I’m a cross-stitcher.  I’ve been doing it for years, I’m pretty good at it, it gives me something to do when I’m not writing and I get great results.

I’m a networker. I’ve been doing it for years, I’m pretty good at it, it gives me something to do when I’m not writing, and I get great results.  Whoa, back space!!

I’ve just put my two novels up on Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing. I emailed, tweeted and facebooked all my contacts. I networked the net until there were no nets unturned, and just to be sure, and unable to contain the excitement pouring out of all my pores, I netted them again.

Then I checked my stats after two days. One sale. Repeat that. One sale! Repeat it again. ONE sale!

The thing with cross-stitching, not only can I do it with a calm approach, without annoying a living soul, I can also stop comfort eating, because my hands have something better to do.

The thing with networking is...well let’s just say...where are the chocolate biscuits?

So here’s the dilemma...take a seat.

I heard a rumour that a there’s a writer out there called XXXXX who wrote a book called ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. It is (apparently) called mummy porn and it has (apparently) replaced the need to make mummies comfort eat just because they have nothing to do with their hands.  

This lady, XXXXX, put her book up on Amazon, got a couple of million hits, got picked up by a publisher, sold the film rights (let’s not go there) and became an overnight success.

So, my question is, how did she do it? Did she network until her nets looked like a used pair of holey tights? Did she eat so much chocolate that her chubby little hands could no longer function, or did she have some other secret, where she reached the masses with a book that began as a spin off to a certain vampire series? (Apparently)

My guess is the latter, because while I’m pondering the notion of following in her footsteps, putting aside my needlework in favour of seeking a few million hits, I have to consider the possibility that she knows a lot more than the rest of us and that her little secret of success has nothing to do with knowing what to do with her hands.

What do you reckon?

Answers on a postcard J

My hitless wonder, No.1:


My hitless wonder, No.2:


I’ve been on this elusive road to publication for over six years. I have written three novels, won writing competitions, built up a following on my oh-so silly blog and partaken in several on-line peer review groups so that my grammar and punctuation is almost word perfect! (Oops, meant to put a period there).

With all that new-found and ever-evolving knowledge, as well as my increased capacity to tell a tale, I still couldn’t write a decent synopsis. Until today.

A synopsis to me is a bit of grey matter where a devoted writer of brilliant novel (namely me) has to condense ninety-thousand dynamic words into a measly five hundred (or so). ‘It’s impossible,’ I scream (nicely) whenever I type Synopsis onto a blank white screen.  ‘Let’s face it, my characters simply dance on those three-hundred pages. My dialogue sings and is wonderfully innovative. My weaving plot lines twist and turn, and my capacity for detail is a feast for the eyes. In other words, my book is one big party and I’m about to turn it into an intimate soiree.

My research over the years on how to write a great synopsis has not served me well. I have taken formulas and templates and I’ve filled in the gaps. I’ve emailed successful authors and asked them ‘How did you do it?” (They never replied). I have edited and edited again. I have posted it and had it rejected, never to be sought out by readers of standing. (or sitting) and I have cried, really soggy tears over my inability to knock one out. 

Until today! Hoorah!!

Now I have a method and I feel like shouting it from the rooftops. A method so universal and so apt to all tales, I am about to take my hat off to myself.  Yes, folks, remember you read it here first.

The indisputable way to write a synopsis.

Go through your novel page by page, chapter by chapter. Write a wee snippet of each chapter, introducing characters and plot details in order, as if you were writing a quick blurb for a short story. Then, where you're done, combine it all into one job lot.  Always give it a kick start at the beginning by writing about the overall idea and then use your characters to interconnect the scenes and the method behind your thinking. Always cap each character’s name when you first mention them (lower case after that). Don’t give away everything, but remember you want to sell it, so you have to give some great detail that could potentially excite agent slash publisher slash reader. Finally, round it all up without giving the game away. Just leave them knowing that if they don’t read your book after that great synopsis, they will live forever on the dark side.

Check out my theory
My Facebook page - The Song of the Underground

Go write and be synopsis sure.
Good luck

_The other day I was wondering how others manage to fit in their lives around their writing. I mean, isn’t it burdensome (life I mean), when all you want to do is write?

Take my kids. They are nine, a girl and boy, twins, and as double troublesome as the concept brings. I often hear them pleading in the background when I’m tinkling on my keyboard, ‘Mum, please will you help me with my literacy homework?’

