Saturday, 2 February 2013

A MIXED BAG OF THOUGHTS FOR THE BEGINNING OF 2013 - Pam Howes

Sorry I missed my January 2nd slot. Christmas and The New Year swamped me and I can only blame it on a senior moment, of which I have many as the years go by. So a belated Happy New Year to one and all. Let's hope it's healthy and successful for everyone. The main thing on my mind at the time of writing is the ongoing discussion on many Facebook writer groups about the use of social networking, mainly Twitter, to promote our work.

You may already have had people cover this subject so I'm not going to bore you with too many details, however I'd like some thoughts, please. Personally I have no objections whatsoever to seeing authors promoting their work. And why shouldn't they? They spend years slaving over their story, getting it just right, editing, choosing a cover design and then publishing via KDP and Smashwords. They are proud and want to tell the world. It's their baby, their blood, sweat and tears. Why the heck shouldn't they announce the long awaited birth by whichever method they deem fit for the purpose?

In the absence of agents and publicists, for the majority of us, we have a hard enough battle to entice the reader. Personally I'm sick and tired of the pompous who bleat about seeing author tweets etc. My advice is quite simple, ignore. I myself have found many great Indie authors thanks to Twitter. I'm an avid reader and constantly on the look out for something different. A lot of the authors I'm now hooked on would never have come to my attention if I hadn't seen their tweets. Okay, I know it's also good to interact and not constantly bombard people with "Buy My Book" promos; it can be done with more subtlety than that. On the other hand, I don’t want to see tweets from total strangers telling me "it’s raining in Swansea" or "I just had a bacon butty for my lunch!" I'd rather see a well structured tweet with an interesting topic. And I'll leave that subject there I think. Mrs Angry rant over, but I feel better for it!

I'm currently making decisions about where to take my wring career next. I have a new novel in my Rock'n'Roll Romance series due for publication around Easter Time this year. That'll be the Day, the fifth in the series, is the prequel to Three Steps to Heaven which was originally published in paperback in 2009 and as an Ebook in 2010. That very first book has done so well for me and sold thousands of copies, creating a knock on effect on the rest of the series, which have all featured on Amazon Best Seller Drama and Sagas lists at one time and another. However, I'm getting to a point in my life where I fancy a change. I'm thinking of enrolling on a script writing course sometime in the not too distant future. My writing has been compared to Stan Barstow, one of my all time heroes of kitchen sink drama and I'd love to learn to produce work like he and Paul Abbott and Jimmy McGovern. My style of writing is dialogue driven and may convert quite well to scripts. So I'm hoping to give it a try. Has anyone here done any script writing and if so can you recommend any courses. Either distance learning or college if in the Manchester area.
It's great writing a prequel as you go back and visit your characters at the start of their careers, in my case, a trio of young rockers who are determined to be the next Buddy Holly and The Crickets. I'm really enjoying tripping down Memory Lane with them and bringing their narrated back stories to life.

And as a finishing touch, I've recently done something I would never have dreamed of doing. I've shoved a book, kicking and screaming, into this year's ABNA. I'm not a competition enterer but there's first time for everything! Have a great month, hope it's not too cold where you live, and I'll see you on the flip-side. Pam. ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫

http://pamelahowes.weebly.com/blog.html

16 comments:

CallyPhillips said...

Hi Pam - as a screenwriter 'retired' I thought I should jump in here!
I was lucky enough to be mentored by Paul Abbott which led to my 2nd short film Outside In being produced on Granada. There's a Jimmy McGovern connection as well but it involves 'ghosts' and wasn't a salutory experience. On that score I'd basically suggest you DON'T try to 'write like' them. Unless you ARE them you still won't get the gigs!!! Screenwriting is a seriously dog eat dog business. I spent 10 years in it, making a living BUT only had 2 screened productions in all that time. So neither is it a place for people who like to have work finished! The ratio of writing to productions is crazily small and like all creative industries I'm afraid that cards are very heavily stacked in favour of the younger element who build careers and networks and then have a couple of years in the sun.
However, if you want to learn how to write for screen (and it's a technically very challenging but very satisfying skill to learn) I would always always recommend Phil Parker and The Writers Factory courses. Phil is the man behind a lot of the writing that rocks in this country and is a genuine guy who is interested in NARRATIVE and the making of good work not just in peddling the Hollywood dream. I could recommend anything endorsed by him most strongly. Google him and get hold of his book on screenwriting as a start DO NOT rely on Robert McKee!!!!
Now of course I'm giving you the opinion of a 10 year + jobbing but ultimately UNSUCCESSFUL screenwriter (I wouldn't call 2 credits in 10 years that success ful would you? - though in what other field of writing could you earn a living for 10 years and only PRODUCE 2 completed works!!!!) Perhaps you need to also take advice from the more SUCCESSFUL screenwriter in our group MR JAN NEEDLE. If you want to talk about screenwriting more I'm happy to email about it and my horror stories indefinitely!!!!
It's definitely not a rock and roll lifestyle though, let me tell you that!

