Déjà vu

If this post seems familiar to some of you, it should do. I originally posted it on the 15th of February, 2015. Later I reblogged it. But as you know WP only allows a post to be reblogged once by any given individual. Hence the repost today with a couple of additional points included. Why? Because in these days of don’t read anything longer than a tweet, its message is still relevant – probably more so…

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woodchuck

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
As much wood as a woodchuck could chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.

If you are of a certain age, chances are that you learnt that tongue twister in primary school, just as I did back in the early nineteen-fifties. It is a perfect example of the overuse of specific words, even though in this case it’s just a fun thing for kids to learn and to attempt to recite.

Many emerging writers tend to rely on a limited vocabulary, even though most words have perfectly acceptable alternatives. How many times have you seen specific words endlessly repeated by a new writer? Either that, or the incorrect versions of words.

Chances are you will come across examples of words when writing, which while sounding similar when used in actual conversation between two people, are completely wrong in a given instance within any piece of writing.

Note to self – hmm, a lot of words beginning with ‘w’ in that last sentence. Must watch that. Damn, there’s another one!

If you want an example of similar sounding words think about there, they’re and their. They all sound exactly alike. But in each instance they have a totally different meaning. Even simple words we all use such as and, can and do become seriously overused by most writers. I’m no different in that regard. I’ve even been known to start a sentence with it on occasion, for example the one word question – “And?” But only during a conversation between some of my characters.

What I’m about to say, I’ve said in previous posts here on my blog. But just for you, here it is again – once you have written that first draft, go back over it many times during its edit phase. Make sure that one of your editing sessions is solely dedicated to deliberately finding alternatives of those words you are so fond of using.

How? Use the synonym function incorporated into your writing software in conjunction with a dictionary and thesaurus. Even better, why not rewrite certain sentences using completely different words, that convey the same meaning as the original one?

Before some of you feel an attack of righteous indignation coming on, and are thinking of going on the offensive, I am fully aware that I have used several words in this post more than once. In this instance I am completely justified as I’m merely pointing out that every one of us needs to pay heed to the way we write.

In short folks, do your darndest to avoid using certain words too often. Here are some more similar sounding words that writers tend to get wrong – your and you’re, to and too. Allowed is yet another example of a word that sounds the same when spoken even when spelt differently. Its cousin aloud has a completely different meaning. The list is endless. Is it any wonder that so many people find the English language hard to come to grips with?

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Next, I would just like to point out something to all of the various types of literary cowards who insist upon hiding behind pseudonyms, such as a number of the armchair critics, pedants, grammar nazis, literary snobs etc, who inhabit the darker recesses of the Internet, each of them purporting to know far more about the written word than most writers.

None of us likes a smart arse who deliberately sets him or herself up as a scathing critic.

To all of the above – I can only surmise that what you appear to be suffering from is the literary equivalent of penis envy. Remember this, apart from being counterproductive, jealousy tends to feed on itself. Never forget that. It’s the only reason I can think of for why you deem it absolutely necessary to be so vicious towards not only the newcomers, but also seasoned writers, whether Indie or traditionally published?

First of all, may I suggest that you get over yourselves. Secondly, instead of endlessly criticising new and seasoned writers, by issuing those interminably boring, often repetitious one and two star reviews you are so fond of placing in the public arena, in your pathetic attempts to destroy a writer’s reputation, as some of you still tend to do on Goodreads and Amazon (you know who you are), why not actually try to write a book yourself. Maybe you already have, which probably accounts for the way you behave. But go on, give it another try. Far better to occupy your time by writing a book. Once you do, prepare yourselves for when it is torn to shreds by your fellow trolls. In other words, I’d think long and hard if I were you before you feel the overwhelming desire coming on, to rubbish someone else’s work.

Like most writers, I always refrain from reviewing some books, especially those written by new writers, if they did not succeed in gaining my full attention by drawing me into the story. Believe me when I say that it’s always better to do that, rather than to publicly condemn, and by definition, earn yourself a reputation as yet another vicious troll.

Just cast your minds back to the so-called review of my historical story Autumn 1066 , which I posted here on my blog a few weeks back… If I ever feel the need to offer criticism, it’s usually in the form of advice offered privately, well away from the gaze of the general public, either by email or when chatting to my fellow writers on Facebook.

All disenchanted individuals should try doing the same thing instead of attacking…

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Which is more important…

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…the cover or the book’s content?

Quite simply, if a story is not up to scratch, no amount of money spent on a cover and an ad campaign will help sell what is in effect, a lame duck! – (cardinal rule of publishing)

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If you listen to some writers who swallow everything they are told, hook line and sinker about spending money to market their books, the one thing they are adamant about is that it always takes precedence over the book’s content. This line of thought is nothing more or less than complete bulldust, designed to hook the gullible!

