Signed Book and Chocolate Giveaway

I’m running a signed book and chocolate giveaway over on Twitter here

Full Terms and conditions can be found here.

How To Get Published – Saturday October 30th – 10-11am

Venue: Rock Paper Scissors, Stour Street, Canterbury

Publish or Self Publish? That is the question that three Canterbury local authors will discuss, and at the same time offer insights for anyone thinking of taking the plunge or simply curious about the business of getting your book out there. 

Mark Stay, Raoul Morris, and GC Fisher, will spend a happy hour analysing the pros and cons of each path to getting your book to your readers.

Get your tickets here.

Rambling Thoughts on Writers and Mental Health

I recorded a few rambling thoughts about writers and their mental health on World Mental Health Day…

TRANSCRIPT

Hello folks, I’m recording this on World Mental Health Day, and this is something we talk a lot about on the Bestseller Experiment podcast, which is writers’ mental health, which is fragile at the best of times. And I honestly don’t really have any answers for you or anything like that. If you’re having serious problems then talk to a professional. Call The Samaritans, that sort of thing. But I can talk about it from my own perspective. And what’s helped me in the past because the thing is, it doesn’t really go away. It never really stops.

If you achieve any kind of success, you get different kinds of stresses. Certainly, if you’re starting out, it’s stressful because you might have a job and a family and all sorts of of things clamouring for your attention, making it difficult for you to write. And then there’s where you do get something published, either self published or hybrid traditionally. And it goes out there… (exhales)

And it can be… Not many people talk about this. It can be a bit of an anti climax, frankly. Because you’ve got to write the next one and the one after that. And it never really stops. And then… I get this all the time, which is you see other people doing well and you think, Why isn’t that me? What did they do to get that thing?

I’m sure people look at me and say, how come that flabby pasty git got a film or a book deal or whatever… But this is it, y’know, we’re all in it together. We are. I saw a thing the other day on a writers’ group I’m on where a couple of writers sort of turned each other. It’s heartbreaking to see that because we need to support each other.

I mean, if there is any big piece of advice for writers, I’d say find other writers. Find other writers because they understand you better than anyone else. I know a lot of people… Writers who, y’know, their family, frankly, don’t understand what they do, why they do it. So find other writers, find another group. I mean, we’ve got the Bestseller Experiment. We have a lovely group on Facebook.

We’ve got the Bestseller Academy, a lovely bunch of people there. We all… There is a very positive attitude there. We do lift each other up and console each other… (distant train horn) When our trains are late, that kind of thing. Seek out other writers. Seek me out if you want to drop me a line. I’ll do what I can do, but I’m not a doctor. Not a professional. Anyway, there was a point to all this… Well… Mental Health Awareness Day or whatever it is. We’re all aware that there are big mental problems. We talk about them more, which is a good thing. Perseverance is a thing. If you want the answer to how come that big pasty flabby git got so much of this, or that, or the other… it is perseverance.

I mean, I started writing seriously just before my daughter was born. She’s 21, nearly 22. And the number of times I could have stopped. Number times I could have given up. Number of times I could’ve said, nah, this is not for me. I’m not getting the success that I, y’know… this soon. Or not getting the success I want. But I love the writing. I think that’s the key for me.

I enjoy the process. I won’t pretend it’s always easy. Sometimes it’s really, really difficult. Sometimes there are days you need a break. Like today. Not doing any writing. Going for a walk, which I haven’t done for ages. Absolutely ages.

See this is a bit of a ramble. But anyway… Find other writers. Persevere. Keep at it. Take a break if you need one. But as Mr D says on our podcast, you know, the one guaranteed way to fail is to give up and… It’s understand in the face of: you publish a book, 25 people buy it. You get a stinky review. No one sees your movie. Now one reads your book. You’d be forgiven for giving up.

And if that makes you happy, then maybe that’s the way to go. But if, like me, you’re compelled to write, then you kind of have to. One of the first guests we had in the podcast was Joe Abercrombie, and he gave the best advice. He said that the longer you dance naked it in the rain, the more likely you are to be struck by lightning. And that is the best summation because it’s a crazy thing to do what we do.

It’s irrational, sometimes. It doesn’t make sense. Makes no financial sense.

