Why do writers write…

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J.K Rowling

…when they know that there are bitter and twisted individuals who don’t want you to succeed. Those who can’t wait to attack your book(s)!!!

You may as well ask why do painters paint, or sculptors sculpt. Like them, we  writers 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 so much in an art gallery. Whereas we use words to paint a picture for your imagination to feast upon.

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 formerly categorized as by the academically minded is utterly irrelevant? Leave that kind of thing up to the so called editors and critics of this world. 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 possible choice of word, plus by reading the works of others.

So, the next time you feel the overwhelming desire 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. Why? Because despite all of your efforts to dissuade others from reading it, the real reason is that you have never, ever written a book worth a damn!

Further to that point, in a post on Facebook a couple of years ago, 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, every one of them insanely 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 internet forums automatically attract highly opinionated hate filled individuals. Not prepared to simply let them get away with it, I posted the following comment in support of Joanne – “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 many 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…

😉

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No matter how much they may tell you they are professionals…

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… sooner or later, your editor will let you down!!!

Face it, some posing as 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 how many. I’m not just talking about incorrect spelling, but the use of totally incorrect 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 between paragraphs to make it easier to read. To give you another example, some editors in cahoots with certain publishers will plead the old chestnut of ‘house style’ as their excuse to cover a multitude of sins. Then there is the endless debate over 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 endless errors, which any line editor worth their salt should have picked up on long before it even 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!

A chance would be a fine thing…

Before anyone posing as an editor who after reading this, has an attack of apoplectic rage brought on by what I’ve just said, if you are completely truthful, you know deep down that in all likelihood you have never ever handed back 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 always 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. Especially if you want repeat work…

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 usually biased for or against opinion, which is all any review is when you think about it – someone’s opinion, 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.

Quite often anyone who is not an American writer will be taken to task for what some see as misspelt words. To them I will only say this – apart from the English sounding language peculiar to continental americans based on some long dead sixteenth century English dialects, there is also the original spoken here in the UK, together with 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 is total baloney! They’re human just like the rest of us.

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 damned story! It doesn’t occur to the idiots that you employed someone else 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 it’s job done. Wrong! Never let whoever is editing your MS get away with anything!  Don’t be frightened to pick them up on those inevitable mistakes. Like you they’re not infallible. Between the two of you, most errors should be eliminated.

Here’s a thought – if you want to improve your skills 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, 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 damned editor you are employing for money!!

Am I going to fix the tiny error? 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!

😉

How far do you go???

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When it comes to writing sex scenes involving your characters, how far do you dare to go? Bearing in mind that a written work containing anything that might be considered vaguely pornographic, is seriously frowned upon by all reputable publishers, especially those domiciled in the US? Even that book cover you want may not be acceptable! Read on to find out how I deal with this dilemma.

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In one of my novellas – Cataclysm, I alluded to the way the hero Gilbert Briggs and the beautiful transexual he fell in love with, Arianna, made love by simply saying just that sans any detail. It doesn’t take much imagination on the part of the more intelligent among you to realise how they went about it. But precisely because of the transexual element, no lurid details were employed. I agonised over it for several weeks, and I freely admit that I was seriously tempted to spice it up at the time of writing.

The Guardian demanded that I go a stage further. In this particular instance I dealt with the love affair between my principal characters, Lynne Crawford and Adler Stevens. The other characters, some of whom have already been involved in an orgy in the story, are a lesbian Bayla and a bi-sexual Karin, plus two of the five other males – Anatole, Moshe, Philippe, Brett and Cliff, all of them perfectly normal individuals but for one thing – their sexual proclivities.

