Guest Post with Author, Airam Booksie
I first met Maria, aka Airam Booksie, aka Airam Author on Wattpad. I was intrigued by her stories and her huge following of adoring fans. I became friends with her on Facebook and messaged her occasionally for Wattpad advice, after-all she'd been on it for just over a year and in my eyes was the Queen of Wattpad (and still is). It was Maria, though she lives in the UK, who sent me the link for Fountain Blue Publishing. She had come across it somewhere and knowing that I was in search of a publisher, sent it to me.
Maria is in the process of publishing her first novel and there is no doubt in my mind that she will be a resounding success when her books hit the stores.
Thank you, Maria, for hosting this blog today.
I became successful as an amateur writer by posting on sites Booksie and Wattpad, using the penname Airam (Maria backwards). I shared draft copies of my novels to obtain feedback and have 17 completed novels and 8 that I am currently working on.
Wattpad has the following drafts on the site if you wish to see them: - WOW! x - Pirate Series (Stowaway, Remember our Love, The Secret of Monkey Island) - Kismet Series (Kismet, Fate, Destiny, Kiss Me) - Marriage made in Heaven - Muse - Lordosis - Love is in the Heir - Mae Day 1 & 2 - Love in Bloom - Do Not Touch (SYTYCW Competition TOP 25) - I've seen her! (NaNoWriMo2013). I have accumulated 29,499 followers on the site who read my work daily and leave feedback. They also hound me for updates… you will see that in the comments on Wattpad. It’s hard to get followers or votes, but I have been fortunate.
Thanks to that loyal fanbase, several of my novels have each been read millions of times on the site and achieved #1 Romance, Chicklit, Non Teen Fiction, Paranormal, shifter, Sci-fi Charts.
I have been awarded ‘Most Read’ and ‘Most Active Writer’ on the site in the past. Along with becoming a finalist in the SYTYCW Competition, with a humourous story about a one night stand called ‘Do Not Touch’. I was also one of the most successful writers for the Nanowrimo 2013, with a story called ‘I’ve seen her’ about a seeing a missing child while on holiday. Wattpad made me one of their ‘Featured Writers’ so when people come onto the site they can see my work as a recommendation.
E! Channel, TV series, 'The Royals' chose to use another of my novels 'Love is in the Heir'as part of their top ten recommended books to read in their Wattpad Promotion. It has 5,302,083 reads to date and remains very popular. It is set in an English village tea shop where a young woman becomes friends with a young man who helps during a busy day. He turns out to be a Prince, the grandson of Grace Kelly. It was also used by the site to promote the birth of both Prince George and Princess Charlotte. It has 6.8k positive comments as feedback. It was #1 in Romance Chart, Non Teen Fiction and Chicklit.
Most recently 'The Choice' film, based on Nicholas Sparks novel, recommended the novel I am sending you, 'Love in Bloom' as a must read for 'Difficult Choices of the Heart'. This was part of a Wattpad promotional feature with the film launch. Love in Bloom has 2,104,770 reads to date. There are 4.2k positive comments to back up the books success. You can read a large number of them on the end chapter on Wattpad. Again it hit #1 Romance and Chicklit charts.
How to become a writer
One of the most frequently asked questions/comments that I receive as a writer is…“I’d love to be able to write. How do I do it?” I don’t think there is ever a right answer to that question. Some are of the opinion that you have to been born with the gift to write. That you instinctively know where to start the story and from then on writing becomes a compulsion. For me that is true as my mind is full of stories and they don’t disappear until I write them. Even then it’s just to make room for another.
How to you avoid writers block
I’ve never suffered with writers block. I’ve never pressured myself to finish a story. I can write several novels at the same time. Chopping and changing between them like switching channels. Not all writers can do that. They like to stick with one story and won’t entertain the idea of another until they are finished. My writing is very fluid and where writers block is concerned, I think that often problems like that stem from putting so much pressure on yourself to write a certain scene, it becomes a case of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
What do you think new writers struggle with the most?
Establishing an identity. It’s like the writer side of you is another person for a while. Your secret escape into your own imagination. Some people become a writer because they fell in love with another story and start to write fanfiction. That’s a great starting block but readers want you to be unique. Develop your own writing style. Don’t try to be someone else as you will never feel as satisfied emulating another person’s work, as you will with being yourself.
What if it doesn’t come naturally?
All you need to do to become a writer is ‘write’. Pick up a pen and paper or type in on a computer screen. One sentence will lead to the next. It doesn’t have to be 50,000 words. It can be a short story. Even start with poetry or song lyrics. It’s still something you have ‘written’ and that makes you a ‘writer’. How far you decided to take that is up to you. How serious you want to be, is again up to you. You get out of it what you put in.
How do you plan a story?
I don’t. Seriously, I don’t. I just start writing and the story flows. I don’t sit down and plot things out, but I know a few that do. That’s too much like hard work for me. A story has a beginning, middle and end. I start with a blank word document and type what is in my head. One scene follows another all the way to the end. When I go back and edit the document, I can add bits with the knowledge of what lies ahead for the characters. I never sit and plan it with a pen and paper. At work I mind map or spider graph all the time, but with writing it is just brain dumping on a word document.
