get placed in a competition. Mostly it just washes over us and we’re still fed up that we didn’t get a prize. Perhaps we even think about throwing in the towel and not bothering to enter any more competitions. Last week I had an experience that made me truly agree that it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts.

My Speakers’ Club asked me to represent them in a Speech Evaluation Contest against two other clubs. This involves giving a four minute speech on the strengths and weaknesses of a ‘target’ speech which all three competitors have just watched. I was a bit reluctant since I’ve only been in the club eighteen months but decided to have a go anyway. My fear was that I wouldn’t be able to think of anything to say or I would dry up or I would speak in a muddled, incoherent way.

On the night, I discovered that one of my competitors runs a public speaking coaching business and the other had been education director of his club for fifteen years. This gave plenty of opportunity for making a fool of myself! Needless to say I came third (i.e. last!) in the competition BUT I was surprised to feel good in the face of defeat. There were lots of positives from the evening: I’d spoken to a larger audience than usual, I’d taken part in a speaking competition for the first time, I lasted the full four minutes, I’d been a ‘team player’ by agreeing to take part and my fellow Club members told me I hadn’t disgraced myself or let down the Club. I came away on a high!

So, what’s all this got to do with writing? It’s to urge you to enter writing competitions even if you think you don’t stand a chance of winning. You will learn and gain experience from each competition entry, it might be writing to a tight deadline, trying to write to a different word count than usual or experimenting with a new genre. Don’t worry about winning, concentrate on the challenge of producing the best work you can.

And to get you started, have a go at one (or more!) of these:

Erewash Writers’ Group New Writers’ Competition –   3,000 word short story. There is a £40 first prize and a FREE basic critique. Closes 26th March 2015.

Nuneaton Writers’ Circle Flash Fiction Competition – free entry. Prize is 1 year’s free membership of Nuneaton Writers’ Circle. Closes 27th March 2015.

Alfie Dog Review Competition –  download a story from Alfie Dog during March 2015 and write a  short review. First prize £100.

Enjoy the taking part!

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Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners

As most of you will be aware by now, I am very interested in e-publishing and have been building my own Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginnerse-publishing empire(!) for the last twelve months. I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge along the way and have also had many people say to me that they wished they were ‘technical’ enough to do the same.

A couple of months ago Helen Yendall asked if I would talk about e-books and e-publishing to the writing class that she tutors at Moreton-in-Marsh. Whilst sorting out what I might say, quaking in my boots and being glad that I made the effort to join Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ Club, I realised that I had enough material to write a short e-book for beginners who want to publish their first e-book via Amazon KDP.

And so Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners was born.

It starts with the definition of an e-book and moves on through topics such as choosing what to write (if you don’t have a manuscript ‘ready to go’), how to get your book cover, basic marketing and much much more.

Once I’d finished, I followed my own advice and found a beta reader who matched my target audience i.e. a writer who is contemplating e-publishing for the first time. Peter Hinchliffe is an ex-journalist and news editor who has also completed a novel. He gave my manuscript a big thumbs up and said in his review, “This book shares the skills needed in a detailed, easy-to-follow way. It could be the most rewarding book you ever buy.”

The launch of Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners took place yesterday, following my talk to the lovely writers of Moreton-in-Marsh. There was Bucks Fizz, chocolate cake, coffee and one of the writers celebrated her new grandchild by providing cream cakes for the class – so no one went home hungry! It was really nice to be able to involve other people in the launch instead of doing everything virtually.

So, if you’ve ever fancied seeing your work for sale on Amazon, go and take a look at Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners – it might help you on your way!

KDP for Absolute Beginners Book Launch

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Morley Literature Festival Prize Giving and Public Speaking

I mentioned a few weeks back that I won first prize in the Friends’ of Morley Literature Festival Short Story Competition 2013.Morley Short Story Competition Last Sunday was the prize giving and I travelled up to Morley in West Yorkshire to receive my certificate and a cheque for £50. The certificate came nicely framed and it’s gone straight on my mantelpiece.

Gervase Phinn is the patron of the festival and he rounded off this year’s festival with an entertaining talk before making the presentation. As well as telling us about his experiences as a country school inspector (think James Herriot in a school inspector’s clothing) he was full of funny examples of mistakes we make with the English language, from his new book Mangled English – A Humorous Anthology of the Misuses of the English Language. I wish I’d written them all down now but if the book is half as enjoyable as the talk it will be a good read – and might make a good Christmas present for someone interested in words.

If you’d like to enter the Morley 2014 short story competition contact the organiser, Stuart Pereira, by emailing fmlitfest@yahoo.com for full details and an entry form. Entry is free and it’s an open theme – so what have you got to lose?

Gervase Phinn is an accomplished public speaker who knows how to hold an audience and keep them interested. I think it’s a skill that today’s writers need to master – whether it’s for promoting their work or teaching and running workshops. It’s also something that I’m useless at – so I’ve joined my local Speakers’ Club, whose strapline is ‘Speaking with Greater Confidence’.
If you’d like to find out how my first meeting went have a look at my guest post on the Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ Club Blog.

Many thanks to those of you who’ve taken the time to review Karen’s Story – The Museum of Fractured Lives. I do appreciate your honesty and I’ve learned a lot from the comments. There’s still time to enter the draw to win a Book Journal by leaving an Amazon review. Full details are here.

Finally, if you’d like some tips on plotting your novel, Nick Daw’s Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay is going to be free on Amazon over the next few days. If you want some ‘straight to the point’ advice it’s worth a read (and, as with any free book, please consider leaving a review if you enjoy it).

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