Thinking about it, who or what is considered normal these days, especially when it comes to the often thorny subject of sex? It’s weird how some people become totally prudish when confronted with the subject in a novel or novella, yet see nothing wrong in engaging in what after all is a perfectly natural act between two consenting people, no matter their gender preference or indeed their preferred way of making love. A clear case of double standards if ever I saw one…

Getting back to the problem I had with Lynne and Adler; so far I had involved them in just two scenes together that can either be described as erotic or voyeuristic, depending on your point of view. It was childsplay compared to what came next – their first no holds barred love scene. Well, that’s not strictly true. I had written the original seriously filthy version several weeks earlier. I returned to it from time to time to tone it down. First of all by gradually downgrading it from extremely to moderately pornographic, through to highly suggestive. At long last it became merely suggestive, the state it would remain in until I took another look at it at a later date. Hopefully it would end up being a suggestive erotic love scene, not as easy to achieve as some of you may think, believe me.

Remember this – while one person might consider a love scene like the one I’m talking about to be erotic. To those of the prudish persuasion, it will always be nothing but unadulterated pornographic filth. The funny thing is that I bet the latter will re-read the particular passage several times on their own, while uttering the imortal words – “utterly disgusting!” to alleviate their hypocritical moral outlook.

Face it folks, as writers we just can’t win. Either we’re damned if we do or damned if we don’t. In the end all you can do is leave it up to your readers to decide, always providing of course that it gets past your publisher first.

Oh by the way – the red highlighted words are book links, not just a spot of colour for effect in a sea of black type!!!

More later if you are good.

😉

Dammit!!!

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Believe it or not it’s my seventieth birthday today. Now on with the motley!

Once you are truly bitten by the writing bug you just can’t quit. Age is definitely no barrier! I know, I’ve tried on more than one occasion over the past twenty two years. With most things I have done during my lifetime, it didn’t matter what it was; sooner or later I would eventually grow bored and have to change direction yet again.

Therefore at various stages over the years I have thoroughly embraced the following, sometimes singly – often collectively. For instance I love chess, wood carving, carpentry, painting (not the house variety!) and astronomy. Occasionally I used to try to play the chromatic harmonica. Larry Adler I very definitely was not!!

As well as the above, during my lifetime I have been known to delve into boat building, sailing, hiking, cross-country running, cycling – I had a bright red Raleigh 10 speed racing bike, sculpture, photography, hunting, caving and climbing. Even though I say it myself, I did manage to become accomplished at one or two of my activities. Boat building being just one of them.

Yet none held a candle to the satisfaction I still get out of writing, which probably accounts for why I continue to put myself through mental hell for the reader, each time I write a novella or novel.

With each book I feel that I improve. It’s a given that my detractors will disagree. But as its my seventieth birthday, I’ll be magananimous towards the retarded twits, at least until midnight tonight!

I even get a kick out of writing something simple like a blog post. Besides acting as a platform for worldwide Amazon links to my books (click on the ‘About’ Tab above), maintaining this blog on a daily basis has introduced me to so many wonderful people in all four corners of the world.

Unlike all of my previous activities, writing is the one thing that has brought me out of my shell. The only real drawback is that nowadays I can’t simply lose myself in a book anymore. The writer in me ends up editing it while I’m reading, making it anything but a relaxing pastime the way it used to be.

Why do I still do it? Writing is like a recurring disease. Once contracted, your stuck with it whether you like it or not, for the rest of your days. Does it get easier over time? No… Each new story is hard won. If you want to write, one thing you cannot be is a quitter. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not one of those! Does writing blog posts like this one help my writing skills? Definitely.

At least with one of my interests  – chess, I can take a short break from writing occasionally. If you’ll pardon the pun its time to make a move. Catch you later folks. Enjoy my birthday. I intend to. Hope you enjoy the Larry Adler video as much as I did when I first saw it many years ago…

😉 x

A few thoughts on the written word.

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Evelyn Waugh – Born October 28, 1903. Died April 10, 1966

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I was listening to an old radio interview with the English writer Evelyn Waugh a couple of nights back on BBC Radio 4 extra, first recorded in the nineteen fifties. He is probably best known for the iconic television series Brideshead Revisited. Towards the end of the interview he was asked if writing got any easier as he grew older. I thoroughly agreed with him when he said, “No. The older I get, the harder it is to write.”

