Mastodon The Writing Desk: October 2011

29 October 2011

Book Launch: Farsighted by Emlyn Chand

Emlyn Chand's first novel is everything I hoped it would be. Innovative and thought provoking - the first novel I've wanted to read in one go for a long time.

So what is Farsighted about?

The comfortable but uneventful life of blind student Alex Kosmitoras suddenly changes when he realises he can 'see' things others can’t  - visions of the future. When his unwanted visions suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to do something about it.

The innovative bit is a clever touch, as it is not easy to do something different but Emlyn has.  Runes, one of the earliest forms of writing, are simple yet mysterious.  At start of every chapter of Farsighted is a Rune and a 'prophecy' that hints at what is to come (if you can work out the clues).

The thought provoking bit is to enter the mind of someone who can't see. Emlyn could easily have overplayed it for effect but I like the way she gently reminds the reader just how much harder the everyday challenges of life can be if you are blind.

Intrigued, I asked Emlyn about this and she told me she doesn't have any blind people in her life - just did a load of research before getting started.  She admitted that it took a while to adjust to writing without visual details, but it became much easier as the work progressed.  (Interestingly she had a team of seven 'beta readers' checking for details a blind person couldn't know!)

I don't make any claims to precognition - but I can see a bright future for Emlyn Chand as a novelist!

Get your copy of Farsighted now by visiting’s Kindle store or the eBook retailer of your choice. The paperback edition will be available on November 24 (just in time for Emlyn's birthday).

Blog Tour Prizes

You could win a $100 Amazon gift card as part of this special blog tour. Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $100 too! Please help by voting for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll. To cast your vote, visit the official Farsighted blog tour page and scroll all the way to the bottom. Thank you for your help with that.

The Author

Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories. When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity. Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit for more info.

The Trailer:

26 October 2011

Re-learning the importance of the short story

I've just finished reading a collection of short stories by Dean Koontz, one of my favourite writers.  It is called Strange Highways and shows his impressive versatility with very different stories.  The best bit for me, however, was at the end, where he has a twelve page note to readers about the craft of short story writing. Koontz says the secret of success is to really enjoy the process of writing – even when a page is on its twenty sixth redraft and still isn't working. He also acknowledges that literary agents don't really encourage short stories, as the limited markets tend not to pay very well.

This got me thinking. All writers have ideas that may one day make it into a full length book but I suspect that most, like me, rarely bother to work them up as a short story. I remembered reading a really good book about how to write short stories years ago – and managed to find it again.  It's called "The way to Write Short Stories" by Michael Baldwin (a quick check on Amazon revealed 14 copies going for as little as £0.01)   As well as writing a dozen novels, Michael has judged international writing competitions and has some great tips for anyone interested in short story writing.  This little book is also packed with examples that highlight the potential to craft a worthwhile short story from just about anything, from notes of overheard conversations to three random objects.  

Ultimately, of course, the way to write a good short story is to just write.  He reminds us that "one word on the page is worth a whole story planned in your head."  Similarly, it helps to resist being too critical of your own work.  One of the attractions for me of the National Novel Writing Month challenge is the freedom to just write without worrying about how good it is.  Revision is another step in the creative process – and to leave the last word to Michael  Baldwin "If you feel entirely contented with your product [writing], you have substantial grounds for alarm."     

24 October 2011

Guest post by Emlyn Chand, author of Farsighted:10 lessons I’ve learned

When did you have enough confidence in your abilities to officially call yourself a writer?

For me, it was when I first received money for my work as a freelance columnist. For you, it may have been when you finished the first chapter of your first novel or won a prize for a short story. Maybe you never had any qualms about saddling yourself with this label. Maybe you still don’t consider yourself a “real writer.”

Me? Now I know enough to see that I was a writer long before someone handed me that first paycheck. It’s kind of something you’re born with—like it or not.

But being an author, that’s different.

The term writer focuses more on the craft—engaging in the actual activity of writing. The term author encompasses not only the craft but also the business aspect of it.

