I began writing years ago, as a hobby, after telling a group of young children my ‘Toby & Friends’ stories. After completing writing for children courses, with the London School of Journalism and The Academy of Children’s writers, I began my first young adult novel.
If you are interested in writing I would recommend courses for your particular genre. They are focussed and therefore much more helpful in your specific area rather than a general creative writing course which covers all genres.
While working on my first novel, ‘Family Secrets’, I posted my first three chapters on, British Art Council sponsored, www.youwriteon.com. This proved to be an excellent move. Other writers review your work and you review theirs. If you give this a try please bear in mind you may need thick skin. Some comments can be pretty brutal and not very accurate, however, when you weigh them up against the constructive reviewers you mainly find them extremely helpful and encouraging. Along with their comments you receive ratings on your plot, pace, characterisation, dialogue, settings, use of language, theme and narrative voice. Overall it can be extremely encouraging and fantastic for developing your own writing technique. I learned just as much from editing others as them editing mine.
Once my book was complete, I debated whether to approach main stream publishers or self-publish. In the midst of this I received an email from YouWriteOn. They were introducing a publishing arm and asked whether I would like to apply. I did and was thrilled when they accepted my book. Although it is still technically self-publishing my book was published free and available to be ordered from the site on a print-on-demand basis. I chose the additional option of making my book available to order through major bookstores and Amazon and paid £40. Five years later it is now £88 which is still a very reasonable price. Royalties are paid twice yearly but publicity is down to me, the author.
Since then I have published the rest of my trilogy with them: ‘Family Fear’ and ‘Family Missing’.
The venture has been so successful that the publishing arm is now based on its own website www.FeadARead.com and authors no longer have to apply they can just upload their books. I have my own covers designed but there is a selection on the site for anyone who can’t. It is still British Art Council sponsored and the paperbacks are great quality and reasonably priced for my readers. I can also buy copies myself, if I like, at reduced prices but I don’t tend to do that much. I find it’s much better for readers to order through bookstores.
I intend to publish my new young adult book, ‘Witness’, later this year through FeedARead and already have the cover.
I’ve also uploaded my books onto Amazon for kindle. This is totally free and, depending on the price of the book, I get either 35% or 75% of the sale price.
Over the last twelve months I have released three picture books. These take me right back to my work with the children as they are the original stories which starting me writing. ‘Toby is Lost’, ‘Thief’ and ‘Beaut’ are only in kindle format at the moment, I am hoping to release them in paperback when there are a few more of them and worth producing the book. This last year, writing has become an official part-time job alongside my other part-time job in I.T. I’ve therefore been able to spend more time on my writing and do an art course. ‘Beaut’, about an unfriendly peacock, is the first one fully illustrated by me and I can tell you, painting a peacock is not easy!
Advertising is a whole other issue and I’m sure others will blog about that at some point. I hope my experience can help someone else along the road to being a successfully published author.
About Gail Jones
Part-time author and I.T. Officer
Gail has worked with children since her late teens and began her career as an author by inventing stories for the children in her care.
After undertaking two writing for children courses, Gail’s first book ‘Family Secrets’ was published by YouWriteOn.com in 2008, ‘Family Fear’ followed in 2010 and Family Missing in 2012. Since then Gail has published three picture books, ‘Toby is Lost’, ‘Thief’ and ‘Beaut’, illustrating the latter herself.
Gail lives in South Yorkshire, England and loves to walk, takes photographs of the countryside and write outside whenever the weather permits. She loves children, games and fun and visits local schools in her capacity as an author.
When I made the move from women’s fiction to contemporary YA novels, it felt a bit like starting my writing career from scratch all over again. Although I was the published author of 17 novels, no one outside of romance readers had heard of me, so I had no reputation preceding me as I ventured into the YA world. Scary stuff.
Competitions proved to be a good way in. For the organisers to fulfil their side of the agreement, your submission has to be read, or at least skimmed, so your work does get seen.
If YA presents challenges, it also offers freedoms. No more formula writing. I can be as elliptical or edgy as a story requires. Happy endings aren’t obligatory, although I do try for upbeat together with open-ended. Again, no subject is taboo – it’s your treatment of it that is crucial.
One of the main challenges is the language used in dialogue. Young adults are constantly reinventing themselves and their language. Words or phrases currently in use will be laughably passé by the time your book is published and being read, yet your characters need to sound real. One thing that doesn’t change much is the way in which young people use humour – for camouflage, for courage, for a whole variety of reasons. I do a lot of listening to the way teens talk, not so much for the actual language as for what it reveals about their attitudes and thinking.
Another big change was switching from third person to first person narrative. Many YA writers choose first person, and suggest that it reflects a certain self-centredness or self-involvement typical of the young – they are at the centre of everything, everything is about them. I’ve never looked at it in those terms. For me, writing YA, first person has been instinctive; it brings me right into my protagonists’ hearts and heads.
Setting has been another radical departure. My romance publishers liked exotic, glamorous, sophisticated (read affluent) or simply beautiful settings. With my YA novels, I’ve so far chosen to write about young South Africans living very much in the here and now, their stories firmly rooted in reality, as they face the same daily challenges as real teenagers. Many of their issues are universal – peer pressure, poverty, love, sex, class, race, xenophobia, substance abuse, crime, exploitation – but the legacy of South Africa’s past does somtimes have a certain impact on all these things.
It has also been refreshing to be able to write from a male point of view if a story seems to call for it.
The role of adults in my novels varies. Some may be exploitive or abusive, others are a source of inspiration or even help, once a protagonist learns that seeking help in an intolerable situation is not weakness but an affirmation of his value as a unique human being. Young readers clearly like characters who overcome such challenges as oppression or persecution to take control of their own lives, in however small a way, and this involves changing and growing, but all this can only arise from the foundation of a good, gripping story that will draw the reader in. Everything else is just a bonus.
About Jayne Bauling
Jayne Bauling’s first three YA novels, E Eights, Stepping Solo and Dreaming of Light have been awarded the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa, the Maskew Miller Longman Literature Award and the Sanlam Gold Prize for Youth Literature respectively. She is also the author of 17 romance novels published by Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her short stories, for both adults and young people, have been included in a number of anthologies. She has been a regular contributor of short stories and poems to the Breaking the Silence anthology brought out annually in South Africa by the NGO People Opposing Women Abuse, and in 2013 served as a mentor for POWA’s women’s writing project workshops. She lives in Mpumalanga. E Eights and Dreaming of Light (including the ebook) are both available from Amazon (UK). See link below for more about Stepping Solo.
Follow Jayne Bauling on Twitter @JayneBauling,
visit her Facebook page Jayne Bauling Writer https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jayne-Bauling-Writer/165514616870712,
or see her Goodreads author blog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/247156.Jayne_Bauling/blog
Stepping Solo http://www.mml.co.za/book/9780636118249
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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