While I’m no Eveylyn Waugh by any stretch of the imagination, the older I get the more I go through the same thing he did. Does it mean I’ve come to a grinding halt? No. Perhaps I have run out of ideas? No. Maybe I’m bored with it? No. Could it be that I’m suffering from procrastination? No.

What it does mean however is that with eleven books of mine out there in reader-land for you to be getting on with, I am in no hurry to begin the twelfth. Like all other serious writers, I strive to improve with each new book. I used to write for between 8-12 hours per day. It may come as a surprise but writers don’t just write. Like you, we have a life. Daily word counts no longer matter to me the way they did twenty-two years ago. What does is the way I construct the words and their relevance to the story as a whole. Plus, unless I’m in the mood to write, it simply doesn’t happen.

With each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence I write, they no longer flow freely. Instead I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to say. More importantly, how I want to go about it. The fact that I haven’t written another word apart from here on my blog since last year, is neither here nor there. When the mood takes me, I’ll get back to it. But not before.

~~~

With science fiction being my first love, I found and posted a quote from Ray Bradbury on my Face Book page a while ago. Here it is:

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My sentiments exactly Ray. I couldn’t have said it better myself…

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PS -here is a possible idea for another science fiction tale i’m considering at the moment. Whether or not I use it is yet to be decided!

It began with the assertions made by the world’s climatologists that man is responsible for climate change. It ended when mother nature proved them wrong…

😉

 

You know your hooked…

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…when writing becomes a vocation and not just an enjoyable hobby!

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While I admire anyone who loves to express themselves through their writing, there comes a time when we all have to choose between continuing with what to us is an enjoyable hobby, and taking it up as a full time vocation. Please note that I did say vocation and not occupation. There is a marked difference…

It takes an awful amount of guts and determination on your part to take that giant leap into the uncertain world of literature, often for little monetary gain let alone plaudits for your work from the reading public and your peers. Apart from anything else you can expect to endure a lot of heartache, angst and sleepless nights as I can personally vouch for from my own experience gleaned over the past two decades plus as a relatively successful published Indie author.

Now where was I? Oh yes – I was about to say that I rarely if ever get a good night’s sleep when writing a new book, at least until the first draft is finished. Nagging thoughts about something in the story literally wake me every night anywhere from midnight to four or five am. The downside of getting up so early is that I’m lucky if I’m still awake after six-thirty pm. So relaxing in front of the television in the evening (in other words – vegging out) doesn’t happen these days.

While the amateur loves the idea of writing thousands of words while engaging in a completely pointless writing phenomena like Nanowrimo believing it makes them a bonifide writer, it doesn’t! Some hard working writers I know in the traditional publishing world must set themselves a daily word count in the multiples of thousands, due to the demands of their agents and publishers. However as an Indie, meaning I’m responsible for every step in publishing a book myself, I do not follow suit. In my case I don’t see the point in churning out thousands of words each day, which in all probability will end up being edited out as totally nonsensicle by your’s truly, before I hand over my MS over for further scrutiny.

Instead I tend to write between two to five hundred words, (the latter being roughly the length of this blog post) knowing full well that when I do go back over them, that in all likelyhood three quarters will either get deleted or be re-written so many times that in the end they bear little or no resemblance to the first attempt, before I feel I can move on to the next part of the story. Even when writing posts like this one, I spend more time re-writing than anything else.

Writing fulltime requires total dedication and a will of iron on your part. One last thing for you to remember – what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. But at least now you know how this writer works…

🙂

Here’s something to think about…

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I thought I might say something about a few things that tend to happen when we write, and some which get overused, and not just by newbie writers I might add. A lot of what I’m about to say, I’ve said in previous posts. For my long time followers, please bear with me. This is mainly for any and all newcomers to my blog with dreams of one day becoming a published writer.