So when are you worthy of the label author? Why, when you publish your first book of course!

I write this post just days before I make the transition from writer to author. My first novel Farsighted releases on October 24, which means my 26-year-long (AKA life-long) dream is finally coming true. When I look back at the journey that brought me to the peak of this beautiful achievement, I can’t help but think of what I wish I’d have known before starting on my path.

I’ve identified 10 lessons I’ve learned along the way. Maybe you already know these things. Maybe you don’t. I’m gonna share ‘em anyway...

1. Something’s gotta give. Writing is not something you can do with just a little bit of effort. To get through the first draft, editing, what-have-you, you'll have to work hard! Yes, you could space it out over several years, but if you want to finish anytime this year, you’re going to have to make sacrifices. For me, this was less time with friends and family, less television, and less attention to my health (eating right and exercising). Oops.

2. Write what you want to write—not what you think you should be writing. Boy, this was a hard one to learn. I’ve always fallen back on being “that smart girl.” When things didn’t go right in my personal life or when I was picked last in gym class, I took pride in my intellect. Therefore, I’ve always done what I can to improve my wit and make my best trait the best it can be. That being said, I spent a long time forcing myself to read classic literature. I did enjoy it, and I still do, but it’s definitely not what I find most entertaining (YA is). Still I kept at the classic literature because it was important to me that others respect my intelligence (damaged by high school much? :-P). Naturally when I decided to write a novel, it came out as literary fiction. That’s the me I wanted to portray to the world. I wanted people to salivate over my talent and proclaim my literary merit... Except the novel wasn’t that good, because it wasn’t a piece of who I really am. Now that I’ve cozied into YA, I couldn’t be happier. And the larger facade of who I once pretended to be has lifted. I. AM. FREE. Now this lesson doesn’t just mean: don’t put on a false front. It also means: don’t chase trends. Write what your heart wants to write, and it’ll all be good in the end.

3. You’re going to make mistakes. LOTS of mistakes. Practice makes perfect. Well, it makes it better than before. You may be an excellent writer, but if you’ve never written a novel before, you’re a newbie. That’s okay too! When writing that all-important first novel, you’re pretty much going to make every mistake in the book. In my first novel, I really struggled with keeping a consistent point-of-view and writing authentic dialogue. The POV problem was very difficult to fix, but in trying, I learned an important lesson—one I couldn’t have learned if I hadn’t made such huge blunders. Now that I do know how to correct and avoid these problems, dialogue and POV are two of my strongest areas (at least that’s what readers tell me).

4. Writer’s detour is a bigger problem than writer’s block. Writer’s block gets all the PR, but it’s not as dangerous as writer’s detour. When you’re blocked you’re not moving forward. When you take a detour, you’re moving in the wrong direction. Will you get to California quicker by taking a small rest in Boise, or will you get there quicker by following a pretty red car to Ontario first? (My advice, drive straight-on through to Cali if you can). Don’t get so caught up with a minor character (or a theme you want to convey) that you stray all over the place. Which brings me to my next point...

5. Structure is important. We writers fall into two camps: pantsers and plotters. Some pantsers consider themselves superior, because their writing leads their plots—not the other way around. I used to think like that too. Even if you want to keep your plotline fluid, you need some form of structure. Shudder at the thought of outlining? Then mapping your characters is crucial. You need to know where you’re going and/or who's taking you there. Otherwise you’re just groping about in the dark. Yes, writing is absolutely a creative process, but don’t under-estimate the value of good planning.

6. Novel #1 may never leave the drawer. Or it may leave the drawer, journey around the query circuit, and then come right back to where it started. My first novel DID get me an agent, but 9 drafts later, it still wasn’t good enough to publish. When my agent suggested I change 2/3 of it for draft 10, I decided to move onto my next project. I just wasn’t enjoying the process anymore. I’m so glad I finally called it quits on novel #1, because novel #2 is so much better, and now I get to put it out there into the world. If I would’ve kept agonizing over the inferior manuscript, novel #2 may have never happened!

