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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Feeling Real About Writing

As indie authors we can sometimes feel like we are just writing for ourselves. It seems surreal to put our work online for people to purchase internationally, even though we do have proof this happens as we check our weekly sales.

From time to time this feeling does occasionally bother me. I do countless hours of work each week and yet I feel the only person who knows this happens is myself. Now I'm not complaining about lack of recognition here; the people buying my book obviously know I'm a writer, or a serial traveller. Or maybe a bit of both! But as indie authors I think this is a feeling common to many. Because we are not liaising with people on a daily basis - agents, designers, publicists and publishers, we can sometimes question our own workload as we have no one watching over our shoulder to check all our daily tasks are completed.

Whilst writing, I can spend a year or so having no contact with anyone outside in the real world, apart from my friends and family. And the only time I do have contact with someone who works in another profession is the time when I am hunting down an editor and cover designer. This is totally different from my past jobs: working in a hospital I used to have daily contact with at least fifty different people, or sometimes more.

Having to network with people is increasingly difficult when you work in such an isolating job. Obviously, as writers, we need to network with our target audience so I spend a quarter of my time socialising with people I will never meet. And in my future works of fiction, I will write about people who don't exist and events that have never occurred.

So I guess what I am trying to say here it's no wonder things can feel a bit surreal from time to time. We make money from people who live overseas and potentially don't have contact with. We network with people who sometimes we don't even know the gender of, and we work day after day without seeing anyone else.

But there is one huge plus point to all of this. As indie authors we work for ourselves and this means no one else can ever let us down. The only person who can do that is ourselves.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Do you Write Balanced Reviews?

I touched on the subject of receiving reviews and how beneficial they potentially are back in the summer. As authors, we think about receiving reviews and worry if we don't. To us, they're a very important matter, and I know I worry sometimes just how my reviews and potential reviews are affecting the sale of my book.

But in this post I am going to talk about something a little different but it's still connected to the issue of reviews. We know we like good reviews, we should all love balanced reviews, and most of us probably hate nasty/bad reviews.

So, as writers reading other authors books, does this affect your ability to write reviews yourself?

I don't write that many reviews at the moment because I am trying to focus on getting my second book finished and at three quarters of the way through, I'm almost there. But since becoming a writer myself I am almost scared of writing any review. Will my review affect the authors sales in a good way or in a negative sense, and do I want to have this responsibility of potentially affecting things this much? Thinking these thoughts has now made me a better person because I am always conscious of how everyone else will read what I have written.

Now I am not saying because of this fear I will only write glowing reviews despite me thinking a five year old could have written something better. Where possible I try to make all my reviews balanced and written in a fair way. I will never leave a review which is totally nasty and personal though as I don't think this is a very professional way to be. Online you have always got to consider how you want to come across and remember that at a click of a button, anyone can read what you say. And usually if you say something bad it will probably come back to haunt you as there's a good chance it will remain there forever, unless someone in power has the ability to take it down.

I know some people love to leave nasty reviews (I'm not saying these people are other writers, although some may be) but I don't think I could ever be one of them. If I really don't like something then I will say so but there are certain ways you can do this and still be fair. To me it doesn't ever pay to be nasty. I try to follow Sibel Hodge's philosophy: 'Treat others how you would like to be treated.'

So before you write that next review, think how you're likely to come across. And if you're ever nasty, be prepared for the consequences. Remember you're likely to turn people against you, lose readers, and be the potential target for revenge.

How important do you think it is to maintain a professional online presence? Have I missed something vital out or do you agree with most things I say?

Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Does Genre Matter?

Last week I found a blog post on the subject of specific types of genre. I thought it looked so good that I decided to share it with other writers in the online community. My thoughts were right about the blog because it generated a lot of interest. People seemed very keen to discuss the issues surrounding book genre, and I must admit there is a lot more to the topic than I first thought.

I've noted down this post so I can use it in the future should I ever find myself struggling with genre issues again. After spending several months in the writing community, I have noticed a lot of confusion about the certain category authors books fall into. Some swear blind it's a romance while others will argue it is a chick lit.

But this is the beauty of self publishing. Just the other day I was reading a blog about Darcie Chan's major success at becoming a best selling author with her first book. At first she decided to try the traditional route of getting her book published but many agents and publishers turned her down because her manuscript had no specific genre. To become published the traditional way you have to have a clear idea of where your book will sit in the market place. Publishers need to know what genre the book is so they can market accordingly. In the traditional publishing world this makes a lot of sense. After all there really is only room for one specific genre for each book. But in the self publishing world, authors can market the book themselves however they want. If the book has elements of romance, chick lit, mystery and a bit of paranormal activity thrown in, they say so, and if the story sounds good people will buy it anyway. It is a proven theory this works because it's worked for so many authors like Darcie Chan. Amazon's Kindle has a section where you can list each category/sub category if you choose to self publish with them, making it easy for readers to find your book when they do a search.

The issue of not having a specific genre worried me at first with my book, and that was the main criticism of my editor. Of course I could always have re-written my book with a particular genre in mind but I wanted to be brave and see how it would sell through the kindle. And so far I have received several good reviews off people who have never met me, so my book can't be all that bad.

What do you think about genre, is it an issue you struggle with? Do you think mainstream publishers place too much importance on the subject? Or do you think genre should be scrapped altogether?

Anyway, here is the link to the blog on genre:

Darcie Chan:

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Are you a Successful Writer?

As I've mentioned before in my previous blog posts, I am hoping to write fiction after completing my second book. When I first set out to write my first book, I bought several books about the art of memoir writing and followed the tips given as best as I could. I also bought some books on writing in general and made sure I read a few books in the style that I wanted to follow.

Now I think it's time for me to begin that whole process over again but this time I'll have a whole new approach in mind. I want to write the very best book I can so I plan to read everything that I can possibly find. To be a successful writer I think you have to go through several processes first. The first one is to research as much as you can about the art, the second is to read books by authors who have already accomplished this. But I know there are many people who don't agree with this. Some people will not read any books about how to write novels because they are overwhelmed with the amount of information they give and they don't always agree with the advice that's in them. Other people say that you can learn to become a successful writer by just reading books by successful authors. As long as you pay attention to the story structure and the style of writing, you are more than half way to following in their success.

As always I am completely open minded here to both arguments and will try any other technique I think may be helpful. I do like to read books that I think I would like to write, but there's only one thing I am cautious of and that is subconsciously copying the odd sentence here and there. When you read something again and again you are very likely, in my opinion, to have those words come up when you're not actively thinking of them. Then you run the risk of mistakenly thinking that they are your own. To try and control this problem I will not read anything while I am writing. I will read before and after my latest work but never during.

So here is my plan of action:

1. I am going to attempt to write my first fiction draft before I refer to the 'how to write fiction books' again. Then I'll be able to see what my weak points are and what I need to work on more.

2. When I read my next fiction book for fun I am going to take more notice of the story and try to figure out how I would improve its potential weaknesses.

3. I will take one section of the book at a time and focus on that particular issue instead of overwhelming myself by trying to do everything at once.

I hope my plan of action here will help get me started writing a fiction book. What other ideas and tips have you found to work in your case? Please share

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

No Right or Wrong Way to be a Writer

I have been thinking about this matter for a while now, so I am quite surprised it has taken me this long to blog about it. It was only after reading one of Bob Mayer's latest posts last week: that I started to give it some serious thought again.

During the past year, I have seen some poor quality arguments and some brilliant ones around the subject of being traditionally published or deciding to go the indie route. Some writers with very strong opinions argue for whichever one they believe in, while dismissing every positive point on the opposing side. I've seen the argument go both ways with traditional published authors making a fool out of themselves along with some unprofessional indies.

Now, I have started to see the same sort of arguments between writers on their opinion of what makes you a 'real' writer. Some suggest that if you don't write two thousand words a day, you are just an amateur. Other like minded individuals suggest if you don't write everyday then you're not a real writer, and so the list goes on.

I've often assumed writers to be fairly open minded individuals. After all, they have to consider things from different angles when working out their plots - it is part of our job to view things from another point. Otherwise we're going to have terrible problems when we can't get our head round a certain storyline, and the only other option we have is to come at it from a different way. Now, after seeing all these petty arguments, my opinion of some writers is definitely changing. It baffles me to think that there are certain individuals out there who would rather die than be open to another opinion, even if they know their method of doing things isn't working. Why are these people so stuck in their ruts and so afraid of change? I like to think of myself as a very opened minded individual. Yes, I have my own way of doing things, for sure, who doesn't? But I am ALWAYS open to new ideas and suggestions when things don't work out. Trying new things and making the most of opportunities is what makes us grow as human beings, and we should never criticise others for doing things differently. We should always remember what works for us won' t always work for someone else.

