Saturday, July 30, 2011

Oops And A Thought

Yesterday was a wee bit busy, so I hope you'll forgive the tardiness of the Friday posting. An emergency trip to the airport first thing in the morning, helping another person clear the rubbish out of their house and then giving her a break from family problems, followed by...I can't remember, but probably total flakyness and sleep.

On the subject of writing, where do you practice your writing and get feedback? I don't just use the writer's group, I also submit work to online sites and magazines. Most won't give feedback except for the form rejection, but some do.

If you write topical comedy, and it's always a good idea to stretch your wings a bit and try something different, try newsbiscuit.com. They don't pay, but to see some of your work in print is always a boost. I don't often contribute, but have had a couple of headlines published recently.

There's always the huffington post and I'm sure that there are others out there that encourage new writers to try their hand. If, like newsbiscuit, you submit via a forum, you can often get feedback from other contributors.

Look around and you'll find a whole world of places that you never knew existed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Getting Help

Who do you turn to when you're stuck? Who are your readers when you've finished writing your novel? If the answer to those questions is no-one, then you could be in trouble.

We all need help when writing, or doing anything for that matter. The help could be picking out spelling mistakes that both you and the spell-checker have missed, or suggestions for phrasing. Sometimes it's a general critique of a chapter, a story or a novel, or just someone to run an idea past. Whoever we are, we all need people we can trust to give an honest opinion on our work.

The most obvious answer is a writer's group. I'm lucky in that I have a local group that I can attend each week where we critique each other's work as well as practise our writing through exercises. There is a lot of support and we also email each other when we want something specific.

If you aren't lucky enough to live near a local group, then why not set up a yahoo or a facebook group and share that way?

Another way to meet fellow writers is to join a creative writing class and continue to meet after the course has ended, or see if any other writers are local enough to meet up once a month.

However you do it, you will need people no matter how famous you become. Stephen King has a group of several people he can pass a finished novel round and won't do anything else on it until he has received their feedback.

If you haven't got any help at the moment, see what groups are available or start your own.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Starting At The End

When writing a book, it's common to start at the beginning and then work out what happens from there. But why not start at the end?

Beginning with the ending may make a lot of sense if you're writing a crime thriller as it allows you to know who done it, where, when and how. Once you know that, then you can build in your false leads when you continue writing the story from the beginning.

It could also work in other fields, for instance, to pick a genre out of thin air, Science Fiction Comedy...oh yes, that's what I write. By deciding what the ending will be, I will know where I am aiming to get, who to get there and what they will do once they arrive.

It's not something that I plan on doing a lot, but it is an interesting approach that is worth experimenting with, especially if I get stuck at some point in my writing.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Thought: Why Kindle?

Friends and I are going through the initial steps of publishing our work in eBook format and there is a lot to consider. The first decision we had to make was which format would we use? The answer to that was relatively easy: Kindle. The 'why Kindle', is more interesting and may be one of the problems with existing bookshops/chains.

Amazon allows anyone to upload their book for sale via their website, providing it passes a few tests, such as is it pornographic or a hate-filled rant, both of which would disqaulify you. You can then set your own royalty rate and wait for the cash to come in...or not. The beauty of this is, aside from time, there is no cost to the author and it is easy to do.

I looked at other UK book companies and found no similar system, not even in a beta phase or with a restricted use. Nor were there any similar systems in place for Sony's ereader or on B&N's website.

This is a puzzle. In an electronic age, with ebook sales accelerating, why aren't more companies taking this route? By encouraging people to use their website to sell ebooks, Amazon are virtually guaranteeing sales of their Kindle ereader.

I can't help but wonder whether the traditional publishers have got their heads around ebooks or the digital age. Amanda Hocking and a few others have shown what can be done when you sell direct via Kindle. If Waterstones, Barnes & Noble and Sony encourage authors to sell from their websites, as Amazon do, they may make the transition from the current, print dominated age, to the digital age as strong as they are now. If not, they may still survive, but in what state?

It promises to be an interesting few years ahead.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting For The Muse

Every writer has a muse, in fact every creative person has a muse. It's that indefinable thing that helps us write, paint or take photographs. But what if it's gone on holiday?

