Why Do Writers Write?

069e47cc1ed73ef7d7914605c6853b6a

You may as well ask why do painters paint, or sculptors sculpt. Like them, we have a burning desire within us to produce something for posterity. In our case, for your reading pleasure. The serious writer isn’t in it for the money, only the story. Nor are we attempting to become famous during our lifetimes, just to be read.

Sculptors use chisels and other tools to release that statue trapped inside the block of marble. Painters use brushes, palette knives and all manner of paints and pigments to produce that painting which you admire in an art gallery. Whereas we use words to paint a picture for your imagination to feast on.

By its very nature, writing is a solitary occupation. You have to have a writer’s soul and a total commitment to the craft, not to mention a steely determination.

An editor or a teacher of English can give you an explanation for every part of speech in the English language, be it verb; adverb, noun or pronoun, etc, etc. But if you are a writer, what a particular word is formally categorized as by the academically minded is utterly irrelevant? Leave that kind of thing up to your editor. Does a sculptor need to know how to make a chisel, or a painter how to make a paint brush? No. In our case what matters is knowing how to use words to their best effect. To achieve that takes years of practice.

To aid us in writing that story for you, we employ our equivalent of brushes and chisels by spending endless hours researching and fact-finding as well as using our dictionary and thesaurus for the best choice of word, plus reading the works of others.

So, the next time you feel the need to pass judgment on a book you have just read, pause for a moment and ask yourself this simple question, “could I have written it any better?” If you are honest, chances are the answer will be no.

Further to that point, in a recent post on Facebook put out by the BBC about J.K Rowling sharing some of the rejection letters she received over the years with would-be writers, certain sarcastic armchair critics jealous of her success, immediately went on the attack by amongst other things, claiming she can’t write. Nothing surprising there. Most social networking sites and fora automatically attract highly opinionated hate filled individuals.

Not prepared to simply let them get away with it, I posted the following comment – “I see a hell of a lot of envy by people who should know better going on here.

It’s interesting that after I’d posted my comment the criticism slowed to a trickle, particularly when other people agreed with me. One of them went as far as saying to one of the critics, “tell you what, why don’t you give me the name of a book you’ve written?” Not unsurprisingly they received no reply.

While Joanne will never know how we rallied to her defense unless one of you tells her, it’s nice to be able to silence a handful of the highly vocal idiots out there from time to time, don’t you think.

