Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Find your inspiration

I have heard many authors complain that they do not have time to read.  That on top of the demands of a job and a spouse and a child, or four, finding the time to sit down and relax in the evening with a book is as likely as finding the missing link between man and monkey buried in your back garden.  But likewise I have also heard many writers claim that to not read is tantamount to claiming that you have no interest in the written word. That not having the time to read simply means you do not have the time to write.

I see the argument for both sides, although I have pretty much set up camp in the latter stronghold.  I know my writing limps along when I am not reading, and I know that equally it stops flowing if I am reading something that I am not enjoying.  It as if the melancholy I feel whilst reading something I am not fully engaged with attaches itself to my ability to write, and all I manage to get down on paper/screen are words that fail even to inspire the mind from which they originated.

Since I got my Kindle for Christmas it is much easier to try something new, and this has also conversely increased my passion for printed books.  In fact I have ordered more paperbacks, and even a few hardbacks in the last eight weeks since the arrival of the Kindle, just because browsing for eBooks has reminded me of some of my old favourites.

But in spite of my reading going into overdrive just lately I have still struggled with burnout when it comes to the work in progress.  As an indie author I have to take a lot of responsibility for my work, a lesson learned right at the start when publishing was swiftly followed by unpublishing whilst I fixed the errors in formatting and sneaky typos.  It would seem that I edited Psychophilia until I was drained of all writing ability, which left nothing much for the WIP once Psychophilia went off to the editor.

The last couple of weeks have been tough on the writing front.  I have turned up each day and put in the hours, but nothing seemed to grow into quite what I wanted it to become.  But there always comes a point when you find the right thing to inspire.  Books might be my craft, they teach me about the use of words, and I digest them to provide me with renewed energy for writing.  But today, stuck at home with a hellish virus and a husband with man flu taking up residency on the sofa, my writing has been easier and flowed more than the last two weeks.  Maybe it's the drugs, but as far as I was aware Panadol didn't have any hallucinogens in.  What I am sure it is, is music.  I stuck my headphones in, cranked up the volume to the music of my youth and started listening to Slipknot, Stonesour, and Megadeth.  All the music that seems frantic and far too loud for somebody with a headache.  But there is an energy about this music, and a freedom of speech that isn't replicated in other music genres with the exception, maybe, of rap.  

Metal, rock, whatever you want to classify it as, is full of emotion.  Most times the themes of the songs are about difficulties, struggles, emotional turmoil and pain that people struggle to communicate.  The feelings are raw, insular feelings ripped open and bled into the music and lyrics.  Sounds much like the life of a protagonist to me.  What are our characters in fiction if not representations of human struggle with which readers can connect with?  

I think it is so important to read, and it would always be my first piece of advice to any aspiring author.  But maybe I should also offer them something else.  Find your inspiration.  Whatever that is.  Find what helps you to search inside of yourself for the words and the ways to express that which you are trying to get out.

Thanks Corey! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

It's all in the detail

Some of you will have read my posts from around the time of NaNoWriMo, a great motivational month for an indie writer.  I got off to a flying start, even though I began four days later than planned thanks to a nasty bug that wiped me out.  I wrote my little fingers ragged for the duration of the event, and when I wasn't writing I was thinking about writing so that when I actually came to do some writing I didn't do a lot of thinking.  And therein lies my little problem.

Yesterday I was reading an excellent article about keeping a timeline when plotting a new novel.  It focussed on how helpful it can be to stay on track with the changes in your plot, the progression of your character's lives, and so that you know that what is happening in each scene is happening at the right point in time.

It got me thinking that I would love to write a book that is constrained by the time in which it is set.  I think it would be a really fun challenge, and in the context of a thriller it could really help to focus the action.  A great modern day example of this would be the television series 24, or the movie Momento which I am ashamed to admit I still haven't seen and think that this weekend I will try to rectify that.

But what this emphasised to the unashamed pantser that I am, is that it is all in the detail.  This kind of book writing experience would force me to change my ways, to start making (good) notes, and to know my characters pretty well before we even take the first step into chapter one.

Looking back on my NaNoWriMo efforts with this thought in mind, I realise that the details themselves are what is important about this story, and some of them are, let's just say, not quite on the money.

Now whilst I did plan this book better than I did the others, the other books were written at my pace.  Write a bit, think a bit.  Scrap a bit, revise a bit.  This gives me a chance to check on the details as I write.  Instead, NaNoWriMo just became a race to the finish, and I wrote like a juggernaut without actually, at times at least, engaging the whole of my brain.

So here I am half way through a major edit, and I realise now that I have used a building in London, but I have gifted it an extra 50 stories!  The action is set on floor 90, but there are only fifty floors.  Doh! This is just plain stupid!  So before I get any closer to the end, I now have to go back and make the facts, well, ur, factual.