I have a hard and fast rule of always putting my motherly matters first. ‘Come and sit down next to me,” I say, ‘and observe me writing a fabulous chapter in my new book.’

‘Mummm,” they complain.

“What? That’s literacy isn’t it?’

Another time, ‘Will you help me with my numeracy?’ There's a tone of desperation in their voices.

‘Of course, I will.’ I'm often overly-generous. ‘I just need an hour to finish this chapter. Go and work out how many seconds that is and then come back in that many minutes.’

‘Mummm,’ they say, as they trundle off down the corridor, each with a fully inked pen and a blank sheet of paper in hand.

So then the husband arrives back from that thing he calls work (whatever that is). ‘What’s for dinner?’ he asks with a hopeful twang.

‘Urghhhh,’ I splutter, with a tinge of guilt in my voice. ‘I just need to finish this chapter.’

‘But I’m starving.’

I can hear the kids behind him, egging him on. I surmise they’re hungry too. I’m good at picking up on things like that. ‘Okay, I’m on it,’ I say, as they all trundle (once more) down the corridor to answer the door bell.

‘Pizza!’ the hub calls from the other end of the house. I almost didn’t hear him, so intent was I on coming out of the 'Deliveries to Your Door ' Internet site and back into Word.

The phone rings. The voice on the other end sounds official. I wonder if I should worry. ‘It’s about your bank balance, or lack thereof.’

I feign a coughing fit. ‘Can you hold on a minute?’ I splutter, ‘I’ll just finish this chapter and then we’ll chat.’

Fifteen minutes later I hear a screech coming from the receiver lying next to my keyboard. I pick it up. ‘Hello?’

‘I’m still here.’ The voice is almost hysterical. ‘About that bank balance...’

‘I’m working on it,’ I shriek in return. ‘I’m going to get a call from a publisher any day now and they’ll no doubt make me a six figure offer. Jeeze! What more can I do?’

I slam the phone down, satisfied I had taken care of yet another everyday task.

So there you have it. There are always ways to balance your everyday life with your writing life when you're on that ever-elusive road to publication. You just need to put things into perspective and prioritise the important stuff.

Keep writing.
Someone asked me recently where I get my ideas from. I asked her if I may respond publicly and assured her I wouldn’t mention her name. (Sue)

Again, this question circles my circle; often discussed and deliberated. We all have different ideas, all have different ways of getting inspiration and we all have different means of expressing ourselves.

For me it’s all about murder.

Yes, friends! In case you didn’t know this about me, I have an astute criminal mind. Stories like poisoning my husband with a casserole, shooting my boyfriend with a little pink pistol, burying someone alive, killing off one of my victim’s when she was lying in an iron lung…that sort of thing.

I also have a keen sense of the absurd.

I remember having to call-out a chimney sweep one winter and when he arrived we had some playful banter. He was such a funny character that as soon as he left, I wrote a story about him and ended up giving him a heart attack. Even now, I worry he’ll recognize himself in my story and be offended that I didn’t allow him to live.

A review from a dear peer:- ’Can’t you write something where your characters actually survive?’ he said.

“Hmm, that’s a thought,’ I answered. So I wrote a story, included him as a character and killed him off.

I just can’t help myself. Writing brings out the devil in me.

Seriously, if you need inspiration for what to write next, my advice would be to look around you. There are stories everywhere, in everything you do and say, in everything you see.

For example, yesterday I sat for three hours in a packed water park watching my kid’s frolicking. Surrounding me were hundreds of stories. In the people I observed, their habits, their clothes and their bodies, the friends they were with, their children and so on.

While I sat there with dark glasses covering my eyes, I saw a man come in through the gate. He had a gun in his hand. He was looking for someone. He started pointing it at all the people. Everyone was screaming. People were running in all directions as he charged through them. Suddenly a single shot was fired and a woman fell to the floor of the splash pool. Then as the man turned the gun on himself, the water continued to churn through the fountains, turning red, leaving pools of crimson at the feet of the children…

Oh…I have got to write that one up.
Check out The Brit Writers Awards Blog spot
The Writing Dream

I've been around the Internet for about six years. Since then I seem to have gained the majority over the coveted title of Writingmum. There is one other, but she doesn't get about as much as me, as she no doubt spends time looking after her kids. I do that too sometimes, when I get a minute.