So far this year I haven't done much writing, but over the last few days I have managed to finish off chapter 1 rewrite and get half way through chapter 2. 10,000 words and counting. The reason is that my muse has also recovered from the past few months.

Aside from helping me with two play performances, it's also been helping me organise an ebook publishing idea with a few friends. We were both knackered. The other problem was that she didn't know when I was around and writing, which reminded me of something Stephen King wrote in his book 'On Writing'.

'If you want your muse to be around, make sure that you are around at the same time every day.'

I'm paraphrasing, but that was the essential message: Your muse is only as organised as you are. However, if you're balancing work, family and writing, how do you get your muse to work with you at odd times?

One method I tried, and succeeded with, was to go through a few mental and physical activites, whatever time it was, thereby providing my muse with a metaphorical phone call to come round. I would make some tea, start up the word processor, sit down and close my eyes whilst I focused on where I had got to last time, reading something if necessary. On really difficult days/nights I would read a few pages from a book first. I discovered tt's not just the regularity of time that brings on the muse, but also the regularity of events.

I write my blogs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (mostly), and whatever time I sit down to compose them, my muse knows because of my pattern of behaviour. She then proceeds to remind me of all the great ideas I'd had for a blog entry over the predeeding days and hours.

I am also lucky that I don't have much work at the moment so can get into a morning routine to prepare myself and my muse for some writing.

If you don't have regular hours for being creative, try building a regular routine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rearranging Your Words

Description makes or breaks a story, whether it is short or long. But how do you make sure that your prose isn't substandard?

First of all, never start a sentence with 'but' (ahem). Secondly rearrange the words in your sentences. For instance, if you start most sentences in the following way:

Paul walked to the door and searched for the handle.

Try doing this instead:

Walking to the door, Paul reached out to search for the handle.

By doing this, you can avoid having every sentence start the same way.

Happy writing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Writer's Block...What I Do

The short answer is that I go to sleep. The long answer...is that I go to sleep.

I had problem with my WIP last night, so I stopped what I was doing and went to sleep. This morning I knew what to do which sadly involved getting rid of some cherished comedy moments.

It must be said that I find sleep to be a very valuable method of problem solving in all areas of life, though not all. Going to sleep at the office won't endear me to anyone.

Sleep is a distraction, taking my mind off the problem at hand and leading me somewhere else, and that is part of its magic. Whilst I sleep, my mind reorganises my thoughts and finds answers for me and may work for you.

Next time you have writer's block, go for a snooze.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Self-Publishing and Marketing

When you decide to self-publish, marketing your creation is always a problem. It's even more of a problem when your book is only available electronically, ruling out book signings.

This is a problem that I, and my writer's group, will be facing as we launch our publishing house. Well, I say publishing house, it's more of a cupboard really. We will only be publishing our own work, after it's been fully critiqued and edited, and the plan is to launch books once a year in November to catch Christmas. Initially they will only be available on Kindle, but we shall see where we go further down the line. We also plan to publish two short story magazines, probably once every three months.

So what advertising do we plan? We will have a website and a facebook page, through which we shall do most of our advertising. Then there will be youtube videos for each book and the publishing 'cupboard'. There is also an interesting idea of producing our own radio show for internet braodcast, but we don't know about that yet. One avenue that may well open up to us is advertising in local, parish newsletters for all of the books and magazines we publish.

We're looking at ways we CAN do things in bookstores, such as presentations on the books and a bit of public reading of our work, but the bricks and mortar approach is way down on the list of possible advertising, cost being the major factor.

A launch party will be one thing that we are going to look at, but as Michelle Davidson Argyle has shown, it's the author that has to pay for it.

Watch this space as we develop this idea further.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Time

Getting to the point where you can give up your day job to become a full-time writer takes time...sometimes a lot of it.

Alastair Reynolds and Terry Pratchett already had several published novels under their belt before they could give up their day jobs and concentrate fully on writing.

