Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Interesting Strategy

I came across an interesting twitter post last week - though I've been so busy it's taken me until now to comment on it. The poster was another indie author. She was recounting how she had just put her new novel out on Kindle (nothing unusual there) but was continuing to send it to agents (which I think IS unusual). I have always held the view that it was either/or - you either independently published or you went down the publisher/agent route. Am I wrong? I'd be interested to hear views on this.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The Renegades come through again!

A week or so ago, I blogged about the importance of writing groups. Their importance to a writer was underscored this week when I read the last chapter of my novel 'Touched' to the group. Not only did the act of reading out loud to a group flag up the odd 'silly' and also where my wording had been clumsy, but there were also some very useful suggestions about the nuances of this crucial final scene. I have spent this afternoon trying out the suggestions that were made and I'm delighted with the result. The changes are only subtle but they have made the scene smoother and the key element, the sacrifice made by my lead female character, Tess, clearer and more believable. I really could not have done this without their input - it's invaluable.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Do we write with an accent?

As frequently happens, attending a meeting of The Renegade Writers has got me thinking, this time about accents. Not so much about the way we speak - although I'm sure just about everyone thinks that their own accent is neutral and that its everyone else who speaks funny - just that the way we write betrays the place and, more importantly, time we are from just as much as the short 'a' ain the words path and bath mark me down as being from the north of England whenever I open my mouth.
The reason why a short discussion at The Renegades got me thinking about this is due to the fact that, in my reading habits, I mix contemporary novels with some classic books, some drawn from the popular end of the reading spectrum. I am currently reading Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, which I had never read before. Even before the meeting I found it to be like a visit to a grandma; slightly old-fashioned, a bit eccentric, quite amusing and casually racist! The latter really made me wince in places but it has to be expected because Verne was writing in and about his time. He could not know attitudes and beliefs would change.
This took me back to another discussion at the Renegades. I mentioned my love of John Wyndham, how brilliant his ideas were but Jan Edwards commented how she didn't like him because he was so sexist. As a youth I'd never really seen it, but going back and reading a couple of novels again I can see what she means. But again, Wyndham was of his time; it was natural for him to write from a male dominated context because that was his life experiences. I went back and thought about some of my other favourite books and could see just the same biases - Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands for example, a book I loved as a youth and widely accepted as being the first spy novel, projects the Germans as being very one dimensional scheming Huns; in 1905 that was what was expected; The 39 Steps, very similar.
I could go on but the key reason why this has got me thinking is about us as writers. What 'accent' does our writing have now, in the first part of the 21st century? What quirks and prejudices in our society will date us, make people who might read us in the future wince. Before others say, 'No, surely not, we are a balanced, educated society' remember none of us are accentless except to ourselves. Of course we are biased. That is a problem in itself but what happens when we set our stories in the past? Although we can mimic the way of talking of the past, do the research so our historical framework is accurate but should we also mimic the prejudices and sometimes unpleasant attitudes of the past in creating the characters who populate our world? Or do we put a more modern set of principles in our characters because the consumers of our words are of today and tomorrow and not of yesteryear? Tricky, and, as someone who has written two novels set in the 1950's, worrying because I do not have an answer. I just know it's a problem.javascript:void(0);

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Oh to be a full time writer of fiction...

...then I wouldn't have to juggle clients in such contrasting timezones! My main client is Australian (13 hours ahead currently) but they have an office in Dubai (+4 hours) but this week I have collected a new client in Florida (5 hours behind) who today wants me to talk with a client of theirs in California (-8 hours). I am going to have to timetable sleep into here somewhere....and where is the chance to write the next bestseller? This is never going to work...

Monday, 18 February 2013

writing projects never end...

...each printed version is just a rest in between editing! I've just been reminded of that because the big, non-fiction book that has been the bane of my life for the last three months, which has largely prevented me witing much fiction, which I signed off and sent to my editor last week is back already...grrr. But I am an avowed tinkerer and adjuster anyway, at least I've become that way in recent years. I used to hate going back over things, my attitude was I did things ONCE. Now I can always seem to see better ways of doing things, different ways of saying things. Final versions never exist. Perhaps I've gone too far, there is a happy medium somewhere when you should simply stop, where the rough edges have gone but you haven't completely polished out the detail and quality of the underlying piece. The difficulty - and fun - of writing is working out where that point is.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Link to the Renegades...

...and the group would definitely have pulled me up for not being thorough and putting a link into them in my last post! http://renegadewritersgroup.blogspot.co.uk/

The importance of writing groups

I have got into a habit of going for a long, often muddy, country walk on Saturdays, usually ending up in a nice pub where I do some editing. It's a job I've never been fond of but am getting better at doing. Today I was looking at a novel that I wrote in the winter of 2010 - spring 2011 and which I had an abortive start at a second draft at in the Autumn of 2011. I think it's quite a good story but, looking at it now, I found myself thinking 'hmmm, the Renegades would pull me up for that clumsy phrasing', and 'that's lazy description', etc., etc. Then it struck me - this 'inner voice' which is improving the detail and quality of my writing is down to going to The Renegade Writer's most weeks and reading out sections of my work and having it criticised. I've written non-fiction (published) for 12 years, fiction for about 6 but I've made more progress in the last 13 months than I have made at any other time. Writing groups can be just back slapping exercises ('oh, how very nice, dear') or ways for writer's to boost their ego's ('listen to this - aren't I just the greatest?') but when they work at their absolute best is when writer's are unafraid to read things out which they know are not perfect and the group is unafraid to offer genuine and unabridged criticism. It can be alarming, you can sometimes get a rough ride but, boy, is it effective! Writing can be a very lonely business. The actual hard slog is almost always done alone. Even joining an ineffective, non-critical group will be beneficial to most writers. Joining a group that will criticise your work will not give you the easiest of times but if you are genuinely interested in improving (and we can all do things better) then it is the single best thing you can do.

