A question we wanted to know the answer to! Inspiration for writing comes in many different forms, as does advice on every aspect of the writing process. We sat down with several authors published by Spiderwize and picked their brains to see if we could work out the answer...
Book Printing UK sat down with several Spiderwize authors to discuss finding inspiration, addressing writer’s block, and the route taken when self-publishing. In the hot seat, in alphabetical order:
Bryen Gaskell, author of The Bread & the Wine Elisabeth Thompson, author of Forgiving Thyme Graham Martin Johnson, author of Any Old Iron Les Puttock, author ofA Desire For Vengeance Libby Andrews, author of Fear Maddie Andrews, author of The Outcasts Martin Wild, author of Twice Time Telling Peter Caton, author of Josh: Hero
Let’s see what they had to say!
What inspired you to start writing?
Elisabeth Thompson: My mother. Towards the end of her life she was house-bound and read several library books a week [...] I was determined to write something for her.
Libby Andrews: I remember the days building up to when I finally decided to write this book. I wanted to tell the story of these three cubs growing up and going separate ways in life. So before I decided to start writing I decided to plan and look for some inspiration. I sat there watching as many animal related movies as possible. I then went on to read lots of books to give me some inspiration. I even found inspiration in songs when I looked at the lyrics. You can pretty much find inspiration in everything.
Maddie Andrews: Probably when watching lots of films, my imagination works overtime. I love reading and films give me so much inspiration; I can lose myself in a good film.
Graham Martin Johnson: Two lads (who had not communicated with each other) said to me that the stories I told may be of interest and amusement to others and that I should seriously think about putting pen to paper. So this I did.
Peter Caton: Family members asked me to put into print a bedtime story from long ago.
Bryen Gaskell: I have wanted to write a book from the age of twelve years old, but I never could understand what verbs, nouns, and adjectives were, or where commas and all the other stuff went. After many years of having to write technical manuals, a casual conversation with our family doctor was the trigger.
Les Puttock: I have always had a desire to be a writer and must have planned hundred of novels and short stories in my mind over the years. However, it was only relatively recently that I put pen to paper. I started to read even more than I had before, immersing myself in the works of Wilbur Smith, Frederick Forsyth, and many others. Before long, I had exhausted the supply of adventure novels in my little local library. Left for a weekend without something to read, I began to write my own.
How long did your manuscript take to complete?
Elisabeth Thompson:Forgiving Thyme took me about a year to complete.
Maddie Andrews: Probably a couple of months or so, because I started writing then I would stop for a while then carry on again.
Bryen Gaskell: This particular manuscript took about one year to write.
Libby Andrews: I originally started to write Fear almost five years ago. It was about 30 pages long [...] over the years I began to develop the plot more and add unique characteristics to the main characters.
Peter Caton: About two years. I juggled writing with my employment, so I did ten minutes here, an hour there, and had no deadline. I simply enjoyed creating a story in my own time without the pressure.
Les Puttock: I began my first attempt in September 2009. It was going to be a short story about two work colleagues whose friendship develops into romance over a lunchtime picnic in the park. Once I had completed that, I wondered what might happen to them next. Soon the short story had a sequel. Then, somehow, a sinister character appeared and those two short stories turned into the first chapters of a spy novel, Retiarius. Then, in trying to give my female protagonist a shady past, the flashback chapters that were supposed to form part of Retiarius took on a life of their own and became a full-length novel, Operation Cevapi. Once again, some scenes were to be told in retrospect by the heroine during a hostile debriefing. I got sidetracked and developed the tale of what happened when my protagonist disobeyed orders and contacted her sister. So, one whole book and 80% of two others were developed concurrently over about five years.
Did you suffer from writer’s block? If so, what advice do you have for other authors who are struggling?