7. When you’re done, you’re not done. I’m just a big ball of sunshine today, aren’t I? But it’s important to understand just how much work follows being “done.” Anne Lamott said it best in Bird by Bird, you’re going to write “shitty first drafts.” I can guarantee it! Don’t let that stop you, just be prepared for it.

8. Writing is a business just as much as it’s an art. Getting a novel published and promoting it once it’s out there is infinitely more work than writing a novel in the first place. That’s not to under-value the writing process, but it’s true. Sure, you can finish your novel, self-publish it, and then do virtually nothing to promote it. Fine. But if you actually want to sell copies of your book, you’ve gotta handle the business side of things. Finding an agent is an extremely formal business interaction—you even have to write fancy business (AKA query) letters. Marketing your book is a TON of work. It’s pretty fun (at least, I think so, but I moonlight as a book publicist, so I realize I might not be normal). However, being fun is not equivalent to being easy. Not even close. Expect lots of work and lots of stress and not very much sleep. The good news: you get out what you put in, so give it all you can!

9. Querying will destroy your soul. My unhappy place is remembering query letter Hell. I honestly can’t remember anything harder in my life. Ever. Make sure you have a good support system in place. Because even if you’re brilliant, you can pretty much expect a slew of rejections. I ultimately got an agent but had to suffer through 60 “not for us”s first. Of course, it hurts. As writers, we pour our hearts and souls into our manuscript. Our words are a part of who we are. Having a faceless stranger tell you it’s not good enough is pure torture. End of argument.

10. You will sustain injuries. Gosh, my neck is killing me while I’m writing this post. You’re probably going to get neck and back pain too. Headaches from staring at the computer too long. Possible eye problems. Definite poor posture. Maybe even carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s just the way it goes, so be prepared.

Seems pretty cynical, doesn’t it? I <3 the craft and would never abandon it (like I even have a choice), but I find that those who are starting out with visions of Stephen King or JK Rowling-esque fame already see the pretty side of writing—the glamor. Having a balanced picture is so important. Even still, all the practical knowledge just can’t compare to experiential knowledge. Follow YOUR path to author-hood, make your own mistakes, learn lessons from them, and then share with the rest of us.

Blog Tour Notes

THE BOOK: Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t. When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider. Get your copy today by visiting’s Kindle store or the eBook retailer of your choice. The paperback edition will be available on November 24 (for the author’s birthday).

THE CASH PRIZES: Guess what? You could win a $100 Amazon gift card as part of this special blog tour. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $100 too! Please help by voting for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll. To cast your vote, visit the official Farsighted blog tour page and scroll all the way to the bottom. Thank you for your help with that.

THE GIVEAWAYS: Win 1 of 10 autographed copies of Farsighted before its paperback release by entering the giveaway on GoodReads. Perhaps you’d like an autographed postcard from the author; you can request one on her site.

THE AUTHOR: Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories, having emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity. Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit for more info.

9 October 2011

National Novel Writing Month

I am taking part in the 2011 National Novel Writing Month, which starts on November 1st and is how you can write a 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30th.  Known by aficionados as 'NaNoWriMo,' this writing marathon is for everyone who has ever wanted to write a novel but never been able to make the time.

You may have heard the advice "if you want to be a writer, write!"  and 'NaNoWriMo'  means you have to write at least 1667 words every day for a month.

Like many of us, I have too many distractions in my life and am hoping this simple discipline will be really good for me.  I've also fallen into the trap of eternally revising my work.  Although this is a very necessary part of the process, it will be great to have a break and simply enjoy writing again.

50,000 words may seem short for a novel but that's the length of Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' – and although you are not supposed to write anything in advance of the 1st, you can of course keep going after the end of November.

There are a few simple rules - quantity, not quality and don't read back or revise. It is about liberating your creativity and taking risks.  Last year over 200,000 people joined in 'NaNoWriMo' and over 30,000 met the deadline.

To find out more about 'NaNoWriMo' visit and to join in, register for free at