Progress Report 6

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The story might be located here

Well, chapter one is done and dusted until I reach the end and begin the inevitable rewrite. I started writing chapter two a couple of days back. Trying to tell you the reader a story without giving too much away isn’t easy. I’m applying the ‘Red Herring’ approach a lot this time. After all, we can’t have you thinking “I’ve cracked it!” within the first few chapters now can we.

What I will say is that at the moment, the story involves Dr Gilbert Briggs and a geologist travelling back in time to several key locations, in his quest to discover if the subject of endless debate down the centuries actually existed. So what is it I hear you cry? That’s for me to know and for you through Gilbert’s eyes, to find out. As for its location, that’s if you think you might know…

One other thing I can tell you is that the story quite possibly involves ‘ancient gods’, race memory and ancient cataclysms across the world. I’ve changed the working title once more. This time just one word –  Cataclysm. For now it suites my thinking.

This time round I’m only writing a couple of hundred words each day before going back through them to ensure you don’t become convinced you know what’s going to happen next. As for character conversations, first of all I just write what I want them to say before changing the words so that even when they are having a conversation, your still left guessing. Then I stop for a few hours to think things through, usually by playing my favourite video game Mass Effect 3. Doing something completely different to take my mind of things helps enormously.

More later.

PS Even writing this post, I’ve had to rewrite it several times for the reasons stated above. Devious or what?

😉

For Goodness Sake Make Time!

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I forget how many times I have told people, especially new writers, to pace themselves. I was having a conversation on Facebook with one of my female writer friends yesterday. She has bought copies of five of my eBooks, which I am eternally grateful to her for. Three of them are short novellas, averaging 168 pages. I don’t know about you but I can read a novella in an afternoon, or a morning. For instance, if I start reading at twelve noon, I will have finished it by seven in the evening, barring interruptions and calls of nature. When I read a full length novel (150 – 200,000 words) it takes me the best part of three twelve hour days.

As writers, if we are going to do justice to our own writing, there is nothing more stimulating than spending hours reading other people’s books. From them we glean those ideas that hadn’t necessarily occured to us. With every book I write comes endless reading beforehand. Its called research. The writer in question makes me laugh. She claims that she has no time to read. When I told her about my reading a novella in seven hours, she assumed that what I’m doing is speed reading. Sorry to disagree with you my dear friend but it isn’t. It’s just a normal reading pace. She seriously needs to make time to read. In other words, she needs to pace herself.

I’ve seen photographs of her with a library of books in the background. I’m assuming that given her profession, the library is her own. Maybe not. If, as she claims, she has no time to read, why does she have access to one, if not to read the books? in my case my own library is divided up into actual physical books in my five shelf bookcase, as well as eBooks and PDF files on this laptop. I’ve read every single one of them at least five times. Some like Graham Hancock’s epic work Fingerprints of the Gods, several dozen times. In that case it will usually take me a week, simply because its seven hundred and nineteen pages are jam packed with information…

Currently I have one hundred and seventy three eBooks and one hundred and twenty physical books. I also have one hundred and forty-two PDF files which I constantly refer to when I’m in research mode.

How many books do you have? Have you read them all?

A lot of people buy books, millions of us in fact. But how many can truthfully say that they have read every book in their possession? Some people like to kid themselves that by having a large physical library in their home, it will impress their visitors, by creating the illusion that they are well read, and therefore intelligent.

If you want to impress the hell out of your visitors; read the damned books in your personal library to become fully conversant with the content of each of them! That way when your visitors ask you about a certain book you won’t be caught out in a lie.

Despite what some idiots believe, books are not for decoration, even though the multicolours of the jacket’s spine undoubtedly creates a splash of colour.  Every one of them contains the end product of a writer’s accumulated knowledge and hard work. They are meant to be read, not just looked at!!!

PS – I will admit that since I became a fulltime writer, I no longer read for pleasure. Plus, these days when I read a book, the editor in me is constantly on the lookout for poor grammer, spelling and punctuation.

