When I first came across writing advice that said, “Kill your darlings,” I thought it meant we should kill off our favorite characters. That seemed ridiculous. I mean, there are situations in which a story calls for characters to die, but to make a sweeping rule that we should default to killing off our most beloved characters is pretty extreme.
Almost immediately, I realized it was so ridiculous that it couldn’t possibly be the intent of the statement, and I concluded that although “kill your darlings” means that we should be willing and prepared to kill our favorite characters if the story calls for doing so, it also has a broader meaning: We writers must be prepared to cut our favorite sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, if doing so improves our work.
This is for all self-published writers, both new and old. I recently uploaded a corrected version of the text for my latest novella The Forgotten People to the original I had added and published on the 17th of March this year. Brilliant, I can now expect it to be posted to my books page on Amazon. Right? Wrong!
After communicating with the people at KDP, I realised that it was a case of wasted effort on my part. Why? Because they do not ‘update’ text on any book you’ve already published on KDP. Why not I hear you cry? Why not indeed! While they acknowledged that they could see I had done as I said when they took a look for themselves, it soon became blindingly obvious that while they are there to answer queries, that’s as far as they will go!
Instead, first you have to unpublish the original. Next, once more add the book, its cover and text etc, with ‘version 2’ also added for good measure. Then after all that, click ‘Publish’ once again, and wait for it to go live.
Once it is live, go to the ‘Author Central page’ on your Amazon Book page and ‘add’ it to your collection, as I did before writing this post on Thursday last. Then I had to wait until Amazon finally get round to doing their part by adding it to my book list, before it is seen by the book reading public. This can, and does, take several hours! Regarding my book appearing on my book pages, in this instance Amazon.com were the first to do so, taking three hours to complete the task. Unfortunately here in the British Isles, Amazon.co.uk’s woeful response meant it lagged behind, taking eleven hours…
What a rigmarole? Thank god I don’t often update a book’s content! Remember – KDP don’t help, they only ever provide us the writers with the tool to self-publish our work. As always, we do all the work – not them.
Learn from my first-hand experience. It’s in your interest to do so.
PS – By the way. If you would like to get yourselves a free copy of The Forgotten People, you have from today Saturday the 3rd, until Wednesday the 7th of this month to obtain it from the Amazon site of your choosing…
Several months ago, for a few days various highly inflammatory articles appeared across the internet voicing differing opinions regarding independent writers, claiming that they were not professional in their approach – whatever that means.
Certain commentators delivered vitriolic attacks accusing independent writers of being nothing more than an editor’s worst nightmare and a monumental pain to deal with. When they were quite rightly challenged for making such statements, they immediately went on the offensive, under the illusion that attack is always the best form of defence. By reacting the way they did, they instantly lost the argument. Apart from venting their spleen, what was the point? I suspected when I read the articles at the time that the attackers were probably jealous of the sales success of some independents. Of course I couldn’t prove it.
These days, whether editors like it or not, how a writer chooses to publish their work is entirely up to them. If they are taken up by a publishing house – good luck to them. If not, going it alone is fine. Getting sniffy with a writer simply because they choose independent publishing over traditional doesn’t mean they are any less professional in their approach if they are serious about their writing. To say that the whole sorry saga did more to polarise the entire writing community at the time is an understatement.
On one side of the argument sit those who firmly believe that the only way to produce a worthwhile book requires it first be written by a known writer before being processed by what one article’s author refers to as professional editors and gatekeepers, an extremely elitist point of view. In the other camp sit those who prefer to go it alone, some employing an editor, some not.
While deliberately choosing not to be drawn into the argument, I was bemused when reading the often heated debate. It was plain to see that both sides were entrenched in their personal beliefs regarding professionalism. Whose argument was right? Whose was wrong? What all participants in the often extremely heated argument failed to appreciate was that publically lambasting the opposition serves no useful purpose other than to expose their own lack of professionalism, in the context of the argument.
