22 April 2017

#Editing 5: *How long* to do a Line Edit??

Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not.

I wrote that opener, partly in jest, back on 10 March. Such things have a habit of returning to haunt us. This was part of my original plan:

•    Structural edit
•    Content edit
•    Line edit
•    Continuity edit beyond books 1 & 2
•    Combined structural/content/line edit
•    Transfer to e-reader for eagle-eyed read-through
•    Beta readers... and the rest

I have just completed the Line Edit. Notes made during the Structural and Content edits have been addressed and decisions taken. I now know I need to shuffle the Structure - again. Three different storylines move forwards, the two contemporaries within the same time zones, except that one is slightly adrift. Correcting the time sequence will mean the main storyline is pushed out of the spotlight for too many chapters. I believe the response I’m looking for is argh!!

Plan A: write a supplementary chapter for the main storyline - 1,000+ words should do it – except this smacks of padding. If it doesn’t need to be there what else can it be called? For it not to be padding I need to invent a further complication, or even a further thread, go back along the chapters to seed it throughout the novel so that it doesn’t burst onto the page unannounced, have the main character resolve the complication further along the run of chapters – there will be no ...with one mighty bound – and allow the ripples to touch further chapters, probably unbalancing the pacing, especially as it's so close to the end.

Plan B: colour-code all chapters in and either side of the run according to viewpoint character and play jigsaw with the offenders.

No gold stars for guessing which I’m trying first.

See also:  
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update

16 April 2017

HumberSFF Readings in Hull

Yesterday was Easter Saturday. The sun was out in Kingston-upon-Hull, and much to my surprise there were more attendees than expected at the city's Central Library for the third HumberSFF readings gig. And all comers received a chocolate egg to celebrate the weekend. Organiser Shellie Horst certainly knows how to put on a show. Which is more than I can claim for my own photographs, but there we go.

Left to right: Suzanne Jackson (The Beguiler) Jo Thomas (25 Ways to Kill a Werewolf) and me (Torc of Moonlight), having a laugh about goodness knows what.

We each read from our chosen titles and answered questions, which turned out to be more involved than ususual so no second reading.  And of course we needed time for the free raffle of books donated by publishers and authors. No one leaves empty-handed from HumberSFF events!

It wasn't until we retired to the pub - oh dear... writers - that I learned quietly-spoken Jo is a dab-hand with an entire series of swords. There's nothing like finding a good contact for research purposes.

Titles bought and added to my seriously toppling reading pile. Or at least it would be toppling if both weren't digital.  

Hull is UK City of Culture this year. The Blade artwork had gone from Queen Victoria Square, to be replaced by The Weeping Poppies (part of the original Tower of London display), and a little further up the road Lego Daffodils, which looked surprisingly good. Perhaps we should ask if a Lego Star Wars display could erected later in the year?

13 April 2017

#Free & Discounted Easter Ebook Reading Bonanza

Ever since the religious celebration of Easter became a four-day break in the UK, the long weekend has been earmarked for DIY, gardening, decorating, or just getting away from it all. In the last few years it has become a time for filling an e-reader with discounted goodies to be read during the lazy hours of nibbling at chocolate eggs. To add to the temptation I have news of two group promotions, both running until 16 April.

First is the 99c/99p SFF Book Bonanza joint author promotion for Kindle (only): Click the following link to be taken to its landing page: http://sffbookbonanza.com/99c-books/

My title in the promo is Torc of Moonlight, book 1 in a trilogy of British Mythic Fantasies set close to where I live. Only the characters are fictional; the historical research is accurate; every place is real and can be visited. 

Not that Nick Blaketon appreciates this, at least at the beginning. A student at Hull University, he’s more interested in playing rugby than studying... until the inexplicable brings obsession, alarm and murder to his door in the guise of Alice Linwood. And she's no idea she's funnelling it towards him.

Click HERE for further background info on the trilogy, and for links to all formats at 99c / 99p.

Second is a free SFF Mega Book promotion via Instafreebie running at the same time: http://sffbookbonanza.com/freebooks/  A chance to try out some new authors for free by signing up to receive their newsletters.