That is the one major drawback with full-time writing; the end of spending hours simply reading for pleasure…

😉

What it takes to get the job done

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There is still a lot of argument going on within the world of writing on how to go about writing a novel, novella, or even a short story. Certain actions on your part as the writer are absolutely fundamental to any story. First of all, the writer needs a strong story idea. Having a vague notion simply won’t work. This applies to all genres. Next the writer needs a hook in the first few pages to capture the reader’s interest and attention. The third thing all writers need are believable characters. How much you reveal about them is down to you. But remember this, the reader needs to know what makes the main character or characters tick.

Secondary characters and those inhabiting the periphery usually don’t need so much detail. Think of them as strangers in a crowd. Do you really need to know every nuance about them? No of course not. If your readers are a bunch of completely nosy individuals, wanting to know everything about every character, let them use their own imagination.That way whether they realise it or not, they become involved in the story.

After that, what happens is largely down to the type of story it is. Not every story needs to be planned out. Some stories literally write themselves as in my fantasy anthology Goblin Tales, where, given the characters I created, they virtually dictated what will happen in each circumstance. As a consequence, writing Glob’s tales was a pure joy.

Others require a degree of planning and a lot of background research like my best selling Scifi-adventure story The Seventh Age, where a lot of the action takes place in various historical locations across the Earth. Plus I made use of events that where happening across the world at the time of writing.

A lot of writers, particularly new ones, can and do over plan to the point where the story they are writing becomes inflexible. Don’t get bogged down with rigid ideas. Flexibility is always key to writing any story.

The same amount of research also applied to Seventh’s archaeological adventure sequel The Forgotten Age. In that instance I had already established the main characters in the previous novel. What I needed that time was yet more background research, this time on Egypt, the Giza Plateau, Egyptian burial rites and customs, Mastabas, and anything I could find on the supposed lost library of the ancients rumoured to be either beneath the Sphinx, or the Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Cheops, or Khufu. Even now, eminent Egyptologists still argue over which pharaoh was responsible for its construction.

All of the above points are fundamental to creating a story. After all your hard work, whether or not your readers will like what you’ve written is literally in the lap of the gods.

One other point for you to consider – a lot of publishers and editors abhor prologues and epilogues. Are they necessary? Once again, it all depends on the type of story. While I don’t always use them, they do come in handy to give the reader a preamble before they start chapter one and what happened as a consequence of your characters actions.

Remember this; no matter what, you won’t please everyone, especially armchair critics, pedants et al.

OK that’s it. Back to researching my next novel…

As Writers, We Demand To Know!

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In fellow writer Derek Haines’ recent post Who Are Your Readers, he raises some pertinent points regarding demographics when it comes to the literary world. Without exception, all publishers be they traditional or self do not pass on the information to we writers. Why? Because they keep it to themselves, guarding it jealously to sell books. We’ve all seen examples of how they use it. Think about those annoying emails from Amazon et al. You know the ones I mean. They begin with “Since you showed interest in etc, etc”.

Well, as the writers of those self same books, we also need access to that knowledge!

Just think about it. Wouldn’t you like to know which gender your books appeal to? Which genre is selling? Which is not? As Derek says, you can’t draw any real conclusion from reviews these days, since their value was cheapened by the likes of Amazon and Goodreads when they gave over their review systems carte blanche to their inhouse trolls, and the growing number of self important armchair critics and pedants that crawl out of the woodwork.

As a writer, what do you think?

When we write a book, no matter the genre, in effect we are reduced to adopting a ‘hit or miss’ approach. Will it sell, or won’t it? If the publishers shared the knowledge with us, it would go a long way to deciding what that next book would be. If, like me, you write purely for the eBook market, you soon find out that the largest market for that particular format is the US. No one told me. I had to find it out for myself!

What about paperbacks or hard cover? Which countries are hungry for them? Which are not? Which country loves Fantasy? What about Adventure? Which gender prefers which genre?

All this information is held in secret by all publishers. If only they would tell us, we wouldn’t spend months writing a book that no one wants to read. But then again, when have publishers given a tinker’s cuss about writers?

