To the readers of The Student Aspect – a warm and welcome hello, I hope you enjoy learning a little about my life as an author and find a few useful tips along the way.
The most valuable piece of advice I could give to any aspiring authors reading this, is that if you have the aspiration to write, don’t put it off, don’t make excuses not to start, just write. The freedom to write is a luxury, so if you have it, use it to your advantage, I wish I had done. In this present moment, life as an author, is not at all what I expected it to be back when I wrote my first book so many moons ago.
Along with writing YA fantasy series, I am a mother and business owner. Juggling the responsibilities of family, work and writing life, is harder than I ever fathomed possible.
Prime example, presently, my firstborn, aged two, is sitting on my lap as I attempt to write this, sporadically bashing the computer screen with Mr Quack-Quack and Mrs Bunny, desperate for Mummy not to be at ‘work work’. My youngest, aged four months, is giving me the ‘I’m about to scream my head off any minute now,’ look, in which case any hope of writing is out the window. So, with one hand I type, and the other I bounce his bouncer, trying to put off the inevitable long enough to complete this interview, all the while my work line rings unanswered in the background.
Needless to say, in between attempting to be a patient, loving mother and keeping my businesses running smoothly – I do not write as often as I need, or want to. What I would give to have the freedom to write that I once had and completely took for granted.
However, that being said; when the family is fed, my children asleep, the house clean, my dogs walked, emails answered and the work line off the hook, quiet finally finds me and just before exhaustion sinks in, I write. It is the one thing in this world, other than reading, that truly brings me peace. My mind empties, the distractions flutter away, silence warmly surrounds me, and the words flow.
Writing to me, is as wonderous as magick.
Yes, magick with a ‘K’. An otherworldly inner power that packs a punch. It reverberates up my spine, ricochets down my arms, tingles delightfully into my finger-tips leaving a blissful smile on my face as the words take form onto the screen or paper. Writing is truly magickal.
If someone asked me which I prefer, reading or writing – I could not answer. It would be like asking me which of my son’s is my favourite. It is an answerable question. My love for all things bookish runs deep in my veins, without a favouritism for either aspect.
Reading wise, I have a love for all works with a magical context. I am Pagan by nature, so anything to do with the natural world around us, or themes of magic, has me turning pages well past midnight, or until the screen on my kindle flashes the dreaded ‘battery almost depleted’ warning.
It made sense for me to write in the genre of YA fantasy when I have such a passion for reading it myself, but it was important for me to have a message to the narrative of my work. One subtle word at a time. My novels are my own form of peaceful protest, an angled activism.
Whilst I have written many novels, the first that I opted to publish, was the one that meant the most to me, entitled, Earthlings. A tale of magick, adventure and hope for this beautiful planet we are blessed to call home. The narrative of Earthlings is exceptionally close to my heart, and as such, I was unable to fit the words into a stand-alone novel, it is now a trilogy with book two in the editing process due for release later this year.
Writing something you are passionate about makes the words flow effortlessly, it is easier to edit, and the story will come naturally. If you want to write a book but aren’t sure what to write about, delve into your inner self and work out what makes your stomach burn inside. When you find the topic that makes your veins flow with fire, or your cheeks flush excitedly, you have your subject. After that, the story will come.
For me, it’s at the untimeliest of moments. My favourite characters and plot twists came to me at times when I didn’t have a pen to hand. Exceptionally infuriating. Swimming laps in the local pool only to hurriedly hoist myself out of the water, slip and slide to the lockers to grab my phone and text myself the next three chapters unexpected twists and turns.
The hardest part of writing, other than finding the time to write, I find, is killing off a character. When you’ve written their soul onto screen, they are almost a living and breathing part of you. As with all great works, the reader must feel as passionate about the story as the person writing it. Would Harry Potter have had such a huge impact on readers, if the characters that we grew so fond of, all lived happily ever after? As much as I wish that could be the ending to all my stories, it is not the way of the world. And as such, it cannot be the way of the worlds I write about either.
I wrote my first story when I was in primary school, scribbled onto an array of green coloured paper, unevenly stapled together with crayon illustrations on every other page. Our teacher had tasked us with writing a story to include three things: a waiting room, a light switch and a wish. I opted to write a tale of a young girl who found herself in a magic waiting room that gave those worthy a wish, if fate called upon them to use the light switch. I received my first A+ and have wanted to be an author ever since.
In hindsight, I wish I had made the steps to become an author much earlier before I had a business and children. Again, I really cannot stress enough, if you wish to write for a living, don’t hold off, start now, the sooner the better. Find what you’re passionate about and get typing.
Once you have your first draft and are happy with it. Start the editing process. This will vary for each writer. My process, is to write a chapter, do a brief edit, then do the next chapter, brief edit, and so on and so forth until I’ve finished the book. Then, I’ll start from the beginning and edit from start to finish. This way, the editing process isn’t quite as daunting as I’ve already adjusted the parts that stood out most. I’ll then send to friends and family and / or Beta readers for feedback, before doing my final edit. It is a long process. But it is worth it if you want your manuscript to be the best it can be. When taking on feedback, stay true to your story, take peoples advice but remember the story is yours, no one else’s.
Take what you need and leave the rest. Then, comes the hardest part of all.
Finding a publisher or agent.
The big publishing houses rarely accept unsolicited manuscripts, choosing to work mainly with literary agents, and finding the right agent, is tough. There are many out there, each with a specific list of what they’re looking for. Sometimes, your work may not tick their boxes, or, vice verca, you may receive a yes from an agent, but their ethos doesn’t quite align with your own. I found this with my own work and opted to self-publish.
Self-publishing is a great way to get your story out there, but only if you have the time needed to market it. There are millions of books in the market so to make yours stand out, takes a lot of work. If you don’t have the time to put into social media and marketing, then a traditional publisher or agent would be the best way forward. Along your journey to become an author, if you receive rejection letters, do not be disheartened, we’ve all had them, even the most successful of writers. If you know your story is a page turner, that people will truly love to read, do not for a moment doubt yourself and keep submitting. You will get published when the time is right.
Ironically, after opting to self-publish, a publisher came back to me wanting to publish Earthlings and I’ve now signed with a traditional publishing house that understands the message of the Earthlings trilogy and champions the narrative behind it. I’m eagerly excited to be re-releasing Earthlings later this year, with the second instalment due for release around the festive season. The final book in the trilogy will be released next year, with the prequel to follow shortly after to complete the series.
For any aspiring authors reading this, you may have a similar journey or a completely different path. I know many authors who have made a huge success with self-publishing, I, unfortunately didn’t have the time to commit to the marketing side of life as an author, but if you do, then self-publishing is a great tool at your fingertips. Use it.
A few other tips that may come in handy: when editing, look for any words that you overuse or repeat, resist the urge to ramble, and if you have a message behind your story, try to portray it subtly so that the reader can still enjoy the narrative. Then finally, the most important tip of all.
Be true to your story.
Live, breathe and feel each and every character, sub plot and scenario within your manuscript. If you don’t, others won’t either. If you do not enjoy writing it – others will not enjoy reading it. Put every ounce of intent into each word that you can muster.
The saying goes, that everyone has a book within them somewhere, I hope, for those of you reading this, that you have many. For, after all, what would the world be, without books? From a fellow page turning, literary lover,
Blessed Be, Ray Star.