If your editing skills are not up to scratch, by all means pay to have your MS edited if you must. But that’s all you should be paying for!

All serious writers and bibliophiles know and have always known that the story is alway more important. Do you honestly imagine that the cover and marketing are the first thing reputable publishers think about??? These days there is far too much emphasis placed on how a book’s cover looks, as well as promotional video clips.

As I said in yesterday’s post – Let’s face facts, if a story doesn’t sell itself, there is no point whatsoever in pouring good money after bad by trying to improve its visual packaging in an attempt to make it stand out from the crowd in an already saturated marketplace! The only publications with pretty pictures I know that sell well are called glossy magazines or Bimbo fodder to you and I. When it comes to pictorial covers, those of us who have been in this game for several decades are all guilty of changing them in the past, hoping to shift more copies. Does it majorly improve any book’s chances? Rarely if ever…

Whether you like it or not the words contained within the book are what’s important, not the damned cover or how much money you spent on marketing! One last thing – before you see any financial profit from sales of your book, first you have to recoup your outgoings.

So if for arguments sake you spend the conservative figure of £200 on cover and marketing, and the paperback version is priced at £8.00, work out the number of copies you will need to sell, based on the bog standard royalty percentages shown below, just to break even.

Hardback edition: 10% of the retail price on the first 5,000 copies; 12.5% for the next 5,000 copies sold, then 15% for all further copies sold. Paperback: 8% of retail price on the first 150,000 copies sold, then 10% thereafter.

For god’s sake do the math!!!

At the risk of repeating myself yet again, ask yourself which is more important – the cover and the advertising, or the book’s content?

It’s a no brainer, always assuming you have a brain and know how to use it in the first place. Many independent writers never sell enough copies to recoup their outgoings. And yet they still insist on pouring good money after bad. Their completely unfathomable actions remind me of the old saying – “a fool and his money are soon parted”.

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Once again silly season is upon us

NativeDaylightSavingsTime

Ok, own up! Which total numpkin came up with the bizarre concept of daylight saving?

The clocks here in the UK went forward in the early hours of yesterday morning (Sunday 29th). Why it was decided that 2am is the appropriate time to make the change totally escapes me, let alone why it happens. But there you are. Until voters around the world demand their respective governments get rid of it, it’s here to stay, more’s the pity!

Truth be told, some bureaucrat probably drew a number out of his hat to decide what hour was best for the change over, after another of his kind had first decided that mucking around with time was a good idea. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the latter of the two received an award for coming up with the totally nonsensical notion!

Face it – we’re all idiots! Who actually benefits from changing their clock? No one! Those who swallow the myth that we somehow gain because of it, quite frankly need their bumps felt. The number of hours in a day remains exactly the same, no matter whether its during the daylight saving period or not – 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds, plus or minus a few thousandths.

Yes it is true that we gradually experience more hours of daylight during the summer months. But it has absolutely nothing to do with putting our clocks forward by an hour. Conversely, putting our clocks back in autumn does not change the number of hours in a day either. Instead, summer and winter has everything to do with the angle of the Earth at a given moment in time when it is rotating around the Sun.

I hate to point out the patently obvious here, but moving a clock back or forth by an hour achieves absolutely nothing, except to fool the totally thick among us into believing they are getting something for nothing. Think about it folks – does the Earth speed up as it travels around the Sun to comply with big businesses demands on you the worker? No of course it doesn’t. So why does every nation insist on doing it? Who actually benefits from this grand illusion? Certainly not the general public. Nor the business world, truth be told.

No amount of clock changing governs when we go to bed or wake up. We sleep when we’re tired. We wake up after we have rejuvinated ourselves in the arms of Morpheus. No amount of putting our clocks forward an hour in spring time and back in autumn, will ever change that! We still work the same amount of hours each day. Changing the clocks back and forth doesn’t change that either.

So, come on people wake up to the total absurdity of Summer Time. You know it makes no sense whatsoever. So why change our clocks for goodness sake? It is yet another pointless exercise which has become an accepted part of life. If you want to celibrate anything connected with summer and winter, observe the equinoxes, the time or date twice each year when the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are of equal length, approximately on the twenty-second of September, and the twentieth of March each year. Now that makes total sense, unlike the clock changing codswallop!

What most people forget, especially bureaucracy, is that time is a constant. Mankind cannot change it to suit itself, no matter how much it kids itself, believing it can.

PS – if you are one of the half wits who actually believes the fairy tale known as daylight saving, I apologize for bursting your collective bubble with rationality – not!

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A Couple Of Problems With Social Media Sites That Need Addressing

social_media_strategy111

Ever noticed how when setting yourselves up on any Social Media site, how they all appear to be blighted by exactly the same problems? Crass stupidity seems to be the order of the day, or could that be just sheer ignorance on the part of those responsible for the sites?

