So why not just write?

So why not just write?

As a new writer I have been keen to learn the ins and outs of writing. How should I format my writing? When do I redraft?  How many chapters should I have? The list goes on. Most new writers will have been here.
I joined writer’s circles and I trawled the internet looking for comment on what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.
Inbetween all this I was looking at ways of promoting myself and the book, the pitfalls and benefits of self publishing, and anything concerned with the book and ebook trade.
The one thing I wasn’t doing was writing. There is no point in doing all of this research if I am not actually writing anything to get out there to the public.
We all have to remember the purpose of a writer is to write. Anything else has to be secondary to this. Our task is to get those thoughts, ideas and fantasies onto the page for others to see.

Research

Research

I came to realise recently that some of the research  I am doing is going into areas the average person would not go.
Most of this research is carried out online.
 On my computer are articles about strangulation, neck breaking, weapons of all kinds, ambush techniques, CSI investigations etc.
This made me start to think. There is much debate about how much the internet is monitored by the authorities, and I know some places do monitor more than others. The question is, how much would those authorities believe these articles and web page visits are only in the interests of research for a novel, and not for some other nefarious activities?
Maybe there is nothing to worry about, but it certainly does give food for thought.

Writer’s block

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block. defined as when your imaginary friends stop talking to you.
I’m not sure they ever stop talking, but sometimes what they say just isn’t relevant to where you are in the story. Don’t ignore them though. Listen to every word and get it down in your notebook. If you don’t own a notebook, get one. 
Carrying your notebook ensures that when something is triggered in your mind you can record it straight away. You may never use it, though I’m sure you will find your notes will grow at a surprising rate. I was recently looking for some images on Shutterstock.com, when one of them triggered the title for a book. I have no story to go with it yet but I’m sure that in the coming months I will. I didn’t need my notebook in this case, as I can save the image to a lightbox for further use, but it does illustrate the point that you need to record every little trigger.
Am I carrying my notebook with me right now? Yes I am. I wasn’t carrying it yesterday though, and a thought I had then refuses to come back. C’est la vie.

Revolution

Revolution?

I recently received an email from Amazon asking me to get involved in the ongoing dispute with Hachette. Not because I am well known, or have any ‘clout’ in the industry, but because I am registered with Kindle Publishing.
 I am not going to go into details of the dispute here; plenty of information is available online. It does pose the question though, why are the author’s rates the same for an eBook as a printed one, and why is the price so high from the publisher?
Think of the hours that you dedicate producing your masterpiece. Think of the hours your agent, editor and publisher devote to producing that in print. We can see why the writer only gets a small part of the pie. Now consider eBooks. You, your agent and your editor will have to devote the same hours. The publisher on the other hand only has to convert it into the correct format (my writing program can do that for me), and upload it to the server.  No paper, no printing, no warehousing, no sale or return and potential sales of forever. So why does their share of the pie remain the same? OK it may not be as simple as that but you do get the idea.
The publishing industry needs to wake up. There is a new kid on the block. One that is slick and efficient; not rooted in the old ways. They need to adapt and embrace the changes as they occur and learn to share a little. They can still have a slice of the pie, a bigger pie with enough for everybody.
With direct access to publishing, writers have no need for agents or publishers (editors, we still love you and need you). We can do it ourselves. That doesn’t mean we have to, or even want to. I would rather devote the time to writing than publishing. Just give us and the readers a fair deal.

Victor Meldrew

Victor Meldrew?

After my last blog post my wife accused me of sounding like Victor Meldrew. Well I don’t believe it for one minute.
The point I was trying to make is sometimes people lose sight of what fiction writing is about. We writers are just as guilty.
How many times have you tried to sneak in a fact that you unearthed doing your research? Tempting isn’t it? Sometimes you can because it forms part of the overall experience of a place or situation. Sometimes it just shouts ‘Look what I found!’
 Our job is to entertain. We may not look like court jesters or jugglers but essentially that is what we are. Now there are writers whose job it is to provoke meaningful discussions or philosophical debates, and others to educate and inform. Don’t get me wrong, fiction writers can educate and provoke debate in their writings, but my belief is that it should be secondary to the story. Believable characters the readers are desperately hoping will overcome their difficulties, and a story line that has them turning the pages. That should be our aim. I know that’s where I am aiming. Whether I succeed or not is only for the reader to judge. In the meantime I’ll keep striving to do my best.

Good story, or good grammar?

Good story or good grammar?

Recently I put a sample of my work up to be critiqued on a writer’s circle. This particular site allows a period when the articles and the critiques can be anonymous. There is a warning that to use this, the writer must have a thick skin.
They were not wrong. The piece attracted far more critiques than when placed on the site in the normal queue. Nothing wrong with that you might think, and ordinarily I would agree. It was no surprise therefore, that the promise of anonymity brought out new breeds of critique writer.
Social media is not the only place for trolls. They live under every story arc and bridge in the fiction world too. Grammar gurus and punctuation police emerge from the dark to pounce on every misplaced colon and needless passive construction, with the obvious zeal and excitement of one who has just discovered the lost city of Atlantis. Apparently I had several spelling errors in the first paragraph. Had they bothered to check they would have discovered  these ‘errors’ were differences between the Queen’s English, and the version spoken across the Atlantic.
Now please forgive me if I am wrong, but I always understood the task of a fiction writer was to tell a story; to take the reader on a journey of discovery and escape from the realities of this world. To the trolls the story is completely irrelevant when a misplaced semi-colon comes to the fore.
 I ask you this, can you remember the last time you gave up on a book having discovered the writer had not digested a copy of the Oxford Book of English Grammar? I am not saying that as writers we should ignore the rules, but I do believe having a good story and delivery far outweighs perfect grammar and punctuation.
Would I go through this process again? Yes of course I would. The feedback that I did receive about the plot, the characters and ‘voice’ was invaluable.