But every now and then… Zap. It works. Anyway, like I said, this is a bit of a ramble while I’m rambling. I hope that helps. But happy writing. Keep writing. If you’re enjoying it. If it’s making you miserable, maybe it’s time to stop. But if you’re enjoying it, with all the rough and tumble that comes with it, keep writing. Happy writing.

And I’ll see you next time.

Come and see me in Conversation with BEN AARONOVITCH…

I’ll be in conversation with the amazing Ben Aaronovitch at Waterstones, Canterbury on Friday 29th October at 6:30pm. A splendid time is guaranteed for all, though space is limited so grab your tickets here now.

One of the many times Ben has “encouraged” me to write…

How Long Can You Write For? And When Should You Stop?

How much writing can you get done in a day before your brain starts to melt? I’ve picked up a few tips over the years that might help…

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello folks. We writers talk a lot about writing habits, writing every day or writing regularly. But let’s have a think about when to stop writing. Now, to be clear.

I don’t mean stopping altogether and jacking it in. I’m talking about how do you know when you’re done for the day? First drafts I could write all day and collapse in a heap. But I’ve discovered that my daily limit is about 2 hours. After that my poor little brain turns to soft fudge and it starts to leak out of my ears.

Either that or I’ve got an ear infection. Anyway, because my brain goes soft, the writing suffers. It’s just not as good as those first 2 hours. For edits, I find that it’s even more important to set myself limitations. Now I was really in the zone this morning, knocked out a little over a thousand words, which might not sound like much, but I’m editing and this was a whole new chunk that I was grafting on to the beginning of a chapter and it was my allotted task for that morning’s writing session.

I’ve left myself a note, you know, fix this by doing X, Y and Z… And I did it.

I was happy with it and I was so buoyed up that I just wanted to keep writing. But I stopped. Well, the truth is, I didn’t have much of a plan beyond my alotted task. I could have carried on, but I would have been blundering about with no idea what to do. And as I said, if this was a first draft I might have sat down and made some notes or maybe carried on writing blind. And that’s okay with the first draft, but when editing I like to stick to that plan. I’ve been through the book, I’ve made tons of notes, done my edit triage, figured out what needs fixing and I’m tackling those tasks one at a time. Have a look at some of my earlier videos on how I prepare for an edit in more detail. So for the next few days I’m focused on one particular character.

After that I’ll switch to the next problem on the list because when editing, the temptation is to try and fix everything at once and then you end up making a right old mess, and there’s a chance you can do more harm than good. So when editing, make a plan and stick to it. One fix at a time. The other thing I do at the end of a edit session is make a few notes for tomorrow’s session. So here… Just 50 words.

I’ve told myself I need to change the POV in the next chapter, and I’ve reminded myself of the changes I’ve made and what consequences they will have. Better to do that when it’s fresh rather than tomorrow morning where I might sit at my desk — and it’s 7:30 in the morning, don’t forget — and wonder just what the blimmin’ heck I’m supposed to do. On weeks like this, it’s also important to set limitations because I’m working on two projects simultaneously. Not ideal. But it happens.

One is the next Woodville books edit. The other is the second draft of a screenplay. They are sufficiently different for me to separate them in my mind, but also having alotted time and tasks really helps, as does having a bit of time between them. I’m lucky enough to work from home. So it’s those between times that I get bits of housework done, which also gets me off my bottom.

Very important for a writer. So that’s just what works for me. Have you discovered your writing session limits yet? Pop something in the comments below. Of course, you might be like Chet Cunningham.

I was reading about this legend the other day, from the publication of his first book in 1968 to his passing in 2017 at the age of 88, Chester Cunningham had something like 350 books published. Westerns, adventure novels, military thrillers. He also cowrote the “Penetrator” books under the pseudonym Lionel Derrick. This is what sent me down this rabbit hole. I saw the covers on the Pulp Librarian Twitter feed, and they are extraordinary. Chet comes from that pulp tradition where a writer was expected to knock out a thrilling adventure weeks, if not days.

I think at one point he was doing one Western per month. Why the hell not? And here’s the thing. Chet never stopped. Here’s a quote from the FAQs on his website when asked about Writer’s Block, he says, “I came from a newspaper background. When the editor assigns you a story, you write it now. No ifs, buts, or I-don’t-feel-like-writing-today. I usually write from eight to 10 hours a day when I’m a roll on a book. Researching is another thing.”

