Writing

The Rules of Write Club

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Okay, so the first rule of Write Club is……

You’re waiting for the list, right? Hmm. The problem is, I don’t have one. I’ve never had one. I probably never will.

You see the things is, I’m one of these weird writers that simply hates to follow rules. I’ve never understood it. All those ‘How To Write A Novel’ guides. All those ‘Do’s’ and ‘Do Not’s’. There’s something about all those instruction manuals that just scream at me to run in the opposite direction.

When I first started writing (which wasn’t that long ago, as contrary to popular belief, not all writers pen their first novel when they’re barely out of nappies) it was a fairly insular affair. Prompted to do something during the early stages of post-natal depression, I started writing and randomly ended up writing something that resembled a novel. I had an idea I wanted to work on, something which held my interest, and I sat down each day for about an hour and just wrote. I didn’t make notes. I didn’t plot. I didn’t write endless character outlines. I just did it. And that’s pretty much how I still work today.

During that time, I also began to dip my toes into social media more than I ever had. I connected with other writers on Twitter and on blogs and of course, came across the inevitable ‘How to Write’ guides. They’re everywhere, you can’t miss them. Give me a writer, and there are ten more out there telling everyone how to do it. “You want to be a writer? Then buy my book and I’ll tell you how it must be done.” “You want to write a best selling novel? Here’s the guide that you must follow or be cast into the pit of penniless failed writers.”

Okay, I’m being ever so slightly flippant, I know. But, if truth be told, I just don’t get it. And don’t get me wrong, I’m always keen on hearing advice from my fellow writers who have made it in the trad publishing or indie publishing world. That’s important. Crucial, even, because you’re talking to people who can give you a wealth of valuable information. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the people who claim there are hard and fast rules on how to write.

And again, I’m not talking about rules on grammar, sentence structure etc. That is something you should never stop educating yourself about. But I am talking about those who will say: You must do this. You must do that. Look, I’m not saying these people don’t have good advice, in fact, I’m sure some of them have great advice. But you have to remember that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other. You have to find your own way as a writer and if you catch onto a method that another writer uses and you find that works for you too, then great. But, don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong.

I’m prompted to write this following a recent conversation with a friend of mine who expressed an interest in joining Wattpad. She wants to start posting her work online, but she’s understandably anxious. Of course, it’s bloody nerve-wracking posting your work on a public forum for the first time. Will people like it? Will people even read it? However, in my friend’s case, her fears have been doubled and why might this be?

She’s currently finishing a creative writing module at college.

Now I studied a creative writing module at university too. Well, actually it was a women in literature poetry module with creative writing elements and yeah, it was scary as hell having to write poetry and read it out loud to the class, but I was fortunate in that we had a very supportive tutor. My friend, however, doesn’t seem to have been blessed with the same. In fact, her tutor sounds exactly like the type of tutor NO creative writing student needs because she’s a ‘it’s my way or the highway’ kind of person. The result? My friend now doubts herself and her abilities. And that just makes my blood boil. Advise. Educate. Support. But don’t damn someone because they don’t want to do things your way.

Another friend of mine, a successful writer who I admire greatly, once told me that she was astounded to learn that I never really plot. But she wasn’t saying that in a negative way, she was merely surprised, because she always plots. It’s her thing. She didn’t berate me at all for not plotting, because she understood clearly that everyone follows their own rules. Again, I reiterate: what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

Okay so I’m not going to sit here and say that first novel I wrote would win any awards, far from it, and I’m not here to say ‘hey look at me writing a novel and NOT following the rules, you should do that too.’

I’m saying, make your own rules. Take what you think will work for you. Mix and match rules if you need to. Or don’t. It’s up to you.

It’s your Write Club.

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Wattpad · Writing

Plagiarism: it’s not big and it’s not clever.

Imagine this if you will.

It’s Friday. (It doesn’t have to be a Friday, it could be any day, I’m just using Friday for analogical purposes). You’ve had a long day. Hell, scrap that, you’ve had a long week. You’re looking forward to getting home and having dinner with your husband and son (you can change characters to fit your own story). You pull up outside, put the key in the lock and walk in – only to find another woman sitting in your seat at the dinner table. She’s wearing your clothes. She’s sitting with your husband and son. And even worse, she’s eating your damn dinner.