This is yet more damning evidence to add to the haul already stashed away in an unused compartment of my brain that my pantsing ways must come to an end.  I am considering writing the sequel to Identity X soon, and there is no way I can glide my way through that without some pretty hefty notes.  This weekend I think I need to go out an buy a nice big A3 note book and start doing it properly.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How to edit.........

This is today's motto.

Thanks for summing it up Don Roff.
I did my ripping, now it's off to the editor. Bye-bye Psychophilia. I'm done.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bookstore excitement? Yes please!

It's not very often that I get much time to myself at the weekend for blogging/reading/editing/writing/breathing, and this weekend was no exception.  If I had found a moment to myself I would have already shared the fact that my local bookstore has agreed to stop copies of Identity X. 

Previously I wrote about my trip back to the UK (read this post) and how I was planning to make a visit to the local library and to the local bookshop.  I had previously taken the decision that the best way of getting them to look at my work was simply to give them a copy.  I think when you are asking a local bookstore to stock your book it is a bit much to expect them to make a decision based on an eBook.  Or even worse to expect them to buy a copy.  How can they see what it looks like?  How can they know that the quality of the print is?  How can they judge the work in the capacity that they would sell it in?  From an eBook this is impossible.  So I ordered a few copies and handed them out without really knowing what to expect.

I cannot say that I thought the initial meeting was very positive.  It seems that the local people of Warwick, my home town, are a busy bunch.  According to Keith, the owner of Warwick Books, he had three visits from local authors all asking him to stock their book the previous Saturday, and told me there was no way to stock them all.  Regardless, I gladly gifted them the book, and he promised that he would hand it over to his wife and co-owner, Frances, so that she could take a look at it.

Within less than a week Frances has emailed me back, telling me that she was finding Identity X very exciting, a bit like a futuristic The 39 Steps!  And add into that the fact that she also gave me a couple of suggestions for the next set of reprints, advice that I am always happy to listen to and see if I can improve the quality of the product.

So thank you Warwick Books for taking a chance on a local indie author.  The first shipment is on it's way!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Letters to the Editor

After a trip to the UK which ended with a (possibly) successful trip to both the library and the local bookstore, I was feeling rather chipper about the whole indie publishing malarky.  So when I stopped by the local supermarket to pick up a Chai Tea Latte from a well known coffee shop, I was pretty excited to find a magazine about writing.  I hadn't come across anything like it in Cyprus, so I quickly snapped up my copy.

I sat down with said tea in hand and started devouring the magazine as if I was on a treasure hunt for the last piece of publishing advice ever written.  This magazine is full of helpful articles, and I have already read two excellent examples with regards to creating suspense and the plotting of a novel.  Maybe they will even make a planner out of me yet.  But what struck me most were the letters from the readers/writers.  One in particular struck a cord, and it went something like this.

Dear Editor,
I have been writing for over fifteen years now and I am frustrated at my lack of success.
My first novel was accepted by an agent.  They kept the novel for nine months and we began the editing process.  Unfortunately this novel was not picked up by a publisher and eventually the agent stopped representing me.  My second book was also picked up, this time by a different agent.  The sample chapters were requested by several publishers but after a search for a publisher lasting over a year, the agent decided that they would no longer be able to represent me.
I have since written six other books, all of which are full length novels and each of these books have been seen by both an agent and/or publisher.  Sadly, to date I have not been able to secure a deal to publish my work, although every publisher had something positive to say about my work.

Your magazine keeps me inspired and I will keep trying.
Yours faithfully......................

The first thing that struck me was the dedication that this writer has shown.  To span a period of fifteen years and eight books and still have nothing published for his/her efforts shows a level of commitment that many writers fail to achieve.  To sit down night after night and wrestle out words takes some strength mentally, especially when you have returned home from the day job, the kids are screaming and there is food to cook, and soap operas there to tempt you into laziness.  So credit where it is due and hats off to somebody who keeps trying to fulfil their dreams.  But the response from the editor was less enthralling.  It goes something like this.

Well done!  Great effort.  Keep plugging away and I am sure one day you will find a publisher!

Whilst this is indeed positive and encouraging, it fails to provide any other option for this dedicated writer.  I admit that I did not have the will to continue the search for an agent in the hope that one day a publisher would pick up my work.  After The Loss of Deference was turned down (and I have said before how it was rightly turned down because it needed a big edit prior to publication) I moved abroad, a fact I felt only made the search harder.  This is when I stumbled across self publishing, purely by chance one day when I was wondering how on earth I might still be able to follow my writing dreams.  I decided to give it a go, and it was this act of publication that spurred me on to write the rest of my books.  It is also through this process that I have learnt the value of editing, good cover design, and the valuable art of patience.  And a big part of this reason is the openness of the indie author community.

Now this writer in the above example clearly has a talent, and it would seem an endless amount of patience already.  To be picked up by agents and read by publishers on a number of occasions means there is some substance to her written work.  But there are now many options available to her in order that she might see her work in print, but nobody thought to point this out.  There are no barriers to publishing anymore, given a little bit of time and effort.  Self publishing is not a modern day replica of a vanity press, and neither should it be seen as such. 