And then he was asked about Writer’s Block. Do you ever get Writer’s block? He said, “I never use the term. I don’t believe it exists. Ever heard of a Carpenter not going to work because he has Carpenters Block?

If a writer can’t write it’s because he doesn’t really want to, he isn’t ready to get it on paper. Or he’s just plain lazy. There’s no such thing as writer’s block only writer-dumb-dumb-dumb.” Well, Chet, we may disagree on that, but I salute you. Me.

I’m going to have a cup of tea. Until the next time, folks. Happy writing.

How Many Characters is Too Many?

How many point-of-view characters is too many for your story? I was watching the Indiana Jones movies and it got me thinking… and helped me with the next draft of my novel.

TRANSCRIPT

Hello, folks. I’ve been rewatching these beauties. Three brilliant films and a fourth one… Actually, to be fair, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t as bad as you might remember. Certainly when I was rewatching it today, I really enjoyed the first half and began to wonder if I’d been too harsh on it when it came out. Then in the second half it all started to unravel and the ending really was just not satisfying. And of course, with my writer hat on — not a Fedora — I started to wonder why. Now, first of all, let me make it clear: this is not going to be a hatchet job on screenwriter David Koepp. A man I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing for the Bestseller Experiment Podcast. I’ll put a link to that episode in the description below (here’s the link). He is a genuinely delightful chap whose skill as a storyteller is beyond dispute.

Also, film production can be a crazy time, especially with a big franchise movie with colossal expectations. I don’t envy anyone having to work under those kind of time constraints and those levels of expectations and scrutiny. And we simply cannot know what was asked of a writer while in production. Screenwriters are not the authors of a the movie. There are only one voice among many trying to tell a story, and with so many cooks it’s no wonder that sometimes the soup ends up with the sheep’s eyeballs in it. Also, also… I’m rereading the first draft of my next novel and guess what? I’m making exactly the same mistake. Only I have the luxury of time to recognise it and fix it. So what’s the problem with this and many other stories? Before we go on: just a warning that there will be spoilers not only for Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but all the Indiana Jones movies so far. And if you’re watching this in the future and wondering why I’m not talking about the fifth movie, that’s because it’s still in production.

So what exactly is the problem of Crystal Skull? People have pointed the finger at the Nuking the Fridge sequence, the monkeys in the Amazon, indeed that whole chase sequence has a CG gloss to it that when contrasted with truck chase in the first film lacks any sense of verisimilitude or stakes. But the Indy sequels have always had visual effects and SFX that look iffy. I mean, think of the airship/biplane sequence in The Last Crusade, or the action sequences that are a bit silly like the flying inflatable life raft in Temple of Doom. And I don’t have a problem with inter-dimensional aliens.

They’re no more outlandish than the other maguffins in the series, so I don’t think it’s anything to do with those things.

There came a moment at the end of the film when there’s all sort of stuff whizzing around and things are collapsing and John Williams is bringing everything to a resounding crescendo.

And I know I should be thrilled. But… I’m bored. And our heroes are standing there watching things whizz around them and not really doing very much. And then they run. We have a succession of resolution story beats that are meant to have some kind of emotional resonance. So Oxley coming to his sense, Mutt accepting Indy as his father, Mac’s death, Spalko getting the knowledge she craves and paying the price for it.

And Marion and Indy tying the knot. So, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 threads there. That’s a lot even for a two hour movie. The previous three films all had fairly simple story arcs. In Raiders, Indy had to learn to understand the power of the Ark. At the beginning, he’s dismissing it as superstitious nonsense. By the end he’s screaming at Marion to keep her eyes shut, and that saves both their lives. By the way, ignore all that Big Bang Theory nonsense about Indy not having any influence on the outcome of the story.

It completely misses the point. The film isn’t about finding the Ark, it’s about a grave robber rediscovering his faith.

