Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - some serious teething issues?

A while back I was shouting the praises of, a website for readers and authors, where reviews are exchanged anonymously, the basic premise being that if you (the author) want reviews then you also have to give back by reading and reviewing other books - I still like the idea, it's simple and fair. Of course it is open to abuse, as is just about everything on the internet, but it's early days yet, and I think the road-map is both ambitious and has potential.

However, (as opposed to 'but'.) there are some issues with it's functionality that you need to be aware of if you are going to use this site:

1. The format that you submit your manuscript in. This is not an problem exclusive to Bookvetter, as I had the same issue with an Amazon submission, Somewhere between uploading a Pdf and it arriving on the site, there seems to be a glitch where-by double lettered words lose a letter - 'all' becomes 'al', 'filling' becomes 'filing' and 'call' becomes 'cal'. but only on certain devices.

2, Talking of 'certain' devices; gone are the day's where a book was read purely on paper. The birth of the e-book was a massive evolution; the use of modern technology take affordable reading to the masses should not be under estimated. But 'technology' is advancing at an unbelievable rate, now people are reading books on kindle, laptops, ipad, mobile phones - and on and on... The problem here though is the PDF does not transpose well across these different devices, the formatting goes haywire.

Six reviews:
Perfect  2
Amatuer  4
Unacceptable  0

Acceptable  4
Moderate  1
Unsatisfactory  1

This in turn leads to some dissatisfied readers!

If someone can come up with a standard format for both upload and read (regardless of device) then there is money to be made. From an authors perspective it is not good news in the current model, unwittingly exposing readers to a substandard experience goes a long way to tainting a reputation, something one can ill afford in such a cut throat market.


Should the book have been published?
Exceptional 1
Average 3
No  2

I still think has a positive future, I am just concerned about the damage that can be done in the short term.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The mood of writing -

Seeing as I'm the only Author I know, or at least the only Author I know well, I have no idea if this is normal or not, but I find  the mood of the writing dictates the mood of the household, and vice-versa. (I just know that there are people reading this and slapping their foreheads, or maybe a face palm. 'Of course numb-nuts!'.)

Russian Redemption was my first book so every experience was new to me; I didn't even realize a lot of what was going on at the time, it was only afterwards that things became apparent. 

And there were time when writing specific sections of Russian Redemption effected my own mood, and ultimately the mood of the household. By stark contrast, the unabated fun and carefree ambience generated whilst writing a YA story, Elementals, was brilliant for the whole family -  and, knowing this, I wonder why the wife has never suggested I write a FSoG...!!

It's a two-way relationship though, the writing can influence the mood, and the mood can influence the writing. Work crap, outside influences, stress... you have to shake those bad boys off if you want to write to your potential. And I don't worry too much if I'm struggling to get into the proverbial zone, I just don't write that night. (Now I know there are people that say you should write everyday, but ya have to live in the real world sometimes eh, even though it sucks.) 

As stated previously, I don't feel the need to be alone and in silence when writing, I am capable of shutting out the outside world. I even find that a little background noise can be quite comforting.

It is also always the case that when somebody gives an opinion on the internet, there is going to be someone that completely disagrees with the above - and that's fine, honest.

I don't consider myself to be an exceptional author of modern works of art, I confess that my diction is not equal to some, but I don't write books. The best way that I would describe me is someone that tells stories and puts them into words. Are they one and the same? I don't think so.

Side Note - my latest project (temporarily known as Ariana's Law) - is at 53,000 words, I'm quite pleased with that in month one.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Stephen King tells the secrets - Part 2...

I thought I'd bored you enough in the first one but for those that are just a gluten for punishment, and want to read the other ten, here they are...

(The full story is available on the Barnes and Noble blog below)

11. There are two secrets to success. “When I’m asked for ‘the secret of my success’ (an absurd idea, that, but impossible to get away from), I sometimes say there are two: I stayed physically healthy, and I stayed married. It’s a good answer because it makes the question go away, and because there is an element of truth in it. The combination of a healthy body and a stable relationship with a self reliant woman who takes zero shit from me or anyone else has made the continuity of my working life possible. And I believe the converse is also true: that my writing and the pleasure I take in it has contributed to the stability of my health and my home life.”

I think this is a good insight, especially for authors where writing is not their primary income. To be able to spend a day at the office, come home and spend hours writing is only possible if the family support you as a writer. However, a warning - don't loose track of the fact that you have a family!
12. Write one word at a time. “A radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply—’One word at a time’—seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t. In the end, it’s always that simple. Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord Of The Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall.”

