Authors : Website, blog or both?

3d human with a red question markI have a dilemma. My website run by GoDaddy (www.annmariewyncoll.com) is due to expire and I thus have the option to renew it for another year – at a fee.

I initially set up this website as a way to generate freelance custom, however, apart from setting it up I have done very little else and so it has just kind of ‘sat there’ for a year. This being the case, I had decided not to renew it but I figured I ought to see what had been happening to it before I deleted it. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I discovered that my website actually generates more traffic than my blog which I do spend time on and, even though its presence has not led to any business, it does mean that via my website, I am visible. This, from a marketing perspective, is huge.

With my new book due out early next year, it is important for me to be as pro-active and visible as I can be so I decided to add my blog link to my website in an effort to combine the two and kind of cross refer them. When my book is published I could use the website as a sales platform – should I decide to renew it.

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Having just finished a digital marketing diploma via Shaw Academy (who I cannot recommend highly enough) I know that I need to be able to interact on a number of digital platforms but as we all know when we are doing this ourselves time is at a premium – so I thought I would ask all of you authors out there: what do you do?

Do you have a blog and website and if so, how do you manage them both?

Or do you just have one or the other? Have you found one to be more beneficial than the other?

Any thoughts and advice here would be much appreciated. Thank you!

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Need inspiration? Go for a walk..

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debspoons via freedigitalphotos.net

Imagine the scene…you’re staring at your computer and you know what you want to say but will those words come?

No, of course they won’t.

You try harder, you type a few lines but still it doesn’t feel right.

You get frustrated. Yesterday the words flowed from your finger tips but today those fingers feel like lead.

Ever been there? I’m sure we all have.

One great tip that I was given for such a moment is to go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be far and it doesn’t have to be anywhere exciting, it just gives everything a break for a while and allows the endorphins to do their thing which, incidentally, they are great at doing.

On one such occasion I went for a walk down the main road which is a short distance from my house. A ladder was leaning up against the wall of one of the small two-up, two-down terraced dwellings along this road and the pavement on which the foot of the ladder was resting was narrow. This left anyone walking along the pavement with two choices: to walk around the ladder and onto the main road or to walk underneath the ladder and remain on the pavement. I watched for a moment and was unsurprised to see every single person step into the main road rather than walk underneath the ladder – clearly the most dangerous option. So, why did they all do that?

superstitions

In the UK there is a superstition that says you will bring bad luck upon yourself if you walk underneath a ladder. There is also a superstition that says you should never stroke a black cat with green eyes, nor should you open an umbrella indoors. It is also considered bad luck to have a bird relieve itself upon your head and if you break a mirror – well, you’re in the mire for seven years. I think I was out walking for less than half an hour but by the time I returned home my brain fog had cleared and I had the bones of an idea for an article about superstitions, purely from a ladder leaning against a wall.

I know it feels like all our time is precious and that we should take advantage of every possible writing moment that we have, yet it really is amazing how taking just a few moments out to observe our surroundings can kick start the creative flow. Try it next time you’re stuck.

Oh, and I guess it’s not bad for our health, either.

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Writing and Music – Separated at birth

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Digitalart via freedigitalphotos.net

Prepare yourselves for a blond moment here…

Until recently, I didn’t really consider writing to be an art – for which I wholly blame my secondary school. Writing was part of English (language and literature) and the arts were comprised of Art, Music and Drama. Considering how long ago it was that I left school, however, I think I may be on somewhat shaky ground with that excuse. But back to the point of the blog post…

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking to someone who works in the music business and whose job involves in part, finding new artists and music. As we discussed the music publication process it suddenly hit me how similar music and writing are in that respect. As with writing, a musician looks for an agent or a publisher and, as with writing, the opportunities can be tough to find. The person I was talking to, for example, gets well over 150 e-mails per week from new artists and rarely does he manage to read any of them simply because there isn’t the time in his day. For him to pick out an e-mail and take notice, it has to be what he is looking for and regardless of how good the other submissions are, if they are not what he is seeking at the time, then they don’t get viewed.

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Digitalart via freedigitalphotos.net

The same could undoubtedly be said of editors, publishers and agents in the writing world which is why it is so important that any submissions we make to agents and publishers, stand out. We want our e-mail, our submission, to be the one that they read and if it’s not, our work may sadly never see the light of day.

Luck, we both agreed during our conversation, plays a huge part in both the music and writing industry. Of course as writers we need to produce a great novel/short story/article etc.. but we also need to be lucky. We need to be in the right place at the right time and unfortunately there is no formula that can help us to achieve that.

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Digitalart via freedigitalphotos.net

These are not the only similarities between writing and music. Whilst the life of a writer (and arguably a musician) can be lonely, both arts involve collaboration with others in order to achieve the end product. A musician may need to use, for example, writers, other musicians, producers and recording studios whilst a writer needs an editor, a cover designer, beta readers and colleagues willing to assist with promotion, to name a few. So, although, when we put pen to paper to create our story/article we work on our own, our finished product can never be achieved without collaboration with others.