David Rupprecht said...

I don't know how else indie authors would advertise if it weren't for social media. Especially for someone like me whose market is primarily half a world away from where I live. Recently read an article that dissuaded indie authors from using social media as a sales platform, and this seems almost a response to this. I understand that we need to engage with others on social media, but not using social media to make the public aware of my work would in essence mean it would remain unknown forever. Social media at least gives it a chance...

Chris Longmuir said...

I'm afraid I'm a bit reluctant to do the 'buy my book' tweets etc because I know when I see them I just skip over them and don't really read. But I suppose maybe they sink in due to osmosis and maybe I shouldn't be so reluctant to shout about my books!

Pam Howes said...

Thanks for the comments folks. Cally, yes that would be useful to have an email discussion with you. Many thanks. And David, this is in response to the article you are referring to. It just got my back up a little. I skip hundreds of tweets of banal chit-chat about the weather and dog walking and the latest way to fry cheese! To me it's boring and all a bit pointless unless a tweet is telling me something useful and maybe enticing me to try and buy. Chris you should shout about your books. Loud and clear. I'm always happy to re-tweet author posts when I see them. Have a great day. the sun is shining here and the sky is blue. Makes you feel good and full of life. Pam.

Debbie said...

I tried to teach myself script-writing a few years ago with the aid of a couple of books and some sample scripts. It was *much* harder than I thought it would be. :-) I went on to adapt a novel I'd written and subbed it to the BBC on a whim. Obviously rejected but the feedback was very good! But ultimately I don't think my writing suit scripts - it's too visual. I'll leave it to the experts in future but it was a good learning experience.

Phyllis Burton said...

Hi Pam, I enjoyed this blog and I agree with everything you said. I try to spend time on Twitter and when-ever I see someone overtly advertising their work, I'm with them every step of the way. As others have said, how else will we ever get our work known?
Phyllis

Eileen Thornton said...

Thank you, Pam for your comments about promoting your work on social networks. As you say it is really difficult to get your book noticed. I have recently started a group on facebook where you van add your books. Promte Your Book!! However, I want members to interact in a friendly manner and even buy each others books to help boost the ratings on Amazon.
There is no point in adding your book, and then going off, hoping someone is going to buy it, if you aren't prepared to look at other people's work.
I hope it works....

M. A. McRae said...

Some excellent points.

Prue Batten said...

Good post, Pam and well done on saying it like it is.
As the most adept and clever Tweetybird i know, the proof of the pudding is in your sales figures and rankings. I also admire your desire to push out your boundaries.
Goodluck with the next release: bound to be a best seller!

Reb MacRath said...

Very interesting post, Pam. I find myself tuning out more quickly from touts that do nothing but tout: Buy or download X. But if an author can hook or entice me in 140 characters, showing me a little of their mind at play, I'm usually willing to sample. Cheers.

John A. A. Logan said...

Hi Pam, any author who puts a photo of the great Stan Barstow in a blog can do no wrong in my eyes...
I love that trilogy of his, A Kind of Loving/Watchers on the Shore/The Right True End
"Keeping it natural" seems to be the principle in his work...
Alan Sillitoe in same vein.
From Dennis Potter, to Stephen Poliakoff, Uk script-writing isn't short of strong role models!
Yes, Twitter can lead to very interesting interactions...and enduring relationships with readers who often wouldn't have found our work any other way.

CallyPhillips said...