What about character profiles?
I’ve tried to write character profiles and that doesn’t work for me either. It makes me sound like a crap writer, but I’m being honest. I think some people can get lost in the detail of planning and spend more time on that than writing the story. I even felt like I should adopt those practices and have purchased note books for each story but I just don’t need them. Why make things harder for yourself? If I wrote something like Game of Thrones, I could understand the need, but my writing is nowhere near as complex.
When do you think someone can call themselves a writer?
When you feel comfortable saying ‘I’m a writer’. Hell, you should rejoice, as that can be a longer journey for some than the act of writing a book. Six years and 20 books later, I feel I can now call myself a writer. I am still secretive about it, I don’t tell people and I use a penname. That will change soon when I publish under my real name.
Why do you use a penname?
It was a user name for a writing site. Maria was taken so I wrote the name backwards ‘Airam’ and used that. When I went to a new writing site I kept the user name as readers followed and wanted to be able to find me.
How do you decide what to write? Where does it come from?
When you played with your friends as kids and assigned roles to each other, you all ‘adlibbed’ and while you knew your role, you weren’t given lines. You made it up and had so much fun you would do it for hours and look forward to it the next day. As a writer I am making up the lines and the characters are like a SIM character. Instead of acting it out like we did as children, it is in my head.
We all have an inner monologue. Even now, as you are reading this sentence, you are hearing that voice. You are using it to assess what you are reading. It’s the same when you are listening to someone talk. Are you listening to them or yourself? The truth is, you are listening to yourself and assessing whether what they are saying, is interesting, do you agree, and is it worth your time to continue listening? A reader makes the same choices with a book. Is it interesting? Do I understand it? Can I relate? Am I invested in finding out what happens to the characters? If you can make a reader ‘continue’, then you have a gift. If you can make a reader ‘feel the same emotion as the character’, you have a gift. If you can make a reader become so passionate about a story, they call themselves a fan… well that is an honour.
Describe your inner monologue and how you use it.
As a writer my inner monologue makes way for the voices of the characters. It’s like a shadowed veil between their world and mine. I just have the ability to share what I can see, by transferring it to a computer screen. The more I focus on the characters the brighter the scene becomes and I can almost step into their world like a spirit and become their cupid. I can either shoot them with a love arrow or stand back and wait till they deserve the shot. During that time I watch them live their life and overcome whatever obstacle is in their way to find each other again. All the time I am watching and narrating it back to my readers. I am a ghost in their world and they are imagination in mine.
Here is a list of some of the things I do. I will try to put some examples in from famous books and explain any buzz words I use.
I don’t change POV. Other writers like to swap and change. In Game of Thrones (George RR Martin) hops from one character to another. It took me a while to adjust to reading that writing style, because I felt like I was getting reader whiplash (Disorientated due to the fast pace and sudden changes in perspective) I would sometimes have to stop and try to work out who was speaking.
I refuse to write the same story but from the male POV. I often get requests from readers to write a second story from the POV of the male character, but it is not something that interests me. I did however write a chapter in Kismet from the perspective of Gus, a supporting character, to try that style. In Twilight (Stephanie Meyer) and Fifty Shades of Grey (E L James) the authors were asked by their fan bases to write from the male perspective. They did as requested, but only Christian Grey was released, as the author of Twilight discovered Midnight Sun from the POV of Edward had been leaked so she refused to continue. Instead she posted the first few chapters on her website for free. She did however write another book from the POV of a very minor character called Bree.
I don’t approve requests to translate. I receive a lot of offers especially on Wattpad to translate my stories to other languages. I refuse. My writing is copyright protected.
I enjoy reading fanfiction of my work. It is a real privilege to see that my story has inspired someone else’s imagination. More often than not, it is their first attempt at writing and they are nervous to share it with you. It is great to see them take those first steps, and if they feel safer doing it in the world I created then so be it.
I make magical stuff up. Yep, I use my imagination. Just throw a magic spell in here or a dragon in there. Make the vampire hungry for pizza and not in the mood for blood. It makes me laugh when readers leave angry messages saying ‘Shifters don’t do this’ and ‘Vampires don’t do that.’ I laugh because they don’t exist, they are not real. When you remind them of that fact, they either reply ‘Oh yeah, I forgot’ or they insist they are real. You just have to giggle to yourself. Some of my writer friends have researched witchcraft to try and find spells and try to cram everything into their heads. In the end they lose the plot…literally. I have to remind them, those mythical and magical characters are not real. Make it up. Go wild. When they finally throw caution to the wind, the story pours out of them and they sigh with relief. Example: You could write a story about a fish called Ted, who was lonely and suicidal so swam towards a hook to get caught. When he is caught he realises he wants to live. That hook belonged to a little girl who removes it, kisses him better and sets him free. Many years later, Ted is still alive, that is a long time for fish to be bobbing around in the water. He has been waiting on the little girl to return, so he can thank her by jumping in the air and giving her a little wave of his fin. He had been practicing since his lust for life came back. When she returns, he can see has grown into a beautiful young woman but she is sad, crying into the water. Instead of showing off his jump, Ted uses it to kiss her cheek, the way she had his. He drops back into the water with a victorious splash as her hand springs to her face to touch the spot. She smiles and runs away. Returning later she calls to him. Ted swims towards her but begins to struggle, ‘Please don’t let me die just yet,’ he prays as he wants to be held by her just one last time. She walks into the water, reaching out a hand to touch him, to save him, to thank him. Ted uses the last of his strength to jump into her arms with a flick of his tail. As she holds the poor fish, she wonders how long the man had been trapped in this form. Who had cursed him and why? She would ask him once the spell was broken, with the setting of the sun. See…. Stupid, crazy, and fun. Go mad with it.