It was truly enlightening to speak to someone at the other end of the process to me – albeit music rather than literature – and to understand that both industries are similar and both industries are incredibly tough. On the upside, I now understand that writing is just as much of an art as Art, Music and Drama – something which may be obvious to everyone else out there but was only a lightbulb moment for me a few short weeks ago.

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What was your defining moment?

Happy people on nature, sun, grass and butterflies(Where a ‘defining moment’ is: A moment in time when we suddenly realise something about ourselves or our lives; a time when we make a decision to follow a certain path or divert to a different course; a ‘lightbulb’ moment; a time when things change, usually for the better; a moment when you feel inexplicably supported or guided)

**

Often, our ‘defining’ moment can be something that seems relatively insignificant at the time and it is only with hindsight that we can identify the moment as such. This is certainly true of my writing-related defining moment which occurred a couple of years or so ago.

At the time I had a part-time job in the local primary school as a cleaner. My role included the much coveted job of cleaning three sets of children’s toilets and it was whilst I was indulging myself in this most pleasurable pastime that I received the text message. It was from my sister.

Hi, (it said). Hope you’re well? OMG, I’ve just met the Prime Minister and I’ve been interviewed for the tele. I’ll be on the six o’clock news tonight! xx

I kid you not. I was stood, toilet brush in hand, reading a text message from my sister telling me that she had met one of the most powerful men in the country and that she was about to be broadcast nationwide. And I had a toilet brush in my hand.

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The parallel between our differing situations was not lost on me at the time, however, I didn’t realise how much of an impact this moment would have on my life moving forwards. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that if I wanted my story to be different, I was the only person that had the power to change it. Not that there is anything wrong with cleaning toilets, but I knew in my heart that it was not what I was destined to do.

That text, over the years that followed, gave me the incentive to take control of my destiny in a much more powerful way and my decision to self-publish in January is a culmination of that text. So, whilst I laughed at the sheer inequality of it at the time, now I recognise it as a pivotal moment in my life for it was that text that taught me such a valuable lesson: I was and am the only one with the power to change my life. Simple.

So now I am taking control and I am changing my life – for better or for worse. I am pushing on with my dream.

Do you have a defining moment?

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Red-breasted angel

I don’t very often write poetry, but this is something that I truly believe.

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Red-breasted angel

Someone once said

If a bird with breast of red

Visited me

Regularly

It was a loved one passed on

Come to check upon

Me

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My Grandma I knew

Was the red-breasted bird who

Visited me

Regularly

Landing carefully on the fence

When life made no sense

Helping me

*

On several dark days

She arrived and then stayed

Visiting me

Regularly

Chirping louder than the rest

Always doing her best to

Support me

*

Then days became weeks

With no sign, no peep

Not visiting me

Regularly

I searched the trees and the skies

She was not by my side

Leaving me

*

When today she returned

My eyes and heart burned

She was visiting me

Regularly

Whilst she’d been silently away

She’d forced decisions my way

Loving me

*

As she sits now on the fence

I see the future from whence

She will visit me

Regularly

For my decisions are made

My strength cannot be swayed

Holding me

*

My red-breasted sign

Of a life that can be mine

Feathers visiting me

Regularly

The future is clear

My robin is here

Guiding me

*

© AnnMarie Wyncoll 2016

To pen name or not to pen name?

03-biccristal2008-03-26As part of my decision to self-publish I also decided to retain my pen name of Jade Reyner primarily because I feel it runs off the tongue better than my actual name, AnnMarie Wyncoll.

Discussing this with a friend recently, she felt that I should keep my own name to allow the reader to identify with me as a person, rather than use a name for someone who does not actually exist. She went on to say that part of her loyalty to authors lies in being able to feel that she knows them in some small way and she did not feel that would be the case if a pen name was used. I guess knowing that the author is who they say they are allows the reader to build a connection with them which, if you are hoping for longevity as an author, must surely be critical?

I considered this and agreed that it is a valid point – after all, how confusing is it that I am known by my given name and yet I create a whole other persona to write under? – but countless authors and actors do it.

So, what are the pros and cons of a pen name?

Pros:*

  • It can enable you to write under a name that is more memorable or easier to spell than your given name, for example – hardly anyone spells my first name correctly. AnnMarie is not that unusual but the way that it is spelled with a capital ‘M’ in the middle and no space means that even my driving license has to be returned numerous times before it is correct. Similarly my surname of Wyncoll is challenging to spell and pronounce. Most people want to spell it ‘Wincoll’ and, depending on who you are talking to, it can be pronounced anything from ‘win-coll’ to ‘win-cool’ to ‘wine-coll’. Having spent my entire life spelling my first name out and since marriage my surname, I quite like the idea of having a simple name that doesn’t need any clarification.
  • If you are afraid that fans – good and bad – can track you down, then a pen name can help with this.
  • If you want to write in more than one genre then it can be beneficial to use different names – some names would not necessarily ‘fit’ if you are writing a heavy crime thriller and then a lighthearted romance.
  • Sometimes authors use pen names if they are writing for different publications in order to keep their work separate and to distinguish between the publications.

