Getting into writing – an interview with Daniel of Grindstone Lit

Grindstone Literary Services

Daniel studied Creative Writing at University, and works full time as a freelance writer and editor, working in both Fiction and Nonfiction. He’s been published as both a ghostwriter, and under his own name, and founded Grindstone Literary Services alongside friend and partner Nathan. Since then, they’ve dedicated themselves to helping others develop their writing through a process of constructive criticism.

Grindstone Literary Services

The driving idea behind Grindstone is to provide an opportunity for writers to compete in a constructive environment, wherein good writing is rewarded and recognised through a carefully designed judging program. Though time consuming, they stand by their initial goal of providing every entrant with detailed feedback as to why they didn’t win. They champion this ethos of critical feedback, and employ a multicultural team of judges, all with educations and careers in writing, to read every entry, and provide solid, actionable advice on how they might be improved. Their methods have been tested over the last year, and have proven time and time again to be effective in the betterment of their authors’ writing.

Why did you start Grindstone?

Grindstone started the same way that all things do. There was a need for something that wasn’t available. We knew that there were thousands of writers out there, just like us, not knowing which was way up. Being met with rejection is a horrible experience, but it’s compounded by the impersonalness of it. Not knowing why you didn’t make the cut – be it for a competition, literary magazine, or an agent’s list – is as bad as the rejection itself. Worse even. We knew that there was a dire need for a company like ours, who provide feedback to developing writers the world over. We have helped, and will continue to help every writer than chooses Grindstone by giving them constructive advice on how they can improve, and then, rewarding their hard work with prize money, publications, and support, which all go a long way to helping them achieve their ultimate goal of success in this industry.

What is the most gratifying element of publishing the written word?

I think what we always loved was finding something out of our comfort zone that we love. Good writing transcends genre and taste, and stumbling onto someone who knows their way around a pen is exhilarating. This industry is so difficult to crack, and knowing that we’re rewarding those who truly want it, and are prepared to work for it, by giving them advice, reassurance, and the accolade of a publication – well, that’s it’s own reward. Several of our writers have gone on to find successes with agents, and in other competitions, so we know we’re doing it right. On the other side of the coin, aspiring and developing writers have emailed us following competitions, saying that by us providing feedback to them, encouraging them to improve – we gave them the courage to keep trying. One person even said that they’d given up writing altogether because she wasn’t getting anywhere, but our constructive feedback gave her a starting point to try again. She said that we provided her the first ever feedback she’d gotten, and from it, she was able to get back up and find the will to try again. That one warmed our hearts, and made it all worth it.

What are the happiest memories in your writing/publishing career?

I think that there have been two for me. My first publication by another company, when I was a little younger (which gave me the validation I’d always searched for, and the drive to continue), and also the publication of our Anthology. Putting together the list of pieces from writers, and seeing the excitement and support from those writers – that was special. Those who’ve become a part of Grindstone have been instrumental in spreading the word, and we’re really grateful to them for it. They know what we’re doing helps writers in a way that they’ve never been helped before, and they keep telling us that they’re telling people about Grindstone and directing people to the site. That’s all the reassurance we need to keep going. I think the Anthology will always hold a special place in our hearts.

How do you handle success and failure?

It’s probably the hardest thing to do, handling failure. Rejection is part and parcel in writing, and it comes when we least expect it. An email to our phones can ruin a family dinner, a holiday, or even just a good day. Your heart will never stop sinking – that’s for sure. When it comes to ‘failure’ though, there’s only one way to look at it. Life isn’t just one door – it’s a corridor filled with them. You’ve got to knock on them all to find one that opens. Failure tells you one thing. You weren’t ready. Time is a friend to writers, as is practice. Getting pushed backwards is normal – it’s whether you push back. That’s what matters. Hone your skills. Work on your writing. Keep editing. Keep redrafting. Find readers. Take on board their criticism. It’s all a learning curve, and no one ever stops developing as a writer. You’ve got to keep going, and you’ve got to keep trying. Every success story starts like that. Play the long game. Don’t think about anything as finite. Write something. Refine it. Pitch it. Write something else. Read something else. Develop and evolve through a process of adoption. And never, never stop trying. And when it comes to success – I only have one thing to say. When you find some – be it a publication, or a sale, or whatever it is; revel in it for a moment. Take a breath. Store that enthusiasm for later, when you need it, and then say to yourself, ‘Ok, that’s ’ And then you keep going, searching for the next one. We never truly ‘make it’, not if we don’t stop trying.