In this particular war of words there were no winners. Both sides believed they were right. While those involved in the argument continue to name call or throw insults at each other from time to time, the rest of us are far too busy writing, and watching our bank balances improve each month.
Whether or not your work was made available to the reading public via a known publisher, or by using one of the many software packages available to independent writers, doesn’t matter in the least. All that does are your sales figures. If your book isn’t selling, don’t take your frustration and anger out on everyone else. It’s not their fault – they didn’t write, edit and publish it!
If you consider yourself to be a professional simply because you are a writer working through a publishing house, you really need to get out your copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and look up the accepted definition of the word professional in the context of writing.
Its not that long ago since two so-called professional writers, Stephen Leather, a successful thriller writer, and the established crime writer R.J Ellory, both employed by a prominent publishing house, were publically exposed for using a particularly low self-promotion technique known as sock puppeting. For those who don’t know, it involves writing glowing reviews of your own work while at the same time writing derogatory ones involving your opposition, using aliases on various internet social media sites and book outlets.
If that is an example of what some within the snobby traditional publishing world consider to be a professional approach, I want no part of it. I’ll remain an independent thank you very much.
If like me your only goal in life is to write and be read, whatever label people use when talking about you doesn’t matter one iota. In the world of the written word there is no room for the social climber plagued with an enormous ego, or unbridled jealousy. The whole argument over whether or not a writer is a professional is a complete nonsense these days. To be classed as a professional writer means that you receive regular payments in the form of royalties. If you don’t believe me, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a professional as being engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as an amateur. Nowhere is there any mention of approach. It’s got damn all to do with whether or not you publish independently, or are under contract in one of the traditional publishing stables.
If you can’t compete fairly in the marketplace, maybe its time for you to do something else. After all, the world of words does not need this kind of petty, childish nonsense.
I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.
I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.
I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now – Marriage by Pete Johnson
When I was a teenager in London, I took it for granted that I would get married. After a long relationship that started in my early teens didn’t work out, I started seeing someone else when I was 22, and that developed well. We got married in 1977, when we were both 25. We had good jobs, sufficient disposable income, and bought a nice flat in a desirable area…
Winter fast approached. In the valley, freezing cold winds accompanied by rain and sleet signalled the change of seasons. The weather drove most of its inhabitants indoors to seek shelter and warmth. Inside the goblin brother’s home, all were suffering from cabin fever after spending almost a whole moon trapped by the foul conditions.
Beyond Goblindom’s borders, Morag, the warrior queen of the largest human tribe and her son prince Olin sat in the feasting hall of her royal long house, talking with the chiefs of the recently arrived tribes. They were finding it hard to keep the peace among the growing numbers migrating north from their former homes in the hot deserts far to the south. Each new tribe arriving here in the north fought those who had already settled down, to claim land for themselves. Morag struggled to persuade most to travel east or west. Land hungry eyes focussed on the seemingly impenetrable mountains further to the north, surrounding the hidden world of the goblins.
The antics of a particularly troublesome goblin caused sleepless nights for two individuals who cherished Goblindom’s peaceful isolation from the savage humans beyond its borders. His mindless deeds were about to be brought to the notice of all, whether inside Goblindom, or the world beyond.
Artemus Wainpin (Mus), a venerable mountain goblin shaman, and his lifelong friend Morweth the white wizard, travelled to speak with Mica’s father-in-law, Yestin, the humin shaman. None living in Goblindom, apart from Mus and Morweth, fully realized or indeed appreciated how the actions of the goblin in question and the events slowly unfolding beyond the barrier, could bring great peril to this relatively peaceful hidden land. Yestin was flattered that they had both sought his counsel. He sat quietly while his visitors warmed their bones beside his fire. When they began to explain the reason for their visit he listened intently. Morweth cleared his throat, before saying, “Mus recently brought to my attention the fact that a rogue mountain goblin by the name of Dillfeather Fairglorn has been raiding the world of the humans for the last two moons. So far the humans have not discovered who or what is causing them trouble. Somehow he has found a way to travel freely back and forth through our magical barrier. There must be another weak point in it somewhere. He must be stopped! Should the bloodthirsty, warlike humans follow him and witness his re-entry into Goblindom, our land and all of its inhabitants will be placed in grave peril.” Having told his terrible news the ancient wizard slumped in the chair he sat in clearly dreading the prospect of an imminent human invasion.