So, in Temple of Doom, Indy has to learn that the artefacts he obtains have a greater value than being stuck in a Museum. “Fortune and glory kid.” And in the Last Crusade, it’s a story of father/son reconciliation. Simple. In Crystal Skull… You get the father/son thing again. Indy and Marion again. Oxley, the old mentor. Mac, the friend who turns traitor, something about cherishing knowledge at the end…

There’s so much being thrown at the viewer, that they don’t know what to latch on to and so disengaged with the story. There are so many threads to wrap up, but none of them are done satisfactorily. So the problem with Crystal Skull is too many characters… Okay, that’s reductive. They’re have been many stories that have oodles of characters and do just fine. Look at the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but that’s why it needed a 15 endings to wrap everything up as satisfactory– satifact– satisfactorally… I can’t even say it! People make jokes about it, but if any of those endings had been missing, the very same armchair critics would be complaining about that. Also, that epic trilogy had plenty of room for those characters to develop. Imagine cramming all of that into 2 hours. As an aside, I’ve been reading Joe Abercormbie’s new trilogy. And I’m halfway through and this series has about six point of view characters, but already I can tell that Joe is giving himself, and them, the room he needs to tell their stories properly. The more point of view characters you have, the bigger your story is going to be.

But you know, with some stories you just need to take one character on a journey of change. There’s no shame in keeping it simple. Done well, it can be the best thing ever. And as I said, I’ve made the same mistake on the first draft of my next Woodville book. I’ve been so seduced by the excitement of bringing in new characters that I’ve been ignoring my regulars.

It’s a really easy trap to fall into. A new character brings energy to a story. It’s great story fuel, and you can keep the reader and viewer engaged. But if that character isn’t given the room to grow in the story, then it becomes noise and fury amounting to not very much, actually. So, one of my next jobs on the next draft is to focus in on the most compelling threads. Two or three at most and make sure they have the most satisfying arcs and resolutions. A doddle. What could possibly go wrong? Stay tuned for more updates as I plunge into this edit. During the meanwhilst, happy writing!

My Big Tip for Screenwriters Worried About Formatting

Here’s my big tip for screenwriters who are starting out and are worried about correct formatting…

Links: Highland 2: https://quoteunquoteapps.com/highland-2/

Slugline: https://slugline.co

Fade-In: https://www.fadeinpro.com

Scrivener: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/sc…

Trelby: https://www.trelby.org

Scriptnotes Podcast: https://johnaugust.com/scriptnotes

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello, folks, let’s talk about screenplay formatting. There’s an awful lot of hooey online about screenplay formatting and it can be extremely off putting for the debut screenwriter.

“Don’t make any slug lines bold.”

“No, *do* make your slug lines bold.”

“Don’t include camera directions”.

“Don’t put direction in parentheticals.”

“Don’t add musical cues.”

“And will the words “we see” get me put into movie jail, where I shall rot for the rest of my life?!”

Well, I’ve managed to break all of these so called rules on pretty much every script I’ve written, most of them on my next film, which is out next year and it hasn’t really done me any harm. If you want to learn about screenwriting and formatting, here’s the thing: read. Read as many screenplays as you can get your hands on. And here is the good news. There are millions of the blimming things, all available for free from legitimate sources. I’ll always point people to the BBC’s Writers’ Room, which has a ton of scripts that you can download completely free of charge.

And when it’s awards season time, you’ll see fresh batches sent out by the studios for Academy voters to read. And you can read them too. Follow me on social media as I’ll always share and RT the links.

But why? you say. Why should I read scripts when I could be writing? Because the more you read, the more you realise there are no rules, merely guidelines. The differences between a Wed Anderson script, a Pixar animation, a Coen Brothers movie, a Marvel movie will be noticeable even to the first time reader.

One little tip, try and read as much stuff as you can that was produced in the last few years. Formatting and style is constantly evolving. A lot of screenplay, books and courses point to scripts like James Cameron’s script for Aliens, Callie Khouri’s Thelma and Louise. And while these are brilliant scripts, these are old movies and as such the formatting is a bit old hat.

And don’t ever stop reading. You will always be discovering new ways to liven up your screenplay. So if the formatting of all these great screenplays can be so different, what’s the common element underlines the all? Clarity. They’re all trying to play a movie in the reader’s head. And here’s what few beginner screenwriters realise: the script you’re writing now isn’t the one that will be filmed. It’s basically a sales document.