You ask her what the hell she is doing there and she just shakes her head and smiles. ‘No, no,’ she replies, still smiling. ‘These may look like your clothes. This may look like your husband and son. This may look your dinner table, your chair, your house. But it is all mine.’

You look in her eyes and realise she actually believes this. She is staking claim to your life and she is sure – no, wait, she is insistent – that it all belongs to her.

It has the makings of a horror story, doesn’t it? Crazy woman stealing your clothes, your family, your life and the whole time she is just smiling at you, like it’s nothing. Like it doesn’t matter.

Well, this is what happened to me yesterday. Okay, so I didn’t come home to find some mad woman stealing my life, but I did come home to find that someone had stolen one of my stories on Wattpad. Only this particular person messaged me to ask my express permission to steal one of my stories. That’s new, right? A wannabe plagiarist asking permission to plagiarise? Let’s forget, for a moment, that the plagiarist wasn’t a wannabe at all, in fact, the crime had already been committed so she was asking after the fact. Instead let’s look at what she said:

‘I love your story The Fan and I want to write something similar. Only it won’t be your story, it will be mine. I want your permission.’

Hmmmm, I thought, raising an eyebrow. Somebody who feels the need to ask for permission surely must know that she wants to write something remarkably similar.

So I asked her what she meant by ‘similar’.

‘I want to write a story about a fan who gets stuck in a lift with (insert name of famous boy band member) and he kills her. But it will be my story. I just want to make sure that if anyone reads it they will know that you said it was okay.’

Ooooooooh well obviously that’s okay then! (insert heavily sarcastic intonation).

After explaining to Plagiarist Girl that actually it would be MY story but with different characters and that, no, I would not give her permission to plagiarise, I discovered via a Wattpad friend that PG had in fact, already posted ‘her’ story. It wasn’t her story. It was my story. And I mean, actually my story with a few minor word changes. It wasn’t just similar. It was a direct copy.

Well after reporting her to Wattpad and warning her that she had been reported with a request that she remove the story immediately, PG thankfully did just that. She apologised. I said okay. She asked to credit me on a new story. I said no thank you. Case closed, Dr Watson.

But the point is, apology or not, PG took a story that was not hers, changed a couple of very small details, and tried to stake claim to it. And then had the gall to ask for my permission. I wonder if she ever really thought I would say yes? What sane person would give up their life and let someone move into their home and take everything for themselves? She knew it was wrong and yet felt perfectly comfortable in stealing it as long as I said it was fine. And isn’t that just the problem with plagiarists? Ultimately they don’t care.

I have to say, however, that I am one of the lucky ones. Of course, I have to thank PG for alerting me to her own theft in the first place. Others I know haven’t been so lucky and this is happening on a regular basis on Wattpad and to many people who have posted their work on other writing sites. You can’t blame the site itself. It’s not something they can control. They can only remove the offending stories and warn the users when they themselves are alerted to the crime via the support ticket system or by somebody contacting one of the moderators. Wattpad writers have to rely on the beady eyes of their followers and friends to spot evidence of plagiarism. And unfortunately the more visible you become on the site, the higher the chance of you falling prey to the plagiarists.

In my case, I became what is known as a Featured Writer.

‘Well, that sounds wonderful!’ you say. ‘Hold on. What’s a Featured Writer?’

Getting ‘featured’ by Wattpad means that they have deemed one of your offerings as worthy of making their Featured List, which is basically Wattpad’s recommended reads. It’s the Go To List for all new members. It’s also the place for existing members to find something new to read that is officially supported by Wattpad.

Now I admit to punching the air with glee when I was contacted by one of the site’s lovely ambassadors and told the news. After all, a few of my closest Wattpad buddies had been featured and have seen the reads, comments and votes rocket, not to mention gain followers and have their work make the Hot Lists. So I was extremely happy and honoured that Wattpad would want The Fan to be featured. I still am. The Fan climbed to number one in the horror hot list and the current reads stand at almost 170,000 since it was first featured in April. I’d be a fool not to appreciate that.

