Pen Name: Yes or No?

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Deciding on how you want to be known in the world is important so take your time thinking it over

When I decided to take my writing seriously one of the first things I figured I had to do was build an on line presence. So I decided to create this blog, I also created a Facebook page and twitter and Instagram profiles to go with the site. I’m known as Samantha House on all of them, it’s my name so I saw no reason to come up with anything else. Well, turns out I should have put a little more thought into it.

The first time I came across the pen name discussion was last year in a Facebook writing group I belong to. One of the ladies in the group was asking whether or not she should go by her initials and last name or her full name. She was already known in some writing circles by her initials so the general consensus was to go with that. Must admit I wondered why she had used her initials in the first place, but hey if Tolkien and Rowling did it there must be a good reason behind it right? I continued on my merry way, still not really thinking about author names. I mean, I care about the story, not so much who wrote it until after the fact. Then I care because if I love the story I want to remember who wrote it so I can find any other stories/articles they have written.

Then earlier this year I came across Tj Klune and a blog post he wrote on pen names. You can find the post here. Read it, it’s a funny post and talks about the fact that he didn’t really think about pen names either. You see Tj writes m/m romance and because he goes by his initials a lot of fans thought he was a woman at first. Easy mistake to make considering most authors in that genre are women, but Tj clearly is not one. He makes a good point at the end, ‘that gender shouldn’t matter as long as there are stories to be told.’ I agree completely, gender shouldn’t be an issue when telling a story. Perhaps that is naive of me, I do after all have the belief that gender shouldn’t really be an issue in general, but that is a post for another day and not what I’m writing about here.

What I’m getting at is that you need to put some thought into how you want to be known. In some writing genres it is better to hide your real name for a number of reasons (erotica springs to mind, try explaining that to some people), while in others it is better to write your name in full with any university degrees/experience you have behind you (non-fiction). Regardless of whether or not you decide to use your real name, understand that once your work is out there it will be judged. Sometimes awesomely other times not, but your name will be attached to it so make damn sure you are ready for that. If not, go the pen name, you can always reveal your real name later if you wish.

Anyway, it’s something to think about and something I wish I knew to consider when I first started this. Being who I am I probably wouldn’t have gone the pen name pathway anyway, but it would have been nice to think about. I could have come up with all sorts of cool names (or not cool lol).

Enjoy your week everyone and happy creating 🙂

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The Tragedy of A Writer

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The reading and writing of books means a lot to a writer.

In one of my earlier blog posts I can remember writing how if the story line was good, I can see past bad grammar and the occasional poor writing. How naive I was, how eager to give all books a chance. No longer, I now suffer the tragedy of the writer. This affliction means that I know what it takes to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard and yet if I find the writing lacking I will skip past it or put the book down never to be picked back up. Life, I figure, is too short for bad books. But I was feeling guilt thinking of the effort the writer had put into their work, a story I could not finish.

I recently had the shocking realisation that there are thousands of great books out there that I will never get to read. It is simply impossible to read them all and this made me sad. It also made me no longer feel bad about not completing a book. Yep, I know the effort the author has put into it and I appreciate said effort, doesn’t mean I’m going to keep reading if the book is not for me. I wouldn’t do it with anything else in my life, so why should this be any different?

The other tragedy of being a writer is that I very rarely read a book these days without analyzing it on some level. I don’t so much compare my writing to what I’m reading, but I certainly take note on how the author describes things and uses the senses. A book that can make me forget this subconscious analysis is to be treasured and I have to say it’s been awhile since I’ve come across one. But when I do, I appreciate the freaking hell out of it and look forward to more from the author.

I wonder if this happens to actors or musicians? Dancers and artists? It’s like learning your craft makes you appreciate the good so much more while the bad makes you visibly wince, even though you know the effort that has been put into it. If I’m reviewing a piece of writing for a friend, colleague or one of my children this shines a different light on it though and I don’t mind. It’s when I’m investing my leisure time (and money) into a story that doesn’t deliver on its promises that the tragedy of knowing more makes me less tolerant of the bad writing, despite the effort and love put into it.