Libby Andrews: I would sit there in my seat knowing what I wanted to write but not knowing how to write it. I usually find that when I hit around 30-40 pages then the writer’s block kicks in. However just because you have writer’s block doesn’t mean it’s always the end of your book. Sometimes it’s good to leave it for a few weeks or even months then return back to it with some fresh ideas. I also find that it helps to listen to some music or watch a film, maybe even read a book to understand how you’re going to write yours. As I’m going to bed I just think to myself how I would describe that moment in my book and sometimes I have to get my note book out to write the ideas down, actually I do that a lot. Most of the time I find that I suffer from writer’s block because I have not planned out the book enough so it’s good to look back on your plan. As long as you have a good plan, characters and plot, then I wish you the very best with your story!
Les Puttock: Yes. I am sure everyone suffers from writer’s block at some time. When it happens to me I re-read chapters already written, often making changes to the sentence structure or the order in which information is disclosed. I find that gets my mind back into the story and inspires me to continue. If that doesn’t work, I might do some more research and gather more information and ideas. If all else fails, I take a break and find another book to read.
Bryen Gaskell: For me it means I am doing too much writing and research, so I just take a break. My wife and I will go out for the day have a rest and just pass the time in general fellowship; this with some good, strong coffee has served well thus far.
Elisabeth Thompson: I am not often lost for words but if I get stuck on a chapter, I leave the computer and go people watching in town. It’s amazing how much dialogue you can glean from a supermarket queue.
Peter Caton: I would say to others: if you're blocked, don't panic! Make use of the time, change gear, enjoy the time off from writing intensely, and trust your inner creative skills to come up with something when you're ready. Writing, like driving, cannot be spent always in the fast lane!
Martin Wild: Yes, most certainly. When I sat to write, I would settle myself emotionally and spiritually for a few minutes and then take up pen and paper. I would have read over the text and also reference other resources. I would then write spontaneously allowing the words to flow onto the page. If I got stuck I would wait for a few more minutes, occasionally back tracking or starting over. If, however, I could not settle to the piece I would pack away and come back again later in the day or the following days until the material found its form [...] I was either in the right frame of mind to write or wasn't.
Do you wish you had to start to write sooner in life?
Peter Caton: Yes. Circumstances were different then, and my 'success' as a writer would have probably been different, too. But would that earlier writing have crushed other important successes I achieved? On reflection, my skill and enjoyment in writing creatively came later in life and I have no regrets there.
Libby Andrews: I always had a passion for writing as I was growing up, it felt like it was in my blood. I remember when I was in primary school I made this silly little book made out of scrap paper and showed the teacher. She seemed to be impressed for some strange reason and made me show the head teacher and after a few nervous moments she reviled she loved it. I ended up having to show the book to everyone in assembly, and for some strange reason I remember everyone was holding bags of dry pasta and spaghetti. As everyone held firmly to their pasta, the head teacher suddenly remembered my book and made me stand up in front of everyone to show it off. It was really embarrassing but at the same time it was a really proud moment and it define me from the other kids; it made the writer inside of me shine.
Les Puttock: Very much so, but you can’t go back and change the past.
Bryen Gaskell: Yes, yes, yes. I certainly do.
Do you have any tips or advice for any other authors out there wanting to self-publish?
Maddie Andrews: Just do it. If you get an idea and write a story, and if you want it published, don't worry, just do it, and give it to a company. See what they say and get it published. Don't just sit there and hope it magically gets published by itself. To see your words in a book and others to read it is amazing, and having the opportunity to share your adventures and characters you have created with others is just special. Anything is possible follow your dreams.
Peter Caton: Search until you've found a reputable company that rings true when you deal with them and gives you great value and product for your money. Be prepared to work hard at your end to 'sell' your book. If you're not excited about your work, how do you expect others to be thrilled with it?
Martin Wild: Go for it. It’s fun, satisfying, and stimulating.