I'm not signing up to this one in its entirety although I see the point that he is trying to make. There is nothing worse than being submerged in the plot, living it so you can capture the essence, and being hauled out of your 'special place' by an annoying distraction. Me, personally, I find silence unnerving at times, my brain seems to work better with a little background noise to the point where I don't actually hear it but take comfort in knowing that it is there.
14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what the writer is doing may seem. You can’t aim a book like a cruise missile, in other words. People who decide to make a fortune writing lik John Grisham or Tom Clancy produce nothing but pale imitations, by and large, because vocabulary is not the same thing as feeling and plot is light years from the truth as it is understood by the mind and the heart.”

Yup - absolutely agree, enough said.
15. Dig. “When, during the course of an interview for The New Yorker, I told the interviewer (Mark Singer) that I believed stories are found things, like fossils in the ground, he said that he didn’t believe me. I replied that that was fine, as long as he believed that I believe it. And I do. Stories aren’t souvenir tee-shirts or Game Boys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.”

Hmmm, a modern take on the old adage "stories come from within" - can't argue that one.
16. Take a break. “If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours, even be able to remember what tune was on the stereo when you wrote certain lines, and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin, perhaps. This is the way it should be, the reason you waited. It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings that it is to kill your own.”

As mentioned earlier, the first draft is complete within 3 months. Now you have to switch from writer to reader; the whole book made sense to you when you were writing it, now you have to give time for the writers thoughts to leave the mind, and the reader steps in. As Mr King says, this can be a truly inspirational phase, and one I always find enjoyable (don't be afraid to pat yourself on the back either!)
17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your ecgocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

The darling killer - If, as a writer, you have done your job properly, your 'darlings' will be the readers 'darlings' too, so killing them off can be an emotional experience for all parties concerned. I'd probably word this slightly differently to Mr King - Don't be afraid to kill your darlings off. As for leaving out the boring bits - I concur - but it's what I think is boring.
18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “If you do need to do research because parts of your story deal with things about which you know little or nothing, remember that word back. That’s where research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it. You may be entranced with what you’re learning about the flesh-eating bacteria, the sewer system of New York, or the I.Q. potential of collie pups, but your readers are probably going to care a lot more about your characters and your story.”

I am someone that does research the crap out of the subject mater, all in the name of plausibility, but I try and keep it quite subtle. In my current WiP there are a few scenes set on the Harvard Uni campus back in 1986/87 - I'm British, living in New Zealand, and have never been to Harvard. However, I have no doubt that some of my readers have so I have to make it believable. The research is fun, and the fact that very few (if any) care is neither here nor there: In the story "the lift opens" - big deal - but to make something as simple as that plausible you need to understand that there were only three high rise accommodation blocks at that time, and the lifts ONLY stopped on specific floors so my characters accommodation had to be on one of those floors or they would have to use the stairs to go up or down a floor to catch the lift! Plot Fail! That said, I take on board the point that Fiction is not a documentary; information overload leads to DNR.
19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You don’t need writing classes or seminars any more than you need this or any other book on writing. Faulkner learned his trade while working in the Oxford, Mississippi post office. Other writers have learned the basics while serving in the Navy, working in steel mills or doing time in America’s finer crossbar hotels. I learned the most valuable (and commercial) part of my life’s work while washing motel sheets and restaurant tablecloths at the New Franklin Laundry in Bangor. You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

Could not agree more!
20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”
Again, totally agree with this. Going back to one of the earlier answer, write for yourself first, embrace and enjoy the experience - if you can't do that then I would suggest a new vocation be sought. Very very few authors make it big, you need money behind you or a huge stroke of luck. So, if you are writing to get rich (or any of the other options Stephen King offers) then your motivation is all wrong, and your disappointments are almost guaranteed. write for yourself, for your own satisfaction, joy and well being and see what happens.

To repeat the top bit - if you do want to read the whole article it is on the Barns and Noble blog:

Stephen King tells the secrets.....

I saw a great FB post today advertising 'Stephen Kings Top 20 tips for writers', clicked on it and gave plenty of time and consideration to what Mr King had to say. I also had a completed unrated (but just as interesting) email conversation with Bookvetter - that's the read/review site I spoke about on here back in January. Unfortunately I probably wouldn't hold your attention long enough to read two different articles, so I'm gonna leave the Bookvetter one for another time (It will be worth reading though, some good information for authors in that one!)

