Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Guest: J.E. Ryder

I am aware that many aspiring writers read this blog looking for insights from those who have broken through the apparently insurmountable barriers to becoming a published author. Today's Guest provides sound advice as she recounts her own journey to seeing her superb suspense novel published by Amazon and available for readers everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen,

J.E. Ryder

Learning the Writing Craft 
- A Long Road Travelled

Since the self-publishing revolution we’ve seen an explosion in online resources for authors. Any question on the writing craft or publishing business can be answered in a mouse-click, the answers given freely by authors and writing professionals willing to share their knowledge.

Seven years ago we lived in a different landscape. There was writing advice out there, from Internet companies, individuals, how-to write books, magazines, writers’ conferences, creative writing groups and workshops, but all that closely guarded information came at a price.

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Fortunately, I didn’t think I’d need to spend my hard-earned money on writing advice. I’d had a good education. I had thrilling story ideas swilling around in my head, and I’d been reading books all my life. What could be simpler than dashing off a novel in my spare time?

One day I saw an advertisement for a monthly writing magazine. The banner title read: How to Land a Literary Agent. Useful, I thought; I’d need an agent when I finished my novel. The magazine arrived in the post with a free how-to-write paperback. Soon, unfamiliar terminology began to spin before my eyes: plotting, back story, POV, motivation, pace, theme, style, protagonist, antagonist, three-act-structure, character arcs, theme, turning points.

I wasn’t discouraged. After all, I was used to managing offices and organising staff. I’d edited in-house magazines and newsletters. Learning this skill known as the writing craft should be easy. That summer I booked a day at a writers’ conference. My inexperience led me to sign on for sessions that were far too advanced. Much of the teaching went way over my head. Other budding authors plodding between lectures looked as lost as I was. In the lunch break I met an author who’d just signed with a major literary agency. He said he’d been attending conferences for ten years to learn the craft. Ten years? I was stunned. The horrible realisation dawned. I was in for a long, hard slog.

I spent my free days attending creative writing groups, joined workshops, went to conferences, devoured how-to-write books. I wrestled with the dark art of synopsis writing, learned how to compose an industry standard query letter, got to grips with manuscript formatting. Two years later I had a completed novel. I started the depressing task of submitting to Agents, waiting weeks, months sometimes for rejection slips to land on the doormat (one took five months to arrive). Occasionally, a slip would carry a scribbled comment: “You can write well, but I can’t place this right now,” or, “This needs more work.” That one always bemused me. What work? How can I do more work if you don’t tell me what kind of work I should be doing? But, as an Agent said to her audience at conference: Agents are not in the business of teaching people how to write.

Over the next couple of years I had the good fortune to meet three generous people who moved my writing skills forward.

  •        In a conference hallway, I approached an Agent whom I’d heard was taking submissions for thrillers. She didn’t seem to notice my nervousness (or maybe she was used to seeing authors shaking in fear). After listening to my stumbling elevator pitch, she accepted the first chapter, synopsis and query letter. Six weeks later she asked to read the entire manuscript. I went into shock. The entire manuscript! I sent it away and spent the next ten days in a nail-biting blur. She didn’t take it up, but she did write a long email explaining how to fix the novel. For the first time I had professional feedback.
  •            At a workshop, a published author recommended a book that had helped him in his career: “Scene & Structure, How to construct fiction with scene-by-scene flow, logic and readability, by Jack M. Bickham.” The chapter on Cause and Effect was a revelation.
  •             In early 2009, I discovered a blog written by American editor and author, Anne Mini, entitled “Author! Author!” In her own words: “Part of my purpose in setting up this website is to provide as much information about the writing life and publication process as possible to aspiring writers…” Her comprehensive online advice was free, unheard of at the time. She was the only writing professional I’d come across who was willing to discuss the craft. I wish I’d found her sooner. She started posting in August 2005. Reading her blog posts I finally understood why my manuscript needed more work. Under her instruction I spent months improving my novel-editing skills, the laborious process of refining words, grammar and story structure.

Five years had passed since I’d purchased that fateful writing magazine. I was ready to take early retirement. My freedom to write full time coincided with the growth in the Internet self-publishing revolution. I was determined to join the revolution the moment I had a novel ready. I discarded my early writing efforts and started afresh. The result is my thriller, Blood Pool, published in Kindle format on Amazon. Currently, I’m working hard on my next novel, a sweeping thriller spanning the European continent, a story of tragedy, vengeance and love.

I know now that my writing journey will never end. Every day I learn something new from our wonderful online community. Were the years spent struggling with the craft worth it? I’d have to say, yes. They taught me not only essential skills, but also how to keep going in the face of disappointment and rejection. They were worth it.

At ten years old J.E. Ryder discovered that her elder brother's reading choices were completely different from hers, and much more exciting. She loved his fabulous Marvel Comics with their superheroes and heroines, the espionage novels, gritty adventure stories and survival epics. Her lifelong enjoyment of thrilling fiction has had a major influence on her writing. Her business career took her through all the big city industries and corporations: oil, banking, law and national government, and provided an endless cast of fascinating people and situations to draw on. Her debut thriller, Blood Pool is available from Amazon. Currently, she’s working on her next novel, a sweeping thriller that spans the European continent, a story of tragedy, vengeance and love.

Blood Pool Book Description:
How hard can it be to kill one woman?

When Sam Shelley’s husband dies she becomes the owner of his boat yard and estates. The Shelley men have inherited the land for two hundred years. Locals want it to stay that way. They’re threatening to trace the rightful male heir.

Then an old friend, an eccentric inventor, disappears in violent circumstances. Sam will do anything for him: he’s been like a father to her while she grieved. The race is on to find him. The authorities want him for murder. Government agencies want him and his world-changing invention for themselves.

Sam is determined to reach him first. Soon, she’s squeezed between murderous factions outside the boat yard and deadly rivalries within. No one is what they seem, especially those nearest to her…

J.E. Ryder’s Amazon Page:
J.E. Ryder’s Blog:

Thank you J.E. for a wonderful inspirational post. Many aspiring writers out there, perhaps losing heart at the constant obstacles that seem to separate them from having their work published, should be encouraged by your words. As Sancho Panza of Don Quijote fame once said: "Patience, and shuffle the cards!"

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