Score one for all writers…

😉

Advertisements

Progress has temporarily ground to a halt

images

The story’s setting, our galaxy the Milky Way

~~~

Progress has stopped while I work out exactly how to counter a threat of alien origin in my latest scifi WIP – Céleste. I created the darned thing in a moment of pure inspiration. So its down to me to work out exactly how to avoid it or perhaps counteract or eliminate it somehow. When it first struck it caused major problems for the ship (Apkallu) and Céleste, plus two of her human crew mates. I absolutely relish solving problems like that in any story I write.

Meanwhile the interactions between everyone aboard including the inexperienced mission commander David O’Leary, the extremely crusty doctor, Andreas Georgiadis – hmm, I wonder who I based him on? Let’s see, how many Greeks do I know… Several actually. Then the extremely shy Chikako Mori, geeky Lukas Gossens, the often moody and petulant Constança Blanco, and of course Céleste herself, who at one point had to take matters into her own hands when… Whoops, I almost gave away a mini plot then.

I’m constantly playing around with all their relationships, whether personal or professional. After all, if everything was cut and dried at this stage of the story, how boring would that be for you the future readers? Meanwhile I’m deliberately continuing at a slow pace, to ensure there is no chance of writing myself into a corner, ending up with yet another novella again.

Getting back to the problem, It’s been two, no make that three days now since I ground to a halt. While writing this, the answer to the problem I mentioned has just occurred to me. So I’d better get back to work. Otherwise I’ll be in trouble with Céleste and my beautiful Brazilian muse Bianca, pictured below. God only knows what will happen if my other muse, Thoth the Egyptian god of writing, turns up on the scene to poke his oar in once again as he has done previously, metaphorically speaking of course.

556321_546504982028804_779342622_n

More later folks,

Jack

PS – As yet I’ve heard nothing back from Chris aka The Story Reading Ape concerning whether or not he’s started work on the cover. I sent him the pic below as an example of the quality I require for the cover via email yesterday. Céleste will be wearing a one piece creme body suit. Hopefully what Chris comes up with will look as stunning as this does:

12208477_1690546791204746_5589999529934307522_n

 As for the young woman in this cover pic, she looks exactly as I envisaged Constança, but wearing a little less. Oh I don’t know though…

😉

Come On, Own Up, How Many?

tumblr_n70jdhtcex1sag14uo2_500

Here is a question for all my fellow writers, both published like myself, and those who just love to write for the sheer joy of doing so. How many hours do you spend writing each day and how many words is usually involved?

Ever since I changed the way I write from how I used to in the past, when I would spend hours to achieve a daily word count in the thousands, I now stick rigidly to a short but extremely intense daily session. I find this is the method that works best for me. If you are wondering how long, these days I limit myself to adding no more than one to two hundred words per day. In my case I start writing at five in the morning, finishing promptly at eight am. I find that to continue beyond that three hour working window of 100% concentration, means that silly errors will inevitably begin to creep in due to my state of total mental exhaustion by the end of each session.

The rest of the day is taken up with a lot of thought about where the story wants me to go next, not the other way round, while I carry on with my normal daily activities. You must remember that a story is a living thing…

Years ago when I was still in the workforce I used to spend two to three hours writing each night from Monday until Friday. Then on the weekends I would write for twelve hours on both days. On public holidays the number of hours sometimes stretched from twelve to eighteen. While to the unitiated, endlessly pouring out words might seem to be the only way to write a story, trust me when I tell you it isn’t! In fact its often the worst possible way of going about it. If you don’t believe me, just look at the hundreds of thousands of poorly written books out there by writers who convinced themselves that high daily word counts is the only way to go. A daily three hour session is by far the best way from my point of view.

I would love to hear how you go about it, but I know you lot of old. Most of you are too damned shy! Don’t just leave it up to the normal three or four regulars to comment. There is absolutely no excuse for you not joining in. You never know, you might even gain some useful ideas and tips on the subject from one another. So leave your thoughts for others to read as comments below this post.

😉

The Latest Progress Report for The Guardian

10816213_776738435708326_2117558725_n

If you read the lovely Jo Robinson’s post yesterday on getting bored with your current WIP, https://litworldinterviews.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/do-you-love-your-book/ all is not lost. It might just be that you are nearing the end of the particular WIP, even though you don’t realize it.

What do I mean? Read on…

***

I’ve finally realized after many sleepless nights and endless hours of thought that my current science fiction WIP – The Guardian in all likelihood will end up as a long short story. In fact, the more I think about it – it’s a given. Each story always dictates its own length. Despite what many may think, the writer often has no say in the matter. Why? Because once we start a story in a specific way, it inevitably guides you towards where it needs to end, regardless of what you want. In other words, the story is in charge, not you.

In this particular instance, one thing and one thing only brought me to this conclusion. The Guardian’s natural fast pace. The very thought of trying to maintain such a pace until I pass the eighty or one hundred and fifty thousand word mark, simply doesn’t bear thinking about. I did that once many years ago to the detriment of my health, never again. Yes I could have written endless pages of totally boring, nauseous descriptive prose and mind numbing dialogue. But that’s not me these days. That’s not the way I write any more. After many years I’ve finally seen the light!