Anyway, back to Stephen King. Firstly, I must confess... I'm not a great fan, (Sorry Stephen, just not my preferred genre). Secondly, the whole article is available here:

And so I'll move on...
One of the things I like about this version is that it understands we aren't all mind readers; unlike some sites that have published this article, they haven't butchered it down to just the bold black print heading. Here you get the eye catching header, and then a short blurb so that idiots like me can understand the meaning behind those big bold headings. Another thing I like is that they haven't added their own opinions to what the very successful author has confided - If they had of done that then this post probably wouldn't of happen.

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”

Right, good start, I absolutely agree and abide by this one! I do write for me, it is my passion, mine I tell you. I write stories from inside my head - I have no idea where they come from they just seem to turn up and then they become incredibly tenacious about getting put in print. I am very grateful for them to, because I love writing and they give me the fuel. During this stage the story is only for me, I write it as quickly as I can to get the story out of my head.

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. The timid fellow writes “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock” because that somehow says to him, ‘Put it this way and people will believe you really know. ‘Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write ‘The meeting’s at seven.’ There, by God! Don’t you feel better?”

This one is not so obvious to me. I don't really understand a timid writer, but I do understand a timid character in a story line. As strange as it may seem, when I'm writing I am that character for the time that I'm writing the lines - complete escapism! Obviously if EVERY character in a story is timid then there could be a problem, (and I'd probably question the quality of the story).

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend. Consider the sentence “He closed the door firmly.” It’s by no means a terrible sentence, but ask yourself if ‘firmly’ really has to be there. What about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before ‘He closed the door firmly’? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, then isn’t ‘firmly’ an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”

OK - I understand this, and it is a good reminder. To be able to get readers to be able to envisage the scene, and hear the voices, is a real skill, one that I certainly strive for. The thing is, not all readers can do that. I confess to a little 'dumbing down' just to expand the potential reader base, BUT it is only a little.

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.” “While to write adverbs is human, to write ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ is divine.” - Solid advice, I'm working on it!

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.“

Hallelujah to that! My grammar is not too brilliant, and that's why I use an editor & proof reader for my books. But here, here I am me so suck it you grammar nerds; don't hate me for my ignorance, hate me for a whole host of other available reasons.

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”

Very inspirational, and very true. I think this is the reason why I write the way I do; My working environment can be very stressful at times - sour-stick, unripe lemon sour, head-banging type of stressful! This stuff goes round and around in my head day and night sometimes, it is that stressful (and frustrating). But when I sit down to write all that stuff gets pushed to the back, right back. That allows copious amounts of empty space to let the story's in - and that little cinema that I use to watch the stories unfold. It's that stressful stuff that pays the bills, the writing has no potential to negatively impact my life financially so I can write free of worry, free of stress... free of fear. (At this stage I'm writing for me, any fear comes after the book has been finished, the fear of the opinions of others).

7. Read, read, read. “You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

Reading is everywhere! Web based newspapers, books, magazines, even menus at restaurants. I don't think he is limiting the reading to books, just highlighting that any reading can be helpful to an author.

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second to least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

I think I understand this, and I'm certainly not questioning Mr Kings ability to be rude - but I think there is a possible confusion over the words. I think there is a bit of 'write for yourself' and 'don't try and please everyone 'cos it just ain't gonna happen' in this one; with a dash of 'thicken up the skin' cos it could get messy' warning.

9. Turn off the TV. “Most exercise facilities are now equipped with TVs, but TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs. If you feel you must have the news analyst blowhard on CNN while you exercise, or the stock market blowhards on MSNBC, or the sports blowhards on ESPN, it’s time for you to question how serious you really are about becoming a writer. You must be prepared to do some serious turning inward toward the life of the imagination, and that means, I’m afraid, that Geraldo, Keigh Obermann, and Jay Leno must go. Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.

I seem to be very lucky where I can completely zone out when I'm writing. Don't get me wrong, quiet is good, but sometimes I find that a little back ground noise can help.

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

This is true. The first draft is about capturing the story in its entirety, after that's done it is time to go back through it from the start. I have found that taking long breaks, or not writing quick enough, has one of two effects;

1. Excitement wains, concentration becomes hard work - writing a story should never be classed as work, it can't be a chore.
2. It stops being fun! (see above)

... To Be Continued...

Talking of being a chore, you've probably had enough of this by now so we'll take a break. If you can't wait to see the next ten you can see the whole article at:

All good - Write, then write some more...