Writing Advice & Tips – Samantha Priestley


Samantha Priestley

Samantha is a UK based writer of fiction and articles on various subjects. Her first novel, Despite Losing it on Finkle Street, is published by Fygleaves publishing, and her short stories and articles have been published in anthologies and magazines around the world. She won first prize in The H E Bates competition and The Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre Prize. Samantha’s first single story chapbook will be published by Folded Word in August.

What’s the best way for a writer juggle their personal and writing life? Ordinary life often gets in the way of a planned structured day. Any tips? If you’re serious about it then you have to treat it seriously and act like a professional. Stick to your office hours, whatever they are, and make sure your friends and family know about them. In the same way, it’s important to have set times off. So, if that’s weekends, take your weekends off. It’s very tempting to keep working through, but you need to recharge in order to work well. Make sure everyone understands that this is your job and keep clear lines between your personal and professional life.

What can a writer do to overcome ‘writer’s block? I don’t really believe in writer’s block. It’s just a term to describe the times you don’t feel like working, but everyone feels like that sometimes in whatever it is they do. The solution is to write. If the thing you’re working on isn’t flowing then work on something else for a while. Go for a walk, keep thinking and keep writing.

What should a writer look out for when deciding if their manuscript is the best it can possibly be before releasing it to an agent/publisher/the public? That’s a tricky one because you never feel like it’s ready, but there comes a point when you have to get it out there, you can’t re-write forever! Make sure you’ve checked it over for mistakes and left it alone for a while before trying to read it cold. Then what I do if I’m not sure, is to read a good book, maybe something along the lines of what I’m hoping to achieve, and then immediately read mine. That usually tells me if it’s ready or not!

How can a writer be prepared for, and deal with rejection? Don’t take it personally. They are not rejecting you, and sometimes it’s not that the work isn’t good enough, but that it doesn’t fit right with their list, they are full, or the person reading it on that day just wasn’t into it. A different person reading it on a different day might be. Take any feedback you get seriously and listen to it. Everybody gets rejected. Re-write and send it somewhere else, and keep going.

How should a writer deal with negative reviews about their book? It’s a bit like the rejections really, don’t take it personally. You can’t please everybody, and as long as others like it, you’re doing ok. Don’t spend time being gloomy about negative reviews and focus on the positives.

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard in respect of writing/being an author? I heard a great one recently. I’ve never liked the questions about what your next book/play/story is about, but I didn’t really know why. Then I saw some video advice Garerth L Powell was giving on Youtube and he said something along the lines of – the reason we shouldn’t tell anyone the story before it’s written is, the first draft is you telling the story to yourself. If you talk about it down the pub the desire to tell the story has already been fulfilled and the fire goes out of it.

Can you share any valuable websites/magazines/blogs for authors in respect of tips, help and advice? A good thing to do is to connect with as many agents and publishers as possible. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, you can get a good feel for the market and what they are looking for that way.

Any tips in respect of getting the synopsis right? It is the hardest thing to write. Harder than writing the book! Keep it brief. Imagine you are telling someone you’ve just met what your book is about in the hope that they will buy it! Make sure it sounds interesting, leave out anything that doesn’t absolutely need to be there, and ask yourself, if you were reading this would you want to read the whole thing?

Any tips on marketing and creating a fan base? Understand that most of this is going to be down to you, no matter who your publisher is. Engage with readers, bloggers, bookshops, festivals etc on Twitter and Facebook. Have a blog and a website. Be positive and put yourself out there, but don’t spam anyone or try to sell your book aggressively. Reply to comments and questions as much as you possibly can. Seek out any events – book fairs, festivals, readings – that you can be a part of and use the opportunity to meet people.

Lastly, can you share with us about what your usual writing day is like? I turn on my computer at 7.30 am and deal with emails, facebook, twitter etc. Then I eat breakfast and have a shower. That usually takes me to about 9.00 am when I open up whatever I’m working on at the moment. I work for a bit then I go for a short walk before lunch. This helps me to think and figure out any plot problems etc. I find I can do about 2,000 words a day, less than 1,000 before lunch and more than 1,000 after, but I don’t beat myself up about it on the days that doesn’t happen. I stop at about 3.00 pm when my kids are heading in from school and college. Then I deal with anything else – emails, more facebook and twitter, jotting down ideas, research etc. In the evening I watch a film or TV (drama) and read at bedtime – all of which can still be considered work 😉







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