Progress Report 11

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That should read – Do Not Disturb, Editor At Work

Well folks, hopefully you will be pleased to know that I have now completed eight chapters, or 18,177 words in thirty five A4 pages. Chapter eight has proved to be a real challenge as I have moved well outside my male comfort zone to introduce the beginnings of a highly controversial love affair involving the principal character, Dr Gilbert Briggs.

Who he has fallen in love with, and why, will have to remain a mystery for now. Sorry about that, but I love teasing you. To write about Gilbert’s love affair, I have drawn on the way I met and fell completely head over heels in love with the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, back in the nineteen sixties in South East Asia. She was a Montagnard named Mai. (You will note that I did say ‘was’. Both Mai and our four month old son, John, were killed in a bombing raid while I was away.)

All I will say at this stage of the proceedings is that the object of his heart’s desire is not at all like Mai. In fact, I doubt that there are many books in existance which involve the kind of person Gilbert is attracted to. Mind you I may be wrong. I haven’t checked.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

As I feel that I’m about halfway through the story (at the moment, it looks as if it will be a novella), before I go any further its high time I did a full line by line, paragraph by paragraph edit, even though I have been constantly editing as I go. Besides which, I need to check out each chapter in its entirety, adding things which hadn’t occurred at the time of writing, as well as subtracting others that contribute nothing overall to the story so far. The other thing I need to do is look at each chapter as it stands. It may be that I might find the need to amalgamate two chapters. Only time and careful editing will tell.

As I have said previously, it does contain a certain science fiction element. But the further I progress, the more the story dictates what will happen next. There is now no doubt that it has developed into a full on adventure. That’s the beauty of being flexible about adding various elements to the mix. Sooner or later one will become dominant over the rest. By doing this major edit, hopefully it will ensure that the story will become, as far as is humanly possible, a troll, armchair critic and pedant free zone. When I’m happy that I have brought the story to its conclusion, I’ll do another major edit.

PS – In the future if I decide to add a few more chapters, it may well wind up as a full length novel.

More later.

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More Thoughts on Writing

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It’s sunday here in the UK, so I am having a day off from working on my latest WIP.

Many writers swear by the notion that when you are creating that first draft, what matters is a word count in its thousands. That’s fine if you are a member of an establishment publisher’s writing stable, where all you are required to do is produce that first draft, warts and all, before passing it on to one of the publisher’s inhouse editors, who will then make suggestions based on their own views of how your story should read; often veering away from your own idea.

If you have been following my blog, you know my views on that particular subject. For those of you who are new to my blog, I divorced myself from just such a controlling arrangement back in 2010. As far as I’m concerned it was the second best move I ever made. The first was to pluck up the courage to write full time in the first place.

Remember this folks, if you are an Indie, you don’t have anyone like an editor trying to make you conform to their employer’s wishes, or a literary agent telling you that what your writing is not financially profitable from any of the big five publishing houses points of view. Or that unless you conform it will only appeal to a niche market at best. In their view, you don’t count except for the fact that your hardwork is a means to an end for them. All that matters is their annual profits. How mercinary can you be?

These days when I’m engaged in writing my first draft, I far prefer to write no more than five hundred words plus or minus a few (approximately the length of this post). Why is that I hear you ask? As I am a successful fully committed Indie who does not employ an editor, I find it much easier to continually edit as I go along. That is just one of the tricks I’ve learned since becoming an Indie. So in effect, given the way I prefer to work, I am not working on a first draft at all am I. As for grammar and punctuation, you soon learn.

If you are an Indie, it means you have total control over what you write and how you write it. Being an Indie means that you become an editor amongst other things. Some don’t have the courage to do their own editing, incorrectly believing all the hype out there that writers should only write and are incapable of editing, let alone formatting. In the beginning I even produced my own covers. Not for this one. At the moment I’m waiting to see what The Story Reading Ape comes up with from the brief I gave him. Like most writers I know, once I have entered writing mode, everything else is forgotten. Sometimes I even forget to eat, or even what day it is. I get the hint regarding sleep when my eyes start to close.

One final point. If you are an avid reader who has always dreamt of becoming a writer – go for it! At the beginning you will be terrified, I know I was. But you will soon overcome your initial fears. But remember this, unless your book is brilliant, the chances are that you will be working for change like the rest of us, particularly if you price your eBook or paperback at the lower end of the scale to encourage readers to read something of yours. Thirty five percent royalties is the norm these days. Do the sums – thirty five percent of US $0.99c isn’t much. So your sales will need to be in the hundreds of thousands to make a reasonable living. Most of us in the midlist category consider ourselves lucky if we make between US$2,000 – $5,000 pa. We certainly don’t write to get rich. Instead we do it for the love of writing itself.

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Progress Report 8

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It might even be located here…

Well, I’ve just finished outlining Chapter Six. Things are beginning to get complicated, or should that read –ย  the plot is taking on a life of its own dictating what will happen next? I’ve just inserted yet another Red Herring. I had no choice, the plot demanded it, so there! That’s the fifth one to date – I think. You’ll have to take my word for it for now. The word count now stands at 11,232.