Honestly, it’s a full time job having a strong Internet presence. Just updating ones blog, participating in writing forums, entering contests, reviewing a peer’s work, asking them to review mine, and then editing said work. Trips to Facebook, and Twitterland and to any other self-promotion site that tells the world I am desirous of the title writer, published author, blogger, and that I am not just a mum who writes.

I was there when the Brit Writers Awards began. I remember a group of us opening a forum to talk about the scheme, to compare notes and to encourage each other to give it our very best. In some instances we celebrated messages of joy when a few of us made the short list. No mean feat, we joined them in their success and cheered them on, and when it was all over, we said we'd do it again next year.

So, here we are once more, all of us hopefuls gathering together, putting our stories on the line and urging our Internet writing friends to follow suit.

As an introduction to the BWA shared blog opportunity, I would like to wish everyone the best of luck in the Brit Writers Awards 2012 and to say, if anyone wants to talk about their dreams of success and their hopes of taking that coveted title, Writer of the Year, drop me a line and we'll have a chat. I am a mum after all.

Good luck

Wendy Reakes, aka Writingmum.

Brit Writers Awards Blog
Brit Writers Awards Homepage

My mother always said youth was wasted on the young. It’s a tired cliché, true, but how often do we all think exactly that when we see our children in gangs, hanging around street corners with their hoods up? I use the term our children in the broad sense, because mine are currently tucked up in bed, yet there is still a part of me that wonders, when they’re older, will they too loiter around those same street corners?

I heard a phrase the other day; ‘all our kids are crack addicts’. That was a first for me and I pondered the possibility of the narrator being Irish and that he meant craic, but then I realised it wasn’t the notion of fun and laughter our youths were addicted to, it was drugs. Or so he said.

I don’t know about you, but despite what I hear, when I see groups of young dancers on talent shows, I still get a feeling of the craic, knowing that they have spent hours rallying together to produce a piece of moving street art.  No crack for them; those kids are fighters, achievers, units of brothers and sisters proving to us -the pessimistic parents- that they want out of the culture our generation created for them.

I have an enviable role. I am a voluntary internet site moderator of a group called YoungWriters, which sits within the BookRix.com domain. There, along with a team of like-minded seasoned writers, I mentor a group of 400 youngsters who like to write fiction, non-fiction, fan fiction, musical scores and poetry.

Some of our members (age 12 to 21) come from backgrounds where the home-fires stopped burning long ago and who sometimes have to rely on internet access from their schools to get on-line. Others are more fortunate; they have a reliable media tool and a lot of them use it to lose themselves in a world of literary endeavours and to escape parental mismanagement. Of course there are well-heeled kids too, the ones who idle away their playtime creating stories of merit and personal value.

Their common interest is a desire to write, and it is that single ambition we at YoungWriters praise, placate and promote all our members across Britain and America -and everywhere else for that matter. No loitering on street corners for these youngsters. We offer morsels of our own experiences and snatches of knowledge we have learned of the craft, along with sturdy shoulders for the young to lean on as they search avenues where they may hone their creativity.

Like those dancers on the talent shows, our own young writers are looking for someone to take them by the hand and lead them, with just a little encouragement, up that literary path. So, if there are writers out there who thank the heavens they were raised in a home with an array of silver spoons in the drawer, and privileged with a top-notch education; spare a moment for the writers of the future; our inspired, cracking youth.

On the 1st June 2012, we launched a new initiative. It is the BookRix Young Writer of the Year Award with cash prizes valued at $800. 
The deadline for us accepting new entries is 17th August, so if you’re aged 12-21yrs and you’d like to take part, get your stories in before we close. From the 18th August we will be opening the thread for community voting.

The contest is free to enter, but you must sign up as a member of BookRix and the YoungWriters group.
It is an open-themed contest for a fiction or non-fiction, with a word limit of 3,000.

First place     -
$500 cash
Second place - $200 cash
Third place   - $100 cash

If you would like to know more about the initiative you can contact me at wendyreakes123@btinternet.com

Please post your entries here:
Remember you have to join BookRix first, but it only takes a minute to complete.

Good Luck
You think that’s an easy question to answer? Allow me to elaborate.

I began writing about six years ago. Before that, I had no idea I could write, let alone put a few novels together, write short stories, scripts, blogs or win writing competitions.  I remember thinking at the time, when I first took out my shiny laptop and pressed a few keys, that it was rather strange. I mean, you don’t suddenly wake up one day and say, 'hey, I think I’ll be a prize winning writer.' For one thing you need to know how, right? You need to be able to spell, know good grammar, know how to dot your 'I's and cross your 't's. You need to know how to put a story together with a beginning, a middle and an end. You need to know how to develop characters, how to write great dialogue, know what a POV means and an M.S and you even have to know how to format the damn thing, double spaced, 12pt Times New Roman, indents etc......