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Some of the novels and novellas by first time writer’s I have read recently, seem to rely solely on descriptive prose, while others believe that narrative and nothing else is all you need to tell the story. Neither of these techniques should ever be used on their own. Then there are a few who commit the sin of being overly verbose. To them I simply say, why use fifty words when ten or twenty will suffice?

But what I really want to get across to you is why descriptive prose should be used only when appropriate, and preferably not relied upon as a few writers tend to do – Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge 2000BC springs to mind as a book doubly cursed. It is mainly descriptive prose as well as being longwinded, i.e verbose. What was he thinking when he wrote it I wonder? Was it an experiment? Perhaps it was…

I saw this excellent quote on a writer’s Q&A site recently – Descriptive prose is simply writing that describes or gives a picture of a scene.” To give you an example, here is a short extract of mainly descriptive prose from one of my published sci-fi novellas – The Guardian.

To set the scene for you, the story is set in the twenty-second century. Things are hotting up between my two main characters. Lynne loves wearing what she thinks of as vintage clothing from the twenty-first century. In this brief scene she has deliberately dressed in a specific way to get the attention of the male lead Adler while they are back on Earth. Up until now he has only ever seen her in a flight suit, while appearing indifferent towards her. Consequently she is determined to change his mind.

“Hi boss. God you are a hard man to track down.” Adler looked up to see Lynne standing before him. For a few seconds his eyes devoured the vision before him. Her makeup was perfect. The top half of her body was barely concealed inside a flesh coloured translucent tank top that clung to her breasts, leaving nothing to the imagination. As she slowly spun around for effect, the thought occurred to him that her perfectly formed rear end was not so much covered by the Teal blue miniskirt she wore, as lovingly caressed by it. Her legs were clad in a pair of fishnet stockings. On her feet she wore an expensive pair of bright red stilettos. To complete the ensemble, she had an expensive Gucci bag slung over one shoulder. “Buy a girl a drink soldier?” she demanded rather than asked, giving him a smouldering look while sitting down directly opposite him to reveal the briefest hint of cream coloured silk underwear barely large enough to cover what now lay tantalisingly hidden from view when she crossed her legs. Yet again she was playing him. His wide eyed reaction told her she now had his complete attention.

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How I always saw and continue to see Lynne, every time I re-read The Guardian

What can I say, Lynne is sexually attracted to him. Thoroughly in control of the moment! While there will inevitably be some prudish individuals who consider the above as bordering on the indecent, most will accept it as part of the story and move on.

Another point for you new writers to consider, even some of the old hands need reminding – never state the obvious! What do I mean by this? Think about how many times while watching a film or maybe a play on television, that at some stage in the film one or more of the characters has said something like, “we’re taking fire” when it is blindingly obvious to the viewer. Another absolute classic example is when a character once again states the obvious – “someone turned off the lights!” Duh, really? Clearly even screenwriters don’t always get it right…

Some will say that of course when you are writing a book, unless you make a point of telling your readers what is happening by stating something like the two above examples, how else would they know what has just happened?

All I’m saying is think before you write! Any story is always a delicate balance of many writing techniques. Each has its place. None should ever be solely relied upon. There are three or four other points for you to consider. Some of today’s writers see nothing wrong in the endless use of expletives. Don’t do it! Nor should you be explicit when it comes to sex scenes. By all means allude to whats going on, just don’t spell it out! 

Another thing to remember is to try to avoid using words in common use in your local vernacular. For example, in the US the made up word ‘gotten’ gets used on a daily basis. If your intention is for your book to only be sold in your country, then usually there will be no problem using such words. However, if you want your book to appeal to the rest of the world stick to English English and English spelling. In short if it doesn’t appear in the Oxford English Dictionary and Thesaurus don’t use it.

Lastly, avoid using the same old words all the time. By all means use them when writing the first draft of your WIP. But when it comes to editing it, make full use of a Thesaurus in conjunction with the synonym function common to all writing platforms. After all that’s why they were both created!

😉