Anyway, have a wonderful week everyone and happy creating!

Submission Guidelines: Important

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Guidelines are like maps, making it easier to navigate to writing success

When you enter a writing competition or hand in an essay for school, there is a section you can look at called submission guidelines. It may say guidelines but they are more like rules and following them is essential. Why? Because if you don’t follow these guidelines, no matter how good the writing, you will more than likely fail. Trust me, I know through experience.

The first time this happened I was at university. I handed in my essay thinking I would get a good mark. I had no reason to think otherwise, I always did well in this particular unit (history FYI). But when I got the essay back I had barely received a pass and when I looked at my lecturer’s comments I was surprised to see that I had strayed from the topic of the essay. This resulted in only just getting a pass and it was only because I had followed every other guideline he had for the essay that I managed to get that. He said that my essay was great, just not what he had asked for. I was devastated but there was nothing I could do but resolve not do that again.

Well that resolve lasted during my uni days and even during the early years of submitting my writing. But then I entered a writing competition this year and I did exactly what I did at uni, strayed from the topic.  Consequently I didn’t get anywhere in the competition. Even worse was the fact that I didn’t realise what I had done until I read the winning story and it hit me like a brick to the face. It’s painful when you realise you’ve screwed yourself over.

But that is behind me and I’m entering another competition in July. This time I have two people to go through the submission guidelines with me. This way if I get off track there is someone to pull me back into line. It’s about the only thing I can think of to ensure I don’t keep making the same mistake, seeing as I clearly forget the lesson after a while.

So please, take my advice and ensure you check the submission guidelines for anything you enter. They are important and will help you succeed at whatever it is you are doing.

Have a great week everyone and happy creating!

 

In Conversation with Natasha Lester & Sara Foster

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On Thursday the 30 of March 2017 I had the privilege of being able to go to my local library and seeing Natasha Lester and Sara Foster in conversation with each other. Basically what they each told us a little about their book, read a small section from it and then asked each other questions about their writing process etc with the floor opening up to audience questions for about five minutes at the end. The whole thing lasted for about an hour and it was an hour well spent.

Probably the most important thing I took away from this was the fact that Natasha and Sara have different writing processes, although neither really plot their books. It was confirmation for me that every writer is different and therefore if your process is working for you then don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.

Natasha is disciplined and she joked how that should be her middle name. She writes every day, except for when her children have two months off from school. Before her children have their holidays though she writes twenty thousand words and lets that ferment in her brain for the next two months. It allows the story to sort itself out in her mind and when the kids go back to school she is ready to write her latest novel.

Sara on the other hand writes in fits and starts. She laughed, telling an anecdote about how a woman tried to use her as an example for discipline. The woman had a little girl with her and asked Sara to tell the girl how she had to write everyday to be a writer, Sara told the truth, that she did not write everyday, but she did think about writing everyday. Not quite the point the woman was trying to make.

The books the two women write are also very different. Sara writes psychological suspense while Natasha writes historical fiction. I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Sara’s work, but she has five books published and that doesn’t happen by chance or poor writing. Natasha’s work I have read some of and she has several books published. I am currently reading her novel, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald and I am in the wonderful predicament of finding the writing easy to read but the content makes me slow down a little bit so I can compare the story to today’s society and see how much it has changed. Or not in some cases.

Both women were happy to interact with the audience and it was lovely to see them appreciate the people that took the time to come and see them. Sara and Natasha are with different publishers but their latest novels had the same publication date and this combined with their personal friendship saw them do a few publicity events together, this being one of them. I wish them both every success with their latest novels.

To find out more about Natasha Lester’s latest novel, Her Mother’s Secret, click here. For more information on Sara Foster’s latest book, The Hidden Hours, click here. Both links will take you to the respective author’s website where you can find information on buying the novels as well as the authors’ other stories.