Mus removed his shaman’s badge of office, the horned mountain goat skull cap he wore on his head. He carefully placed it on the floor beside the stool he sat on. Then he rose to stand with his back to the fire before adding his own observations. “Wot Morweth says is true Yestin lad, buts there’s summink far worse wot trubles us more than Dill’s raids beyond our border. He’s founds a way ter open the barrier twixt the world we’s all lives in n the one neath us. Shud he lets all the beasties wot inhabits it loose, none on us, not humin, goblin, elf, troll, ogre, wyvern, griffin, wizard, witch, or human come ter that, wills be safe. We’s mus seek helps from the human queen Morag wivout her knowin who or where we are. Shud Dill takes it inter his head ter join forces wiv all the evil neath our feets, it’ll takes many more than jus us ter fights them. They is magic beasties wot wos driven below at the end of the time afore ter stops them causin truble. Once they is free they wills soon finds us n wipes us all out.”
Yestin sat in silence for many minutes digesting the news. Their hidden world had never before been threatened like this. “We should call a meeting of all the kinds who live here within Goblindom’s borders immediately. I agree that we need to find a solution to this latest danger my friends before it’s too late,” he said with a note of resignation in his voice.
By the end of the moon the leaders of all the kinds living within Goblindom sat around a large table inside the great throne room, deep within the ancestor oak. Her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, had taken charge of the proceedings. Their only topic of debate was an unlikely alliance with the warring human tribes beyond their border. The very idea of working with the much feared humans should Dill release the beasts, naturally made everyone highly nervous. Hermione took a brief moment to look at the familiar faces of all the leaders seated around the table before saying to them, “someone needs to travel to Morag’s settlement – but which one should we send? No matter whom we decide upon, they’re likely to be killed on sight by the murderous humans!”
Lox, the leader of the elves, sowed a seed of hope when she told all assembled, “the humans, besides being killers, are superstitious creatures. They believe in higher beings they call gods. In particular they pray to one they deem to be the lord of all who they call Odin. Perhaps playing on their superstitions may be the way.”
The grand high goblin, Obadiah Fingletook, Hermione’s first born son, shifted his bloated body on his throne and snorted with derision. “Gods, what are gods! Never heard of such a thing; and what does superstitious and pray mean?”
Hermione glared at him. “Be silent Obadiah! I’m in no mood for your childish outbursts. Go to your room at once!” she declared, with a seldom heard degree of absolute authority in her voice.
Obadiah’s flabby face reddened with embarrassment when his mother chastised him in front of the assembled leaders, who all chuckled quietly to themselves. He opened his mouth to object. But when all the leaders joined his mother in glaring angrily at him, his lips and fat chin quivered as tears welled up in his eyes. He quickly lowered his head and left the throne room in disgrace.
With the distraction over, Hermione encouraged Lox to continue by asking her, “how do you know so much about these human gods my dear?” Lox obliged by relating how before the magic border was installed at the end of the time before, she and her kind had wandered freely among the few surviving humans of the first battle between humanity and Goblindom, relatively unnoticed. She had listened to them invoking their god’s help in their darkest hour. One human she came across, and did her best to make comfortable as his end drew near, told her of Odin and the mythical land of Asgard where he dwelled with all the other human gods. He also told her of Odin’s two winged messengers Huginn and Muninn. Before he breathed his last, he revealed what kind of creature the messengers were. When Hermione suggested who the messenger should be, the leaders were all in total agreement. Carefully dictated by Lox, a missive to the human queen was written down by Morweth in the old human tongue of the west from the time before, still used by Morag’s tribe. Lox was then charged with delivering it to the intended messenger with instructions to seek out queen Morag or her son prince Olin.