But make no bones about it, getting featured isn’t all hunky dory. I’ve been lambasted for posting a copyright notice at the beginning of the story (why that should offend people, I have no idea). I’ve been accused of not knowing how to spell because I write in British English and apparently there are some people who aren’t aware that different versions of the English language exist outside of the US borders (to be fair these people probably don’t know that anything exists outside of the US, nor that the earth is round or that it orbits around the sun). I’ve been scolded for the use of swear words in the story. I’ve been harassed by readers who think it’s too short (the clue is in the short story genre tag, duh!) I’ve been plagued a gazillion times by people advertising their story on mine, most of whom haven’t even had the courtesy to read my story first. I’ve had people tell me it’s crap. The list is endless.

And now I can add plagiarism to that list. The difference here is that if this was just bottom-dweller trolls, I could block them and the harassment would stop. But you can’t block a plagiarist from seeing your stories and potentially stealing your ideas. The block function doesn’t work that way. It stops them from commenting on your stories and from contacting you, but for me, that really isn’t the issue. Plagiarist Girl has been very nice in all her communication. She even commented on another of my short stories and left some positive feedback. Ultimately if she wants to take another of my stories and copy it, she could, although I hope that she will now appreciate that all beady eyes will be on the look-out for this.

This isn’t a horror story about getting Featured, far from it. All in all, I am still very grateful for being Featured. I’ve received some amazing feedback. And getting the backing of Wattpad is very gratifying. It makes you feel like you’re on the right track after all and maybe not everything you write is a pile of steaming donkey poop. But there’s no denying that the latest ‘free gift’ is one that I’d like to return to sender. It doesn’t taste good. And it’s certainly left me feeling slightly disillusioned and itching to delete my works. I don’t want to of course, and most likely won’t, the pro’s vastly out weigh the cons for me (although this hasn’t been the case with some of my friends who have recently left the site).

Plagiarism hurts. That’s a simple fact. It hurts, not only because someone else is trying to stake their claim on your property, but it makes you think about what you had to do to write the damn thing in the first place. It’s not just someone staking a claim on your life, it’s like someone is stealing a little piece of your soul. And I don’t even make money from my stories. Can you imagine if I did? It would be like someone reaching into my bag and stealing my purse. It would be like someone frogmarching me to the cash point on payday and making me withdraw a month’s wages.

If you’re considering copying somebody else’s work, don’t. Find your own ideas. Create your own damn stories. Trust me, it’s far more gratifying to see your ‘light bulb moment’ grow and develop on the page. Far more pleasurable to be able to sit back and say ‘This is mine. I created it. It belongs to me.’

And if you can’t write your own, then just read the ones you like and leave it at that.

Playing Dead · Writing

Playing Dead Review in Rue Morgue!

Evening writers, readers, bloggers and weirdos

It’s been a manic week but I’m finally getting round to thanking Monica Kuebler, managing editor of Canadian horror publication Rue Morgue for this fab review in her column Library of the Damned.

I feel truly honoured that Playing Dead has been recognised outside of Wattpad and I’m hoping that it might persuade some more readers to head in the direction of Megan and Harper.

Huge thanks go out to Monica who also happens to be a Wattpad writer and who has her own very successful series the Blood Magic saga which is free to read on the site:

http://www.wattpad.com/story/856099-bleeder-blood-magic-book-1

http://www.wattpad.com/story/4035829-letters-from-new-york-blood-magic-book-2

http://www.wattpad.com/story/10184872-ruler-blood-magic-book-3

Please also check out Rue Morgue here:

http://www.rue-morgue.com/

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Short Stories · Writing

Rock stars, Hashtags and Fanfiction

Hey WordPress,

It’s been a while hasn’t it? I decide to post for the first time in ages and find that the WordPress app has completely changed and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing but hey, what’s new?

Anyway, my first post of the year (yes I’m aware it’s February) is all about my new short story The Fan.

I don’t often write short stories but they tend to come in handy when I’m stuck writing the full-length novels. It’s just a great way to break free by focusing on something completely different for a change and tends to motivate me to dig myself out of the writer’s block oubliette.

This story was something that had been floating around in my head for a while, inspired by Misery by Stephen King and also by Channel 4’s fabulous ‘what-if’ drama Blackout.