And yes, I have one in this promotion, too: Contribution to Mankind and other stories of the Dark – see HERE for further information on this collection of short stories. Or you can hit the blue Newsletter button, top right of this page, to jump to it direct. 

What better way to get out of DIY than to sit in the sunshine and read. Can’t be bettered. Okay, it can... by sipping a glass of something interesting alongside.

Enjoy your Easter break. And your reading.

8 April 2017

#Marketing: Sowing The Seeds via #Instafreebie

A version of this post featured on the Hornsea Writers blog 01 April 2017

Pilgrim of the Pool, the final novel in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy is finished. Except it’s not. As anticipated last week, I am still working my way through the Line Edits, sorting the easy points on the hoof, listing those which need deliberation. But that's not all I'm doing. Alongside I've been keeping a weathered eye on associated topics, one of which is marketing. 

I've run a Newsletter for years. I try to make it chatty and relevant, with varying degrees of success. Despite having my Newsletter sign-up prominent on my website [eyes right >>>] and at the front and back of my digital and print books, new subscribers are few and far between. When Inboxes are brimming with content, how do you persuade readers to join your Newsletter? You offer something to whet their reading appetites.

I came across Instafreebie mentioned in a forum and after doing my own research - always do your own research - I decided to give it a go.

My page at https://instafreebie.com/free/siNsp

The premise is to offer a “freebie” – short story, novella or even a novel – as an inducement for readers to sign up It’s up to the writer to keep them from unsubscribing by sending a short series of welcoming Newsletters with carrots attached. Think: what’s in it for the reader? Once readers become used to receiving your Newsletter emails and you’ve proved you aren’t going to waste their time, they are more likely to stay with you when moved to your monthly/quarterly Newsletter routine.

Instafreebie.com is free for readers to join, or, if responding directly to a link to a particular book, they don’t have to join Instafreebie, just input their name and e-address into the linked book page: see the above image of the page for my own “freebie”. Once the choice of format is selected the ebook will be delivered via the reader’s email in very short order, complete with instructions on how to email or side-load the ebook to their e-reading device.

For authors, Instafreebie is also free to join. Once signed up I received a dashboard to which I uploaded my chosen title – it has to be in ePub format – which is used as a master for delivering the ebook in all or any formats: mobi, ePub, or pdf. Rather like uploading an ebook to a distributor, genre and keywords are chosen to make it easier for readers searching the site to find your title.

The site collects the e-addresses of all readers who download the ebook, and these can be manually copied or downloaded via a csv file, the usual method of collecting lists. Instafreebie allots a link for each title to be used by the author for publicity. For instance, mine is sitting as a pinned Tweet in my Twitter feed.

As I already have a Newsletter I decided to sign up for the $20 a month Plus Account on a 30-day trial (there is no request for payment facilities on sign-up). This enables the e-addresses of readers to be sent directly into my account at Mailchimp, my Newsletter distributor. Beware: not using a verified Newsletter distributor, and instead using your own email client, is considered spamming and your email client could close your account to protect itself from falling foul of international laws.

Instafreebie has its own author forum where authors connect via genre for cross-promotion opportunities for more visibility of offered titles. There are also similar groups on Facebook, and on Kboards.com (Kindle forum boards).

Is this only suitable for indie authors? No. Unless an author has signed a particularly draconian contract with a publisher there will be leeway to produce a standalone novella or short story which can be used. Just ensure the short standalone is in the same genre as the published novels, and if possible using the same characters or setting. The title does not have to be available on any selling site; it does need to look professional.

Is it worth it? I don’t know yet. I signed up ten days ago and have since had 82 people join my Newsletter mailing list. Another 14 have downloaded the collection of short SF/F stories without joining, and one has decided to unsubscribe. I find that first figure astounding as I've done very little to publicise the free title. During 16-20 April I take part in my first Instafreebie cross promotion. I’ll see what happens and update this post afterwards. Wish me luck.