I have to admit it, I’m really having fun. Thinking about it, I’m in totally new territory in that I have temporarily departed from the way I’ve written up to now. This book is completely different from my normal practice of writing books that I personally want to read. But then again, even though that is the case, it is intriguing enough to hold my interest. That may sound a bit screwy as I’m its author. But my fellow writers out there will understand (I hope).

Sticking with one writing formula doesn’t necessarily compute. There is a tendency for you’re writing to become stale. Let’s face it, as writers we’ve all felt like we were producing fomulaic stuff from time to time haven’t we? With six mostly successful books under my belt, it’s time to experiment. What have I got to lose with number seven? Nothing. Either it appeals, or it doesn’t. The point is, I’m thoroughly enjoying writing it.

I chatted with Chris, aka The Story Reading Ape yesterday. As you may know he is a dab hand at making book covers for a reasonable cost that won’t break my bank balance. I sent him an email spelling out what I was looking for this time. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

At the moment I have three, no make that four, chief characters. Besides the main character Dr Gilbert Briggs, who is English, two are New Zealanders like myself. In fact they’re based on two friends I worked alongside during my days at The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. I use pure ‘kiwi’ when either of them speak. The fourth is a ‘god’, or is he? You’ll have to wait and see. I’m about to introduce two more characters in the next couple of chapters, not necessarily human.

In the past I’ve published ‘snippets’ of one or two of my books here on my blog. Sorry folks, with this one, the more you are curious about it, the better. How will it be received? Well, that’s in the lap of the gods, if you’ll pardon the pun. Earlier in a previous ‘Progress’ post I said that it has a certain science fiction element about it. While that’s true, think of various myths and legends from the past concerning gods. Some of them are involved. No, I’m not telling you which ones.

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PSย  – I’m taking a well deserved rest until Monday morning. Meanwhile I’ll continue cogitating over whether it will be an eBook, or a Paperback, or both…

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 –ย  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?

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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.ย  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…

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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…

Writers, Believe in Yourselves – Stand On Your Own Two Feet

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A comment on my blog post yesterday about obsessive writers, editing and layout errors got me thinking. The commentator said she had used the services of one of the thousands of Vanity Press publishers out there, waiting for the next sucker to fleece. She found out that after publication the end product had spelling errors. Despite them reassuring her that it would be taken care of, it wasn’t. Why do people still fall for the unmitigated BS that all Vanity Press continue to spew out I wonder? If you want my advice, don’t go there.

Sad to say but in the independent editing fraternity, there are some individuals only too willing to relieve you of your hard earned money, often leaving you with a shoddy product.

Far to many ‘wet behind the ears’ new writers these days think that they should pass their manuscript on to an expert. So they simply find the independent editor whose financial package suits their budget and hope for the best, assuming that he or she is qualified, and from your point of view as a new writer – unbiased. Remember this; even if your editor is the best available, he or she is just another human being, not a machine. Therefore the way they edit your work will be coloured by their own opinions about how your manuscript should read. They’re not infallible. If you let them have their way exclusively, chances are you won’t recognise the end product. Remember this also, not all independent editors out there are what they profess to be by any stretch of the imagination. Buyer beware!

Believe me when I say that the best editor for you is one you know personally, and more importantly, the editor who believes in you.

Even so, why not do what I have done and learn how to lay out a page. Then learn how to edit as well as grammar and spell check using your dictionary and thesaurus, not forgetting how to punctuate as well as publishing your work for yourselves. And while you’re at it, learn how to produce a cover. All of the above isn’t that difficult to master. Like most things in life it just takes application and perseverance on your part, and time to learn.

Even if you have parted with a considerable amount of money to have your manuscript edited, plus having it set up for publication and paying for the best possible cover, there is still no guarantee that your book will sell. So why shell out money you can ill afford when you are just starting out. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

There is one other consideration that you should take into account; before you even begin to show a profit, first you have to sell enough copies of your book to recoup your initial outlay. Whereas if you do it all yourselves, the only cost to you is your time. In other words you are in profit right from the start with that first sale.

All I’m asking you to do is think about it before you make a move…

As the Writer of the Story, Does it Honestly Grab You?

stories

If it doesn’t, move on to the next one…

How many stories have you written during your lifetime – tens, hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands? Over the past nineteen years I’ve written slightly over four thousand. Or to put it another way, thats over four thousand ideas for potential novels that I have come up with.

Each time I got an idea, I started typing like mad to get it down for posterity, even though in the vast majority of cases, I’m the only one who will ever read them. Because of my self imposed standards, out of that number I considered that only six were worthy of expansion into a novel, novella, and in one case, an anthology. As for the rest of them – the phrase ‘been there, done that’ pretty much covers them. The majority of those ideas seemed good at the time (usually at three or four in the morning). But in the cold light of day, they simply didn’t grab me.