With regards to the skills mentioned above, I have to say it IS possible to learn that stuff. I know this, because I have...learned that stuff. It has taken me six years of much heart ache and I still get things wrong. Recently I found out I couldn’t spell vulture. It came out as vulcher. A mental block? I hope so.

But with all these new found skills, my biggest perplexity was where my imagination came from, for surely that can’t be learned. You could have the best writing skills in the world, but if you can’t drum up a collection of stories, what do you do? You can’t learn to be a master at art. Yes, you can learn the painting techniques in order to create a piece, but would you ever be able to create that masterpiece and become an icon in death? A snooker player can learn the rules of his game, but if he hasn’t got the ‘eye’, he would never compete in world master tournaments. Would he?

So back to my question.  What came first, the book or the author?

Take someone like me. From a very early age I used to collect data in my very exploratory brain. I watched people. I stripped their characters down, learned how to trust or not trust. I listened to how they spoke, I watched how they furnished their houses, who they married, how they raised their kids. I watched their facial expressions and their body language so that I almost knew what they were thinking. In summary, I was a little weirdo.

I was just seven when a cousin took me to her neighbour’s house. She was a very old lady (the neighbour, not the cousin) and so fascinated was I by her great age and her old fashioned furniture, that to this day I can remember every little detail of her home, even down to how it smelled. I did that a lot. Weird, huh?

All my life I have wondered why I absorbed all that information. What use was it and how could I harness it? But now I know why. Six years ago I discovered a fascination for writing; for telling stories, creating new worlds, committing crimes, creating ordinary characters in extreme circumstances; instilling detail into them, dressing them, furnishing their houses, making them think....

So the answer to my question, for me, is: The book. The book came first and then the writer, because I already had the imagination, I just didn’t have the skill.

Take a moment to think about the great authors. Bronte: Yes, she knew how to express herself by the use of the written word, but without her wonderful characters, her imagination and her attention to detail, would she have been published? And would she now be known as one of the greats?

And how about you? What came first, the book or the author? Do tell. Comments always welcome.

So, here I am, banging my keyboard as if there is no tomorrow. Of course there is...a tomorrow, as there is a today. And today and tomorrow and for the next two weeks, I intend to keep banging.

The suspense in The Song of the Underground is rising. It’s getting so exciting I often find myself holding my breath when I write my signature cliffhanger at the end of each chapter.

I once got involved in a debate on the internet about chapter lengths. I mentioned that I was once instructed by an industry professional to keep chapters around about the same length.  ‘Not so,’ they all screamed at me. Yikes.

I kept my head, and explained that after I was advised by said professional, I began writing my chapters around about the 1,600 mark.  And the more I wrote, it became natural to me to curve my chapters towards 1,600 to 1,800 words , allowing them to rise at the latter part of the book as I have in The Song, to around about 2,400.

Other people's argument is that each chapter should have a natural cut off point. I don't disagree. A good chapter with two or three scenes is the most effective and the most common. But my point is, a chapter that is too long can be cumbersome and a chapter too short, unsatisfying. Therefore, a natural chapter length can and should be achieved if a writer maintains consistency and keeps them to around about the same length.

It’s all about consistency. 

Here's what I mean....

The reader, (God bless ‘er) gets into bed with the notion of reading a quick chapter before lights out. Reader opens book and there in front of her is a one page chapter.

She is perturbed. She asks herself, what else is there to do in bed with husband of 35 years other than read a book?  So she starts another chapter. She keeps reading and turns four pages. Hubby has already finished his chapter in The Song of the Underground and, satisfied, he turns his light out on his side of the bed and snuggles down, pulling the duvet half way over his head.  

Our reader keeps turning and turning those pages, willing the chapter to end. She can’t understand it. The first two chapters were an enjoyable and reasonable fifteen minutes read. She feels cheated, hanging between chapters like a bat waiting for nightfall.  Her eyes are drooping. She can’t go on. She has no choice but to leave the job undone. And she hates that.

