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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Are You A Lazy Writer?

Last week I blogged about the traits of a great writer and this week my post is about lazy writing.

Lazy writing isn't always obvious, and can be hard to spot when you're in the throes of a manuscript, but the good news is most often it's easy to put right.

I have several favourite writers in my favourite genre of chick lit, but I have read several books by these authors which have been below par. I am left wondering why the books are mediocre when these writers are capable of so much more. Sometimes I think that maybe these writers are past their best and have now written too many books. Their newer work is often a rehash of their earlier work, and more often than not, I end up putting the book down.

So, how can you avoid lazy writing?

When I read a book repeated words and phrases leap out at me like a hologram. I once counted the same word seven times on the same page. And this book was penned by a best selling author who has made films out of their books. Word repetition is tedious and sends me straight to sleep. It smacks of lack of imagination; it's as though the writer can't be bothered thinking up different words. Writing shouldn't be like that. Writing should be fun and not a chore, and if the writer can't be bothered about thinking up new words, why should the reader be bothered to finish the book?

So when you've finished your manuscript get a red pen and make note of the words you love to repeat.

Also, I think writers need to be aware of giving their characters certain traits and then using the same trait throughout the story. Does your protagonist always snort while laughing or always scratch their head when confused? If they do, mix it up a little and make it fun for both you and your reader.

Do you always start each chapter describing the same weather conditions? Maybe your characters have the same place in certain scenes. Are they constantly stood by the kitchen window, or do they move around the room?

It's easy to get lost in the moment when you're writing. I do it all the time. But it's crucial to be aware of these things so you have a chance to fix them before you bore your readers to death.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Traits Of A Great Writer

It is said that writing is not a destination, it's a journey. A journey that takes a lifetime to perfect. Writing is a craft, an art that gets better the more practice you have.

Most people can write to a certain degree, depending on how much effort they're prepared to put in. But just one factor separates the mediocre writer from the great writer and that factor is how much they are willing to learn.

Writing is an art and I am not arguing with that. Many people say art is subjective and therefore it depends a lot on personal taste. And that is true ... to an extent.

But there are also people who use that as an excuse not to continue perfecting their craft. They have the mindset of: I think my writing is totally wonderful and therefore I am right. If other people don't like it that is their hard luck and I won't be willing to listen to their criticism.

And while a thick skin is crucial in this business, there's a major difference between being able to pick yourself up again after a blow, and arrogance beyond belief.

So, what are the traits of a great writer?

I believe that the great writer has an insatiable hunger for knowledge. They'll stop at nothing in order to better themselves. They'll listen to every piece of advice and criticism and digest the lot before considering their next move. They will read all the best writers to see what worked for them. They will read mediocre writers to avoid their mistakes. And they will pay attention to their editor and worship them like a god.

I believe you can be a great writer without a formal education in the relevant subjects. Having an English degree will not guarantee a place on the best seller list. Whether you have been to university or not, if you truly want to write for a living you must realise that the learning doesn't stop on your graduation day.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Does Location Affect Your Writing?

As writers we're always told that location matters in a scene. We can't expect to write a book without giving the reader some indication of where the story takes place.

But what about our own location? Do we need to feel content with our surroundings before we write our next masterpiece?

I'm lucky enough to live by the coast where the air is always fresh. Oxygen is vital for the creative brain so I needn't worry about getting enough of that. But I'm also conscious of the major town I live next to and its statistics prove it's one of the roughest places to live in the UK. Because of this I rarely frequent the area unless I absolutely have to; not only because of the high crime rate but because it leaves me feeling so utterly depressed. The last time I visited the town (sometime in the last two years) I joked that I wouldn't return, not even if someone paid me!

Writers all have their personal routines and favourite spots to write. And what works well for some writers may not work for others. I know when I put pen to paper my surroundings have to be quiet with as few distractions as possible. But I know other writers thrive with background noise and people around them. The perfect location for them to write might be in a coffee shop or library.

I was lucky enough to visit New York last month. I could definitely see how this vibrant city attracts writers and all sorts of other artists to live there because of its fast and upbeat pace. Out of the many places I've visited in the entire world, New York definitely buzzed the most. The energy of the area was constant; it did not falter once. And although it's a major city, my creative mind was still fresh. I felt more awake and alert than I have done in a long time.