In my opinion, you're a real writer if you write books (any kind of book,) get them professionally edited, have a professional cover made, stick them through a publisher (self published or otherwise) and charge money for them. It can take you ten years to do this or it can take six months. You can write ten thousand words a day or just a hundred - it doesn't matter. So long as you write books and be professional about it in every single way, you're a real writer. But that's just in my opinion, others will disagree. That's fine. What I don't do is go out of my way to make everyone who does disagree with me look like a fool because that's just not nice. If they really are a fool, other people will see that too and think the same. Foolish people don't need any help from others to look foolish, they do that job quite nicely on their own.

Sometimes, people have a knack of being nasty and unkind for no other reason other than to make themselves feel better or look good. Simon Smith Wilson blogged about the tragic death of Gary Speed, and how it's cruel some people feel the need to make spiteful comments about it:

And now for my final point: Just remember if you're a writer who slags off other writers, you may have just lost yourself potential readers.

What are your thoughts on this matter? Please share.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Subplot Errors to Avoid

After my current book is written I'll be looking at writing books that are fictitious. And as the comparisons are huge between non fiction and fiction, I thought it would be a good idea to start studying what makes fiction books successful.

People say that writing memoirs is the most fiction like book out of the non fiction genre, so I guess I'm off to a head start there as I have written both books like works of fiction. But in order to make my fiction books a success, I have to study the technical issues, as well as making sure I have a good story to tell.

One of the most crucial elements that has come up time and time again is the issue of subplots, and the most common mistakes writers make when using them. So I thought it would be useful to explore these issues today and help other writers out:

#People use subplots in their novels to give the book more depth and flavour, but a common mistake is when the subplot becomes bigger and more interesting than the main story itself.

#The number of words in a subplot should never be the same or exceed the word count of the main story.

# The attention of the reader should never be distracted away from the main story so much they struggle to remember what the book is actually about.

#All subplots should be linked back to the main story otherwise separate stories give the book a dis-jointed feel to it. The sunplot should be scrapped if it doesn't link up to the main story.

#Never resolve all your subplots at once or at the end of the main story. If you have multiple subplots, make sure you resolve them one at a time. Doing this will ensure more attention from the reader on the stories that have yet to reach their conclusion.

If you struggle with the complex issue of subplotting, I hope this post helps you out. Is there any more advice you'd like to give on this issue?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Tips to Improve your Writing

I'm continually making more author friends on my writing journey, and I always seem to learn a lot from them.

Here are some of the best tips they've taught me.

# Write down every word you can think of and then cut 20% out of the text. When I'm writing I usually cut out at least two words of the original sentence. Sometimes I cut it down by half depending on the length.

#Write with emotion, make people cry. You want your audience to connect and relate to you, so the best way to achieve this is to write with feeling. You want to draw your readers in and hold them to the page.

# Have a sense of humour. Certain writers have such a way with words they make even the most traumatic of situations seem light.

# Write in different shades. Balance out the funny bits with the not so funny bits. Make sure your writing handles the current situation appropriately if it's a sensitive issue.

#Drink stimulant drinks like coffee. I'm sure this tip won't work for everyone but it sure works for me, I always have to have coffee to kick start my brain.

# Write a lot, every day if you can manage it. When I've taken a break for whatever reason it can be difficult to get back into things. Keep things fresh, especially if you're in the middle of your next book. You don't want to forget where you're going.

#Bare your soul in your writing - be candid. You're more likely to draw people in if you write like this. Be honest but respect people's feelings.

# Respect readers and fellow writers. I think this is one of the most important rules to date. You never know who reads your books, so be polite and respectful to everyone. This doesn't mean you have to agree with everything they say but if you start directly attacking them, the only person who looks bad is you.

# Don't be afraid of what others think of you, don't let one bad review hold you back for evermore. Just keep on writing and if you find things you can improve on, then improve on them by all means.

# Be a perfectionist. Don't let your work go online if you know there are errors lurking about. Always make sure everything is the best of your ability.

# Take risks and be determined to move forward. Listen to others and their advice but always make your own mind up at the end of the day.

Do you have any more tips to share?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

How to Write Believable Dialogue

Dialogue is often hard to write because writers' often wonder how to approach it correctly. If you struggle with dialogue yourself here are some pointers that may help you.

  • Set some time aside every week to practice. Look at conversations from different angles. Have a go at working your next scene around people speaking.

  • Have a conversation with someone and listen to how you speak. It will be unlikely that you will use the correct grammar all of the time. People interrupt each other from time to time and speak in half sentences.

  • Don't use common place dialogue. Always make sure anything your character talks about is relevant to moving the story forward. Having conversations about the weather is uneccessary in the middle of a murder investigation unless there is something significant about the weather that links to the case.

  • Leave certain things out to add an element of mystery to your story. Have one of your characters make it obvious that they are holding something back as this will make them more interesting.

  • Go easy on the use of phonetic speech. It's hard work trying to read pages of text like this.

  • Make sure your readers know who is talking, especially if you have more than two people speaking. Dialogue with multiple speakers can get confusing if all you're going to put is he said/she said.

  • Be careful not to use dialogue all through one page. Break it up in parts by describing other things that are going on. What are your characters doing? It's unlikely they will be standing still throughout the entire time it takes them to speak. '' 'What are you doing, Mary?' John asked as he flipped open his wallet.'' By using lines like these you are helping to create a vital picture in your readers minds. Describe the environment that they are in.
If you do struggle with dialogue I hope you found this post useful. Are there any other points you would like to mention? Maybe you disagree with some of the comments. Whatever it is, please share.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Every Writer Should Read

For the past three months I have been saying to myself - 'You know what Laura, you should read more.'

Have I? No.

Before I started writing I used to read all the time, and I read widely. Chick lit, autobiography, memoir, crime, comedy etc...

But now it seems I don't have time to read at all.

As a writer this is extremely bad of me. The whole world seems to say - 'you can't write if you don't read.' But as a writer how can you possibly have time to read other people's work, even when you know you should? And as any writer will usually tell you, time is precious. It's very precious when all you want to do is write your next book, market and promote your current one and live your own life as well.

Sitting in front of a computer all day is very tiring on the eyes. So when I come to take a break the last thing I want to do is strain my eyes some more and force my brain to engage on something else. Most of the time I'm just screaming, 'Let me watch some mindless TV and go to sleep!'

So when I do force myself to read, my inner editor comes out in full force and I end up not concentrating on the actual story but asking myself: why didn't the author choose that word instead of this?

I guess I am also scared to read a book similar to mine in case I subconsciously copy sentences. Sometimes a thought just pops into my head and I think - Aha! That sounds good but where I have I heard it before? Was it something my neighbour said or have I actually read it somewhere else? So consequently I am paranoid for the rest of the day.

And then there's the problem of having your own life as well. People often say, and I think this myself, that to write about anything you first must go out there and experience it yourself. Ideas, thoughts and creations are not going to come if all you do all day is sit down and sleep. So people call me up and say, 'Hey, do ya fancy a coffee?' I say yes, because really I am quite a sociable person at heart, despite spending most days feeling irascible.

So I am sitting with a friend, having coffee and the world is great apart from one tiny thing - I should be at home writing, or even better reading!

Please tell me I am not the only writer who occasionally feels like this. How do you get the balance right between writing, marketing and reading?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Learn to Love Yourself

The first week of November has passed and for a lot of writers this means they are well on their way with their NaNoWriMo challenge.

During my time cruising around the Internet this week, I have seen a lot of inspirational comments regarding this challenge. Most people seem to be on track, completing just over a 1600 words a day - the required amount they need to write in order to accomplish their 50,000 words by the end of the month. But some people are definitely struggling with this task and have already fallen behind considerably. And it is these people who I want to talk about today.

Doing the NaNoWriMo is a tough challenge for any writer to do. I haven't signed up for it this year as I have too many other commitments to see to this month but I'm considering it for next year. I think any author who has taken on this challenge has a lot to be proud of but it saddens me to see so much self hatred when things don't go to plan. I have seen comments of people saying how much they hate themselves when they're struggling to keep up with the word count. People say how disappointed they are and how much of a let down they are because they see themselves failing the challenge.

Right now I have something to say to these people: don't be hard on yourselves because you are only human.

