Getting back into the Rhythm

This year has been particularly hard so far. We’ve already lost one lovely lady, Shelagh Palmer, and last week we helped celebrate the life of Roger Paul. Both great friends, and both will be hugely missed.

Still, life has to go on.

I was struck yesterday by a blog post by Harry Bingham. It makes depressing reading for anyone involved in writing (not, however, publishers, if you read through it). I do have a lot of work on just now, with three speaking engagements on Wednesday/Thursday, a book to write, and planning/plotting for other books too. And of course as soon as things got busy, I had the proofs arrive on my desk. Someone forgot to mention they were being posted. And to learn that I have two weeks only to read, absorb, correct and comment is not ideal.

South Tawton church looming over the village!

South Tawton church looming over the village!

But as you can see from Harry’s blog, writers have much more to do now than merely write. I am now having to commit a day a week just to publicise my books. Publishers don’t do marketing for the mid-list any more. Tight budgets are carefully hoarded and paid out to advertise the authors who have been paid the most.

This isn’t a complaint. It’s just the way of publishing right now. However, it does mean that authors have to refocus their efforts. In the past the whole of our working days were spent simply writing. That was how I used to write three books in a year. Solid, concentrated effort, but with a solid result. Now we have to market, sell and work hard at pushing our books.

It’s interesting. Before, we used to write and go to occasional events. Libraries were always good, because they would pay a small fee and expenses – but the library budgets are really tight now. I had to refuse to go to one last week, because although they wanted me, it would have cost me too much money to go. They couldn’t reimburse my costs. I used to go to lots of festivals – but they all expect publishers to pay for travel and other expenses, and don’t pay anything as a fee. Well, I can’t afford that sort of gig, I’m afraid.

The problem is, for most authors (me included), while we know that marketing is important, it’s difficult to figure out what is the best way to get your name out there. Personally, I’ve never had much involvement with the press and don’t have contacts there. However, I have built up a lot of friends on Twitter (waves), which has been the single most mentally refreshing and rewarding thing I’ve managed in some years.

However, Twitter alone won’t hack it. I need more. So I’m building my portfolio of alternatives. Each of them will, hopefully, mean that my name gets a little more of an outing.

I am going back to painting again, and have been lucky enough to have had several commissions. With luck I’ll soon have a series of pictures that I can copy and sell as cards or large prints. They’ll help keep me (moderately) sane, with luck. I’m also working with festivals to create some new events, and I’m going to build up my speaking engagements. They’re always good fun, and I am lucky enough to have many positive comments from my after-dinner and lecture events. I am also working with a local pub (I would, wouldn’t I) which will sell my books and also potentially open a new option: giving local talks and possibly workshops on writing. That will be fun!

Painting: Triple Row at Cawsand Beacon

Painting: Triple Row at Cawsand Beacon

This year will be tough. Money is tight, and I have to write at least three books. I’m starting to understand how Paul Doherty felt when he was writing four a year! It’s not easy, but at least it keeps a roof over our heads.

So, the priority just now is to get a good rhythm going for the writing. My work involves a series of scenes, each of which tends to be about 1,000 words long. I can work through the ideas for a group of scenes and then write them at some speed, keeping up a momentum through a day. That results in one hour blocks of work, with 50 minutes of writing giving me about 1,000 words. I need a break for lunch (mainly for sanity’s sake) and then crack on with another scene. That way, I can write 5,000 words in a day without too much trouble. On good days I can get more done, and will regularly work at 7,000 words while drafting my first efforts. On the weeks when I hit the 20,000 or 25,000 words, the remainder of the week will be spent in marketing and other plans. That way, with luck, I’ll be able to get more writing done, but also more in the way of getting my name out there.

Now, with funerals and grim reality out of the way, that’s what I’m aiming for. I need to write at least 20,000 words a week to keep on track. Like I said, it’s going to be a tough year.

Wish me luck!


10 Responses to “Getting back into the Rhythm”
  1. cybaea says:

    Good luck!!
    (Now stop checking the internet :) )


  2. Good luck, Michael!


  3. Me Too says:

    Wishing you well and spirited writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laura. says:

    Good luck for all your endeavours this year. You should definitely put your paintings on cards, bookmarks and prints and sell them. I love seeing your paintings. I have a lot of admiration for anyone who can paint well with watercolours. Not an easy medium.


  5. Tonya Mathis says:

    I love your paintings. And of course all of your books. How much do your paintings sell for in US$? And if you did make them into cards, would they be a series? Blank inside? How much would they be? Just curious.


    • Hi, Tonya, and thanks for that. The pictures are all different, and the cost depends on the amount of time they took. A half-sheet, which is about 2 feet by one and a half, would work out to about £200 and up, a smaller one would be less. It’s just the time and materials I use really. I’m looking at making prints, which would work out a lot cheaper, and cards which would be a series of six or so, and should cost £2 each, but I’m still checking into the costs of printing etc. My view would be that they’d be blank inside. I would hope that people would like the picture and decide to use them. Hope that answers the question. Incidentally, because the dollar rate keeps changing, I have to quote in pounds Sterling. All best!


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