Dill approached the barrier to the world beneath. Giath, the murderer of Yathle’s cousin Ariadne, stood on the other side of the barrier impatient for battle. The mountain goblin opened the barrier long enough to let him walk through before closing it quickly behind him. The stench of brimstone filled the air briefly while the barrier remained open. Murderous eyes watched the proceedings from the darkness behind where Giath had stood, impatient for their own release.
A few hours later, reports reached Morag’s ears that a powerful horned beast, along with another strange creature armed to the teeth, was on the rampage killing all humans in the farthest north-eastern settlements. Dill had released the last living Minotaur, intent on using him to create mayhem. Morag was about to send out a decree calling all her warriors to arms, with the intent of sending them off to seek out the invaders when an otherworldly visitor arrived unannounced. Morag, Olin and the assembled chiefs were terrified when one of Odin’s legendary messengers magically appeared in the hall and landed on one arm of her throne. It carried a scroll. “Mighty Huginn, what message do you bring us?” Morag nervously enquired, wide eyed with terror and foreboding. Olin and the assembled chiefs prostrated themselves on the floor of the hall in fear, not daring to look up. The messenger fixed her briefly with its gaze before dropping the scroll in her lap. Morag calmed herself and broke the seal before reading the message out loud for all to hear.
“Morag my mortal daughter,
I have seen an intruder on the outer edge of my lands. His name is Dillfeather Fairglorn. He has found a way into the dangerous world beneath that in which you dwell. I know he intends to use the fearsome beasts I banished eons ago to the darkness beneath your feet in his bid to conquer the whole world and rid it of humans and the many other kinds living alongside you.
The beast he has released is the Minotaur Giath. Do not underestimate Dill or his evil companion. Giath is not only strong, but also possesses great magic in his voice. While you may eventually kill Dillfeather with spear, sword, or arrow, Giath is a different matter entirely.
In my own land beyond the mountains to the north of you, dwell many you have never set eyes upon, whom I choose to hide and protect from your kind. They are largely peaceful beings who worship at my feet. They fear what may happen should the magical beasts or you and your kind find them.
Disobey me at your peril Morag. If you try to enter my land, I will wage war upon you. At my command my son Thor protects all who live peacefully here in Asgard. Your kind must never travel any further north on pain of death. A few foolhardy humans have tried in the past to scale Asgard’s mountain borders and have been killed by my ever watchful Thor and his guards.
I shall send magical beasts of my own design to protect your army and to kill Giath and Dillfeather Fairglorn. If you and your chiefs agree to my demands, merely nod you’re heads in my messenger’s presence. Shake them, and beware my rage. Huginn will return to me with your decision.
I Odin, lord of Asgard, command this.”
Morag and Olin, along with the assembled human chiefs all nodded their heads vigorously in stunned silence, before watching wide eyed as Huginn simply vanish into thin air.
“Well, what did they say?” Morweth enquired.
“Morag, her chick Olin, n the other chief’th all nodded their headth Morweth. They’th all agree with yer proposal – rarrk.” Bejuss replied, once he had recovered from his long flight back.
“Glob my dearest son, you know what to do next,” Hermione said quietly to the old southern woods goblin after hearing the welcome news. Without a word he immediately went outside the ancestor oak with his emerald topped staff to summon Yathle, while Bejuss flew off to recruit Slyth, Garr, and as many other griffins as he could muster, along with all the birds of prey he could find.
At first light the following morning the skies above Morag’s army were filled with a frightening mixture of flying beasts circling above the humans. Yathle led the aerial armada of over a thousand wyverns and griffins, aided by flights of eagles and hawks, all ready for what was to come. By noon battle was joined on the snow covered open plains to the northwest of Goblindom.