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

I think we can all take solace in the fact that no writing is ever wasted. Whether it’s good, or whether it sees the light of day is irrelevant. Writing is a skill, and like all skills, the more time we spend doing it, the better we become. Practice is all that writing ever is. So just squeezing out an extra few hundred words, good or not, is always a great way to just get an extra bit of practice in. And that translates. A little more writing means a little more editing, which is the other half of writing. They exist as two parts of the same whole, and it’s always important to keep that in mind too. Often, for me, when I’m exhausted and achy is the only time I get to write my own stuff – and it’s then, that the love of writing keeps you going. That thrill of creating something pure. And heck, if we can do something we love, and get better at the same time – that’s enough to keep me writing until my head hits the keyboard.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

Realise that it’s a long way up. You’re not going to be good right away. If it worked like that, we’d all be published, there’d be no need for companies like Grindstone. At first, it’s easy for us to delude ourselves into thinking we’re primed for success right away. The taste of rejection isn’t on your tongue yet. See it as a learning curve, is all I can say. Take on board everything everyone says, and know that all opinions are valid. As writers, we have a relationship with our readers, and they’re doing us a service by reading our work, not the other way around. If you’re getting advice, take it. Look for opportunities to learn, and of course – read, a lot. This is a skill, and like any skill, it has to be developed through a learning process. You can’t sit at a piano and play Chopin if you’ve never touched the keys before, and in the same way, you can’t sit down and write a masterpiece if you’ve never written before. Start small, and learn the basics first. Then, start challenging yourself, and your readers.

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (Paper or eBook)

It’s a tough one. Both have their place, and it becomes difficult to say whether one is better than the other. Many writers have gone to eBooks over traditional, and it’s gone well for them. But many writers still chase that industry approval and recognition that comes with traditional. The online market has no filter, so anything can be published. In that way, it’s tough for writers to break out from the pack. There’s never enough readers to go around. A lot of great writers go unnoticed because they’re late to the game, don’t produce the volume of other authors, don’t have the same time to pour into their own marketing, or just don’t have the money to throw at advertising. Adversely, when it comes to traditional publishing, agents and publishers are feeling the pressure from the digital publishing market, and as such are now more selective than ever. A lot of great writers are no doubt being passed over where ten years ago they may have gone on to be successful. It’s a double edged sword. All you can do as a writer is continue to improve your craft, and utilise every opportunity you can. Keep pitching, and publishing wherever, and however you want, and if you’re good enough, you’ll find a readership. Being a diehard advocate of either isn’t going to serve anyone well, so we’re not in the business of recommending either as definite choice. We see the benefits and drawbacks to each, but at the end of the day – success is success. As writers, all we care about is that people read our work, and fall in love with it. Online, or a shelf, what’s the real difference?

Do you blog?

We’ve been working towards producing more content, and will certainly be running a blog alongside our literary magazine which we hope to launch later this year. It’ll contain almost everything that our anthologies and magazines do, but will release consecutively. We know not everyone can purchase an anthology, but that shouldn’t make them exempt from what we’re trying to teach. But also, those who purchase the anthology and magazine shouldn’t be hard-done by when others get the same material for free. Each will have mutually exclusive content, but will also seek to do one thing above all else – help writers. We’ll be announcing the finer details in the coming months.

Do you self-publish?

In a word… Yes. There are lots of great platforms out there where writers can, and should self publish. Authors chasing money, and putting a price on their work before it’s of publishable quality is something that’s pandemic. Readers of eBooks have to be careful because authors write their own blurbs, and often their own reviews too. Every new author is the next Patterson or Childs, and readers have no way to tell the difference. But, free self-publishing? Yeah, that we recommend. If you’ve got something you want to market test, but don’t think is ready for the big time, then you should definitely self-publish on these free platforms. Get some feedback. See who’s reading your work. See what they think. That’s how writers improve. Protecting your work will only hold you back. Lots of my work is out there, under various pen names, and it all serves a purpose. I get reviews and feedback which tell me what’s good, and what’s not. I focus on the good points, and analyse the bad. I use that to improve my own writing. If you think of self-publishing as a method of improvement, and not of generating revenue, then I think that’s the best reason to go the self-pub route.

If you have a publication or promotion – tell us.

We’ve just released our 2017 Anthology. We know it’s a little late, but we’ve been busy! We’ve published an awesome group of authors and poets, and some really fantastic work. We’ve got flash fiction, short stories, novel openings, and poems, along with some brilliant articles on everything from how to write a short story, to how to edit poetry, to how writers can and should pitch to agents. We’ve tried to include everything we could, and added over 30,000 words of fresh content to make it as worthwhile as possible. Because we’ve published independently, it’s been costly, but with the response we’ve gotten already from those with their copies – well, let’s just say it’s been well received. There’s something for everyone in there, and we think all writers should take a look at it if they’re serious about becoming writers. It’s all true, honest writing that will prove an invaluable tool for anyone that really wants to improve. You can find it on our store, and we’ll ship it anywhere in the world for you.

What’s coming for the year ahead?

What’s not coming! We’ve got lots going on. Loads of competitions, another anthology, a bunch of different mini-bibles on different aspects of poetry and writing, and we’re also releasing a new magazine. It’s going to run twice yearly, nestled nicely between Anthologies so writers will never be left without something to read from us. We’re ramping things up, too – a new website, bespoke judging platform, the works. We’re really excited for it. The platform will be a wonderful hub for writers, allowing them to log in, draft and manage their entries, view feedback, track their progress through the competitions, and lots more. We don’t want to give away the farm, but it’s going to revolutionise the way we work, and we hope that lots of writers will come to call it home.

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