Friday, 15 February 2013

'Touched' - A new hope?

I have got closer and closer to putting 'Touched' out as a self-published novel - and getting more and more reluctant to take this step....! I understand the arguments for doing it; people have asked when I am going to put a new novel out because they liked the last one; It is a decent strategy for getting yourself noticed, more reviews etc., etc.... The problem is though I still am not sure. It is easy to publish, easier now than it has ever been. There is a lot of good stuff being put out but a lot of rubbish too. I have faith in what I write; the feedback I have had for 'Touched' has been great, yet I do feel that I am risking tainting my writing with the label 'not good enough to be published conventionally' if I go down this route. I do want to be a SUCCESSFUL writer not just a published one. I want a lot of people to read what I write, to be touched by my words (pardon the pun), and I do think that means a professional publishing contract. Anyway, I have tried again today. I do believe in fate and I've found a writer/publisher/agent whose website I could have written myself if I was creating a wish-list of the ideal qualities I was looking for. I hope I hit a chord with her, I hope she has the time to take me on. There is a lot of 'hopes' here. It may be a long shot but, well, maybe I believe in Angels!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Cover for Contrail

In the meantime, this is the cover and blurb for 'Contrail', my novel based around the de Havilland Comet - and also the book that introduces Harry Jones to the world...mind you I'm not sure if the world is ready for Harry!

Selling books one at a time...and freeconomics

It's amazing when opportunities to sell a book come along! I was in desperate need of a hair-cut so I made a beeline for a barber I know that is (a) cheap and (b) usually quiet - when you have a hair style as simple as mine there is no point paying more. I found the young lady barber was deeply engrossed in her Kindle. As one does, we got chatting. To my slight dismay I found that she only read free books. I guess that is understandable; if you get offered something for nothing you are going to take it. It is hard on an author though; sure I like to have people read what I write but I would also like to receive something for my efforts in creating something that they enjoy. Fortunately, I found that her father was also an avid reader and was willing to pay for books, so I left her the details of 'The Last Mountain'and told her that I would be putting new stuff out at the end of the month. It has got me thinking though. There is no doubt that the trend is towards free. Think of the really successful companies/ventures in recent years - Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. All are free at the point of consumption, the corporations who own them have found otherways of monetising them. This has even got its own name now - freeconomics. Perhaps that is what the publishing world and us writers need, though what exactly that should be I can't, at this moment, say what that should be or even look like. Amazon with KDP have taken a small step in that direction (VERY small in monetary terms). I would be interested to hear what people think. But in the meantime I'm glad to get another sale, even if it is one reader at a time!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

BBC 'The bottom line'

I quite regularly listen to the radio when I'm out walking and, on Thursday night, I have a brisk 40 minute walk to the pub for the quiz night I'm a regular at (I always look at this as neutral in terms of health - 80 minutes of walking + mental exercise = too many pints of real ale - but that's an aside) and I tend to listen to Radio 4's 'The Bottom Line'. I was doubly interested to hear that it was on publishing in the digital age. Now, as someone with a vested interest that I admit to, I have tried to remain objective about the industry. I have to say though, my slightly prejudiced views are that (a) it has had a cosy, old school existance for generations that are very hard to shake off, and (b) if I ran my business like they do I wouldn't stay solvent for long! (I do have a certain vision in mind about how some agents and publishers deal with submissions: have you heard the story of the airliner that disappeared in South America in the late 1940's? It reappeared 50 years later having travelled all the way down a glacier....You heard it here first, folks!)It was interesting to gauge how they were handling the shock of the new. There was an agent, a publisher and a guy from Kobo on the programme. I am not going to say what I thought, I will put the link into this post and let you decide for yourself, but, to me, whilst two of the panel sounded proactive one sounded rather complacent and gave the impression of being a rabbit in the headlights. Listen to it and judge for yourself....http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01qsbr3/The_Bottom_Line_Series_13_Episode_3/

Friday, 8 February 2013

Some people have no shame

Those people that know me also probably know that, as well as being a surveyor, I am also active on Elance. Elance is one of the homes of electronic freelancing and, I have to admit, I love the work that I get off there. Some of it is in my specialism of property economics, some academic work but some is ghostwriting work (which as my forthcoming novel, 'Touched', has a ghostly theme is quite apt!), and it's this that I want to blog about. There's nothing wrong with the type of ghostwriting I do. It's generally business related stuff, usually with a broad connection to my background. People who use me do so usually because they want to get over a message to their audience but find that either they have not got the time to devote to writing or that they struggle to get over what they say in a written format. I work to their brief and their notes - it's what they want to say, it's their work, I just interpret and present it for them. There is, however, another type of ghostwriting that I'm seeing more and more - and it really winds me up. These are the 'I've had an idea for a novel...' ones or, even worse (and I've seen it a lot), 'I have published the xxxx series of novels on Kindle and I want someone to write the next one...'. Yes really. And, if I wanted to, I could name and shame. As someone who writes fiction, I'm pretty annoyed at the people who think having the idea for the novel is the difficult bit - I have 5 or 6 good ideas a week I could use if I had the time - but they are just misguided and lazy. It's the second type I'm just disgusted by; it's like passing off horse meat as beef! To write a piece of fiction, the writer invests their time, creativity and, quite often, a bit of their soul in their work. To ask a writer to do this, pay a pittance for their time (because these people aren't shamed enough to pay decently), receive no credit for it but for the commissioner to pass it off as their own work is just so distasteful. What is the point of putting this work up? What do the people who do it gain from it? Kudos? Status? No, you are frauds, pure and simple. If I have had a few too many glasses of red the next time I see one maybe I will name and shame....