In this world far too many people are ready to criticise you for the most minor thing. Don't add to the numbers of negative people. Be kind to yourself. I am not saying it is fine to make your excuses up when you repeatedly fail to do things but I think it is important to recognise that you cannot be perfect all of the time. Recognise your accomplishments and celebrate them. Acknowledge your failings and analyse why you didn't succeed. See if you can do things differently next time. Some things are a guaranteed failure right from the start so it's important to recognise you can't win everything.

For another inspiring read please visit this link: and I am sure you'll agree these are very wise words.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How Fearful Are You?

On Halloween I watched Paranormal Activity 3, a jumpy film like its predecessors. I love films about ghosts so I thoroughly enjoyed it. But what made it even more terrifying was the atmosphere that filled the cinema, other people's tension. I soaked the fear up like a sponge and was almost beside myself during the films final moments, and afterwards it took me about ten minutes to calm down so I could feel normal again. But once outside the cinema's scary complex, I started to think just how much we are influenced by other people's emotions.

If I were to watch that movie alone I probably wouldn't find it so scary. Sure I would jump because that's the whole nature of the film, but I wouldn't be influenced by other people's negativity.

So, how much are we influenced by other people in every day to day life? And more importantly, do we let them hold us back from doing what we really want to do? If you had a teacher or a parent that forever told you you couldn't do something no matter how hard you tried, eventually you would start to believe them. Listening to repeat criticisms does nothing for self confidence and if anything it just reinforces your own lack of self belief. If you believe you can't do something, you're probably right -success is all in the state of mind. You start to tell yourself that you will do things someday but that day never arrives. And a common reason why people delay writing that book is because they are too fearful they'll never finish it. For some it seems like a insummountable task that's just too big to complete.

Bad reviews are also notorious for making writers feel lethargic. Some automatically think they can't write because someone has told them so. That's rubbish! - what about the ten outstanding 5 star reviews they have also received? Too often we just focus solely on the negative.

I think it's time we took a stand against fear because that's the biggest reason we leave so many dreams unfulfilled. During my travelling days I met so many inspirational people, people who led their lives without letting fear barricade them into a corner. If you're fearless you make the most of every opportunity because you don't let anything hold you back.

So, what's your greatest fear and does it ever hold you back?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Free ebook

I read a fantastic post the other day by David Gaughran on the subject of free books.

I have always thought about using this strategy myself but always seem hold myself back for a variety of reasons. The main one being that I have seen a lot of indie authors using this technique without much success. A lot of people argue (and it is mentioned in this article) that a large proportion of people do not read free books, they just download them for the sake of it. And while my book is at such a low price already - would I see that much difference anyway?

But then I discovered David Gaughran's post and it made me reconsider: should I make my first book free for a short period of time, say two weeks? I have seen a lot of talk between indie writers who say that as soon as they make a book free, they receive a phenomenal amount of downloads.

David says that in order for this strategy to be successful you need to have a good book, present it professionally, and to have written in a popular genre. Now I know my book is presented professionally and formatted well - I think the first point is a matter of personal opinion - but I am not so sure that it's under a popular genre from the evidence I have seen so far. But I am still considering whether to make this book free in time for when I release my second one about travelling Canada. If I do decide to make it free then I hope more people will download it and then buy the second book. But then the element of self doubt creeps in and I think: what if they absolutely hate my first book so therefore decide not to buy my second. If my book wasn't free in the first place then they may have taken the chance to buy both books because of the low price. But because I have made my first one free, they have decided to read that first before making a decision to buy the next one. If the first one wasn't free then some people may read the second one first - I have written it in such a style where this is perfectly possible to do so, everything will still make sense to the reader, no matter if they haven't read the first one. If they like it then they'll probably buy the other one. I guess the only way I'll know is to do it and to stop worrying so much. I guess I'm just concerned that they'll end up liking one book more than the other.

What are you thoughts on this situation? Have you seen success yourself if you've made a book free?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Do You Suffer From Commitment Phobia?

Although the title of my post sound like an article from a health and relationships magazine, I can assure you it links into writing as well.

During my past twenty six years on this earth I have seen so many individuals who suffer from this condition. So many people have it that I am starting to think that if you were born late 20th century you will automatically have it too.

From my personal experience I definitely think this issue is directly linked to our lifestyles we lead today. People of my generation, especially in England, do not want - it seems - to commit to anything. People seem to lack the drive and determination to want to see anything through and it affects their entire lives. People are so used to instant gratification, thinking if success doesn't come immediately, they have failed. With this mindset comes great impatience; people expect things to happen straight away and they will often get upset and frustrated if their situation doesn't work out.

The older generation, however, seem to have more about them. They accept most things take time and require effort on their part, instead of thinking they are entitled to everything when they're not prepared to work for what they want. I don't quite know the reasons behind the mindset of the younger generation, but I suspect that it has something to do with the celebrity culture and the welfare system England has that encourages people to get paid for doing nothing apart from reproduce. People don't want commitment from relationships; they always seem to have an eye open for something better, thinking the grass is always greener. That way of thinking leads to breakdown of families - no wonder life is so depressing these days.

So, what does all this have to do with being a writer? Well since I published my book back in April I have noticed that the majority of people I network with are older, some significantly older than me. There are probably lots of reasons why this is so. Most writers have other jobs while they write but when they retire they can devote most of their time to their hobby. But let's consider what I have just said in this post... writing needs commitment, drive and determination. The things most young people of today lack. I don't lack them obviously, if I did I wouldn't be where I am today. But I increasingly feel that I am in the minority of my generation. Are my suspicions right? I hope not. But I know one thing for sure: writing any book needs so much focus.

What are your thoughts on this situation?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Showing Versus Telling

My internet problem still hasn't been resolved. However I do have the connection back this weekend but it's unlikely to stay on during the rest of this week. In the meantime I'm just trying to make the most of things while they last.

'It seems important to me that beginning writers ponder this - that since 1964, I have never had a book, story or poem rejected that was not later published. If you know what you are doing, eventually you will run into an editor who knows what they are doing. It may take years, but never give up. Writing is a lonely business not just because you have to sit alone in a room with your machinery for hours and hours every day, month after month, year after year, but because after all the blood, sweat, toil and tears you still have to find somebody who respects what you have written enough to leave it alone and print it. And, believe me, this remains true, whether the book is your first novel or your thirty first.'
Joseph  Hansen memo, from Rotten Reviews.

Actions speak louder than words whether it's in real life or in a book. Authors can tell the reader every little single detail about their characters or they can leave the reader to decide for themselves what they are really like.

Writers can tell their readers their protagonist is disabled over three pages or they can describe it simply by showing them how they struggled each day to make the journey out of bed into their wheelchair. It is the author's purpose to show the readers what the character's personalities are like by the actions they commit. If the writer told the reader that his disabled character is a hopeless romantic then that would be a fact. But if the writer showed this character declaring his undying love for everyone they met, it opens up an area of ambiguity to the situation. The reader would wonder whether their behaviour was a result of their disability - do they have a learning difficulty as well? Or is the character just desperate for love they are seeking it from anyone? Does their disability make them feel that unloved to begin with?

If the readers are given the opportunity to decide for themselves what really lies beneath the character's situations, they are more likely to feel a connection with the book because they feel like they have worked the mysteries out. Showing a scene instead of telling it leaves room for a huge amount of interpretation and this is what the readers are after.

If you convey a scene simply by telling and not showing, the writing will likely feel dull and emotionless. It will read as a mere story outline and the reader will not have been able to penetrate the inside. People read to escape and they want to enter another world and make it their own. They have to feel as though they are in that character's life, living the moment.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

How Urgent is Your Need to Write?

I had my internet connection sabotaged on Monday and have since found it to be the greatest inconvenience I've had for a while. I say this because it has affected my ability to write more than I thought it would. I don't spend all my time surfing my broadband, procrastinating when I should be writing, but it is always nice to have it there at my finger tips should I want to reference something inbetween my creative sessions.
I can cope without the internet reasonably well on most occasions. When I moved house two months ago I accepted I wouldn't have broadband for at least two weeks and I was perfectly okay with that. No one could help the situation and that was fine. But Monday's situation was completely different. We had an engineer out to fix a minor problem with our phone and I stress it was only a minor fault. The engineer fixed it in no time at all and everything seemed hunkydory or so I thought. That was until I switched on the computer  and found no connection what so ever. Nothing with my laptop, either. I was cross when I realised what had happened but not so furious as I am now because no matter what anyone does - nothing will fix it and it seems I'll be in a broadbandless situation for ever more!
I accept somethings cannot be helped but I have a strong feeling this situation wouldn't have arisen if the engineer had known what he was doing in the first place. My usual routine consists of spending a portion of my morning writing, then going online to do some research or marketing, or whatever I feel like doing, then back to writing in the afternoon. Now with no internet connection, I am struggling to fight my irascible mood on who I would like to hit the most, to actually concentrate on writing anything at all. Now if I want to use the internet I have to walk forty minutes each way to my Mum's house - time spent walking when I could be working on something else more important.
I also like to have breaks inbetween going online and I have found that I absolutely cannot stand having to spend a chunk of time solely for internet purposes. I find myself wasting time because I have to battle with my concentration and I am wasting time inbetween sessions when I love to work all day.