1 April 2017

#Editing 4: Line Edit

Pilgrim of the Pool, the final novel in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy is finished. Except it’s not. And that’s no April Fool’s joke.

Having done Structural and Content edits, next up is the Line Edit. I prefer to use this label rather than the all-encompassing Copy Edit as it truly fulfils its goal. Now is the time my eyes bleed as I go through the typescript line by line. It will take longer than a week because I work slowly. Yes, it can be pressed into three days, but tiredness produces mistakes and working fast means I end up reading the story, not weighing the words which make up each sentence.

What am I looking for?
  • Syntax – narrative and dialogue shouldn’t read as interchangeable; neither should dialogue from different characters.
  • Sentence openers – we all have our foibles; mine is And, He/She.
  • Adjectives – too many or not enough? Readers want to experience the story, not take a description-by-numbers course. Two is enough, one might do. If it slows the action in a high-action sequence there shouldn’t be any.
  • Adverbs – overuse of words ending –ly is laziness. Choose the correct word. Walked forcefully equates to strode. I suggest doing a global search on a chapter to see how many are flagged. For newbies the result can be horrifying.
  • Colloquialisms – mine should not be on the page; the characters’ should. For this novel, my historical characters should not sound like my contemporary; neither should they sound stilted or laughable to modern readers.
  • Mixed Metaphors & Symbolism – mixed metaphors can turn a tense scene into a laughable scene; too many snow lay like a fat blanket and readers will do more than roll their eyes.
  • Repeated Words/Phrases in Close Proximity – repeats are useful for wracking up tension; used by accident they wreck the pacing.
  • Dialogue – should each be given plain, or is a dialogue/action tag needed to delineate who is speaking? Or is one needed to act as a pacing spacer?
  • Punctuation – is it both correct, and correct for the principal market? For instance, the American market  doesn't use semi-colons the same way the British market does. My trilogy might be going to the American market but it is a story set in the UK featuring British characters. The American market can lump it.
  • Spellings – the same applies. My Native American historical uses US spelling: favorite, color, etc, and I can get away with it because of its setting. If I was writing in a contemporary US setting the grammar would need to be changed, too.
  • Word Use – the same applies. I use that in dialogue and feel it’s okay, but I use it far too often for comfort in the narrative. An American reader would balk at any. Is there a rash of had had?
  • Spell/Grammar Checker – most authors have at least their computer’s spellchecker in operation, but these can’t be trusted for fiction where syntax and word contractions are manipulated for tone and atmosphere.
  • Length of Sentence/Paragraph – this will depend on the action/passivity/dialogue of the section. I ensure that each sentence doesn’t contain too many images or actions, or readers will feel as if they are juggling. I want them to juggle the motivations of the characters, not words in a sentence. E-readers usually take 150-180 words to a screen-page under normal usage. It doesn’t want to be a wall of solid text. I tend to split paragraphs more for an ebook than I do for a paperback.
  • Anything else – again my catch-all. At this stage it will be mostly items I’ve previously missed or have queried.
  • Automated Checker – yes I use one. Pro-Writing Aid is my choice; there are others. Notice that I use it last. It is my final flagger. Mostly it pulls up items I’ve made a conscious decision to use as aiding the tone or atmosphere of the novel’s delivery, but it will also flag items I’ve overlooked, which in turn concentrates my mind not to miss it next time. I play the same game with it as I did with the editors of my earlier magazine/novel length works: to produce fiction where nothing needs to be changed. It won’t happen, but it is a good goal to aim for.
Next week... I’m still on with the Line Edit so I’m not sure yet, but I’ll be back!

See also:
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update

25 March 2017

#Editing 3: Content Edit

Release date coming soon
Pilgrims of the Pool, Book 3 in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, is finished. Except it’s not. 

Last week was spent on a Structural Edit. Some chapters were re-positioned, others were queried and marked for a future decision, but overall I’m happy with the balance. My notes – just over a page of A4 – were reviewed, line-editing changes I’d marked along the way were keyed-in, and a clean copy of the typescript printed. Beyond this stage, working with a typescript festooned with different coloured annotations soon becomes a recipe for disaster.