It will be read by development execs, producers, agents, the kinds of people who try and help you get it made. And, as such, you need to make that movie spring off the page and into their brains. And to do that, yes, you sometimes have to tell the reader where you’re pointing the camera, or how an actor should say a particular line, or that “we see” someone do something totally pivotal to the plot that might otherwise be missed. Once you go into production, a director, producer, designers, actors all get involved with the script, then changes and decisions will be made about camera angles, music, line delivery, etc.

It will evolve because film is collaborative. It is now their movie is much as it is yours. Don’t go into the movies if you want total authorial control.

That’s why I love writing novels between screenplays. The more you read and the more you write screenplays, you’ll start to develop your own style. And as for formatting, to start with… don’t bother. Here’s a first draft of the screenplay I finished just the other day. I’ll hold it far away so you can’t actually read it. Lots of spoilers.

It’s all hand-written, baby. No formatting. Why? I’ve been finding that formatting just gets in the way of my creativity. I just grab a pen and paper and use that hotline from my brain to the page. It’s something I’ve been doing a lot this year and it’s really working for me. Then I type it up in my screenwriting software.

I’m currently using either Highland 2, or Slugline, which are both designed for the Mac. Nice and clean, very simple to use. They do 99% of the formatting automatically. I would also recommend Fade-In. Scrivener has a pretty good screenplay option and I hear good things from my Windows PC friends about Trelby. I’ll put links to these in the description below.

Whatever you do, don’t rush out and buy Final Draft. People will go on and on about them being the industry standard, but it’s expensive and top heavy with the kinds of bells and whistles you don’t actually need until you go into production. Then Final Draft comes into its own for budgeting, scheduling and revisions, but you don’t need to worry about any of that quite yet. So if you’re starting out, I hope that sets your mind at ease. There are no arcane rituals or rules that must be slavishly followed.

There is no miracle software that will turn you into William Goldman or Nora Ephron.

What you need to do is write an incredible, compelling story with characters, action and dialogue that is out of this world. Yes. A doddle. Oh, and I highly recommend the Scriptnotes podcast. Brilliant advice from John August and Craig Mazin and their many guests who are actual working screenwriters and really know how all this stuff works.

So get going. Until next time. Happy writing.

Read the opening of BABES IN THE WOOD now

You can read the first three chapters of my forthcoming book BABES IN THE WOOD right now.

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello, folks, all sorts of good news to impart today. First off, if you want to read the thrilling opening chapters to my new book, Babes in the Wood, you can get it right now by joining the Woodville Village Library and downloading this chapter sampler, which also features an exclusive introduction from Woodville Village head librarian, Araminta Cranberry. Available nowhere else! The Woodville Village Library newsletter is for all things to do with the Witches of Woodville books. Sign up and you get all kinds of free and exclusive goodies.

The opening chapter to Babes in the Wood. The short story collection, the Miss Charlotte quartet, recipes for jam roly poly and much, much more and more to come in the future. Araminta sends emails out about once a month and she royally takes the mickey out of me. So what more incentive do you need? Go to: WitchesOfWoodville.com click on the library tab, sign up and Bob is your proverbial uncle.

Oh, and if you’re bookseller or a blogger and have access to Netgalley, you can read the whole of Babes in the Wood now as an uncorrected proof. Just sign in to Netgalley and do the necessary.

I’ve got some exciting events news. A real life book event. I know, though, it’s not actually one of mine. But! I’m going to be in conversation with the mighty Joe Abercrombie at Waterstones Picadilly to celebrate the launch of his new book, The Wisdom of Crowds, the final book in the Age of Madness trilogy. Joe is an amazing writer and a top bloke, and the conversation will be as lively as you would expect. And a splendid time is guaranteed for all, though space is limited, so grab your tickets now.

We’re on Friday 17th September at seven pm, Waterstones Piccadilly.

Stay tuned for more news about a charity short story anthology featuring some amazing authors… and me. And I might… I might even have some movie news soon. Anyway, what are you doing listening to me? Download the Free Babes in the Wood Chapter Sampler. Sign up to the newsletter. Happy reading. Happy writing. See you very soon.