Prince Olin’s battle horn had barely sounded the charge before Giath’s terrible bellow took its toll. The ear splitting sounds emanating from him tore the front ranks of humans asunder. Hundreds died horribly when their minds were turned to mush. The human’s spears and arrows had no effect on him whatsoever, merely bouncing off his impenetrable coat of thick hair. Many warriors were impaled on his massive horns when he lowered his head and charged.
Dill’s sword severed legs, while his dagger put out eyes, or disembowelled stomach’s when the unfortunate human he had just wounded lay helpless at his feet.
Giath picked up the nearest human to him by one leg like a child picks up a rag doll. He whirled his unfortunate victim above his head with ease before effortlessly throwing him into the charging ranks of human warriors. Many were felled in this fashion. Many more were trampled beneath Giath’s massive hooves.
Then Yathle and her armada attacked from on high. On her command, Slyth led his fellow griffins in a headlong dive towards Dill, while she and her sister wyverns, assisted by the eagles and hawks, sought out Giath. Morag’s army retreated when Olin blew his battle horn once again, after he had seen Odin’s many beasts descend from the sky above his head. From their vantage point on a low hill behind the battlefront, the remaining humans watched with a mixture of fear and fascination as the unfolding fight between Odin’s beasts of magic and the two unwelcome intruders began in deadly earnest.
Despite the relentless fiery barrage from the wyverns, Giath continued to bellow while crushing, tearing and trampling the rear ranks of humans when they answered Olin’s command to retreat. He saw something to one side of him out of the corner of his eye. His friend Dill was in grave danger of being beheaded by the vicious razor sharp beaks of the griffins. Forgetting the retreating humans for the moment Giath turned to assist the tiny goblin. Dill desperately slashed his sword wildly above his head, as the griffins snapped at him with each pass made at head height. Luckily for him he ducked at the last possible moment before Slyth’s great beak snapped shut where his head had been mere seconds before. The griffin soared skyward to prepare for his next attack run.
Meanwhile, his brother Garr levelled off behind the goblin ready to attack. He was totally focused on his intended victim when his own life brutally ended. Giath had arrived in the nick of time. He stood legs astride, towering over the tiny mountain goblin. He grabbed the unfortunate griffin in mid-flight with one of his gigantic clawed hands before quickly biting its neck. Garr died instantly. On witnessing the death of his brother, Slyth was overcome with blind rage, revenge and grief. He let out his war cry, calling on his brother griffins to join him in his headlong suicidal attack, completely ignoring Dill for the moment. Yathle, her sisters, and the thousands of eagles and hawks accompanying them, formed into their attack formations and prepared to follow the griffins down to the bloody scene below. Wave after wave of griffins flew at Giath from all directions. Many perished as he seized them when they closed within arm’s reach, ripping their heads or wings off, before trampling them beneath his hooves.
Dill was terrified and powerless to help. He ran away as fast as he could, heading for the safety of Goblindom’s barrier. Yathle and her sisters changed direction and gave chase. Soon there was nothing left of the mischievous goblin but a pile of smoking ash. Now it was time to end Giath’s existence. Yathle sounded her terrible battle cry, signalling the griffin’s withdrawal. Giath was enveloped in wave after wave of fiery blasts delivered by the wyvern sisters, while his mind destroying bellows continued to reduce the humans closest to the battle to gibbering fools.
Covering his ears from Giath’s assault on his very soul, Olin watched the fiery assault completely spellbound. The evil beast’s seemingly impenetrable hairy coat was eventually burnt away revealing his seared flesh. Flights of eagles and hawks now joined in the attack, tearing great lumps of charred flesh from Giath’s back, head and arms, before each fresh wave of wyverns attacked once more. By late afternoon what remained of Giath lay on the blood stained snow of the battleground.
