Reviewing Indie Authors One Book at a Time

It’s time again for another Spotlight Author from Rave Reviews Book Club. This virtual book club consists of authors and readers all looking for peer support and lots of good books to read.

If you would like to join Rave Reviews, hop on over to their site.

Enjoy this bit from Robin Chambers.

A1 book covers

Three Questions

Fairly recently, the very kind and immensely sympathetic Irene of Irene’s Book Oasis (www.irenesbookoasis.com) asked me three interesting questions. Answering proved a voyage of self-discovery.

 

  1. Why did you start writing?

One day (it was in 1974) I heard myself say to a class of boys in a school in Hackney where I was Head of English: “Some of you are writing better stories than I ever could.”

Then I thought “How do you know that’s true? You’ve never even tried since you left school.” The thought stayed with me: that I was teaching other people how to write better and better stories but never trying to write any of my own…

Shortly after that another classroom situation occurred that had a really significant effect on my decision to try one day to write stories for children full-time. I describe it in my blog: “Was that true?” http://bit.ly/1n0bOur That year I wrote half a dozen stories for children, sent them to Penguin and they published them. Life was simpler in those days…

So why did I start writing again after a gap of almost forty years? Well there’s nothing like narrowly surviving a murder attempt to concentrate the mind. I describe that incident in my blog: “Don’t Leave Things Too Late” http://bit.ly/1kXwcjc. I could easily have died that night without ever having started what I hoped – and still hope – will be the major work I leave behind.

 author photo 128 x 128

  1. What is the hardest thing about writing?

Doing it well, I suppose. In the 1970s I lit the blue touch paper without really knowing what I was doing…

Predictably the firework fizzled out; but that initial success gave me the confidence to work at the craft of writing for the ensuing 30 years, mainly by developing the talents of dozens of promising young writers.

Finding the time and strength of purpose can also be hard. My job as the Head of a big coeducational comprehensive school in the most stressful social services area in the country took 70+ hours a week for over fourteen years, and every ounce of creative energy I possessed.

After that comes patience and self-belief… I was 68 before I found the time to write again; but then, quite suddenly, I had all the time in the world. I wrote for 8-10 hours a day, 7 days a week (give or take the odd day) for 3½ years. I didn’t put the first 4 books in my “Myrddin’s Heir” series into the kindle store until I had polished and re-polished them, and tried them out on friends and family: until I was reasonably sure they were as good as I could make them. I published all four at once on May 1st 2013. I have revised them at least twice since. That’s just one of the enormous advantages of self-publishing: you can upgrade text and covers and have the latest version available within 12 hours.

But without doubt the hardest thing of all is promoting what you have written. By and large you have to find your readers and engage with them: because as sure as a really sure thing they won’t find you on their own, no matter how good you are. I’ve been told I need to spend at least half my time on marketing/promotion to have any hope of building a sizeable reader-base. It isn’t enough to be a great writer; you have to be a great salesperson as well.

Book 5 came out in April 2014. Subsequent books in the series are likely to appear once a year. At that rate it will take another 15 years to finish the story of “Myrddin’s Heir”; by which time, I will be 87.

 

  1. What kind of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Learn from Ted Hughes: throw caution to the winds and write, write, write; after which, put what you have written aside for at least a week and then edit, edit, edit. Be ruthless in cutting out anything that is superfluous to the primary task: to drive the story on as powerfully and as meaningfully as you can.

Read, read, read: decide on the genre that calls to you, find the best examples of writing in that genre and analyse it to determine why it’s good. Learn the CRAFT of writing: the effective use of punctuation, variation in the length of sentences, the blending of effective descriptive detail with realistic dialogue…

Whatever your choice of genre, make your readers laugh, and make them cry.

Avoid the continuous present like the plague, except when one of your characters is recounting a story and it’s realistic to write: “So I give her my steely glare and raise my voice a bit – you know – and I says: ‘WHAT did you just say to me?’ and she goes ‘YOU heard…’ Cheeky cow…!”