Now it's time for you to moan... Has something happened in your writing life recently that has left you as annoyed as I am?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Why Real Life Matters to Writers.

I read an interesting blog post the other day (it may have been the other week, actually - time passes so fast) about the topic of real life and writers. I read it several times and each time the text passed my eyes, the whole article seemed to get much deeper.

Writers have always been thought of as a bit eccentric and odd by the majority of society and I'm sure there's good reason for this. The creative types seem to be very original by nature and are often outcasted by others. I can't speak for other writers but I don't mind this aspect of life at all. If anything, people who think I'm a little weird I just love to wind up even further - to prove their point all the more. The majority of times I simply don't care what other people think of me anyway, and I believe my first book shows this for those of you who have been kind and read it. No one on this planet knows absolutely everything about me and I find solace in the fact that I only share with other people what I'm comfortable with.

Now, on to my original point: writers and real life...   I think I am the worst for isolating myself just so I can get on with my work. When I get into something - regardless of what that may be - I find myself quite obsessed by it. And if this is writing, I can write for weeks and weeks and weeks without seeing anyone else.

Now I know this is bad. When I was writing my first book I spent all my available time doing just that. I couldn't get enough of it - I was almost like a heroin addict with my fix! Getting very snappy and irritable if it was taken away from me for any reason. I put it above everything else in my list of priorities, thinking I just couldn't wait for it to start selling on Amazon. By nature I'm very driven, determined and ambitious - once I set my mind to something then that's usually it. But now I'm more aware that I'm happier if I keep a more balanced approach to life. Yes, I will do my work by all means but I will also take time out to spend with my dogs, friends and family. I'll also make sure that I get out of the house at least once a day. If I spend too much time indoors I often find that when I need to go out it can be difficult. When I was writing my first book I'd only just recently moved into a whole different area and I think this was part of my problem - I had nothing else to do apart from work. I joined a drama group to meet more people but I think that wasn't enough. Writing can be a very solitary experience and I think it's vital to have a life outside your work as well.

So next time you don't want to go anywhere or see anyone because you'd rather be writing, please consider - is that what you really want?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

How Sentences Sound

'Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.'
William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of style.

All prose has a sound; writing isn't just story telling - it's how you get there that counts as well. Poor sentence construction along with grammatical misusage is a common problem. But even the more experienced writer can have trouble with sound. They might know how to write a beautiful sentence but may be less aware of echoes or unpleasant sounding consonants.
Sound can be a very difficult area to be in because the only person reading the words is usually the author themselves. Here are some other common sound problems:
  • Incorrect use of the semi colon.
  • Incorrect use of the colon
  • Incorrect use of the dash.
  • Incorrect use of parentheses
  • Echoes
  • Alliteration
  • Resonance
The easiest solution is to have a competent reader analyse the text. You can also read your manuscript aloud to yourself. This highlights weak parts of the text because more often than not you will stumble around certain areas. Sentences which are poorly constructed will no doubt have several potential meanings. When I first started writing, repetition of certain words used to get me all the time. To fix this problem I read the last three sentences back to myself constantly, until I was consciously aware of which words I was over using. This also helped me to expand my vocab greatly.
So what are your most common problems with sound?

Taken from: The First Five Pages: A Writer's guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Adjectives and Adverbs - What's Your Story?

'The serious fiction writer will think that any story that can be entirely explained by the adequate motivation of the characters or by a believable imitation of a way of life or by a proper theology, will not be a large enough story for him to occupy himself with. This is not to say that he doesn't have to be concerned with adequate motivation or accurate reference or a right theology; he does; but he has to be concerned with them only because the meaning of his story does not begin except at a depth where these things have been exhausted.'
Flannery O'Connor - 1957

A large number of novice writers overuse adjectives and adverbs. They think that by doing so they bring their writing alive, making it more specific but almost in every case the opposite is true.
There are numerous reasons why writing in this way generally isn't a good idea. Here are some of them:
  • Less is more. When copious amounts of adjectives are used they distract the reader from the actual point the sentence is trying to make.
  • The reader can find it dull and boring to have every detail filled in for him. Readers love to use their imagination to picture the scene.
  • If the reader has to use their imagination to fill in blank spaces they are more likely to feel engaged with the story.
  • Writers who use a lot of adjectives and adverbs will more than likely use common ones, giving the writing a bland feel.
  • Too many adjectives and adverbs make awkward reading: they detract from the main point.
Taken from: The First Five Pages:  A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile.

This is the main reason why I usually stay clear of describing things in detail in my writing but I've never been a fan of descriptive writing anyway. I prefer to use more emotion in my writing rather than describing physical details. So, how do you prefer to write?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Just How Useful are Reviews?

I touched on this subject back in August when I spoke about receiving my first 4 star review and how happy I was to receive it. But since then I have continued to read numerous articles about the review system and how vulnerable it is to fraud. Certain articles go into great detail about people who are so desperate for a good review that they will go to extraordinary lengths to make sure they receive one.  And after reading so much of this information, I am starting to wonder whether reviews should just be banned altogether because it seems a large amount of people just want to game the system. I'm also rather skeptical just how many people believe the reviews in the first place - I don't think I've met another writer yet who isn't suspicious of at least one review they have read. And if they've read as many articles regarding fraudulent reviews as I have then who can blame their way of thinking.

Of course this problem doesn't just cover books alone. Fraudulent reviews can be about anything and they are posted everywhere, designed to trap their target audience. I read in Bloomsberg business week that British regulators are investigating alleged fake reviews on the TripAdvisor site (EXPE). And it has also been suggested that up to 30% of reviews for any given online product are potentially fake.

So with this in mind - Just how useful are reviews? Have you ever been approached by anyone who is looking for an unfair favourable review? So many people are cynical about the system in the first place - would we be better off if it ceased to exist?

If you would like to read the full article regarding this subject please click on this link:

Sunday, 2 October 2011

How to Ignite Creativity and Keep the Juices Flowing

One of the most difficult tasks I face as a writer is keeping my creative thoughts flowing. I'm sure all writers experience this from time to time due to many reasons. It could be that they're suffering from writers block or dealing with some difficult personal issues. But because this issue is something we all have to deal with, I thought it might be helpful to blog about it.

So... What can help you when you feel lethargic and unable to write?

  • Read - Whenever I'm stuck for ideas of what to write about, I always grab a good book to see if any thoughts can be charged off the pages and into my mind. If the content matter is something I strongly agree or disagree with, I always find that I have plenty of other things to say about it.
  • Take note of conversations - Listen to people have their point of view on certain things. See if you can spark a discussion about the topic.
  • Observe - Take interest in life as it happens and focus on outside global news. If I'm stuck for ideas I will watch the news on television as well as reading a good book. Maybe you could invent an entire fictitious story from a newspaper headline.
  • Experience life - If you feel like you're stuck in some kind of rut then go out and do something entirely different. Take up a new hobby or go to a new place. Make an effort to meet more people and then write about your new accomplishments.
  • Take a break - Do something that will make you feel better and hopefully your writing will improve.

I got my first returned book off today and this has made me feel slightly deflated. I am not complaining about it - I understand there are several factors surrounding returned books and one of them is that the customer simply clicked on the purchase button by mistake. Considering I've had my book online for nearly six months I don't think that this is bad at all, and I was expecting my first return to be a lot sooner. If the customer found my book not to be what they were expecting, I think I would rather have a return rather than a one star review simply because they were annoyed the book was about something different. Of course I have no idea what the reason was behind the return so I can only speculate, but that's just a few of the thoughts in my mind right now. And I'm not suggesting that to be the only reason behind any one star review, I've just heard of other people experiencing that situation. Of course I'm not saying that someone would write a one star review if the book wasn't what they expecting, that's just a worry I have from time to time.