I think I’ve said before how much I love writing horror, particularly psychological horror and so to see The Fan already hit #12 in the horror charts on Wattpad probably makes me prouder than seeing Playing Dead hit the #1 spot on the vampire chart. Not that there is anything wrong with the vampire chart you understand *coughs*. It’s just great to hit the charts in a genre very close to my twisted old heart.

Please do go along and give The Fan a read and maybe give it a little vote and comment if you love it.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/12686127-the-fan

Thanks
Linz x

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Playing Dead · Wattpad · Writing

Playing Dead scores a top 5 spot on Wattpads vampire hot list!

Evening bloggers, writers, friends and weirdos

So as they say every cloud has a silver lining, I had a week from the very bowels of Hell followed by one from the hallowed gates of Heaven. I won’t dwell on the crappy week, suffice to say I was glad to kick its sorry ass back down to the Underworld, but the good week was particularly lovely in the fact that my current WIP Playing Dead made it to the #3 spot on the Wattpad vampire hot list!

This is the highest position any of my works has ranked since I joined Wattpad (Blood Wars previously reached #16) so to see Playing Dead suddenly hit a top five spot felt pretty blood amazing, even if it turns out to be a very short-lived stay.

The Wattpad hot list rankings are confusing to say the least and my tiny tech-resistant brain can’t cope with how it all works and from experience I know that just because you’re ranking one day, doesn’t mean you will be there the next. In fact, when I was posting Blood Wars, all three books in the series were in the top 100 and seemed to be doing really well and literally overnight they all disappeared. See? Non comprendez. No speakey de Wattpad.

Playing Dead has accumulated almost 190,000 reads and over 7000 votes since I started posting back in August and to put that in some kind of perspective, Dark Sanctuary has only just reached 198,000 reads and 6500 votes and that’s been fully uploaded since November 2012. And so if you’re one of those people who has helped Playing Dead reach #3, then a huge big Cinnamon thank you to you! I’ve received some amazing comments and feedback from all the Wattpad readers, some of whom have been with me since the beginning and some who I’ve gathered along the way. Each day brings new readers, new points of view and new Harper Cain fans!

I’m immensely honoured that anyone would want to read my stuff, let alone the number of people who have been kind enough to spend time reading Playing Dead and waiting patiently for my weekly updates.

If you’re a writer, particularly a new writer who wants to find the right kind of public forum on which to start posting their work, you could do no wrong than making a start on Wattpad. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and befriend people from all over the world, people of all ages and from all walks of life who come together to take a walk in somebody’s imaginary world. I’ve met and befriended some great writers, some of whom having found success on Wattpad are now taking that leap of faith into self-publishing. So if you have something that you’d like to post, whether it be poetry or paranormal, thrillers or fanfic, come along and join up.

And if you’re not quite ready to post and just want to read…..then please do come along and read Playing Dead. I’d love to see you all there!

http://www.wattpad.com/story/7745041-playing-dead

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Wattpad · Writing

Writers and Wattpad, A Place to Share Your Work

Writers and Wattpad, A Place to Share Your Work

I was so happy to read this fab article by Martin Douglas, fellow Wattpadder and writer of the wonderful novel The Bewitching.

This only reinforces what a wonderful world the Wattpad community can be and I’m honoured to receive such a mention.

Please do go check this out and take a look at Martin’s book and website.

Thanks Martin!

Wattpad · Writing

Read More, Stress Less

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Evening readers, writers, bloggers and weirdos,

Just a short post tonight despite the fact I’m well overdue to grace these pages with a few more words. I have a post planned about what it is like to leave Michael and Sarah behind and write something new, but in the meantime I wanted to mention a lovely comment that someone left me on Wattpad.

It’s always gratifying as a writer when someone tells you that reading your stories has helped them through a tough time in their life. I understand this all too well. Writing was my therapy, my counsellor and my haven when I needed an escape but when someone – someone who doesn’t know you and who you have never met – goes out of their way to tell you that your writing has somehow helped them, well, it leaves you feeling very humble, touched and proud.

This happened to me today so to the person who left me this comment, thank you so very much.

Read more. Stress less. Even if just for the short time that you find yourself amongst those pages.

Linz xxx