This week I’ve been concentrating on the Content Edit. What am I looking for?
  • Facts – yes I’m writing a novel, but facts are the bedrock of any fiction, no matter the genre, and these facts need to be correct. I am working with contemporary conservation, wind turbine and oil-shale hydraulic fracturing; a lab environment using a mass spectrometer and a chromatograph; true places; and a historical thread set around 1150. Can the Benedictine monks of Durham’s priory actually walk in the Chapel of the Nine Altars or was it still under construction? What was the church actually called at the time? What did they eat, when and where? How did they travel? And on it goes... Obviously much of this was either researched prior to the start of the novel, or on the hoof as it was written, but the context still needs to be weighed.
  • Seed, Mature & Harvest – information and artefacts the characters use within the conveying of the story need to be in place (seeding), and mentioned (maturing), before they can be used to the effect necessary (harvesting). If one character is going to slug another with a baseball bat, that bat had better be talked about or dusted long before it’s needed. The same goes for information imparted. Most pertinent detail is slipped on the page as a throwaway line so readers don’t gleefully jump all over it believing they can read the writer’s mind. Once, they’ll forgive; three times and they’ll seek another novel to read. Also, it is very rare that an item is seeded, matured and harvested within the same chapter or couple of chapters, for exactly the same reason. Each needs to be woven into the fabric of the novel so they over-arc one another.
  • Hooks & Bombshells – just as the opening of a novel needs a hook so as to engage the reader, throughout a novel hooks are used to pique interest, and conversely bombshells are end-of- sections or chapters written so the reader desires to know what happens next. These can be as overt as portrayed in a TV soap opera, but not all the time or they become laughably wearying. In a novel the use of a series of subliminal bombshells, each ratcheting up the tension by degrees, often works better. It depends on the genre.
  • Conflict – a chapter should not tread water. It matters little whether the conflict is external or internal, pin-prick small or devastatingly large, it needs to be there.
  • Pacing graph – no novel of any length can ignite on opening and keep soaring like a rocket; readers would be emotionally exhausted before they were halfway through. There has to be slower, perhaps more introspective, segments where both the character and the reader take stock. A check of the graph, be it mentally or physically plotted on a wall chart, ensures that variations are sown throughout the length of the novel, with the final quarter increasing in pace to the climax.
  • Character – consistency. This is something I broadly looked at during the Structural Edit. Now is the time to look at it in detail. One set of subsidiary characters were subsidiaries in Book 1 so I need to ensure they speak with the same syntax and haven’t developed an odd accent or extra children or talk about a dog that was never mentioned in Book 1. Also, the main character was alcohol-free in Book 2, yet in this typescript there is mention of “a pint” in a pub situation. So is he or isn’t he on the wagon? He also wears a ring that is pertinent to the story, yet it’s not mentioned between pp54-120. That’s a hellova gap. Likewise, the Benedictine monk starts with “prayer beads” which become “rosary beads” which are forgotten halfway through the book. Somehow I don’t think a medieval monk would forget their use.
  • Time/Continuity – the three story-threads move forwards, but not at the same pace. Now is the stage to ensure the days of the week/s are in sequence, particularly as certain chapters have been repositioned.
  • Anything else – this catch-all was used during the Structural Edit, and in truth it acts as a coarse filter for whatever edit follows. Picking up phrases or overlong sentence structure at this stage helps to clear the decks.
See you next week for my take on a Line Edit.

If you're busy (and who isn't?) but would like to read the series as it unfolds, add your e-address to the 'Follow My Posts By Email' box in the righthand column and Blogger will send you notification as soon as the posts go live.

See also:
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update

18 March 2017

#Editing 2: Structural Edit

When I was still messing with the novel's Structure
 Pilgrims of the Pool is finished. Except it's not.

I’ve been busy this week staring at the door in my office. As you can see from the image, this is where I Blu-tack a précis of each finished chapter, colour-coded to show its point of view, and more or less split into the quarters of the novel which make up the elements of the principal’s Character Arc. And the reason for this? I had an extra chapter that needed fitting in. Why? Because I messed up. Sometimes authors just do. The trick is to realise it and correct the problem.