For the handful of individuals who actually bought and read my scifi novella Cataclysm, (published last year) who got in touch with me privately, the one thing that the majority of you communicated was the fact that I kept it uncluttered and fast paced.

Maintaining a blog like mine soon teaches you how to convey what you want to say with the bare minimum of carefully chosen words.

Many writers still prefer to delude themselves into thinking that writing between eighty and one hundred and fifty thousand words is the only way to go. Not necessarily so, especially in this day and age. The times we live in along with reader tastes have dramatically changed in the last ten years or so, in favour of the shorter literary work. Both of the aforementioned are signs which no writer can now afford to ignore.

Think about it, how many times recently have you read a book from beginning to end, only to forget what it was all about by the time you eventually arrived at the last page, or far worse, wound up totally confused from information overload? Even the top one percent of writers hate having to artificially fill a manuscript merely to keep their literary agent, editor and publisher happy.

I recently learned that busy commuters across the world are my main reading group these days. Fifteeen years ago it was my contemporaries. Times definitely change…

As an Indie, I now only have to please myself and the wishes of the modern commuting reader who wants a fast paced story, paired down to the essential nitty gritty, and of course, told well. So now that I’ve finally made the decision, based purely on the way the story is panning out, I’ll be heading towards the first of several possible conclusions. I’ll settle on which one over the next few weeks.

I’ve only ever written one novel (back in 2003) that exceeded one hundred and fifty thousand words. The fact that writing it led to my suffering a total mental breakdown brought on by the stress of it all, which damn near ended me, should be a salutary lesson for anyone contemplating writing such a lengthy work.

The novel in question became my first published work back in 2010. It was a science fiction space opera entitled Onet’s Tale. While it still appears on Amazon, it is no longer available. Besides my paperback ‘author’ copy, and my Kindle one, I still have it as an unedited .pdf file for anyone who wants to read it. If you want an unbiased view about it, ask Chris The Storyreading Ape what he thought. He read the .pdf version.

I’m not an old stick in the mud. I do take notice of trends. Now I’d better get back to it. If anyone thinks that writing is easy, tell them to just try pairing down a story to its absolute essentials as I did with Cataclysm last year, and am currently doing with The Guardian, to suit a specific emerging eBook market – the busy commuter. The things we do for our readers eh?

PS – because it will be a long short story, when the time comes I’ll price it at a mere US$0.99. If Amazon allowed it, I would like it to be even cheaper. But unfortunately Amazon doesn’t do Permafree.

Be good…

😉

As a writer, sooner or later your editor will let you down!

the-editor

They’re not pefect despite what they may say…

Face it, some editors only really care about how much money you are paying them. It is not until you become a writer yourself that you not only notice the errors that editors miss in any given book, but also how many there are. I’m not just talking about incorrect spelling, but the use of totally wrong words; things like missed spaces between a fullstop (period) and the capital letter of the next sentence, as well as either a lack of punctuation or far too much of it.

Let us also remember that some editors see nothing wrong with a book’s pages becoming nothing more than solid blocks of text with no break to make it easier to read. To give you another example, some editors in cahoots with certain publishers plead the old chestnut ‘house style’ as their excuse to cover a multitude of sins, like which type of quotation marks they prefer – single, or double.

It matters little that the book you are reading was self-published, or produced by a small press or one of the traditional big five publishers. More and more these days, with each book I pick up, I’m finding errors, which any editor worth their salt should have picked up on long before it went to print. If they were threatened with the sack, or were told they would not be paid for allowing those annoying mistakes to slip by, maybe all editors would be more vigilant! Heh, a chance would be a fine thing. Or in other words, don’t hold your breath…

Before any of you reading this while professing to be an editor has an attack of apoplectic rage brought on by what I’ve just said, if you are truthful, you know deep down that in all likelihood you have never ever turned in a totally error free manuscript for publication in your entire working life, due to time and business constraints. That being the case, the editor’s credo should be more haste, less speed. Maybe you need to stop thinking about how many other writers are waiting for your services, along with how much money you charge and concentrate on presenting a quality product for publication instead. Just a thought…

Why am I bringing this to your attention as editors and writers? Simple. When a member of the general public reads and reviews a book, their opinion (which is all any review is when you think about it) won’t necessarily be about its content or subject matter. More than likely these days what it will be about are the mistakes the reader found, or thought they had.

For instance – quite often anyone who is not an American writer will be taken to task for what some Americans see as misspelt words. To them I will only say this – apart from American English (which bares little or no resemblance to the original – English English), there is also Canadian, South African, New Zealand, Australian and Indian English. To my knowledge they are the main branches of the language. Each form of the language tends to spell some words differently.

Getting back to the general public – will they blame the publisher for any mistakes found in any given book? No. To the average reader, publishers and their editors don’t make mistakes, which of course is total baloney! They’re human just like the rest of us, despite believing they are a cut above humanity in general!!!