Will chat with you Pam! Just on a wee point of interest - people (novelists?) often refer to 'script writing' and it's not clear what they mean - if you are writing for the screen (film/tv) you are SCREENwriting. You are also 'scriptwriting' if you are writing a play - because it's a play. but the 'scripts' are totally different and the techniques required are also totally different. Radio scripts are another thing entirely. So, please, might I crave that things be named accurately. Learning to 'script write' is like suggesting that taking a course in poetry is going to give you all the skills you need to write a novel. Pedantic of me maybe, but screenwriting is a professional industry and there's nothing more likely to get your work never looked at than by referrring to it in a loose, inaccurate way when presenting it to the industry! BTW writing for TV is different to writing for films too... it's a very very particular world with a wide range of techniques which the writer has to learn! End of lecture.

As re the other part of the thread 0 and people being told what/how etc to tweet - I'm with those like Pam who want to tweet about books. No one likes BUY THIS I'M BRILLIANT BUT I engage with social media PRIMARILY to find out about my interests and I am interested in finding new reading material NOT in what little timmy ate for dinner! It's a big world, we are all entitled to use social media for whatever purposes we like and we all have the ability simply to ignore that which we don't like/aren't interested in. I'm sure many people have hidden my posts because I talk about books all the time, but then I've hidden loads of people (who may write great books!) because they witter on about all sorts of other things I'm not interested in. I try to keep my FB WRITERS page for book/work related stuff and keep the personal one for more personal stuff (unfortunately it's hard to contact people who LIKE you if they aren't FRIENDS as well.) But that's the vaguaries of FB which isn't designed AS WE'D LIKE IT (unless we pay them money to promote us!) As ever, if you aren't paying to play you have to find other means of getting your message across and some people won't like it. These platforms are open to all and we use them as we choose (and take the consequences!)

CallyPhillips said...

For anyone interested you can download a FREE screenplay of mine here http://callyphillips.wordpress.com/resources/free-stories/

for layout if nothing else. And you can compare it against stageplays (plenty of mine are available cheap on Amazon ebook)

I shall look through my old teaching stuff and see if I can whack up some useful things about screen/play writing if people are interested.

Pam Howes said...

Thanks to all who commented here. Lovely to read all your view points. Pam.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Hello, coming late to this, visitors all weekend and a belated Burns Supper (very dramatic rendering of Holy Willie's Prayer!) but I'd like to second what Cally says about scripts. I wrote for radio for many years, and in radio you at least get more productions - 100+ hours in my case -than in TV where, she's so right, you can make a living and do a lot of writing, years of it, but finish up with a couple of productions. Because I still work in theatre from time to time, I do the occasional talk or workshop on drama, and the groups that invite me seldom make any distinction. I always have to ask them what they want to learn - stage, film, television or radio. Although I've written for television I wouldn't consider that I knew enough about television or film to teach either. I can teach radio writing and theatre but television and film are so different and different from each other, too. Debbie, I'd have thought a visual imagination was exactly what you needed! The trick is in learning how to translate that into the various media. I think it's one of the reasons why some actors can do it so well, with film. They've learned it from the inside out. I'm thinking of something like Emma Thompson's wonderful script for Sense and Sensibility. She has such a love of the original work, coupled with such an excellent perception of what will work visually, and what the actors need.

mark williams international said...

I'd second Cally's thoughts entirely about screenwriting. It's hugely competitive and there is no equivalent of KDP for new writers to showcase their work.

But screenwriting (and script-writing for theatre) is great fun and can bring new dimensions to your novel-writing.

Rather than paying out for courses your best approach would be to take advantage of free screenplay samples like Cally's, or buy ebook versions of TV and film screenplays (TV an film are very different) and learn by example.

For my part, having started out in TV too many years ago to admit to, I write all my books with prospective screenplay adaptation in mind, visualising everything on screen as I write.

BTW, if you're thinking of carrying your musical tastes into screenplay bear in mind how much it would cost a production company for every copyright piece of music they used. Unlike novels, screenplays have huge associated costs and unless you;re a big name the production budget will play a major part in acceptance or rejection of a script.

Finally, if you subscribe to Writers News there's competitions and opportunities for new writers across all media.