Do You Compare Yourself To Other Writers & More From @TerryTyler4 #Writers

This is a special day for me. One of my favourite authors – Terry Tyler has decided to guest post on BlondeWriteMore.

Terry has written many books (my favourite is Best Seller BTW) and gives a lot back to the online writing community. She’s part of Rosie Amber’s book review team and shares a lot of her own writing wisdom in blog posts and articles.

What I love about reading Terry’s thoughts on writing is her engaging and witty tone. She always makes me feel like I am sat opposite her and we are having a creative chat over a coffee.

As Terry is my #authorcrush if we were having coffee in real life, I would be giving her one of my intense (some say weird) stares over a latte, pestering her for a selfie with me and asking her when I could come round for tea. She would be….checking her watch (a lot) and edging towards the door. Sigh!

So, here is the wonderful Terry Tyler. 

When the lovely Lucy asked me to do a guest post for her, she suggested four subjects to write around. These were:

  • Comparing yourself to other writers / authors
  • Keeping going when things get tough / persistence
  • Things your first novel taught you
  • How to decide when it’s time to walk away from a story?

I couldn’t decide which one to choose so I’ve written a little on each one. I love reading other writers’ thoughts on the subject nearest to our hearts, so I hope you enjoy mine, too!

1. Comparing yourself to other writers.

I think we all do this, don’t we? I used to get that ‘I must be a crap writer’ feeling every time I read books filled with lyrical description, because painting beautiful scenes with words is not within my skill set. But then Mrs Sound Writing Advice herself, Rayne Hall, said this: Writing can be descriptive without being wordy—and wordy without being descriptive. That’s SO right, isn’t it? A hundred flowery adjectives don’t necessarily set a scene, and certainly wouldn’t in my hands. My point: everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. I may not be able to write about a stormy night in such a way that you can feel the thunderclouds above your head, but I’m told my biggest strength is characterisation, so maybe my readers will be so absorbed in Vicky and Dex’s conversation that they won’t mind not knowing about the colour/length/smell of the grass they’re standing on. Cross fingers!

One area where authors compare themselves with others is sales. But just because your book is only selling half as many as your writer pal’s latest, it doesn’t mean it’s only half as good. She may have a publisher who puts money into promotion, or spend more money on advertising, or do more self-promo, or simply write in a genre that’s currently more popular. For instance, right now, it’s probably easier to sell crime/psychological thrillers than almost any other genre, whereas general contemporary and literary fiction are always a difficult sell. Some markets, such as YA fantasy, are so saturated that it’s hard to make your book stand out.

I believe the best thing you can do when you’re looking at a friend’s enviable Amazon rankings and thinking ‘but I’m sure her book is no better than mine’, is to click off the internet and concentrate on making YOUR book the best you can.

2. Keeping going when things get tough.

I have much to say about this; here’s an article I wrote on my own blog about how to cope with those ‘everything I write is rubbish’ days:
http://terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/amwriting-or-would-be-if-i-could-manage.html

3. Things your first novel taught you.

I first wrote a novel in 1993 and it’s hard to think back 24 years, but I’ve searched through my memory files for the me who sat at a kitchen table with a typewriter, thinking, hmm, how hard can this be? This is what I came up with:

  • Writing a novel is hard. You need a lot of material.
  • You have to really want to write, not just fancy ‘being a writer’, because it takes a lot of time and dedication. When I wrote Novel #1 (I still have the hard copy in a folder, somewhere!), I sat down most afternoons and applied fingers to keys. For months. That’s after having written the whole thing in longhand first. Then I went through and did a second edit, and typed the whole thing out again, because I didn’t have a word processor. Now, I do around 6 drafts; the re-drafting/editing takes as long as the first draft.
  • Making all your characters perfectly reasonable human beings is boring. Novel #1 was from the alternating POVs of three characters. About ten people read it. The character they all said they enjoyed reading most was the most self-interested and bitchy.  Which leads me to……. the reason only ten people read it. I didn’t consider it good enough to send to a literary agent, or, later, format for Kindle. If you’re realistic, and unless you’re exceptionally talented, writing your first novel can show you that the desire to write isn’t necessarily accompanied by the ability to produce a potential best seller!
  • You need a good ending, especially if you’re hoping for reviews, because that part will stay in the reader’s head after they’ve closed the book, much more than the beginning. And it’s a good plan to decide on that ending before you start, so that all the threads lead to it. Which leads me onto Lucy’s last subject:

4. How to decide when it’s time to walk away from a story?

All writers have novels, novellas and short stories that they’ve started and abandoned. I always decide on the basis of my plot first, and know how it’s going to end (see above!); the abandoned ideas have usually not made it to paper because I can’t think of an end that isn’t an anti-climax. I had (what I thought was) a great idea for a novella a while back, but when I ran it past my sister, she just said, “Yeah. And?”. It didn’t have enough story.