Instead you will find that to the reader’s way of thinking, the fault lies wholly with the writer. Once again many readers cannot seem to appreciate that all you did was write the story, employing someone to edit it for you. If you as the writer are to be blamed for anything, it’s thinking that once you have written the manuscript – that’s it, job done. Wrong! Never let your editor get away with too much by not picking them up on those inevitable mistakes. Like you they’re not infallible. Between the two of you, errors should be eliminated.

Here’s a thought – if you want to improve your image as a writer, learn to edit. While your at it, employ beta or copy readers. Personally I do both. With each book I write, the number of errors has dramatically reduced. For instance, my novella Cataclysm, written last year, literally only has one very minor error – a space between quotation marks and the first letter of the first word in a sentence. If I can do my level best to eliminate all errors as a self-published writer, so can the editor you are employing.

Am I going to fix it? No. That way the author hating internet trolls, grammar nazis, literary snobs, and other assorted self proclaimed experts such as pedants and armchair critics will still be able to appear smug when writing their inevitable caustic reviews of it. You just can’t please people like that. So don’t even try. Don’t be put off over attempting to edit. It’s not that difficult. Like anything else, all it takes is time, patience and application, as well as a damned good command of the English language.

Remember this – It doesn’t matter what we do as writers, if we make use of professional support and it is less than satisfactory, we’re sunk!

😉

At last, I’m back at the coalface once again

honey-blonde-hair

How I picture my heroine, Lynne Crawford

After almost three weeks of endless pontificating I’m once again back writing my science fiction WIP, The Guardian.

The story was at a crossroads. I had several ways in mind for where it may go next. Each one wholly dependant on a specific character, or characters, and how they had reacted so far. I gradually eliminated each of them in my mind for varying reasons. That’s why it’s taken me all of this time to finally decide on which character, so that the story can continue.

If you are at all familiar with the way certain wooly headed academics behave, it will come as no great surprise that I’m using my character, Professor Ephraim Adelmann, once again. Having worked with academics like him for a quarter of a century, I know how they think. Most of the ones I knew seriously needed a notice slung from around their necks, clearly stating to all and sundry that under no circumstances should they ever be left alone for one second. When it comes to common sense, most truly classic academics have none. Ephraim is no exception. In short, he has… Whoops, I almost told you then. All you need to know for now is that this part of the story unfolds back where Adler and Lynne first became aware of just how much danger they faced when they arrived in the Valles Marineris on Mars.

Here’s hoping The Guardian keeps its distance!

More later

😉

Which is more important to you as a writer, is it quality or quantity?

index

So what floats your boat? Is it a daily word count in the thousands, or maybe one hundred carefully chosen ones? While many writers don’t feel they have done a decent day’s work unless they have literally bashed out two to three thousands words – yes I did say bashed out, others (myself included) far prefer quality over quantity.

For any of you who wholly subscribe to the multi thousand words per day argument, take a moment to reconsider.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that you have just written three thousand words. Now put yourself in your editor’s shoes. What will he or she do when confronted with your latest contribution to literature? When they have looked long and hard at what you have written, chances are that once they stop shaking their heads, they will put their red pen through around two thousand nine hundred of them, with notations all over the place, such as – why did you say this? How many times must I remind you – don’t use passive voice!!! They’re not there! Re-write this passage from the pov of Victoria, not Hermione, etc, etc.

Does what I’ve just said seem a bit harsh to you? If your answer is definitely, then I’m sorry, but you really shouldn’t be surprised when your editor does exactly as I have just outlined above, or something similar. Either way you won’t like it.

For the average writer, pouring out thousands of words per day in the vain hope that some of what you have written may be usable is not only a complete waste of time, but also counter productive, even though you may have come up with a vague idea. It matters little that you have thoroughly planned out your storyline, or are merely winging it, typing what immediately springs to mind. Without careful thought and taking the time to deliberately choose words of quality, ie – the right ones, you are making a rod for your own backs. One thing you soon learn to do as an Indie is to be your own editor, long before you pass your MS over to someone else.

***

Now then, here’s an exercise in what I’m talking about for all of you to try. The following is the first incarnation of one specific sentence from my latest sci-fi WIP – The Guardian. One thing it is not is the version I eventually settled on. Nor is it the same length.

An intense flash of light temporarily blinded all of them.

All you have to do is come up with what you think is a worthy alternative, saying exactly the same thing, but in a completely different way.

Write your answer on the back of a postcard and… Oh wait a minute, we’re living in the twenty-first century now aren’t we, not the twentieth. I apologise for having a senior moment. Here’s what you should do. Just leave your answer as a comment for this blog post. Remember, you don’t have to limit yourselves to using a different combination of the original words. Think about the original sentence and what it tells you. Your sentence can be as long or as short as you please, just so long as it conveys the original sentence’s meaning.

Seems easy, right? Ok you lucky people, put your thinking caps on and have a go.

By the way, before you ask, no I am not going to make your lives easy by setting the scene for you, except to say that Adler, Lynne, Philippe and Anatole need to get as far away as possible from what happened.

The one who is closest to the version I finally settled on gets a smiley face. If it’s one of the many lovely ladies who follow my blog, you get a smiley face and a couple of kisses thrown in for good measure.

Have fun.

😉