Each of the novels in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy have three story threads: the main which arcs across all the novels, a subsidiary contemporary, and a subsidiary historical. Because I’d messed up early in the writing (chapter 7 of a 41 chapter novel – doh!) the story threads were out of kilter. Does this matter? It does to mine as each chapter echoes and/or reflects elements of the story threads around it.

This highlights exactly what a Structural Edit is all about – the overview, the big picture – hence it is far easier to see set out on a door than it is on-screen or even in a paper document.

What am I looking for?
  • Balance – are the separate threads in groups or spread deftly through the whole, feeding from one another? Is the main story thread actually the main story thread or has a subsidiary usurped it? My main thread has 20 chapters; my subsidiaries 15 each, therefore this is a close-run thing so will be monitored during further edits. Another novel might have a single forward storyline but use flashbacks; the same need to balance applies.
  • Continuity – something can’t occur on a Thursday if it isn’t set up until Friday of the same week. Elements of a story are seeded, allowed to grow, and harvested in that order, even if there’s a big time/chapter gap between.
  • Pacing – do the story threads reach their individual climaxes and the novel’s – and the trilogy’s – in the correct order, within a tight time-frame so as to elicit the planned reader reaction?

After re-arranging the chapter order to fit in the orphan, I then spent three days with the paper copy of the typescript, a coloured pen, and a pad. At this stage some authors like to push their typescript onto an e-reader so they simply read, make separate notes, and don’t fiddle.

But I like to fiddle. It’s part of my on-going line edit that starts as soon as I commit the first sentence to a Word document. There is no correct method; it’s whatever works for the author. My colour of choice this time round was green, simply because the typescript already holds blue, red, black and pencil. Sometimes the page can be that messy; sometimes I’m on the third printed version of a chapter, marked such in a corner.

So what am I looking for? The above, plus:
  • Theme – consistency. I want only one, not half a dozen. Sometimes novels are winged and the theme develops during the writing, sometimes the theme only becomes apparent at this stage, sometimes the theme only becomes apparent when a beta reader points it out. For this novel the theme was in place before I started writing. It is, however, the theme of the novel, not the theme of one character’s story thread, hence an eagle-eye for consistency.
  • Motifs – are they mentioned and then forgotten? Are there too many mentions? Are there too many motifs?
  • Characterisation – consistency and continuity. All main characters should change through the course of the novel because of their experiences, so if there’s a change there’d better have been a corresponding experience, or more likely a series of experiences, to prompt it. I don’t fiddle in-depth at this stage, but annotate the page and make notebook observations to study later.
  • Sense - Does the novel make sense? Are questions asked at the start answered by the end? Overall, is it too complicated or too shallow? The trilogy is deeply layered so this novel shouldn’t be at all shallow, but I can’t make it too complicated either. People are reading for entertainment. It’s a matter of balance, and adhering to the genre/sub-genre expectations.
  • Anything else – if it catches my eye, no matter what or why, the page is annotated and detailed observations are written in the notebook. Specifics are important here. Check character means absolutely nothing several days down the line. It also acts as a preliminary pass towards a Content Edit.
See you next week for my take on a Content Edit.

If you're busy (and who isn't?) but would like to read the series as it unfolds, add your e-address to the 'Follow My Posts By Email' box in the righthand column and Blogger will send you notification as soon as the posts go live.

See also:
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit Update

10 March 2017

‘Pilgrims of the Pool’ Is Finished. Now what? #Editing

Final in the 'Torc of Moonlight' trilogy
Let’s be correct here: Pilgrims of the Pool is not finished; the first draft is finished. But let’s celebrate a bit on that score. After much angst it finally has The End pinned to its typescript. It – and me – now moves into the Editing phase. But what does this actually mean?