BABES IN THE WOOD

July, 1940

Fleeing the Nazi blitzkrieg, a trio of Kindertransport children come to stay with Lady Aston at Hayward Lodge in Woodville. Their arrival triggers a murder mystery involving a magic apple tree, modern art, a U-boat, and a demonic hound. Faye Bright must play nanny to the terrified children while gathering clues to uncover the dark magic that threatens to change the course of the war.

For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett comes the second novel in this delightful trilogy of war, mystery and a little bit of magic . . .

Praise for The Crow Folk

‘Swept me straight back to days of losing myself in Diana Wynne Jones novels, and getting lost in truly absorbing, sometimes scary, sometimes emotive adventure with its roots in folklore and history. A story that is full of magic and delight that will thrill readers of any age’Rowan Coleman, author of The Girl at the Window

‘Stay has brewed a cracking blend of charm and creepiness in The Crow Folk. A rip-roaring tale of bravery and witchcraft on the wartime home front, expertly told with lashings of wit and warmth’Pernille Hughes, author of Probably the Best Kiss in the World  ?

 ‘A delightful mash-up of Dad’s Army and Charmed. An absolute treat’CK McDonnell, author of Stranger Times

‘Warm, witty, witchy wartime fun. With Mark Stay as writer you’re always guaranteed a magical read’Julie Wassmer, author of the Whitstable Pearl Mysteries

‘You’ll love it: Doctor Who meets Worzel GummidgeLorna Cook, author of The Forgotten Village

‘A jolly romp with witches, demons, and bellringing. Pratchett fans will enjoy this, and Faye is a feisty and fun hero. Dad’s Army meets Witches of EastwickIan W Sainsbury

PRE-ORDER BABES IN THE WOOD FROM YOUR PREFERRED RETAILER HERE.

Ten Questions

I was asked ten questions by the author JS Clerk on writing, agents, perspective, voice, the Bestseller Experiment podcast, and all that good stuff. And here are my answers…

You can see more of JS Clerk’s interviews here.

TRANSCRIPT:

  1. Did you always want to be an author? What were your favourite books from your childhood? 

I always wanted to make things up. Play-acting. I think that’s what a lot of creativity is. Make believe. We didn’t have many books in the home, but we went every week to the library. The Star Wars novelisation was a gateway drug to science fiction. And then it was Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat, and then Douglas Adams, and then Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin.

I was probably also the only kid who regularly checked out books on what to do in a nuclear war. It was the early 80s and it was disturbing. 

2) Do you have an agent? What was your route into the publishing industry?

I have had many agents. I currently have two: Ed Wilson for books, Matt Dench for scripts. My road into the industry was a temporary Christmas job at Waterstones in Dorking. That was when Tim Waterstone ran the company and insisted that everyone who worked there had a degree. I didn’t. Shh. Don’t tell anyone. 

3) Do you write full time? If so, what was your lifebefore turning to writing? 

I do write full time, very lucky to be able to do that.

I worked in bookselling publishing for over twenty five years, as a bookseller at Waterstones, then a sales rep for a couple of publishers, and then looking after Amazon for Orion. 

4) Which perspective/character voice is your favourite to read? 

Not sure I have one, so long as the voice feels honest and true and suits the story. I’m not someone who gets their knickers in a twist if I see something in first person, present tense, or second person. “You open the door, you see a dragon.” Just tell me your story in your voice. That’s the most important thing. 

5) Which perspective/character voice is your favourite to write? 

I like writing in a fairly close third person. I love the present tense dynamism of screenplays, too, which is two very different ways of telling a story. I did write a children’s book, still unpublished, in third person, and then completely rewrote it all in first person, which was fun. Still hasn’t been published, though. 

6) How do you judge a book? Is it by the cover, or the authors writing style? 

That’s two things there, really. I mean, the cover is what draws you in and makes you want to pick the thing up, and I am a sucker for a great cover, which is why I’m blessed with the covers I’ve got from the wonderful Harry Goldhawk.

The author’s writing style will ultimately be what you judge a story by, I guess. I mean, I don’t like to get too judgey, as long as it’s written truthfully and you don’t bore the reader. I think it’s healthy for an author to live in fear of boring the reader. 

7) For the unpublished author, do you have any advice on querying agents for publication? How does an author know when their manuscript is ready? 