Terry Pratchett had worked as a journalist and then as a press officer the Central Electricity Generating Board until 1987 when he became a full time writer. That was after the publication of the fourth discworld novel, Mort, and several other novels in the 70s.

Not exactly an overnight success story then.

Alastair Reynolds worked for the European Space Agency until 2004, and only took up writing full time after the success of four novels and several short stories.

In short, and this is the thought for today, financial success comes only after perseverence and may take time. The occasional instant success story is dwarfed by the long drawn out successes of people like Pratchett an Reynolds and the more common tales of struggle. If you're into writing for a quick buck...forget it.

Friday, July 08, 2011

A-Z thinking

This is an idea I picked up from Naebsy: write down the first word that comes into your head when you read a letter. You can read her responses on her blog.

A - Action
B - Beautiful
C - Child
D - Dead
E - Earth
F - Fickle
G - Gorgeous
H - Happy
I - India
J - Julia
K - Knife
L - Laugh
M - Mania
N - Nonsense
O - Octave
P - Peaceful
Q - Queen
R - Robot
S - Sucker (My first thought was a word I won't print here)
T - Tea
U - Uniform
V - Very
W - Winkle
X - Xerxes
Y - Why
Z - Zedonk

I'm not sure what that list tells me, or anyone else about my state of mind at the moment. I can tell you that for X, it's an old standard I remember from Sesame street and for Z, I was reading about a new birth in a Chinese zoo that is the offspring from a Donkey and a Zebra.

Have great weekend and DO try this at home.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Blogging

Do you ever read and respond to comments on your blog?

One thing I have been getting a little miffed about over the past few months is people not responding to comments I, or anyone else, have made on their blogs. If I've commented several days after the blog was written, or the blog is someone letting of steam or using it as a way to get their feelings out in the open instead of writing a diary that's fair enough.

If a blog, like mine, is open to comments and is partly, if not wholly, there to prmote you as an author, artist or whatever you are doing, shouldn't you take it seriouslly enough to respond?

I have only recently started to respond to every comment made as it dawned on me that I was getting annoyed at people, even though I never responded myself. A mite hypocrtical I thought.

Now I respond to every comment and make an effort to not be miffed or annoyed when others don't repond to mine...though with my ego that is difficult.

Come on, you know you want to tell me what's on your mind.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Future Is...The Kindle

My mother turned 73 yesterday. She regularly goes to America to see her grandchildren, visits Australia every now and then, works three mornings a week and does two art classes. Among the presents of chocolates and books, she also received a Kindle...and loves it.

As she is not the most tehnologically astute of people, the fact that my mother can easily use this piece of hardware set me thinking about the future of ebooks.

One of the arguments against Kindles and other ebook readers, is that people would be too scared of losing them...usually the same people who take a laptop everywhere. I don't think that is a relevant argument against them or an effective way of saying they are useless. Lots of things have been described a too expensive to take anywhere for fear of losing them, laptops being a prime example, but are still packed for when people do go out.

Mobile phones used to be large expensive items, but now people just buy a new one if they get lost as they are so cheap. The same will, in all likelihood, happen with the Kindle at some point in the next decade, especially as any book can now be converted for free and there are many 'classics' available for free on Amazon and other sites.

When people of my mother's generation take to something, like mobile phones, then you know the market has been cracked. It doesn't mean that paper is going to die next year, or even within the next decade, but it does mean it will at some point cease to be important and unless bookshops can find a way of selling ebooks to this kind of customer, then they will close. To quote Darwin, "It's not the strongest of the species that survive, but those most adaptable to change."

Friday, July 01, 2011

Odd.....Very Odd....Very, Very Odd

I'm feeling a little lazy today. It's Friday, it's the first of the month and I've just seen some crazy scenes.

The BBC (yes, dear old, staid, dull Auntie Beeb) does a weekly compilation of some odd news items. This week there is the usual eclectic collection ranging from the 'Swamp Football' world cup, through some amazing sandcastles and a world hula hoop record to the world's ugliest dog...all together now, aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

If you want to see all these things, this is the link. If you don't, go and hide in a corner, pretend that there are no parts of the world that are fun and leave the rest of us alone.

Have a great weekend.