Now and again, I’ve started to write a novel or a novella when my heart is not in it; these get abandoned early. The worst time was when I’d written 30K words of The House of York, and realised that I had too many plot threads; to make them all come together would mean I would either not do justice to any of them, or that the book would be 200K words long. It was tempting to scrap the whole thing, but instead I went back to the beginning and started again, because I was sure the idea had legs. But as for when it’s time let something go, I think it’s a bit like editing. You have to be strict with yourself, and write off that month you’ve just spent on it. It won’t all be wasted, anyway, because you’ll have learned from it.

I hope other writers can relate to these experiences, and thanks again to Lucy for inviting me onto her fab blog!

That was fab – thanks Terry! 

Loved the journey you went on with #Novel1. Did it ever reach publication?

Terry’s next book, Tipping Point, is expected to be published in August 2017. It’s the first part of a trilogy, about a how one family and group of friends survive a global pandemic. The second book, Lindisfarne, should be out in September. Click here for more details on Terry’s books.

 

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I am a blonde writer of romantic comedy fiction.

54 thoughts on “Do You Compare Yourself To Other Writers & More From @TerryTyler4 #Writers

  1. Terry’s book, Best Seller has been on my TR pile for a while now. Somehow it keeps being overlooked, a shocking oversight on my part, and something that will soon be rectified!

  2. ps, Lucy, no, I never published that 1st book. Or the second or third. The fourth was rewritten and updated, and turned into Dream On, in 2012. I actually wrote 9 or 10 novels in the 1990s. The penultimate one I sent to an agent. She said it wasn’t right for a publisher (it was one of those ‘Sliding Doors’ stories, with different outcomes for different decisions), but she loved the way I wrote, so to send her more. That book was rewritten as The Other Side, which I published in 2012.

    I sent the agent the first 6 chapters of my next book, which was about 2 years in the life of a young woman after having her heart broken; ‘intelligent chick lit’, I suppose! She wrote back straight away and said she loved it, and she wanted the rest as soon as it was written. I rushed it. Also, it wasn’t what was fashionable at the time, ie a woman dissing the guys and getting stuck into a fabulous career. This was in 1999. It was more a catalogue of drinking and more disasters, which would have worked today, probably….! She said if I re-wrote she’d look again, but I didn’t want to. Then my life changed and I didn’t write again until 2010.

    I sent the first of the new batch to an agent – same thing again, loved the way I wrote, said she couldn’t sell the story to a publisher because it wasn’t what they were accepting at the moment – it was from 3 alternating POVs and she said she’d try again if I wrote it from one POV. Which is amusing now that alternating POVs are the new black!!! But I stopped after that – I don’t write what is currently trendy, so I’m better off publishing myself than trying to fit what an agent/publisher wants.

    Sorry…. this was never meant to be this long!!!!

    1. There’s probably a reblog button somewhere, or perhaps you can’t see them because of your privacy settings – I can neither share nor reblog on my laptop, always have to flag up the post, then tweet. You can always just do the same for this, and thank you, FZ1!

      (ps, don’t I look OLD in that pic! Want to start using recent ones… taken a couple of weeks ago!)

  3. Great post and couldn’t agree more Lucy, Terry’s blog is always full of great advice served with a generous side of searing wit! Definitely 3 and 4 for me, these are the parts that people don’t see. My first novel was only read by my sister and my mother – we still ‘joke’ (tease me) about it, there were many, many cringey moments in that story! Also, just before beginning my new novel (to be published next year) I started a story and got as far as 20k words before I realised it just wasn’t working. The plot was weak and I guess my heart wasn’t really in it – I felt like I was selling myself short with it, taking the easy route. Writing is never as simple as having an idea and writing the book, there are so many twists and turns, so many decisions that only you as the creator can make. And Terry’s right, you learn from these false starts, and what I learned was to always approach my writing with integrity and to have the courage to stop if it doesn’t feel right.