She closes the book, switches off the light, cuddles up to hubby who’s snoring his head off. He breaks wind. She turns over and wonders what time the library opens in the morning so that she can take offending book (with inconsistent chapter lengths) back. Or, should she just lean over and pinch his copy of The Song of the Underground, written by that wonderful new author called Wendy Reakes, who keeps her chapters consistently around about the same length?

Dilemma, dilemma.

Ah, the power of the internet. Have you seen the new facebook timeline layout?

You probably don’t know this, but facebook introduced that format because of me. Really!

Here’s what happened.

Just this week I got really sick of looking at all the mumbo jumbo happening on my facebook page. Things like posts from distant acquaintances saying (and I quote), ‘going to bed now’.

I wanted to advertise my new novel, ‘The Song of the Underground’ (thought I’d put that in, just in case I haven’t plugged it recently), and so I came across a site that provided the means to spruce up my page and include some great visuals.

I spent a few days trying to master it, got it wrong, got it wrong again, and finally after much verbal abuse thrown at the creator of said site, it finally came together. It was at that point, after three days of technical torture, the facebook people introduced the timeline pages.

I couldn’t decide whether they were jealous of my attempts to spruce things up and the fact I had brought in a third party, or that they felt sorry for me and my efforts, and decided on completion that it may be a good idea to follow my lead.

So there you are, folks. When you finally get your stuff up on timeline as I have and many others too it would seem (they must have copied me) then please remember you have me to thank for it all.

No worries. Just get sprucing.

Here's mine

Good luck.
Wendy (New look Facebook mastermind)

(Otherwise known as Trad versus Have, Part 2)

I love it when I get comments on my blog (Discounting the offensive ones). Receiving comments from my readers (all three of you), not only shows me that people actually read the stuff I churn out, but the people who write them are intelligent, have excellent taste and are incredibly smart when they urge me to carry on writing (thank you, Kathy).

When I wrote ‘Trad versus Have’ part one, I guess you could say I was bias towards the benefits of traditional publishing. I stated that if you had spent over a year writing a masterpiece, then I believe you should pursue the Trad route and get something back for the hard work you’ve put in. If on the other hand you’ve spent months knocking them up, and keeping up with your speed of delivery, you should choose the self publishing route so that you can get yourself out there.

There are varying degrees of that opinion and I’m about to tell you what they are. Take a seat.

First of all, my opinions are biased and I’m not always right (as you have discovered reading my blog over the past few months and have laughed your arse off at the things I have said). Secondly, I don’t always mention everything that should be taken into account, because as you know, I often get sidetracked.

I am in touch with a 94 yr old, online, who has written his memoirs of his time in the war telling snippets of stories about his family and neighbours during the blitz. The work is very interesting as you can imagine, but (and he won't listen when I tell him) it's too long winded. He gets all upset with me, goes off, has a sulk for a couple of months and then he comes back for more. I'm really mean to him, but he loves me.

This wonderful old man has been writing his book for years, he's at an age where it is possible he will never see his book in print and yet he is determined to go down the Trad route. Why? Because it's what he deserves. A story like that, where he has given his life and soul to putting it together in a bound manuscript, why shouldn’t he get what his heart desires?

Yes, I’m a romantic with my head in the clouds, and I suppose there is the argument that if he self publishes, he could at least see it in print before he goes on to a place far greater than this. However, when you're 94 and you're determined never to give up, like he is, it's a bit hard to argue with. Is it not?

Self publishing is great, but it is the easy option and I have to wonder if some of us don't just give up too easily after a few knock-backs, when, if we had tried harder, for longer, we could have secured that deal with a publisher and watched our treasured manuscripts become a proper book; smelling like one, feeling like one, looking like one, and distributed...world wide.

There are benefits to be had with self publishing, but for the serious amongst us who intend to earn a good living as a published author, shouldn't we keep trying just that little bit harder?

What would have happened, I wonder, if Tolkien had the option to self publish? Yes, he would have had less heartache and it would have been a much easier route than the one he actually took, but would Lord of the Rings be as famous now? Maybe. Maybe not. But the guy actually created his own language, would it have been fair to him and his genius to have knocked it out on kindle? I don’t think so.

It's a hard decision to make. You have a manuscript you have put years into. You can press a few buttons and self publish on-line, whether it is an eBook or paperback format. But will you one day wonder, after flogging your kindle version alongside thousands of others, that if you'd taken the Trad route and tried, just that little bit harder, could you have secured a publishing deal?

Ask yourself that before you take the easy route.

That’s all I’m saying.