Do you have any ideas or any more helpful advice I may have missed? Please share.
What experiences have you had with returned books?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Points to Consider when Pricing your Book

This is a subject that all writers will ponder over at some point in their writing career and it may seem like the decision doesn't get any easier when it comes to pricing your book. It is one of the most crucial decisions writers face when they're ready to sell their book, and it's common for them to change their minds half a dozen times before they reach their final conclusion.

Writers will consider what price their book should be in order to receive reviews and cover the initial cost it took for the book to be published. Whether this be editing costs or print cost, the writer will want to set a price in order for them to sell as many copies as possible.

Some first time writers fall into the trap of pricing their books too high. People probably won't want to pay $5 for a short story only 5,000 words long. Equally, readers may be suspicious of a specialised non fiction book over 150,000 words long that is only 99c.

So if you're a first time writer who is currently struggling with this question, here are some points you may want to consider.

  • Who are you targeting? Comic readers probably won't want to buy your book if it's specialist non fiction, neither will young adults. However if your book is a comedy short fiction they might be your ideal target audience.
  • How much have you paid to produce this book? If you're publishing an ebook, the cost is minimal because it's free to upload your books on to Amazon and sites like Smashwords. It is most likely your only fee is to your copy editor and cover designer.
  • What length is it? Like I stated above it is not wise to price a short story book at a high cost. People usually price according to traditional length.
  • Where will your book be available from? If you're publishing an ebook you'll probably want to upload your work to B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, and Amazon. But even though you'll have exposure on an international level, the company in question will take a cut.
  • Have you paid any marketing fees? Have you paid for a website, paid for adverts in newspapers or online?
I think it is worth remebering that when you start out as a self published author it seems your tasks are almost impossible. But when you have several books out there to sell, the process is a little easier because you gradually become more established. It's so much harder trying to convince people to buy your book whatever your price if you're completely unknown. But once you have more books to sell then it generally becomes easier.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The First Five Pages - (The Best Writing Guide Ever)

When I was in the middle of my book's first draft, I read a truly inspiring book. This book completely transformed me as a writer, and if I hadn't read it I don't know where I'd be now. The book is called The First Five Pages - A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile.

I saw the book advertised in my monthly writing magazine and I thought that I'd have a look through it. It's written by Noah Lukeman, a New York literary agent. The book's objective is identifying the problems people have with their writing in chronological order - the most serious problems can be found in the first chapters. Lukeman identifies the preliminary problems, such as presentation, adjectives and adverbs, sound, comparison, and style. He then goes on to explore dialogue problems, and in the final part of the book, he explores the elements associated with the overall picture in writing.

In the middle of this book I found the most interesting chapter: Lukeman's take on vocabulary. I have always been aware that words are the life force to writers: without them we would have nothing. Lukeman describes words as writer's tools. He describes not having the best words to use is like a mechanic not having the correct tools. Just by reading those two sentences, I immediately knew what I had to do. For me and Lukeman, being a writer is saying as much as you can in few words possible. Expanding your vocab is the easiest way to do precisely that. Often a few words will say as much, if not more, as a whole paragraph. Writers often describe physical appearance in so much detail. Lukeman says he has read pages upon pages of this kind of detail when the writer could have just said the person looked like John Travolta.

So taking this advice on board, I immediately set about learning as many new words as I possibly could. I bought Roget's thesaurus, and noted down all the words I was unfamiliar with. I looked up the meaning of the words, making sure I cross referenced them as many times as possible. I also looked for them in sentences to get an idea of their context and tone. It took me several months to complete this but it was worth it, I now have all those words to hand.

Lukeman instructs writers to do exactly that. He says that under no terms should any writer use a word they are not absolutely sure of. Only when you know the word inside out, should you use it. Lukeman also warns you to learn the correct pronunciation of the word and if you wouldn't use it in speech, you shouldn't use it in text.

Another excellent point of advice Lukeman gives is the use of specificity. Writers must always train their minds to be exacting. Use exactly the right word for everything. Instead of saying fish swam in the river, say what type of fish they were.

So because I made a conscious effort with the points just talked about, my writing is better for it. Have you got any interesting points you'd like to share?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Book Length - Traditional Print Books and Ebooks

When I started my first book I had no idea how long it would be. I typed out 30,000 words, thinking I had written a lot more and then I decided that because I was publishing an ebook, I shouldn't worry about the length so much - I should just focus on the stories I wanted to tell and finish when I had no more to say.

By the time I had finished my second draft I was just over 60,000 words. When I had it edited this took it down to around 57,300, and I thought this was still a decent number of words to have written. But I soon discovered that if I had wanted to send it out to agents and publishers, the book length would probably have to be expanded. This is one of the main reasons why I love ebooks so much because the length of them doesn't come into the equation.

According to an article I read recently, in the ebook world, 10,000 words or less is a short story. 7,500 to 25,000 is a novelette. 20,000 to 50,000 is a novella. 50,000 to 120,000 is a novel.

So based on these figures my book is considered to be a novel. And yet in traditional print I still feel it would have to be much longer. I suppose books like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter don't inspire you to write anything shorter than 100,000 but at least with ebooks the old saying still rings true: size really does not matter.

I've now just completed over 30,000 words for my next book and this time I shall not worry so much about its final length.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Importance of Passion

Despite the fact that I'm only in my mid twenties, I have had a fair few jobs over the years. I've worked in bars, shops, libraries, hospitals, and I've also had a variety of jobs overseas. But there has only been one job that I have been truly passionate about: writing.

I have always written. Mainly just for fun but my book's readers will know that I kept a diary while travelling Australia, and I did this to keep the memories vivid.

I think most people will agree with me that you always excel in things you are passionate about. You have a constant stream of enthusiasm and feel the urge to keep working on the projects you know you need a rest from. But you're so passionate about whatever it is that you're doing, you never want a break from it because you will miss it too much.

This is how I feel about writing. I do have the occasional day off from time to time because without it, my brain would explode, but I'm never far away from writing for that long. Sometimes I wish I had the passion for other areas of my life as I have with writing because if that were the case, I could probably take over the world! OK... maybe that's a little extreme but you get my point.

I see other people in what I call 'normal' jobs. These people usually work for someone else and they see what they do as just a job that will pay their bills. Their job is just a way of receiving income so they have a house to live in, food in their stomach, and clothes on their back.

But one thing is missing from their life - the ingredient that makes people feel happy: Passion.

If you feel passionate about your job, it's almost inevitable that you'll do well in it. You'll want to put 100% effort in all of the time because you enjoy what you do. People who see their jobs as only being that are more likely to feel lethargic about things. They don't get the same level of enjoyment because they're not passionate about what they do. Of course, there are times when I struggle to write but that doesn't happen often - 95% of the time it's great.

Even if you don't earn a fortune from the job that you do, if you enjoy it then it makes all the difference. I know I'd rather have a low paid job that I loved rather than a high paid job that I hated.

So... what are your thoughts on this matter?

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Points to Consider when Online

I read a brilliant post by Tony Elridge last week and its content is something I have been thinking about for the last couple of months. In his article Tony highlighted points to consider when online and I found the post most relevant due to the fact that I spend a proportion of every day on the internet.

As a writer I spend my time online interacting in forums and social media sites with other authors and potential readers. I feel it is important to do this as part of my marketing stragety - building up an audience and making myself a valid member of the writing/book community. Because I interact with people on a world wide scale, I feel it is inevitable that sometimes people are going to be offended by the things I say. I would now like to state that whatever I say is not meant to be intentionally offensive. But due to the cultural differences, religious beliefs, terrorism, and political views, it is natural that some comments I make will cause a stir. This is the main reason I try to stay clear of these subjects whenever possible. And if I do have to state my own opinion I try to make it known to everyone that it is as balanced as I can possibly make it.

Sometimes being attacked for what we say is also inevitable - some people will argue just for the sake of it. But Tony highlighted the points we can take to minimise the risk of offence.

  1. Think before we type. Consider if our message will be read the wrong way by certain people.
  2. Be aware that you'll always have a reaction to controversial  comments.
  3. This point made me laugh because I always think about it: always make sure your audience is appropriate for your marketing message. As an author who writes books with an erotic element to them, the last place I want to advertise is in a primary school.
  4. Be quick to respond to any negative views and apologise for them.
Of course there are some writers in this world who love to be controversial and that is what makes them so popular. But I do think in order to be this way successfully you have to have a strong personality to cope with the negative feedback.

What type of writer are you, do you get high from creating a stir? Please let us know.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Goals V Dreams

When I first started out as a writer I thought about what I would like to achieve in this area of my life. I had the same hopes and dreams as many other writers, wishing every book I penned would turn into a bestseller and make me a multi millionnaire.