My fellow writers, do yourselves a favour and reblog the living daylights out of this post to all the writers you know. It’s high time we showed all publishers that we mean business. Let us become organised!!!

Up and Running!!!

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Just to let you know that thanks to your support and kind comments on my post Got a Minute the other day, I have finally made a start on my next novel, or novella, depending on how many words it ends up at. For now I’m using the working title – Targets Rewriting history in the twenty-first century, until something better occurs to me.

As many of you who read my blog will know, it simply started out as a series of four short stories involving my character Dr Gilbert Briggs and his team of technicians and field observers at the UK Advanced Science Institute based in Norwich in the county of Norfolk, and Briggs’ breakthrough when he took a science fiction concept (time travel) and made it reality when he concieved and constructed the Teleportation Gate; merely as an exercise to see if the idea was worthy of following up. Pat yourselves on the back folks, you’ve convinced me.

For anyone who hasn’t read the first four scenarios – no Briggs doesn’t exist. Nor does the Institute or his gate. I had to say that simply because some individuals with no brain believe that certain fictional characters do – honest.

As I have already written four scenarios concerning historical targets, I’m off to a good start, both ideas and words wise (10,414 words and counting). I promise I’ll keep you all up to date as I progress.

Now purely for your information, I have in mind the following historical characters as the next four targets for Briggs and co to ‘visit’:

Boudica

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Alfred the Great

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The only female Egyptian Pharaoh – Hatshepsut

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Alexander the Great

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More later as I get into writing mode proper once again. So I’m about to start researching Boudica, once I’ve given the first four the once over grammar and punctuation wise that is.

Thanks again folks. Without your positive encouragement, I would not have decided to expand the Briggs idea…

😀

Writers I Admire – Part 3

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

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Arthur Charles Clark

Initially I considered writing separately about the two writers who mean the most to me. Then I thought no, as I place them equal first in my small list of favourite writers.

J.R.R. Tolkien was among other things a brilliant scholar. He was born on the 3rd of January 1892 in Bloemfontein in South Africa. He was a writer, poet, philologist, and Merton professor of English Literature and Language at Merton College, Oxford. He died on the 2nd of September 1973. On his death, his son Christopher began a work of love, sorting out and publishing many of his father’s unfinished works.

Whereas Arthur C. Clark was born on the 16th of December 1917 in Minehead, Somerset, here in England. In his case he was a science fiction writer, science writer, undersea explorer, inventor and television series host. Arthur died on the 19th of March, 2008 at home in his beloved Sri Lanka.

Tolkien’s list of academic achievements would fill a book. Suffice it to say that if it hadn’t been for his love of language, like millions of others, I would probably never have been fortunate enough to read his most famous works – The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion in my teens. Needless to say I was hooked!

His first civilian job after he returned from the First World War saw him working on The Oxford English Dictionary, compiling the history and etymology of words of Germanic origin. During the Second World War he applied for and got a job in the cryptographic department of the Foreign Office.

Clark is perhaps most famous for being co-writer of the screenplay for the movie 2001 – A Space Odyssey, considered by the American Film Institute to be one of the most influential films of all time. His other science fiction writings earned him a number of Hugo and Nebula awards, along with a large readership, making him into one of the towering figures of science fiction writing. During World War II from 1941 to 1946 he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist and was involved in the early warning radar defence system, which contributed to the RAF’s success during the Battle of Britain.

He spent most of his wartime service working on Ground Control Approach (GCA) radar. Although GCA did not see much practical use during the war, it proved vital at the end of the war to the Berlin Airlift of 1948–1949. Initially he was an instructor on radar at No. 2 Radio School, RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire. Eventually he was appointed chief training instructor at RAF Honiley in Warwickshire until he was demobbed at the cessation of hostilities.

My passion for all things science fiction is largely thanks to my father insisting I stop reading children’s books at the age of eight. I can’t honestly remember what my initial reaction was at the time. But I expect my bottom lip stuck out somewhat. To keep the peace he gave me one of Arthur’s books to read. From that day to this, once again I was hooked, this time by science fiction!

Both men were giants in their own fields as well as being the two finest writers in my list…