Avoid subordinate clauses beginning with ‘as…’: it is almost invariably better to put a full stop and let that clause have its own sentence. It’s diBk 1 cover compressedstressing how many writers have an ‘as…’ clause in the first sentence, and another six of them on page 1.

Send me a chunk of whatever you’ve written (myrddinsheir@hotmail.com ) and I’ll give you my honest opinion and constructive advice, which you can profit from or ignore – entirely up to you. I’ve worked with aspiring writers for almost half a century…

You can find out more about my series – Myrddin’s Heir – and what people think of it, by visiting any or all of the following sites:

www.myrddinsheir.com
Amazon.com author page
Amazon.co.uk kindle store page
Goodreads profile page
Self-Publisher’s Showcase
Irene’s Book Oasis

 

A Wizard of Dreams reviews:

Stephan Myers
Lucy Hay
Lesley Hayes

My Facebook Myrddinsheir page

My blog

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Comments on: "Spotlight Author-Robin Chambers" (18)

  1. A lot of good advice here. I, too, have found that the work does not end with writing and publishing. It’s a slow process to find your market beyond those you know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great writing tips, Robin. I commend you for being brave enough to reenter the writing/publishing world after such an extended hiatus … I’m sure you have found many things to be different. But you are an incredible writer, so I’m sure you will do well with any challenge you face:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • robinchambers said:

      I wasn’t really a part of the writing/publishing world back then. It felt like the ball rolled towards me at that particular time in my teaching world and I happened to boot it into the net three times before continuing my journey along the education road. Now, though, writing fills my days, and gives me so much satisfaction. I may or may not be widely read in time; but in the meantime it’s critical acclaim from fellow authors like yourself that keeps me strong, and I thank you for your encouragement from the bottom of my heart. :-))

      Like

  3. Great advice from someone who have tried it and succeeded. Putting four books out at once is not an easy task, but that’s where experience talks. Well done, and never stop. Thank you Bee for hosting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • robinchambers said:

      I had to be sure I was happy with the quality of the writing, and that I had ‘solidified’ my style enough for me to be confident in it. That was why I didn’t let any of the books go until I’d written four of them, and revised each half a dozen times in response to observations by friends and family. The path to knowledge is indeed unfolded truth. Now I am in writing stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er! I’ll see it through: to my end, if not THE end… 🙂

      Like

  4. Robin, My immediate reaction after reading your post was that you practice what you preach: that you write “for bright children between the ages of 10 and 110.” I’m a year older than you and I plan on having that vitality and curiosity that is so apparent in what you write when I’m 110 – if not older! From one bright child to another, our best days are ahead of us!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robin, congratulations on your Spotlight Week and your success as a writer.

    Like

    • robinchambers said:

      Thank you. While waiting for success in terms of sales, success in terms of critical acclaim from readers and fellow writers is deeply satisfying and enabling. 🙂

      Like

  6. Thanks for sharing a prpiece of yourself! I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a near death, but nothing like a good wake up call to get moving. The fact that you spent so much time on your books also encourages me to check them out. I appreciate a serious author 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • robinchambers said:

      Oh, I’m that alright, and a serious supporter of those perceptive and kind enough to support me! “We plough the field and scatter…” 🙂

      Like

  7. harmonykentonline said:

    Great advice, Robin! And another great post. Have a fantastic Spotlight week! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. rrbcsecretary said:

    Great advice, Robin! Another wonderful post!! Thank you so much for hosting, Bee!! We greatly appreciate your support!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • robinchambers said:

      Thank you Marlena. I suppose the most helpful thing about great advice is that it can safely be ignored. I’ve always liked GBS’s observation that the biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed your story here, Robin. Our teaching/writing paths have been similar, and like you and Jeffrey, I plan to keep writing for a long time! Congrats on your Spotlight Tour! Thanks for hosting, Bee!

    Liked by 1 person

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