    1. Thanks, Evie ~ and I’ve just remembered, I should have said, I actually started the sequel to The House of York (mentioned above), but my heart wasn’t in it. I wrote a few chapters before I accepted it! That also came under the banner of ‘no convincing ending’, too.

      I sometimes think I might look at that first novel, but I’m sure it would be TOO cringey!

  4. It is easy to compare yourself to other writers….it is also easy to compare yourself to ”popular” writers, who are feted by the press, and think: why? I was reading the ‘Summer Reading’ recommendations …and the same old same old writers that are piled on tables in Waterstones are recommended by other writers whose books are piled up in Waterstones. Not a single Indie or small press writer on the list. …I’ve wondered off topic, haven’t I?

    1. Slightly, but I know just what you mean! It makes me angry for my writer friends who are much better than many of those feted by the press, too. Gemma Lawrence is the best writer of Tudor fic EVER, easily as good as Phillippa Gregory. I could go on. BTW, look out for my ‘Author Influences’ article on Blooming Brilliant Books on 21 July, give lots of my favourites (ahem!) a plug there!

  5. As a fellow Terry Tyler fan of all her books (read one, was hooked and rushed to get them all) i was pleased to find this post after a failed writing day (might be something to do with trying to catch up on emails/blogs/tweets/messages) and reading reviews of brilliant books that I could never write. Terry is so right; we all,as authors, have our own strengths.And there are times when writing is tough. So, thank you, ladies, I will start the day afresh and buckle down to my own writing. Was just having a crisis in confidence few hours.

  6. Great post! I’ve followed Terry for a long time now (she’s my Twitter inspiration) and this advice is so useful for anyone (like me) who is contemplating writing a book. It’s so difficult to avoid comparisons, but her advice makes sense!

    1. Good luck with it, Suzie! And you have to just write YOUR book, I think. I know some writers who never read when they’re writing a book, in case it makes them depressed or influences them. I could never do that, but I understand it.

  7. I love this post, thank you so much for all the wisdom. I am 130 pages into my first novel, and have recently hit a big self-doubt road block. I find myself reading other books and thinking, “My writing is not as good as this.” But I love what Terry said: “…so maybe my readers will be so absorbed in Vicky and Dex’s conversation that they won’t mind not knowing about the colour/length/smell of the grass they’re standing on.” It may be time for me to start building myself up, and celebrating what I know I am good at. Again, thank you for the inspiration!!

    1. Ha ha, glad it helped, Becca! And will you be writing under that name, I wonder?! Not one to forget!

      If it’s any help, I’ve written over 20 novels (am soon to publish my 14th book), and the self-doubt never goes. It’s just a part of it. You have good days, you have bad days. Good luck!

  8. Do you compare yourself to other writers? Never! Apart from, you know, every time I read a book, or come across an author’s blog, or just check to see what sort of things that other novelist is tweeting, or visit a book shop and wonder what it would take to be on that ‘recommended reads’ table at the front of the store… Sigh! Thanks for sharing these tips from your experience!

    1. I know just what you mean! I always think ‘one day everyone will find out that I am not a proper person and can’t really write at all’. As for the ‘recommended reads’ in the store – I don’t have those fantasies anymore!

  9. Lovely guest post Lucy by the delightful Terry. It’s always good to read someone’s take on the foibles of writing and all those quirky inside thoughts that try and trip you up when you’re not paying attention and let them start gnawing. I’ve got three books in my personal slush pile; one I risked with Julia the proofreader last year (must give her a shout out too because working with her was ace!) and that’s being tentatively put out and awaiting feedback from a publisher….60 days left on the turn round #anxietybomb. I think I’ve mentioned that cognitive dissonance thing before here too…. A mind stuck between “It’s crap” and “No it isn’t!” Tough stuff indeed and that’s before even comparing myself with others and working out if it’s publishable…. Back to the slush pile…

    Great post all round 😊

    Will press this tomorrow…why reblog when you can do that? Or maybe I’m missing something….although using the full editor to shout out someone’s post must have advantages….ode to the contentious, my bad!

      1. I think you and I think very similarly in this writing thingamy Lucy!! Clearly why commenting here is like talking to a friend I’ve known for years!!

