Now that doesn’t mean Val is leaving her (writing) life of crime (!), but she has turned to non-fiction with the recent release of her Let’s Get Published.
It is perfectly okay when “changing direction” in writing to go down one avenue and then come straight back to your main road again! Many writers do this. It mixes up what we write and keeps things interesting for us. It is also another string to our bow and gives us a chance to open up new audiences for all of our written works.
But non-fiction has different challenges to story writing and Val will talk a bit more about those shortly. (Never underestimate the amount of research needed for a start!).
I was privileged to be a reader on Let’s Get Published ahead of its publication and I just wish I’d had this to hand when I was starting out as a writer. There is so much information out there but it is knowing where to find it that can stump people.
Also, to begin with, you often don’t know what it is you need to know so a guide like this where what you are most likely to need to know is all in one place is invaluable.
You’ll gather from that I liked it!
Now over to quizzing Val. I would normally happily do this over some prosecco with Val at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School but we are going to have to imagine that for the time being given Swanwick has had to be cancelled due to You Know What. We’re both very much looking forward to being back in August 2021 but I’m not going to wait to chat to Val until then so here goes..
Val: Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today, Allison. I really appreciate it.
Allison: You are most welcome, Val.
1. So the obvious question first then. Why the switch to non-fiction?
I have witnessed so many authors struggling to get their books into print and many make problems for themselves that make success less likely. I wanted to try to help iron out some of those wrinkles to make the road to publication easier for other authors.
2. What did you find challenging about writing non-fiction that you’ve not had to face in writing your DI Hunter Wilson series?
My fiction writing is carried by the characters, and in non-fiction writing I didn’t have any! The non-fiction also requires a great deal of research. The last thing I want to do is to give incorrect advice to my readers.
3. Are you hoping to write more non-fiction in the future?
I may well write more non-fiction if Let’s Get Published is well received and helpful to others.
4. What did you love most about writing Let’s Get Published?
I most enjoyed looking back and thinking about my own writing journey and those who have helped me along the way. Writers, on the whole, are generous and warm-hearted to others in their profession. I hope to spread a little of that good-will too.
Allison: Wholeheartedly agree with this. So many writers have helped with my writing journey both in terms of good advice given and support for the down times. That is so important.
5. How do you find balancing writing fiction with non-fiction?
Primarily, I am a fiction writer. That is my job, but I did enjoy the dalliance with non-fiction on this occasion. So this was not so much a balancing act as a change of direction for a little while.
Allison: And this is another thing to remember with the writing journey. It is very rarely in a straight line for anyone but that’s fine. A detour led me into flash fiction!
6. What are you hoping to achieve with Let’s Get Published?
I hope the new book will be useful for people who have completed a novel, or collection of poetry or short stories, and want to find themselves a readership that will enjoy their work.
7. Did you find it odd to write a stand-alone book when you are usually writing a crime series? How did you adjust to the different writing demands here?
Because the stand-alone book was non-fiction, I did not really think of it in terms of my usual series. However, if I did write another non-fiction book I would probably use the Let’s Get….. in the title because I quite like writing a series.
Allison: It is also useful for establishing a brand. And every author, regardless of what they write, has to think of themselves in those kind of terms. Where would your books fit in? How would people remember your books etc?
8. So much has changed in the world of publishing since you and I started writing seriously, Val. How much research did you have to do for Let’s Get Published?
That is so true, and the speed with which the industry is changing is remarkable. That did require me to research more than I had anticipated, particularly in relation to the amount of work that is done on line, rather than by post, now.
Allison: I remember having to submit everything by good old snail mail, Val. I couldn’t tell you how much time I spent queuing in the Post Office to send submissions off! I must admit I am not sorry that submissions are almost always done by email now (and that’s much as I love the Post Office!).
9. What did you learn as you wrote Let’s Get Published in terms of approaching both the topic and writing non-fiction at all? Is there something you would do a different way next time you write a non-fiction book?
I had to learn a great deal about editing, as I am not a professional editor. Who knew there were so many types of editors? I also set myself a very tight time-scale for getting the book to market, I think I would give myself a longer loop, next time.
10. For anyone thinking of writing non-fiction, what top tips would you share and why?
Do all your research before you start writing and then check it as you go. Details may change along the way.
Allison: It is also a good thought to keep a note of where you do your research. If you need to give a list of sources to publishers etc., you’ve then got this information to hand.
11. Stephen King’s On Writing is a hugely influential and entertaining writing guide/memoir and one many authors, including me, recommend. What books have you found most useful to you here on your own writing journey, both for your fiction and non-fiction? Are there books you turn to time and again as needed? (For me it’s the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook to name just one).
Because I write crime novels, the three books I constantly refer to are:-
The Real CSI by Kate Bendelow
Being a Detective by Stuart Gibbon
Forensics by Val McDermid
12. What would you say were the advantages of fiction and non-fiction? What do you love most about them?
The main difference is accuracy! If you write fiction, you can make it all up – even create a new world, if you want to. However, if you are going to write non-fiction, you must get the details correct.
Allison: This is so true. Readers are known to moan at authors for getting the slightest detail wrong. So never underestimate non-fiction writers. So much work has to go into what they do before you see it available.
And now for some more details as to what Let’s Get Published is all about.
Blurb – Let’s Get Published
At last, a book that is easy to read and tells it how it is!
A book written to assist authors maximise their success when submitting work to agents or publishers, to help authors consider their priorities and preferences for getting work into print. To advise authors how to identify the agents and/or publishers they want to approach. It should also assist with editing their manuscript fully prior to submission. The book offers advice about how to prepare a submission package to give an author the best chance of success.
The road to becoming a successful author is not easy, but it is rewarding. Let this book take you on the journey.
Val: Thank you, again for inviting me to your blog. It is always lovely to chat about writing with you, Allison.
The writing journey is fun but it is also hard work so having invaluable advice to hand to help you on your way is always a good thing. And this is where books like Let’s Get Published have an important part to play.
Many thanks, Val, for sharing invaluable insights with Chandler’s Ford Today readers. Good luck with Let’s Get Published. And if you would like more details on any aspect of Val’s writing, please do check out her links below.
Author contact details
Tweets by valeriepenny
Author buy links
Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.
Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force, and Hunter’s Blood form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and published by Crooked Cat Books. The fifth novel in the series, Hunter’s Secret, is published by darkstroke. Her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published, is available now.
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