Libby Andrews: I remember when I was thinking of self-publishing my book, I had no idea which company to choice until my mum handed me this flyer about Spiderwize. At first I thought they were going to be really serious, but after a friendly conversation on the phone I realised how kind they were. The company doesn’t have to be big and well known for your book to do well; Spiderwize proved that to me. As long as you advertise your book right and get good reviews, then that’s what gets you sales, and if you have a lot of friends to spread the news about your upcoming book too. Sometimes it helps if the company is local so you can pop in to see them personally and discuss the book. Although self-publishing can be scary, don’t be afraid to ask question such as ‘how you’re going to get paid’ or ‘how to get reviews’. If you don’t ask questions then the book might not turn out as great as you imagined.
Graham Martin Johnson: It can be very strong going, frustrating and yet at the same time, educational and very enjoyable. Determination is paramount, even when difficulties in the writing or even finding the time occur.
Les Puttock: Undoubtedly, self-publishing is the way to go. Mainstream publishers are loath to take the risk of publishing anything from unknown authors. Several that I researched will not even accept manuscripts or applications direct from writers – only via. established literary agents. Self-publishing need not be expensive, you can upload an eBook to Amazon Kindle or Kobo for free. However, if like me, you have a real desire to see one of your books with your name on it on your own bookshelf, then this can be achieved for a relatively small outlay.
Elisabeth Thompson: Just write that book. Don’t waste time trying to find an agent. Contact Spiderwize.
How did you find the process of self-publishing with Spiderwize?
Graham Martin Johnson:Spiderwize were excellent. Having never read a book other than one or perhaps two as a very young juvenile I had absolutely no idea how to get started. Spiderwize were so patient, the outcome of the book I could not fault, and to think... Me... I’d written a book... Of course it was edited which was a dream when it came out; the editing was absolutely top drawer.
Martin Wild: Pretty simple, understandable and also quite quick. I have been delighted with the end result and can still hardly believe I have a book on my shelf with my own name on it!
Elisabeth Thompson: The whole process was effortless and my money well-spent. The team are professional and helpful. They are patient with mistakes and make the transition from editing to edition a pleasure.
Maddie Andrews: It was easy. Laura and Camilla gave advice and helped me along the way. It didn't take long and the outcome was just how I had imagined, just perfect. They double checked my spelling and grammar, checked for any mistakes and it took a few weeks but it was fun, and I'm glad other people can hopefully read and enjoy it. To see my words in print like a book in the library, or shop, or Amazon is a wonderful feeling.
Peter Caton: Although I had only one book published with Spiderwize, I found the whole experience good. Professional, extremely helpful at every stage, and extremely talented artists! Overall I've no regrets: a great service, totally trustworthy, and a pleasure to do business with.
Libby Andrews: I contacted Spiderwize and they weren’t the big scary people I thought they would be. They were very understanding and listened to my suggestions. When it came to editing the book, they didn’t change it completely so that it was a different book. They made small tweaks that made it flow. When they sent out the books, they were very efficient and it didn’t take long to arrive. Even after I have finished publishing with them, I still contacted them with queries about the book. That’s the best thing about them, even when it’s all over they still pay an interest in you and your passion for writing. I would definitely recommend publishing with Spiderwize and will keep doing further business with them in the future.
Les Puttock: I was heading in the direction of self-publishing and had discussed options with several print companies. To do this I would have had to purchase a batch of ten ISBN numbers, generated a barcode, supplied artwork, etc. Then, I found out about Spiderwize. For roughly the same cost as I was expecting to pay for printing alone, they would handle all that stuff for me. Throughout the process, their publishing and editorial staff was fantastic. They guided me through every stage, offering advice and support and continued to do so even after the publishing process was complete. I will have no hesitation in using their services again when I am ready to publish my next two novels.
Bryen Gaskell: Fantastic, what a great team they are.
We’d like to thank our group of authors who took their time to answer these questions, offer advice, and open up in hope to inspire you to write. But have they done the trick? Are you going to take their advice and ‘just do it’? Get an instant quote and get started on your journey! You can also download Spiderwize’s free Guide to Self-Publishing and our very own Guide to Book Printing for the know-how you need.