Self publishing has launched many careers, and for the breakout stars like John Locke and Hugh Howey, there are hundreds more who are able to make a living out of their written work thanks to self publishing.  There are also the rest of us who are publishing and growing and working on their craft, and picking up the odd cheque along the way.  Being an indie author is for many a choice rather than a second option, and because the community is supportive of the 'competition' (because we all understand that another author does not equal competition) we help each other out and the word spreads, helping to connect writers with a group of readers who love what they have found.

Had I have known about the options to self publish at the very start of my journey, I admit that it is likely that I would have considered it a lesser, perhaps poorer option than getting a publisher through an agent and seeing my book on the shelves in W.H. Smith or Waterstones.  But that's because I was conditioned to believe that it was their way or the highway.  That there was only one correct way to publication, right?  Perhaps ten or fifteen years ago that was the case, and that the other options were the various faces of vanity publishing.  But publishing is a different world now, and it is a world that extends past the borders of London and NewYork. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

5 Mistakes that will Doom any Self Published Books

5 Mistakes That Will Doom Any Self-Published Book

I originally came across this article on Blue Ink Review and you can read it there in it's entirety.    In self publishing it is always easy to make mistakes, especially at the beginning.  I am no different.  I released The Loss of Deference with a substandard cover that had no relation to the genre, and the number of typos that got through to the final copy was like some sort of depressing treasure hunt that lead to me hitting the unpublish button and undertaking another edit.

As an indie author you have to be prepared to learn on your feet, and one of the best things you can do in my humble opinion is be prepared to acknowledge once you have made a mistake.  And say thanks to the person who is pointing it out.  No one likes an author who throws a strop with a well meaning reader/reviewer.

So over on Blue Ink Reviews Guest Blogger Paul Goat Allen is trying to show us that some of these mistakes are avoidable.  So wise up writers and check out this article that will no doubt improve the quality of your books.

By Guest Blogger Paul Goat Allen

I’ve read and reviewed enough books to know that self-published authors make common blunders that absolutely ruin the reading experience for me. These are giant red flags – ear-piercing alarms – warning me of an imminent bad read.

Consider this a public service announcement. Because as a reviewer, I want you, the self-published author, to bring your best; hit me with your best shot, to quote an old Pat Benatar tune. I want nothing more than to be blown away by a self-published novel and to shout about it from the rooftops for the whole world to hear.

Trust me on this: the last thing a professional book reviewer wants is to end up with a self-published novel filled with errors.

Listed below, in order of importance, are five mistakes that – in my humble opinion – will doom any self-published book.

1. Typographical and grammatical errors
Learn your craft, writers. Spelling and punctuation errors are the biggest red flags of all. If you can’t spell words that most fifth graders would know and you don’t understand how to use commas, chances are good that you probably shouldn’t be writing a book.
That’s not to say that a bad speller can’t be a fantastic novelist. It says he or she should’ve let a professional editor and/or proofreader correct it before publishing.

So now make sure you head over to the full article and read the rest of his advice regarding genre, cover, and when and where you should be boasting about your work. 


Friday, January 24, 2014

Homeward bound

Today I am in the process of packing my bag for a quick trip to the UK to catch up with my folks.  But there are some important bookish type tasks that also need completing whilst I am there.  So this list is as follows.

  • Check new copies of Identity X
I decided to get an order of six or seven (can't remember) copies of Identity X.  But this is interesting because I have always been a fan of matt covers and have just tested out there new option to order covers in this format.  I think it will look a lot better than shiny!!

  • Gift a book to the local book shop
I decided that the best way of getting a local book shop to stock my book was to just give them a copy or two.  I am really hoping that they like the free copy and chose to keep me around, but in the meantime it will just be nice to give back something to my 'local' book store.

  • Have a meeting with my designer
This sounds a bit high brow, but actually she is one of my oldest friends so it'll be a good gossip and catching up session with a hefty dose of design chat thrown in.  We will be working on the Psychophilia cover, and I might also test the water for the next book too!  Might as well be prepared!

  • Get new video camera
When I got married in August last year I decided to order a video camera for people to use at the wedding so that we could get some video footage.  The camera arrived at my Mum's house a week after the wedding, in another country.  So it has been sat there waiting for me ever since. 

  • Start a video blog?
And this leads me to the question of the day.  Really don't know if this is a good idea or not.  I'm not sure I am much of a actress, but I keep seeing interesting video blogs about bookish topics and it makes me wonder if I should be giving it a go.  I keep reading Facebook is dying and that less and less people engage and I have noticed a decline in my views.  Maybe I just got less interesting, but I don't think so. 

So, I'll be checking in in the middle of next week.  You might still find me on Twitter, snapping pictures of Warwick, Heathrow, and Starbucks Chai Tea Latte from time to time, and maybe a snap or two of the 'business lunch'.  You can find me on Twitter HERE and see what I get up to.