Cons:*

  • Using a pen name can be seen as a way to hide behind someone else. If you are not comfortable putting your own name to your work, then it may appear that you do not value it.
  • It can become confusing for the reader and the author alike. Should you, for example, have a social media presence in both your given name (AnnMarie Wyncoll) and your pen name (Jade Reyner)?
  • Having a ‘better’ pen name will not necessarily guarantee a more impressed readership. The quality of our writing should be what we are judged upon and not what name we publish under.

There are many more pros and cons but these are a snapshot of the dilemma that I now find myself in. I am proud of my work and am more than happy to put my name to it but, is a less catchy name that is tough to both pronounce and spell, going to be a stumbling block?

I thought I had this decision made but now, having spoken to my friend and looked into it some more, I think I am wavering. Should I just forget about the difficulties surrounding my given name and publish under it anyway?

AnnMarie Wyncoll or Jade Reyner?

What does anyone think?

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*Source: Should You Use a Pseudonym by Moira Allen

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What’s in your archives?

Browsing my archive folder the other day, I came across a three-page piece of writing from October 2015. Simply entitled ‘couple at bar’, here is an extract:

They sat at the bar, silhouettes barely lit by the dim, neon glow. The man spoke first.

“Sorry, I couldn’t get a table.”

“It’s fine.”

She picked up her drink, clasping it with both hands before tossing the remains back.

“Why did you call me?” she asked.

“It was time.”

She acknowledged his reply but said nothing.

“You are more beautiful than I remember.” His voice was gravelly, yet sincere. She flashed a warning glare and he held up his hands in surrender. “Just sayin’.”

“It does no good to remember anything from back then.”

He shrugged. “Doesn’t mean I can’t compliment a beautiful woman.”

Reaching out her left hand she picked at an olive from the small, silver dish on the bar adjacent to her. She licked her fingers as she considered her companion for a moment. “Shall we get down to business?”

He laughed. “Time was when that would have meant something.” His accompanying wink was crude and again, she sent him the warning glare. “Alright…” he held his hands up again, a repeat of his action from moments before.

“One more comment and I will walk right out of this door. And next time you can call someone else.” She kept her eyes firmly focused on his as she tapped her neatly manicured nails on the oak bar.

“Yeah, yeah…sorry, force of habit.”

She shook her head. “Three years should have cured you of that.”

“I thought it had. Turns out I was wrong.”

She ignored him. “What did you want to talk to me about? You said you had some business?”

He shrugged. “I do. And you are the only one I can trust with this.”

“Why now?”

“I told you, it was time.”

She reached for another olive. “Not good enough. I haven’t heard from you in three years.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“I don’t know. You could start with where the hell you have been. That might help.” She lifted her hand and signalled to the bartender. He removed her glass, returning a moment later with a full one. Slowly, she took a sip, continuing to regard her male companion from under hooded lashes.

He watched her drink. “It’s complicated.”

“Life is complicated. Like I said, not good enough.”

“I don’t have time to explain now.” He glanced furtively over his shoulder.

“Someone watching you?” she asked.

“Maybe…it’s …”

“Complicated. Yeah, you said.” She took another sip of her drink. “Well, if we’re on the clock, you better spill.”

He fidgeted a little on the bar stool. “I need your help.”

She laughed, the sound harsh. “You trash me over, disappear for three years and now you want my help? No explanation? Nothing? Dita was right about you.” She snagged another olive.

“How is Dita?”

She shook her head. “Nice try. You want my help you’re gonna have to give me more.”

“More what? Money? I can’t pay you anything. Not right now. I was hoping that maybe for old time’s sake..?”

“You have a really skewed memory. Don’t you remember how it ended last time? Or do you need a reminder?” Reaching down she lifted the bottom of her sweater to reveal an ugly scar slicing across her abdomen. He visibly flinched.

© AnnMarie Wyncoll 2015

After reading the full piece I found myself asking lots of questions, like: Who are they? What is their relationship? How do they know each other? What happened three years ago? How did she get the scar? Questions that excited me to answer and it didn’t take long for my mind to wander in all kinds of delicious directions.

Unfortunately I don’t have the time to move this piece forward now but what struck me about this discovery was that my archive folder is so much more than a shelter for homeless work. It is a source of inspiration that I had all but forgotten about and perhaps more importantly, it is a great springboard for future projects.

What do you have lurking in your archive folder waiting to be found?

Might just be worth a look.

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