For example, take the field to be filled in re your current work status in the section where your personal details are held. If you are retired, as I am, no Social Media site appears to be able to comprehend the fact that you are no longer part of the workforce. Facebook is a glaring example of what I’m talking about. When I retired almost two years ago, I changed the information to simply read retired. Job done, or so I thought. But no. According to Facebook I now ‘work’ at retired. Duh! No I don’t! What part of the fact that I am retired are you dipsticks unable to grasp?

The same stupidity applies when it comes to your educational status. Why do any of the Social Media sites automatically assume that everyone must have gone to university? Could it be because they were set up by young graduate American entrepreneurs, with no awareness of how people in the real word actually exist?

While it may be the case for a large percentage of today’s generation like them, for people my age and older, most left high school and went into the workforce, or into the armed forces as I did. Very few ever got the chance to do a degree. Most didn’t even want to. Back when I was at school we were ‘streamed’. The few academically bright ones were either groomed for University or Teachers College, while the rest of us were directed elsewhere. Most either entered a trade learning on the job (apprenticeship), or became part of the general workforce, where you were expected to turn your hand to everything and anything, unlike today when you need to have served an apprenticeship (they call it an inhouse degree for some weird reason), to even make and serve a cup of coffee in a certain well known American coffee chain. Perhaps the management think that a degree in coffee making is far more prestigious, who knows. Either way its still learning on the job.

Linkedin is another classic example of a Social Media site suffering from this shared insanity. According to them, I’m retired at retired, whatever that means. Even after I entered the fact in their system, for some strange reason, probably something to do with my full to bursting ‘Skills’ page where other people tell the world what you are good at, they keep on suggesting job offers which they think I may be suited too!

Once again – no, I’m retired you idiots. Get over it! I worked full time for forty years from my fifteenth year until the end of 2003, when at fifty-five, I experienced a total mental breakdown, brought on by stress in the workplace, rendering me unemployable. From then until my sixty-fifth birthday, I existed (barely) on a mental health benefit.

When someone updates their personal information, especially regarding their work status, to read retired, we are not working at retired, nor are we retired at retired. We’re just retired, no longer working, no longer commuting, no longer part of the rat race. We’ve done our bit, paid income tax, worked for various businesses and other employers. We have earned the right to be retired and to finally do what we want, not what an employer demands we do for an often paltry weekly wage. What part of any of that don’t the idiotic dipsticks in charge of Social Media sites seem to be able to fully appreciate?

Rant over…

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Answer Me This If You Can

Editor

Editor at work – Yeh right!

For as long as I’ve been writing full time (nineteen years), one aspect of our chosen career path has always bothered me.

We all know that writers in publishing house stables are expected to apply all the corrections that their editors have found. Why should Indies suffer this totally illogical practice as well? For many, myself included, we parted company with traditional publishing to get away from this less than satisfactory aspect of the writing game, and the often dictatorial way in which publishers rule over their writers, amongst other things.

I’ve given up counting the number of times I’ve heard fellow Indie’s complain about their editors, and the hard won money they’ve spent on their sometimes dubious services.

If you take the sensible decision to go it alone and self edit, you find the errors and correct them. Whereas if you pay for an editor’s services, while they give the impression of doing a ‘professional’ job, what do they actually do for their often exhorbitant fee? I’ll tell you. Not enough! They only do half a job, then send it back to you to do the rest. What’s the point? A writer can do all of that themselves and for no cost to them except time.

Yes your editor will tell you that they have judiciously gone through your manuscript, purportedly working their way through your story word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, picking up on bad grammar, spelling mistakes, incorrect punctuation, plus suggesting you change this or that aspect of your story as if it was them who wrote the darned story, so that when pedants, armchair critics and literary snobs challenge you (and believe me they will), you can honestly say that your work was professionally edited.

Big deal!

Logic dictates that if someone is employing you as an editor to find all of the errors, that once found, you should correct them, not send the manuscript back to the writer to do your job for you! Otherwise, what’s the point of employing you in the first place. If a writer does the sensible thing and sends their manuscript to a few dedicated beta readers, hopefully they will point out any and all errors for free!

Remember this, no book is ever perfect. Even the very best editors employed by the major publishing houses will miss the minutiae, after all they are human just like the rest of us. Paying for an editor’s services, as they stand at the moment, is a waste of money. Before you even begin to show a profit from the sales of your books, you have to recoup your financial outlay first, ie, editing, layout, cover design. From a financial point of view its far better that you do it all yourself. Thinking about it, so-called professional editors are little more than professional pedants.

If you are a truly dedicated Indie writer, don’t think that once you have written your manuscript that you have finished. You haven’t. Your work has only just begun. Above all don’t fall into the trap that your manuscript need the services of a paid ‘professional’ editor. It doesn’t. If you are any damned good, you will do it yourself!

End of lesson…

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