I'm sure this dream is common to most people: to be successful at whatever you do, and to make good money from it. But can you achieve anything by just dreaming your life away?

This is where goals and dreams come into play. To have a dream is just like having a fantasy. It may be nice to think about for a while, but how likely is that dream going to turn into reality. Are there stepping stones you can take to bring it to life?

When my book first went out on sale, I quickly set a target 'goal' of how many copies I would like to sell in twelve months. But I soon realised this ambition was not a goal at all, it was just a dream. What separates these two words is you have absolutely no control over one and every sort of control over the other. I thought it was useless setting a target of how many copies I would like to sell because I have absolutely no control over that environment. What I do have control over, however, is how much time I spend a day marketing the book, and what social media sites I use.

I also have control over how many words I write per day, how often I blog, and so on. But the important part is realising this: despite not having much control over certain things, I can influence the situation to turn out positive and work to my advantage. So I always make sure I find a way to have a certain amount of control over everything. It may not be the ultimate control but at least I get to affect a certain amount of things.

My dream is to write my first books sequel. This is never going to happen if I just dream about it - I have to set myself a goal of how to make that happen. So my goal is to write as many words as I can, each and every day. And as long as I make sure I do this, then one day I will fulfil that dream.

I've also found that those people who talk about what they're going to acheive in life rarely do because all they do is talk about it. Those people with greater ambition just get on with things and don't stop to talk about it until they're done.

So how many goals do you set yourself per day, per week, per month, per year? And do you fulfil these goals?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Curse of the 1 and 5 Star Reviews.

 When my ebook was first published online back in April one of the first things that came to mind was the opinions of those who read it.

With digital publishing, reviews are so easy to give because no matter which online store you use, there will always be a place for you to leave your thoughts. This has its advantages and disadvantages, of course, as you never know how genuine the review actually is. With Smashwords people have to buy the book before they can write the review, and I think this policy is the most sensible one to have. While people do not read every book they buy, especially if they downloaded it for free, I think in the majority of cases it it safe to assume that as long as the book has been purchased, people will read it. After all, unless they're free, how many people can read books they've never bought? All reviews on Smashwords are from people who have at least bought the books, even if they haven't read them.  And this is why I trust reviews on Smashwords far more than I trust reviews on Amazon because Amazon don't have this same policy. People on Amazon can post reviews on books regardless of whether they have actually bought them and I think this leaves the system open to a higher level of abuse. Trolling is now a widespread occurrence and with the system that Amazon have in place, it is no real surprise. Some people find it amusing to trash the authors and their books by giving very poor reviews simply because they have some sort of personal vendetta against them or they just have anything better to do with their time other than make someone else's life a misery.

On the other side of the coin, people suspect that some 5 star reviews are fake and the author has asked their friends to dish them out, or has just paid someone a fee for a glowing report on their book. I must admit I think the same type of thoughts when I see a book with thirty + 5 star reviews and no other reviews to balance things out. From this angle the whole system can be extremely unfair as the highest reviews place the book with a high rank. If people believed every single online review there would be disappointment all round if they discover they do not have the same taste. So this is why most people take no notice of 5 and 1 star reviews because they're not always genuine, but some 1 and 5 star reviews are well placed.

Books are entirely subjective and this is my personal reason why I tend not to take notice of the 1 and 5 stars as it's highly likely I will have my own opinion. And there are probably a plethora of motives behind these ratings as well. When I first started thinking about publishing my book online, I thought five star reviews were the best opinions you could ever have but since I have got to know more about this industry, I have now decided otherwise. I haven't had that many reviews but the ones I have had have all been 5 stars, except for one 1 star which I suspect was provoked by a moral reaction judging by what the reviewer had actually said.

So this is why I am beyond estactic to receive my first 4 star review. And what makes this even better is the fact that the review is detailed, thoughtful and well balanced, making this my first review which is most likely to be perceived as believable to my readers. I would like to add that none of my 5 star reviews have been fake but I am now more than pleased to have a four star rating to even things out.

To see this review please go to:

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Fiction Writing Rules

I read a online article last week about the ten rules for writing fiction. I agreed with most of the points but there were some I did not agree with. I thought the article was interesting because at the moment I have written one memoir and I'm currently writing another. I know there is a consensus that memoirs should be written like fiction, but it was interesting for me to compare the article notes with what I had written in my book.

The most common rules I have seen elsewhere were also covered in this article. These were:

  • Avoid going into great detail describing places, people, and things unless they play an important part in moving the story forward.
  • Avoid writing never ending paragraphs with prose that's too flowery. In other words, like the first point, don't waffle on about anything - it's simply just not necessary.
  • Keep exclamation points under control. Use them sparingly.
I agree with all the above points and have followed these guidelines religiously through out my book. No one wants to know every single detail about something which has no relevance to the story.

Other points that were covered included:

  • Always use 'said' to carry dialogue.
  • Avoid continually spelling words in dialogue phonetically
  • Read what you have written out loud to yourself to check the rhythm of the words.
I agree with the last two points but not the first. I have read countless numbers of books that break this rule and I am guilty of doing so as well.

It was good to read these guidelines because I know I'm on the right track for writing fiction and this is predominately what I want to do in the future. Unless you've read countless books about the rules of creative writing at the beginning, you've really no idea when you first start out. The only way to improve at writing is to keep on writing and along the way you will learn these points.

Do you have any other rules you would like to add? If so just pop them in the comment box. Thanks very much for reading.

    Friday, 19 August 2011

    How Much Time Should Leave Between Books?

    How much time should you leave between publishing books? In the traditional print book industry this system works a little different to ebooks. If you're an author of print books then your publishing house will take care of this area, ensuring you have enough time to start on the next novel.

    Getting published the traditional way often takes years so authors have time just to solely concentrate on writing their next book. But in the ebook industry a lot of writers choose to self publish their books, thus taking complete control over everything. Digital publishing is unbelievably quick, it only takes a matter of hours to upload your work online before its out there and ready to market. While waiting for their book to be published, printed writers have a year or so to focus on their next book before they can worry about their current one selling. But as an author of ebooks, I find it difficult to juggle both marketing and writing.

    Since being published in April I have noticed a lot of discussions about the time frame in between releasing ebooks. Since the industry is so flexible, writers can choose exactly when to publish their next book, and many will argue that if you publish several ebooks over the space of the year then you will do well because your readers will remember you. Some will argue that you should write your first three ebooks before you publish any, so you will have the option to release all three over a short space of time. I know people like Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath have followed this method and I can understand their logic. But I think I would like to argue the case of why it could be better to wait a while before you start writing and publishing your next book...

    I only started to actively participate in these online discussions after I had been published so it was too late for me to consider doing things another way. But even if I had been aware of the opinions of some people in this community, I doubt that I would have done things differently. While I can appreciate the argument for releasing several ebooks in a short space of time, I would have lost the chance to learn from my professional editor if I had presented all three manuscripts to her at once. Her advice and comments have been invaluable to me, and they have made me much more aware of how to become a better writer. As my second book is a follow on to my first, I am absolutely convinced that I would have made the same mistakes over again.

    Because my first book is already online, I have also become more comfortable in my marketing techniques, and I know I'm going to feel less stressed about the whole process this time round. While people are concerned with their readers forgetting them if they leave it too long before another release, I think this factor has more weight in the traditional publishing industry because you only have a certain amount of time for your books to sell well before you potentially get pulled. If ebooks don't sell well at first, no one is going to force you to take them down. Ebooks are forever, and as J.A. Konrath says, forever is a long time. The time factor is not an issue. I like to think of myself as a marathon runner, in this for the long haul, so I would rather take the time to ensure my books are the best I can possibly make them instead of stressing that all my readers are going to forget me. I know a lot of people doubt the quality of a book that is written in just a matter of months. I know this space of time I could never write a book, get it edited to a high standard and then have it published, so I'm wary of this myself. Maybe as I become a more established writer, I'll be able to pick up the pace a lot more but until then I'm not going to worry about the time issue.

    Tuesday, 16 August 2011

    True Identities - How Much Truth Should you Reveal About your Real Life Characters?

    I am sure this is an issue faced by writers worldwide: just how much truth should you reveal about people when you write about real life events?

    For me I have spent many hours worrying about this. When I typed out the first draft of my first book, I didn't really consider much else apart from getting down as many words as possible. It was only after I had finished and read the whole thing back to myself, that it occured to me that I would have to change most of what I had said. I decided to do some research on the legal issue of libel, and frightened myself so much I couldn't sleep for the rest of the week!

