Ally Aldridge’s been working to us her journey as an author. Her firsthand insight has been so fascinating, we asked if she’d like to write some tips for other aspiring local authors in Felixstowe… Take it away Ally!
Trying to figure out what to do to get published involved a lot of research. I started my blog to share my journey and as a resource for others starting out. It also served as somewhere I could rediscover information when I couldn’t remember something.
For example, I attended Felixstowe Book Festival and wrote up what I learnt from guest speakers:
One was Suffolk-based “Top That Publishing” (now “Imagine That”) sharing the “Picture Book Publishing” process.
Another was author Richard O’Neill who did writing exercises in a container and got us to see what was holding us back and what we had control of.
And, Phoebe Morgan’s talk on what makes Literary Agents say yes or no.
Writing my blog is something I enjoy doing, but I never know how much value it brings to others. Recently I finished a new release, “The Silver Princess” by April Grace and was touched to see a paragraph dedicated to me in the acknowledgments: “Ally Aldridge, you among others are the reason I turned to self-publishing, as for many years I thought it wasn’t for me, and like you, had spent so much time pursuing the traditional route. But your breakdown of everything you did with your own book, “Ocean Heart”, made me so excited to do the same. You are the reason I spent hours researching cover designers and editors, and spent months excited about who I was going to go with. Thank you so much. It’s because of you that this all started. And thank you for also beta-reading my book, and letting me do the same for you.” - April Grace
There is so much I want to share with new writers on how to get started it is hard to know where to start, as everyone will be in a different place in their journey. Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. GET WRITING!
If you want to be a writer get writing! A lot of people say, “I’d love to write a book one day.” Why haven’t they started already. Lots of writers have big imaginations and can easily slip off into a daydream about writing.
2. BE PROACTIVE
Like any goal in life, you need to be proactive. If writing is the goal, get started. If you were to write just 300 words a day, you’d have over 100,000 words.
Let me be clear, just because I suggested you could write 300 words a day doesn’t mean you have to write every day. We all have our own lives and patterns. Developing a writing habit doesn’t have to be an everyday thing. It’s important to still do other things you love. Find a regular time that works for you. It could be during your commute to work, in your lunch break, sunbathing with your mates, or whilst you're hanging about for your kid at football practice.
3. DITCH FANCY EQUIPMENT
You don’t need fancy equipment. If you don’t have specialist writing software then try out a free web app for Word Processing. Popular choices are Google Docs on Google Drive (free with any Google email) or Word on OneDrive (free with any Microsoft email). You can also use Open Office which is a free download for PCs/laptops, developed to be accessible and free to all.
If you don’t have a computer, you can use a laptop, tablet, or even a Smartphone. If you have a library card you can book a computer to use for free and log into your Google Drive or One Drive to save your files.
If you do want to try out fancy software, a good place to start is with NaNoWriMo. It’s a free to sign up online writing challenge, and sponsors of the event award winners with exclusive offers like discounts on Scrivener. You can even trial software during the challenge. One I have really enjoyed, and watched develop over the years, is Dabble Writer.
4. WRITE ANYWHERE
You can write anywhere. You don’t need a fancy space to get started either. I wrote my first stories in bed with a notebook and pen. My mum wasn’t impressed with all the ink stains on the sheets. Nowadays, I often write sitting on the sofa using my smartphone and watching my kids.
Many of my online friends enjoy writing in cafes. Going somewhere to write helps put them in the right mindset. On a few occasions, I’ve made significant progress at Play2Day as my biggest distractions were being kept busy.
Felixstowe town and seafront has free wifi meaning with a smartphone or tablet, you could easily access free word processing apps and backup your writing for free on your chosen device. Recently @inc opened in Felixstowe town centre, where you can rent a space to work from for the day and make use of their high speed wifi.
The advice used to be to always have a notebook and pen with you so you could jot down ideas whenever inspiration strikes. Today, many people have an app on their phone for quick notes and if your someone that always has your mobile on you, this might be a more practical solution.
5. BE DISCIPLINED
Take your writing seriously. I wasted a lot of time telling myself that I wasn’t good enough. I just wrote for fun. Even when others said I should publish, I thought they were being polite. I referred to myself as an aspiring writer.
An author that does workshops did a free webinar on mindset. She got us to stop saying aspiring. She got us to start thinking of ourselves as a writer/author. Writers often get embarrassed when asked about their books, so she got us to be unapologetic when talking about our writing. It helped me to take myself seriously.
There will always be people saying you can’t do it. You don’t have to be one of them.
6. SHARE YOUR WRITING
Felixstowe Scribblers are a local group of writers that meet fortnightly (find out more at Felixstowe Library). They set a homework theme, then share what they’ve written. For many, reading out loud is terrifying. Doing it, helps you learn a lot about your writing and builds your experience.
You can also post your writing online for feedback. Be careful that some publishers won’t publish a story if it’s already available for free online. If you want to publish, perhaps only post the first three chapters which are often given as a sample.
See if friends or family are willing to read your work and give feedback. It can sometimes be hard to receive feedback from those closest as it feels more personal. Also, they can sometimes be bias and tell you it’s fantastic when it actually needs work because they don’t want to discourage you.
7. PLAN TO PUBLISH
There are several routes to publishing a book but the main two are traditional and indie. It’s worth researching these so you can start preparing.
“Traditional” is when your manuscript is bought by a publisher and they publish your book. Usually you are paid upfront for your book and earn more money from doing author events and a cut from book sales.
“Indie” is when you are the publisher and make all the decisions about what to pay out for. Usually you keep all the profits made from your book sales, but you are also responsible for all the costs.
There is another option called “vanity publishing”, which I wouldn’t recommend. This is when you pay a publisher to publish your book. It often costs more than self-publishing and you only get a cut from book sales. Writers are often attracted to the idea of having someone in publishing make decisions for them. However, as they make their money from writers paying them they aren’t as motivated to sell your book.
8. IF ONLY I’D KNOWN
If I’d known when I started that I’d become an indie author, I would have started saving from day one. You can self-publish for next to nothing, but if you want your book to fit in with traditionally published books, then you need to pay for the same expertise. You can learn the skills yourself, but there are only so many hours in the day. Start saving now!
9. DON’T STOP
I spent a lot of time fixing “Ocean Heart” to please different agents and publishers. I wish I’d spent some of that time writing more stories and getting them closer to publication too. Since publishing “Ocean Heart” I’m often asked, “When is book two coming out?”, and I wish I was further along with all my drafts so I could publish my series faster. If you are querying or waiting to hear from someone, keep writing. The more finished stories you have, the better.
I hope these tips help you and I wish you every success in your own journey as an author.
Ally was born in London, but grew up in Suffolk which is where most of her YA (young adult) Fantasy novels are based.
She is happily married to her high-school sweetheart and together they are raising their son and daughter.
When Ally is not writing (or at her day job), she loves spending time with her family at Felixstowe beach, in the forest or watching way too much Netflix.
Ally loves a cup of tea and has been known to order one on a night out.