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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?