Yathle landed on the hill towering over a now completely terrified Olin, while her sisters and the griffins surrounded the remnants of the human army, viewing them with murderous eyes. Fixing him with her golden hypnotic gaze, she spoke to him in his own tongue, delivering Odin’s last command. “My lord and master mighty Odin has charged me to say this to you – leave these lands forever, you and your kind are not welcome here. Go while you still can. Disobey my wishes and I will send my son Thor at the head of my vast army of beasts to wage war upon you. Return here at your peril – now be gone!” Then with a flap of her powerful wings she rose into the sky and flew north accompanied by the vast armada of her sister wyverns. The grieving Slyth and his remaining griffin brothers, accompanied by the countless flights of eagles and hawks followed close behind.
Olin led the remaining members of the chastened human army back to his mother Morag. Only time would tell if they would heed Odin’s demand to leave this place…
We might be sleeping, and when we die, we will awaken; unknown!
I must count the years since you left this Earth (or as you called it in your book: changing the level!) to find out how long it passed because these don’t mean to me as I have the feeling it was yesterday. (Tonight, we enter the sixteenth year of separation, although our reunion is getting closer.)
You’ve written many things about death and have many versions. I have found some of your notes on this, though some were hard to discern. ( Mostly, you were drunk when you wrote them and called them “Schnapsideen”, according to Germans!) But they all show your efforts to definite this great puzzle: the death.
George Orwell, pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair, was born on 25 June 1903 in Motihari, Bengal (now Bihar), British India
English novelist, essayist, and critic, his work is characterised by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, and strong opposition to totalitarianism. His most famous novels are “Animal Farm” a satire which allegorically depicts Stalin’s betrayal of the Russian revolution on 1917 and “Nineteen Eighty-four” ,a profound anti-utopian novel that examines the dangers of a totalitarian government.
When Eric Blair was getting ready to publish his first work, “Down and Out in Paris and London”, he decided to use a pen name so his family wouldn’t be embarrassed by his time in poverty.
The book was an account of his tramping days in England, particularly in the hop fields of Kent, and of the poverty he endured while living in Paris trying to write novels. Furthermore, at the time…
…a story that moves at a snail’s pace, or one that has been deliberately padded out. Both are a big no no in my book, if you will pardon the pun. And yet many of today’s writers are guilty of using one or both practices, egged on by online proponents of both.More fool them!
Anyone who has ever read any of my books can confirm that I wholeheartedly embrace fast paced writing. I for one do not want to wade through endless pages of off piste ramblings. So why should I make my readers suffer in the same way? Even my Autumn 1066 is fast paced.
When it comes to a book’s characters, personally I do not need to know every minute detail about any of them. Just the salient points. Over the years many who have read and reviewed my books often complain about what they see as the minimal amount of information I disclose about my characters. Why is that? Simple – because I tend towards the trickle method throughout the story. Why do I do that?
Ask yourselves this question – when you first meet someone new, do you insist on knowing everything about them? No of course you don’t. You want to get to know them gradually. Unless that is you are a nosey parker! In which case, the chances are that the other person will lose interest if you get too pushy, and move on. When you meet a character in a book, treat the encounter the way you would in real life. Be grateful for what I give you and fill in the rest by picking up clues in the book and using your imagination!
If you are one of those individuals who prefer to read pages and pages of agonising detail with little or no action, may I suggest that you stick to the writers of yesteryear.
I hate to break it to you but writing has moved on. We are now living in the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth! Today’s pace of life is such that before we know it, the world has changed beyond recognition and already passed us by. Hence the need for fast paced writing to capture the average busy modern individual’s fleeting attention span within two minutes or less…
If you cannot find your reading glasses, they are usually on top of your head.
Just as you get into a nice warm bath, someone will ring the doorbell.
The keys you have been looking everywhere for are still hanging in the front door.
After waiting in for a parcel delivery, as soon as you have to go out, it will arrive. You come home to find a card that says “Sorry we missed you”.
If the sign on a multi-story car park says ‘Spaces Available’, you will drive around every level to discover that some people have parked across two spaces. So you have to drive out again, and find somewhere else to park.
If you are talking to someone on your landline telephone, somebody else will ring your mobile because your phone is engaged.