    1. Yeah, I never reblog either, but because I have a silly number of Twitter followers instead, I reckon an RT is just as good if not better! And I think most people follow my blog via there, rather than the blog itself. Thanks for reading an commenting, Gary x

      1. I sometimes press a post simply because it gives me full control of the post as well as linking the source post in pretty much the same way as a re-blog. Also it acts as a full post and thus get auto shared to my social media accounts at the same time. However, in true spirit of sharing I tend to socially share the original post too. In fact I am probably going to do all that with this very post because you raised some very pertinent points. Especially looking at friends books that seem to sky rocket with the caveat the publisher might be inflating it by their own promotional input. I often wonder if that happens in the vanity world and might give an author a false impression??

        On an aside, I’m sure Julia mentioned you and sent me a file of yours re publishing last year. Are you her sister, or have I got that mixed up with some errant characters in me head????? x

    2. Hi Gary! Yes, I am Julia’s sister ~ not sure which Gary you are though! Do enlighten me!

      Re publicity & vanity publishing – vanity publishers do not, generally, do any promotion for the books. They don’t need to, because they make the money from the author. Experience has shown me that they often put the books out priced too highly for the market, and often with substandard editing and proofreading. A few years back I had long conversations with a man who’d gone with Author House, spent about 3000 on making his book publishable, and then they put it out at a price higher than that of books by internationally known authors. Needless to say, the only person who bought it was his daughter.

      The other thing with vanity pubs, of course, is that they don’t care or tell you if your book is not good. They tell you they’re really excited about it and want to work with you, so that you’ll hand over the cash. Rant, rant, rant!!!

      Some indie publishers, such as Bloodhound Books and Bookouture, do a great deal for their authors, and ensure that they’re hot sellers. Others do nothing at all. As for self-pub, some of the best books I’ve ever read go by virtually unnoticed. Sales depend on so many different things, as you know!

      1. Phew, my mind is not quite totally addled then. I thought it was you when I saw the post. I worked with Julia on my book “The Assent of Rose Marie Gray” last year. In fact I think it entirely possible I will be using her quite frequently in future too. It was her that told me about you back then. I wasn’t really expecting you to know who I am mind as I doubt she mentioned me!

        Totally with you on that rant; in fact I think I saw a post by you or Julia ages ago on the subject and threw in a rant there too! What do you make of the hybrid publishers? I know they charge and can get a handle on services like editing, proofing, cover design and such like, but when the bill moves into the thousands things start looking less enticing. I know self published authors should use such services so there is an on cost doing things that way too.

        I’ve heard of Bookoutre, but the other one is new to me so thank you for the tip. I will look at both if Rose is rejected from the current submission (not vanity, a small publishers open submissions period).

        I was slow really, but wanted to spend a year raising my social media platforms and getting the hang of them in readiness. What’s the URL to your blog? I’m sure I’m following it, or it might be Julia’s come to think of it…amnesia brain strikes back!

  10. I think the first piece of advice “don’t compare” actually resonates most with me. In all areas of my life, I compare myself. And with writing, something I care a lot about, it’s worse. But we are all individual, and have our own strengths, and are on our own journeys. Appreciate where you are instead of wishing you were somewhere else.

    1. That’s the theory, yes! But like most advice like that, it’s easier to say (or post a Facebook meme!) than actually do it. I think that it helps to remind yourself, all the time. It’s hard, though – I think not comparing yourself too much generally just comes with age and confidence. But sometimes it takes a long time. Few of us are totally okay with how we are!

      1. That is all very true. It seems to be human nature to compare ourselves to others. I hope to get better at it over time, and I think it’s about being comfortable with who you are. If only there wasn’t so much judgement in the world.

      1. Been RT’d a few times too 😊 If you read it then you might notice a referral to a certain diary lady too 😉

  11. Terry was a great guest to your blog! The compare one is so important, I try to tell myself about all the different books I’ve enjoyed and why and that helps… But there’s always self-doubt there

    1. I think there always is for all people who try to create anything, Noelle ~ we’re bound to judge ourselves by the standards of those we admire, apart from anything else. I doubt there’s a writer alive who doesn’t occasionally worry that he or she is completely lacking in talent!

  12. I loved this as Terry was my first connect on twitter she told me of Sunday and Monday blog shares, Terry even sent me a dm saying no! You do it like this. X mmmmwwa. I like Judith got hooked on one book and then another. I don’t compare because there would be no point, it only makes me feel rubbish inadequate and well for want of a better description ‘pants’. Another great read on another star spangled post, good catch Lucy well done.

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