Monday 12 December 2016

Questions From Readers - December 2016 - Part One

Happy December! I'm hoping to get a bunch of questions answered today and next week and that should then leave my inbox empty and ready to fill up in time for 2017! So let's get started.

Do you think you need a degree or qualifications to be a successful writer?
This is a question that I get asked a lot. Not just because I've been doing this for a long time, but because I went to uni and got a BA (Hons) though it's not in Creative Writing. My personal opinion, and it just that, personal because everyone has their own ideas on this, is that no, you don't need to have a degree or qualifications to be a successful writer. I think a lot of the time it can help, but I don't think you need to be qualified in creative writing to be successful at it.

Do you think you can only write what you know? Or is doing research an acceptable way to get around that?
I think that a lot of the time, writing what you know is a good idea, but I also think that you shouldn't limit yourself to writing only that. Research, and the age of the internet, is an excellent tool when writing things that you don't know. Like, for example, I am a white woman, therefore I have never experienced racism, but I can research and talk to those who have to give me some idea of how to portray that correctly. In It's Not Always Rainbows I deal with LGBTQ teens all of which come from very different backgrounds. I'm not a gay man, so I don't know what it's like to live as a gay man. I am a bisexual woman, and therefore the main protagonist in that book is, a bisexual teen. Writing what you know will only get you so far and for the rest, there is research. Sometimes a LOT of research, but that's kinda in the job description. You're going to write scenes where you don't know much about it, and that's how you grow as a writer and an author. So yes, research, in my eyes, is an acceptable way around that. My word of warning though when dealing with marginalised groups is that you need to be listening to what THEY say and not what people outside of that group say happens to them.

How much research do you do when writing or planning a book?
It really does depend. Some books I'll spend a good couple of months looking into things, and others I find I know what I need to already. I would much rather do too much planning than too little and research is the same in that respect. Depending on the subject, it can take a while before you personally will feel okay about writing about it. Take your time, learn what you need to and don't worry too much about how long it takes. I know the writing is the fun part, but to make the writing the best part, you're gonna need to do some research.

How detailed are your outlines?
Again that depends. While my chapter plans are pretty bare bones, my outline is a separate document that I have the whole plot written out on. Sometimes in the beginning stages of the book I'll keep it with my chapter plan and other times I know it well enough to not need it all that much. When outlining a book I go into as much detail as I can because I find that helps with writer's block and keeping the flow of the story the same. I keep my chapter plans brief because I have the detailed outline to fall back on.

I'm in my 20's and have just been diagnosed with a chronic condition. My question is how do you pace yourself? I know it's not completely writing related but I hope that's okay.
It's fine. I pace myself simply by learning what my body can and cannot handle on any given day. When I was first diagnosed, I spent the good days doing all that I could, and would then spend the next few days paying for it. After a time you'll get to know what you can manage and how much is too much. It's a long process and one that even know I slip up with sometimes. I wish you the best of luck.

Why do you call yourself "a little fish in a big pond"?
I guess because considering the whole of the indie community I am but one author without much of a following and it also helps to remind myself that considering all that I'm up against, I am still a fish in that pond, something I never thought would actually happen.

How do you measure your success? I mean do you have a set idea of what it would mean to be successful?
Measuring success for me is subjective. Do I consider myself successful? Yes. I write books, I publish books. Those books are bought, read and reviewed. However, I do have a set of goals every year that I would like to meet, and I do have a set idea of what it would mean to "make it", but that idea changes with every new piece of information. Like before it was to have sold over 10,000 copies of my books. I did that in 2012 and now I'm looking for a new goal. Like to win an award for my writing, to do a signing (which I'm doing in October 2017. Tickets are available here.) It all changes as I achieve more.

Why do you write so slowly? I know authors who write up to five books a year, yet you seem to only manage two and that's only because you work on them both at the same time.
Everyone has their own pace. I'm actually finishing books faster in the past couple of years than I was before, so it may come to a point where I finish five in one year. If December progresses as planned, I will have written four books this year. 

How do you know when the time is right to kill off a character?
As a crime writer, I'm always killing people, but they're not always characters I have moulded and grown to love. Usually they're background characters whose sole purpose was to die. That said, I have killed characters that I've grown attached to. One of the books I am writing at the moment has a major character death and it's something that I thought a lot about before I did it. The other book I'm writing may not have any character deaths just yet, but given the genre (dystopian) it's going to have a fair few people who don't make it to the final pages. Having said that, how did I know when it was the right time? I trusted my outline and I made sure that I didn't kill them to just shock the reader. I wanted it to be an impact that had to happen. If you could take out the death and it not change the story at all, then maybe you need to be sitting back and considering if it's even needed.

How often do you host giveaways and do you find they help with exposure?
I don't host my own giveaways more than a couple of times a year - which reminds me, I have one going on right now: Check it out! I do, however, take part in events, release day parties and cover reveals with and for other authors as well as during my own release day events. As to how much it helps with exposure, it's really a mixed bag. I find that the ones with big organisers are more likely to get more traffic, but release day events and cover reveals also will draw a big crowd depending on the author involved. I find that it drives traffic to a number of sites, like subscribes to my YouTube, followers on my Tumblr and even here on my blog. It really is just a case of making sure you're hitting your intended audience and that words gets out about the giveaway and event in general.

Why do you stick to young adult? And will you ever branch out into adult? 
I could simply say that the reason I write young adult was because when I started writing, I was a young adult! I was 19 and it made sense to write about teenagers because that was something I knew a lot about. However, now that I'm 34, you could argue that it's high time I started writing for people my own age. The short answer to this is that I don't want to. I like writing for young adults, I like the genres and the wide readership and there's no reason that an adult can't read a young adult book. It's just not the audience it's targeted towards. So, I stick to it because I enjoy it. Will I ever branch out? I don't know. It could happen, but right now, at this stage in my life, I'm happy where I am. 

If you have any questions for Joey, feel free to send them to

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