Agents ask two questions: Do I love it? Can I sell it? And if you can answer both those, you’re fine. Finding the right agent is like dating. Only the odds are more stacked against you.

Just persist and remind yourself of how many times people have been rejected before finding success. Persistence is so important in this business and I really, really, really mean that. In my case we’re talking decades of persistence. You really have to want this. As for querying, keep it short, sweet and honest and be patient. Especially now. Agents are still playing catch up after lockdown and there’s no magic combination of words that will get you repped in a covering letter.

It’s all about your writing. And when is it ready? It’s ready when you feel you could give it to anyone to read. Your worst enemy. Truthfully, that day may never come. So don’t go chasing perfection because it doesn’t exist. Get it as good as you can possibly make it. I know my stuff is ready when I go word blind. I can’t tell good from bad anymore. Then I send it to beta readers and get some feedback and perspective.

8) How did the concept for the Bestseller Experiment come about? How did you develop the concept?

The Bestseller Experiment came about… I’d written a movie called Robot Overlords and did the tie-in novelisation as well, and a guy I knew… We didn’t go to the same school, but we went to schools in the same area, had lots of mutual friends… a guy called Mark Desvaux got in touch. And he said, this is amazing, you’ve written a book, you’ve written a film. He said he’d always tried to write a novel, but he never got beyond 20,000 words. And we got talking.

One thing led to another. We both both have very similar interests, both like podcasts. So we challenged ourselves to co-write write a novel and get it self-published and top some Amazon charts within 12 months. But the important thing was that we asked our listeners to beat us to it. We said to people, if you’ve got a half-written book in a drawer or you’ve got something that’s been sitting in your trunk for years… Get it out, dust it off, polish it.  Listen to the guests that we have on the podcast.

And we’ve had people like Sarah Pinborough, Joe Hill, Joanne Harris, major best selling authors, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin giving fantastic, fantastic writing advice… And beat us to it. And the great thing is loads of them did. I can show you. I’ll show you now. Hang on. See the shelf here. These are all the people that have listened to the podcast and, because of some advice they heard on the podcast, they got published. And that’s the best thing we… that ever could have come … Just the fact that all these people have managed to get their books out there because of something they heard on the podcast is… It’s just amazing to me.

And it’s why we keep going. We’re nearly five years old now. Five years old in October of 2021. 

8) On the podcast, how do you plan your interview approaches?

For interviews, I usually have five or so bullet points, which is good for 20 minutes, we have a really good idea of what our listeners want. So they like writing habits, writing tips, that sort of thing. I try not to get too hung up on sticking to the list. It’s important to listen. Your guest will take you to places you never imagined if you let them.

10) I find that specific pieces of music help me to engage with my characters. Do you listen to music when you write? Do you have a favourite band or artist that you enjoy? 

I used to listen to music a lot, I used to have specific playlists. I’m too old now. I need silence. I wrote Back to Reality with Disney Pixar scores and the score to La La Land. The End of Magic I wrote mostly with Jeremy Soule’s score for Skyrim, which was handy. Robot Overlords, I wrote largely to Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack. And when I hear those now, they make me think of those books, which is a lovely thing. But yeah, at my age I need the sound of silence.

Get a FREE BADGE when you pre-order Babes in the Wood from Coles Books

Spiffing news. Simply pre-order a copy of my new book Babes in the Wood from Coles Books, and you will receive an exclusive free badge and a signed bookplate copy of the paperback.

Pre-Order Here: https://coles-books.co.uk/babes-in-the-wood-the-witches-of-woodville-2-by-mark-stay-signed-paperback-edition

THERE’S MORE ON THIS YOUTUBULAR VIDEOGRAM…

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Hello, old chap. What’s that on your uniform? Why, that’s a Woodville Village. Badge. How simply spiffing. You look quite the dandy. Where can I get one of those? What’s that? One simply pre-orders “Babes in the Wood” from Coles Books for an exclusive badge and a signed bookplate by visiting Coles-Books.co.uk. Jolly good. Where to now? Oh, you have to pop off to defend this Sceptred Isle from the Nazi hordes. Actually, I was going to the pub…

Babes in the Wood coming Halloween 2021.

Don’t be a Nazi. Pre-order now.