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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.