    What I did conclude from my research is libel is a very serious matter. I would simply have to change all information that could potentially reveal someones identity; there was simply no other way to escape such trouble. If I was going be unlucky and someone read my work, they had every right to take me to court if they decided they didn't like how they were portrayed. And this stands true whether you were telling the truth or not. If someone can recognise themselves and have enough evidence to prove it's them, then the writer is clearly in trouble.

    In my book there are several places where I portray people in the negative sense. All of the events did happen but I've had to change everything about the event to prevent people from saying it's definitely about them. This includes the times, dates, and locations. People's gender, nationalities, ages, physical descriptions et al. You name it - I've changed it! After all, you can never be too careful.

    I'm repeating the same process for my second book but at least now I know where I stand on this issue, and I won't have to waste time going back to change every single detail. Besides, it's rather fun getting creative and giving people a whole new identity.

    What is your opinion on this issue, have you yourself ever had any problems? Have you been written about in a negative sense?

    Friday, 12 August 2011

    How Creative Should You Be When Planning Out Your Book?

    When it comes to planning out your next book, should you lay everything down in fine detail? Is it a good idea to plan the exact number of words you're going to have in your introduction and first chapters, or is it better just to push any maps you may have out of your head and just go with the flow?

    I can see the benefits of doing things both ways. For my first book I didn't really plan anything out at all, I just had a diary that I was going to rewrite. I was seeing where it would take me, and just hopefully go with the flow. But here lies the problem. If you've haven't got any boundaries, how will you know when you've overstepped them? You might want to write eighty thousand words for your entire book but find you've already typed out forty, and that's just your introduction and first chapter!

    When I was writing my first book I went down this path. I didn't over write things, it was more the case of under writing. I was half way through my book when I thought I would do a quick word count, and to my horror, I realised I had only typed out twenty thousand words. Once I had gotten over the initial panic, I decided to treat my manuscript just as a first draft which I could pad out at a later stage. I've since learned this is what most writers do, and it is very common just to write out a first draft before you flesh it out. I find you also gain more control when you follow this method because once you've read your first draft through, you often have an entirely different perspective.

    Now that I am writing my second book I want to do things differently. I've written up an entire plan of where I want my work to go, and I have so far found this helpful. I find working within boundaries often gives you a chance to implement more structure to your work - it forces you to think about it more. Writing memoirs is like writing fiction, so even though I am writing about real life events, I have to consider the rules for fiction. I also have to consider the boring events and what my readers would most like to read. I have to face up to the reality that no one is going to find my entire life interesting, so I have to keep my stories fast paced.

    Of course, you don't want to follow a set plan that disables your creativity. You have to have room to let your creative thoughts flow, otherwise they'll have nowhere to go and your book will be stifled. It's all about getting the balance right.

    Tuesday, 9 August 2011

    A Guest Poem by Kenneth Weene

    Ken contacted me yesterday with this email via LinkedIn. Not so long ago, Ken typed me a guest post on the trials and tribulations of being a writer. Due to its popularity, I thought I would post the poem to my blog and share it with my followers. In accordance with Ken's wishes, if you like this poem, please share it.


    Ordinarily when I write a poem, I carefully select the right place for its publication. However, during the past few days, I have written a short piece that I want to disseminate as widely as possible. That is why I am sending it to all my friends and connections throughout the web.

    I hope that you will read, think about, and perhaps even share it. And I hope it will inspire all of us to think about what we can do to alleviate the serious and growing problem.

    The city park

    The homeless gather in the city park
    to exchange the latest news:
    where’s the best free lunch in town,
    who’s giving away some shoes.
    Children play a game of tag
    to hide their hunger and their fears.
    While a gang of surly teens
    give a stranger angry stares.
    They think it disrespectful
    that he not avert his eyes.
    But he is wondering whom he might know;
    How long before he has no home.

    © 2011 Kenneth Weene

    Friday, 5 August 2011

    Where to Look for Writing Inspiration

    So many writers struggle to unleash their inspiration. They may want to write but until they find the key to unlock the creative part of their brain, many will find themselves unable to type a single sentence.

    A swimmer cannot swim unless they're surrounded by water. A writer cannot write unless they're surrounded by creative thoughts, inspiration, and discipline.

    So what do you do when your flow of thoughts simply won't swim on to the page?

    The first thing I do is go for a walk and try to focus my thoughts by taking in the scenery around me. The fresh air often makes my thoughts much sharper and more vivid. I focus on my breathing and try to view the scenes unfolding in my head from different angles.

    Next I visit bookshops and look for topics to feed my creativity. I try to look at everything because I am aware inspiration can strike from any source. The last thing a writer needs is a closed mind because that in itself stems creativity.

    Then I have a coffee in a busy cafe (caffeine kick starts my mind) and watch the people around me. If I am by the window, I will consciously watch folk outside talking to other people and imagine what they are saying. I study their body language, watch their face to see if they're about to shout or laugh, and think of the scenes in my book and wonder if these people can influence my next chapter.

    I will arrange a catch up with my closest friends to find out what's going on in their lives at the moment. Are there any potential intersting situations they're currently in, and do they know the final outcome yet? Obviously, if I do use real life people as inspiration I will only use them very loosely and will make up the finer details completely by myself. I couldn't bring myself to go into major detail about any personal life. I will only use the stories as inspiration, I wouldn't use the individuals involved.

    I'll find a great book and loose myself in another writers words. What lense do they see the world through, and do I look view things from the same way? I will also look at paintings. Just because the artists work isn't in the written word doesn't mean it's not telling a story, it's just telling the story in a different form.

    Whatever I do I will always find inspiration. It's just important to remember that every now and then we all need a break to look at life from a different perspective.

    Tuesday, 2 August 2011

    Getting the Balance Right Between Blogging and Writing

    I'm making good progess with my second book. I love to write at least a couple of hundred words on it each day. When I'm really focused in on the writing, nothing else matters. It's like my brain can only hold one thought at a time, and then I blank everything else out.

    But suddenly, often when I'm mid sentence, I remember that I have to write frequent blog posts as part of my marketing strategy. Then my thought process transfers from my writing over to worrying about what I ought to blog about today. I check all the social media sites for any inspirational articles that I might be lucky enough to find, and then I start to jot down notes. For the next couple of hours all my creative writing skills go out the window as I struggle to write something half decent for my blog.

    Should it be like this? In an ideal world: no. But I think most writers struggle to get the balance right between writing and blogging.

    Most authors blog because it's a way of getting your voice out there in an instant. Blogging also improves your writing skills and it forces you to write regularly if you're fortunate enough to be self disciplined. If people have a good stream of traffic coming to their blog daily, the blogger can feel extremely satisfied knowing that what they're typing is being read by people on an international scale. And because of these reasons I think some writers let blogging take over their lives. Blogging is addictive, especially when people blog to promote their work/product. You feel you have to be out there online in order for your product to sell. But I'm always cautious when I think about this issue because if you spend all your time blogging and promoting you don't have time to do anything else, and that includes writing.

    It takes time to write well. Books aren't something you can write in the space of a couple of hours. And if you spend your time blogging, you might not be at your creative best because you're devoting a section of your time to writing something else.

    I think writing for myself is the most important thing I can do. I never blog before I write anyway because I need a 100% brain power to write properly. By doing things this way I can really focus on what I want to write, and that's writing to entertain others. When I blog, I write not only for entertainment purposes but to inform others of what works for me in my writing life. I want to share my experiences in order to help people.

    But at the end of the day, writing is the most important job for me to do. And I try my hardest not to let other things get in the way of that.

    Tuesday, 26 July 2011

    Is Genre Important?

    When I decided to write my first book about travelling around Australia, I didn't give its genre much consideration. I thought I would focus on writing and worry about the rest later.

    It wasn't until I had finished my first draft that I seriously started to think about having it published. I wanted to see my book on a shelf at a popular bookstore, so I researched everything I possibly could about getting published the traditional way. And after three months of research I decided that the only way I stood a chance of traditional publication was to follow the guideline religiously.

    I looked over my first draft a month after finishing it and decided my manuscript was in no fit state for anyone to cast their eyes over it. Feeling determined I typed up the second draft, and this time I decided the genre it fitted into best was autobiography/memoir. The book didn't have enough factual information to be classed as travel (I never intended to write a travel book anyway). I thought the memoir description was the most appropriate because the book is about my experiences on a gap year. But once I had given the manuscript a closer inspection, I saw elements of erotica and humour in there too. And I began to wonder ... was my book really a memoir, or was it nothing more than a confused mixture of genres?