But when I returned my energy levels sapped back down to their usual level and it was then I gave this blog subject some serious thought. Writers are like sponges: we soak up our environment more than most folk. And surely it's not so crazy to think this might affect our writing.

So what do you think? Does your location affect your writing?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Should Amazon Allow ebooks To Be Returned?

This subject usually generates a lot of discussion among the indie author community and the debate can sometimes be heated. Refunded ebooks are not something I think about as I focus on writing more material. But when I do get a book returned I often wonder the reason behind it.

For every hundred books I sell I usually get one return. When my book was at a cheaper price this figure was higher, suggesting my books were often bought on impulse. The number of negative reviews I received was also higher, again suggesting impulse purchasers with customers failing to read the sample chapter.

The last two words of the previous sentence holds the vital clue to why this debate continues to rage. Authors argue the sample chapter is crucial when deciding whether to buy a book. After all, if you were in a physical bookstore you'd be daft just to buy a book blindly without flicking through a few pages first. And although you cannot physically do that while online you can read the sample that's on offer.

So why can customers request a refund from Amazon if they do not like the book?  Smashwords does not operate this policy because they state this is the reason for the sample chapter. People can read a book in a day but Amazon will accept refunds for the following seven days, giving its readers ample opportunity to read the book and then return it.

But people argue they accidentally purchase books all the time. I think that if an honest, genuine mistake was made then a refund should be allowed, providing the return happens in the same day. But I think a week is far too long for refunds to be accepted. What kind of message does that send out?

If people were allowed to ask for a refund every time they watched a film at their local cinema which they didn't like, the film industry would be in dire straights. I can't actually remember the last time I paid to see a film that I actually enjoyed. That's why I no longer go to the cinema these days, especially as the prices are not cheap. Again, this is another argument against refunded ebooks. Most ebooks are so cheap it's almost petty to go to the trouble of receiving a refund. Sometimes free ebooks are refunded which I think is mind boggling.

But from another angle I suppose I'd rather a refund than a negative review. As far as I'm aware refunds do not affect your book's ranking like reviews do. If customers weren't allowed a refund they might be more inspired to write a scathing review instead. And refunds are more of a private issue too. Nobody views the refunded figures except the author, whereas a bad review is on show for the whole world to see.

So, what's your perspective on refunded ebooks?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Writers: 5 Reasons Why Readers Are The Most Important People In The World.

As writers we all cherish our readers. But sometimes we actually forget their importance as we place things like marketing and networking ahead of them. Of course, these two points are crucial to any successful author but other than writing books for readers to buy in the first place, our pivotal aim should be to have as many happy readers as possible.

E.L. James is one of many writers who can testify this statement. Without positive word of mouth from her readers, her books may not have seen light of day. To writers, readers are the people who make the world go around.

Here are five points to keep in mind when you're writing a book and want to please the reader.

  1. Create real and interesting characters. Your characters don't have to be good all the time and it's crucial to have a villan - everyone likes a baddie - but they do have to have an element of realness about them. Readers want someone who they can imagine meeting in the street or walking past in the supermarket. They don't neccesarily have to identify with their situation but they do have to care what is about to happen to them next.
  2. Have a story that makes sense. Your characters may be the best in the world but if your overall story is more confusing than a maze, readers are unlikely to use all their energy trying to make sense of it. I know I certainly get bored when the plotline is too difficult and vague to follow.
  3. Too little action. Every book has to have an element of action and suspense to it, even if it's chick lit or fantasy. Don't be fooled into thinking that just because you're not writing thrillers, action or adventure, you can leave this vital point out.
  4. Keep the book as focused as you can make it. Readers want to find out what's going on as quickly as they can. If you bore them with la-de-da language and too much flowery description instead of tackling your themes and plotlines, and making the characters have one disaster after another, readers are going to wonder why they picked up the book in the first place.
  5. Have your masterpiece edited by a professional. No writer can skip this crucial part. Being self published doesn't make you immune from errors. If anything you're more likely to need the guidance of an editor.
Last week I received a brilliant and outstanding review for my second book, so I must be doing something right. You can read the review here:  and see why I was over the moon.