Don’t let your readers curb your imagination. On Wattpad some writers are guilty of letting their readers dictate the path their story takes. Even deleting chapters when people say they don’t like it. I couldn’t write like that. I only share my drafts when I have a few chapters done and they are busy reading that while I type the rest. It’s your story! Don’t let others dictate to you or you won’t feel a sense of accomplishment. You will feel as though you are working for someone. It ruins the experience. Writing is supposed to be a form of escapism not servitude.
Research medical details. Readers will comment if they think you are factually incorrect, especially in relation to medical information because it ruins the story for them. I have a story which includes twins and triplets. Not only did I research, email and speak to medical professionals, I used real life experiences from some of my friends and family who have had multiple births. Readers left messages saying ‘this would never happen’ or ‘medically this is incorrect.’ Only for other readers who are the parents of twins to jump straight to my defence and say ‘This happened to me.’ Be prepared to have your research questioned. Keep the links and acknowledge the sources.
I can’t write with someone else in the room. It prevents me from being able to fully emerge myself in the writing process. It is too much of a distraction for the TV to be on, people on their phones or wanting to talk about their day. Keep them separate.
I often stay up till the wee small hours of the morning. That way I can have uninterrupted writing time and unpack the jumble of scenes swimming around in my head. Transferring them on a computer screen is a release. I type stupidly fast to get them all out. Then I go to bed and my mind is immediately filled with new scenes. It’s never ending. In the past I’ve gone two to three days with about four hours sleep just to finish a story.
Social Media. Today, a large part of being a writer includes using social media to communicate with readers, writers and publishers. It’s a wonderful online world that allows writers to keep up-to- date with new trends and in contact with their readers at the touch of a button. You can quickly become aware of how large your fan base is and how fast it is growing. The instant feedback using Social media is invaluable to a writer like me, as I share my drafts on ‘writing sites’ and use the feedback when editing. Readers leaving comments and reviews about how much they enjoyed reading my work can often be as rewarding as writing the story. It’s a seal of approval, a pat on the back and virtual high five. Yes, there is a possibility that you can receive negative feedback, but take the good with the bad. You are never going to please everyone and five sentences written by a reader who didn’t like your story, doesn’t stop you being a writer. It just means they didn’t like that story and they are telling you why.
Learning new skills. Writers become more computer literate as they learn to navigate different sites, format blogs and design book covers. Things we used to rely on others to do for us, often at great cost. When we realise how easy it is to do these things for ourselves we wonder how we ever got along with it. There are so many groups, forums, chat rooms, blogs, websites etc that will help and support you improve as a writer and build on your skills.
Manage your time effectively. There is a downside to social media, it can become very time consuming and take over your writing time. You don’t realise how much it impacts it, until you start struggling to find the time to write. You say ‘Oh I’ll do it tomorrow, a day off won’t hurt.’ A couple of days later, that day might turn into two days off… or a week… then a month. Before you realise what has happened you have to take time away from social media e.g. writing sites, blogs, reviews, as you need to get back to writing. One hour on Facebook can easily turn to four. You start to realise that you have been procrastinating. All that talk about what you are going to write, is wasted because you are so busy online, trying not to let people down, that you are no longer an active writer. When NaNoWri comes up in November, you begin to question if you have time to participate this year…. You didn’t do that before. It was never considered too tight a deadline. It was easy. So what is the cause? Bloody Social Media… it is ‘Book blocking’. The whole purpose of having a facebook page, twitter, blog etc is to promote your writing. How can you do that if you are no longer writing? It is easy to get sucked into the ‘like for like’ and ‘read for read’. Helping other writers with their book launches, giveaway and proof reading ARCs. You commit yourself to updating facebook pages, twitter, Blogs, writing sites etc. Then there are the emails and comments from readers that need replying too. It’s knackering. Especially after a hard day at work, taking care of family where you are living on 3-4 hours of sleep to fit everything in.
I hope this advice is helpful in some way to new writers. Just remember, your imagination is your best friend. Let it run wild and have fun together. You did as a kid and look how happy it made you. Find a genre you enjoy and take yourself on an adventure. It’s good for the soul.