    Still feeling positive I sent my manuscript away to a professional copy editor and waited nervously for their verdict. When I received the critique, their main issue was the mixed genres.

    Disappointed, I wondered what to do next. My book, so my editor said, was unlikely to get traditionally published unless I started again and wrote about one theme that would underpin and hold together the entire book.

    It was about this time I started to research indie publishing. And I discovered books on the internet that had multiple genres, and were still selling well. Through doing this research I began to re-think my editors critique. I thought about publishing my book on the internet as an indie author instead of being a traditionally published writer. I could see all the benefits of taking the indie author path, and I thought my success could be potentially greater. So then I decided to put my theory to the test. I discovered that both Smashwords and Amazon allow you to tag your book with keywords that show up when people are searching for a particular catagory. So as long as I knew the main genre of my book, I could tag other relevant key words to it.

    Three months later this strategy seems to be working. People are finding my book and buying it, even though it's a mixture of genres. And during these last three months, I've discovered many indie authors are saying the same thing about mixed genres. A lot of writers struggle to keep to one specific genre, they find it beneficial to cross genres where appropriate. They're still successful, even though they are doing something which the traditional publishing industry forbids.

    Saturday, 23 July 2011

    Guest Post

    Today I have a guest post by Kenneth Weene

    I’m a writer, which makes for some difficulty. You see those ideas - the ones that start a good story, a novel, or even a poem – don’t just flow from a magic tap. It isn’t like my drinking water: turn the valve and out it comes, safe, satisfying, and abundant. Nope, writing ideas come in fits, starts, and explosions.

    Sometimes those ideas lead on and on like the legendary snipe – those birds I was encouraged to hunt as a kid growing up in Maine.

    'Let’s go on a snipe hunt,' somebody would say; and off we’d go even though we’d never seen one. We all knew that snipe were to be found just around the next corner of the road.

    'Perhaps the grunion are running,' another jokester would offer. Down to the beach to search the shoreline, small box in hand. Grunion made particularly fine eating. Ask anybody who’s never had one.

    What do kids know? Off we would go on one of those hunts – knowing, just knowing that around the next corner, beside the next rock, the quarry lay. Press on!

    So it is that I follow that story idea. I write. A thousand words, ten thousand, even more. Then, exhausted, I sit on a wayside stump and laugh. The prey has eluded me. No matter, tomorrow will come – a new idea, a new beginning, a new hunt.

    At least now I understand what kids know: They know it doesn’t matter if there are snipe and grunions. They know that it doesn’t matter if at the end of all that typing there is a story or perhaps not. The fun is in the chase.

    Luckily I’ve had a few of those story hunts actually work out. At the end there have been real stories – even a few novels (two of which are currently available to readers and two more ready to publish). Which brings me to a wonderful part of writing. Those ideas, the ones that have actually worked: they never end up where I think they will. As I chase them through the dark woods which is my imagination, the stories twist and turn. I start out with an idea for a love story; it ends with pain. I start with the idea of people breaking out of a mental hospital and it ends with pregnancies, elephants, and sex scenes.

    In that way, the creative process that generates those ideas is in no way like the water faucet, but it is a lot more fun to use. While the water may flow tamely into my cup, there is no advantage to having that cup run over. But the fitful spurts and false starts of creativity allow my cup to truly run over.

    Wait! An idea. The Navajo masks that hang by my desk. Why are they arguing? I bet there’s a secret. Can I chase it down?

    A New Englander by upbringing and inclination, Kenneth Weene is a teacher, psychologist, and pastoral counselor by education.

    Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol Spirits, Palo Verde Pages, Vox Poetica Clutching at Straws, Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, The New Flesh Magazine, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly, Bewildering Stories and A Word With You Press.

    Ken’s novels, Widow’s Walk and Memoirs From the Asylum are published by All Things That Matter Press.
    To learn more about Ken’s writing visit:

    Tuesday, 19 July 2011

    Reality v Fantasy

    I thought I would post something a little different today instead of what I usually blog about. Because I am a recently published ebook author, I thought I would wait for a couple of months before talking about my own experience with the epublishing industry. In other words I wanted to wait until I knew where I was going before I shared any experiences.

    As well as getting on with writing my next book, I've treated these past couple of months as an ongoing experiment to see what works and what doesn't in this industry. Before I was published I had no online presense, something which I now regret and would advise all first time authors against. As some people say: marketing starts yesterday - you need to establish relationships with people before you do anything else. I cannot express just how stressful I found it at the beginning, waiting until my book was out before I started to interact with people.

    So, what have these past three months been like?
    Mostly extremely stressful and an anti climax. I had waited so long to publish my ebook, and I couldn't wait to get it out there so it would sell. I published via Smashwords and I understood it would take time to go into the premium catalogue. It would still take a while even if I managed to get all the formatting right on the first attempt.

    So there it was on Smashwords, and yet nothing else had changed. I felt not one single person in the entire world knew about it. I sold a few copies in the first couple of weeks, but I strongly suspected that it was to those who already who knew me. Disappointed with my initial lack of sales, I decided to put it on Amazon with the hope I would sell more there. I sold 0 copies on all the Amazon sites in the first month. I cannot begin to describe the fear and the panic, not to mention the overwhelming disappointment that was now flowing through my veins. I thought to myself that if I'm not managing to sell a thing on one of the world's largest online retailers, what hope is there for me elsewhere?

    By now after the first month, I had completely given up checking my sales. I just couldn't bear to put myself through that feeling of disappointment on a daily basis. So I tried to concentrate on writing my next book about travelling Canada. I decided my first two books were going to be about my overseas experiences, before I started to write fiction books. But because my first book was selling so poorly, that really shook my confidence and made me doubt about my ability to write this second book.

    But then I started to read articles about how you have to have quite a few books out before any of them start to sell really well. I decided then that my initial expectations were probably too high, and that I just had to get on with writing. After all, I still had plenty of material for my second book; I thought it would be criminal to waste it and just give up.  That's one thing about me - if I really want something I'll never give up until I get it. There was simply no other option for me: I had to carry on.

    So I've written 15,000 words on my next book. And as I have been concentrating on writing, I've suddenly realised I've been selling quite a few books in the last couple of weeks. I don't know where these sales have come from but I guess all my book needed was time for it to be discovered.
    Now my biggest sales are with Amazon but I've also had sales with Barnes & Noble and Apple too.

    And then came a one star review. I've always been aware that my book content will no doubt offend some people. But that's OK: you can't please everyone. That still didn't mean I was any less irritated by what the reviewer had said; I just wondered what made them so perfect. Let me say now I can take constructive criticism by the bucket load. I hired an editor and received plenty of constructive criticism from her. That was fine. That's her job. She would have failed if she told me everything was perfect when I already knew it wasn't. I wasn't paying her to tell me what a fantastic writer I was - I was paying her to pull every sentence apart. Which she did and now my book is better for it. I'm not saying I took all her advice, I didn't. But I did what I thought I had to do.

    That one star review was a personal attack. That's all. Nothing more, nothing less. As artists we can't escape the people who want to slate us for whatever reason. We can't escape them, especially not online.

    These past three months  have taught me so much. More than I could ever hope to learn. If you want to write then just do it. Write, and write some more. Continue to market by building up relationships with people, and learn to love your critics as well as your fans.

    In the first three months, I have passed my sales target I set for the whole of the year.

    Friday, 15 July 2011

    How to Market your Book

    Here are some of the best ways through my experience to market your book. Whether you're an indie author or a traditional author, these tips will work for everyone.

    • Establish yourself to create a brand name: Who are you and what is it you do? Are you a thriller writer like J.A. Konrath, or a chick lit author like Sibel Hodge. How do you want to be seen on social media sites and online. Choose something that is attractive to you, and will be desirable to others.

    • Let creativity inspire you. You need to make your business cards work for you. How about printing a 5 star review on the back of the card beneath your book blurb. Make sure to include all the online links to your book to give your customers the maximum choice of where to buy.

    • Leave a trail. Carry your business cards everywhere you go and leave them in every available place. Ask friends, family, colleagues to distribute them to their network as well.

    • Share your expertise, knowledge, and wisdom. This is what I try to do. I blog about marketing tips. But if you're writing your next book and don't have much time to gather information off the internet, you could blog about your own writing experience.

    • Establish relationships with as many people as possible. This is an area I blogged about on Tuesday. The more people you know and have a good relationship with, the more potential readers you will have.