Just think about what I’ve said here folks. The number I’ve published is extremely low. Why? Because I’m a firm believer in self discipline, that’s why. Unless you the writer aren’t enthusiastic about the story, how can you expect your readers to be?

There is a growing percentage of self-published writers who produce dozens of novels, flooding the market with what amounts to nothing more than total rubbish. Simply having an idea for a short story, or a series of them, pop into your head doesn’t necessarily mean that it/they will work as a full length novel, novella or anthology.

Besides enthusiasm for the story you have invested countless hundreds of hours writing, plus self discipline, to make a name for yourself you also need a strong sense of what is currently popular. Writing the kinds of stories you loved to read several decades back is no guarantee of your making a mark in this industry.

The longer you are in this game, the harder it gets to come up with that story which enthuses you, let alone the tens of thousands of people who hopefully will want to read it. Out of the six works I have published so far, only four have grabbed the reading public’s imagination. That’s just four out of four thousand plus. A pitifully low percentage of the whole, I’m sure you will agree. If you are self disciplined, the attrition rate for story ideas is extremely high.

The number of writers who tried and failed is also high. Anyone who thinks they can write a far better book than the one you slaved over, needs to think again. Writing isn’t an easy occupation by any stretch of the imagination. Coming up with that winning story idea is even harder…

Progress Report 2

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For my faithful followers and any curious newcomers to my blog, here is the second progress report on my new historical adventure eBook.

While I’ve fought hard over the last couple of days to stop yawning and stay awake while reading the Roman historian Tacitus’ long winded, often matter of fact and dismissive account of Boudica’s revolt (the subject of the fifth chapter in my novel) during the time period 60 – 61AD, which he wrote thirty years after the event; among other things I have narrowed down the choice to one of three momentous events Briggs’ field observer will travel back to. Which one it will be is for me to know and for you to wonder about until the eBook is published. So don’t ask me – OK? After all we writers have to have some secrets you know.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

As for Tacitus, he would fit in well with a lot of today’s equally long winded, biased historians. Thank god for encyclopedias and online sources like Wikipedia. At least they just offer facts and not personal opinions. Bearing in mind that what is claimed as fact in Wikipedia is often doubtful, never the less it is still a useful general source for dates, names and places.

I have also decided that Briggs needs to send a female this time, as his existing observers are all male. With each of my characters I like to get to know them first, before they enter the story. Some will live. Some will die. It all depends on the circumstances of the scenario they are involved in. In this particular case I chose a very capable woman – Sienna Baxter.

Here are her characteristics: She is tall, fair skinned with red hair and a fiery temper. Her voice is harsh, loud, almost grating – hardly soft and feminine. She is powerfully built and utterly fearless given the fact that she played at the position of lock in a women’s rugby scrum while at university. She is fluent in ancient Celtic, and wrote a dissertation on the Trinovantes’ involvement in Boudica’s revolt against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.

One thing is certain, she is not the archetypal twenty-first century ideal of a slender, gentle, feminine woman the advertising world promotes. Far from it in fact. This is a woman not to be messed with! She should fit nicely into the ranks of Boudica’s immediate bodyguard.

More later, but only if your patient…

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Progress Report

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OK folks, as promised, here is the first of the progress reports on my new eBook. My intention is to share with you how I go about researching and writing a book along with the tools I use. So bear with me please.

I begin by opening a new file on MS Word, plus I have my Kindle versions of the Oxford English Dictionary and Thesaurus opened and standing by, not forgetting my research material. As I progress I constantly save the work both as a Word.doc, plus a PDF document, and a .MOBI file. Why do I bother with all of these different files? Simply because by reading what you have written using formats other than MS Word means that glaring errors immediately stand out. In the case of the .MOBIย file, Calibre allows you get to see how the end product will look before it has been uploaded to Kindle Direct Publishing. Calibre also allows me to see how the cover will look. More on how I go about producing a cover later using various online free picture sources such as Morguefile, plusย Corel Paintshop Pro. End of lesson…

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Now to the first progress report.

First of all, the working title has been changed. It now reads History Rewritten. For the meantime it works – just.

After three days I have finally finished checking grammar and punctuation, together with adding and or changing a few words on each of the first four stories/chapters. Expanding each one will only happen once I have finally decided on how many historical targets I ask Briggs and his team to chase down.ย  ๐Ÿ˜€

Now the real work begins – more reasearch. As I told you the other day, the first of the next four to be throughly researched is Boudica. Calling her Boadicea, Boudicca or even Buddug is incorrect. The historical writings concerning her are sadly incomplete. This makes her an ideal target for Brigg’s and myself and his field observers.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

She totally fascinates me, as does the tribe she was part of – the Iceni. Back in the first century AD when she lived, loved, fought and died at the hands of the occupying forces of the Roman Empire, the countries that go to make up these British Isles were hardly safe to live in for any woman, let alone a female warrior like Boudica.

More later…ย ย  ๐Ÿ˜€