I don’t write what is often termed a ‘fast and dirty draft’ so the novel is edited, sometimes ferociously, alongside the writing of it. This says a lot about why I’m not a fast writer. It also means that my editing regime wouldn’t work for everyone, but for me, this is the schedule:
  • Structural edit
  • Content edit
  • Line edit
  • Continuity edit beyond books 1 & 2
  • Combined structural/content/line edit
  • Transfer to e-reader for eagle-eyed read-through
  • Beta readers
  • Draft the metadata (all the descriptions needed for publishing)
  • Edit (or hopefully just tweak) after studying comments from beta readers
  • Collapse (a rest period where I ensure the marketing is ready for the launch)
  • Format for ebook
  • Transfer to e-reader for final eagle-eyed read-through
  • Finalise metadata

Over the coming weeks I’ll be writing posts on what each entails. If you’re interested in receiving these as they are written, key your e-address into the 'Follow My Posts By Email' box in the column on the right. Otherwise, I'll be back next weekend with the whys & wherefores of a Structural Edit.

See also:
Editing-1: What does editing actually mean?
Editing-2: The Structural Edit
Editing-3: The Content Edit
Editing-4: The Line Edit
Editing-5: Line Edit update

5 March 2017

Read An #Ebook Week Discounts

05-11th March is Read An Ebook Week.

One of my distributors, Smashwords, is again participating, offering a promotional catalogue of fiction and non-fiction at discounted prices in multiple formats: mobi for Kindle and ePub for Kobo, Nook, etc.

I have two novels on offer, both discounted by 50% from $2.99 down to $1.50:

 Hostage of the Heart is a sweet medieval romance set on the English-Welsh borders in 1066. 

Rhodri ap Hywel sweeps down the valley to reclaim stolen lands, taking the Saxon Lady Dena as his battle hostage. But who is more barbaric: a man who protects his people by the strength of his sword-arm, or Dena’s kin who swear fealty to a canon of lies and refuse to pay her ransom?
 ...a historical that really grips the reader. I always wanted know what what going to happen next...

Dead Men’s Fingers is a Western by my alter ego ‘Tyler Brentmore’ – ya didn’t know I’d written a Western, did ya?

Jed Longman signs to a company of wagons to take his three sons to a better life out West, but trouble keeps snapping at his heels. First there’s the persistent Mrs Harris with her school ma’am attitude so contrary to her fancy coach-guns, then the threat of fever, then the ruthless killer Baddell determined to haunt him and his into an unmarked grave.

...You taste the dust, feel the burning sun, drown in the swollen river, cower beneath the starless sky...

The discounts apply only to these two ebooks on Smashwords (not on Nook, Amazon or iTunes). Clicking the link will open the full promotional catalogue, which will automatically close on 11th March.

Enjoy your Reading!

26 February 2017

Feeding the Creative Well

Some writers can hit a thousand words a day, some a thousand words an hour. Some hit their target before breakfast. Alas, I am and always have been in the first camp. If I can hit a thousand words in a six hour stretch I’ve had a good day.

The problem with this speed of writing is that it leaves very little time to recoup mental resources. Bounding off to the supermarket with a hastily scribbled list, or pulling wet laundry from the machine to dump into the dryer, just doesn’t resharpen the synapses.

So yesterday I had a day in Hull, hitting, as the saying goes, two birds with one stone and seriously feeding my creative well.

Me & a pigeon dwarfed by 'Blade'
2017 is Hull’s City of Culture year. Much of the city's centre has been revamped and in some quarters it continues. However, Ferens Art Gallery has reopened, and just outside it stands, or leans, Blade, a 250ft artwork – or a single wind turbine blade – depending on your view of what constitutes “art”. The structure is certainly impressive up close, and unbelievably tactile. Double decker buses pass effortlessly beneath its tip.

Good ol’ British rain beat us into the Ferens earlier than anticipated. Apart from the city’s own artworks, which include a Sickert and a Canaletto, as part of the celebrations there is currently a series from Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes,  and a dimmed gallery showing 13th/14thc. religious masterpieces from Lorenzetti and others, including a large and rather fabulous alabaster carving made in northern England in the late 1200s. The juxtaposition of the one with the other certainly lit my own creative juices. Who were the people who..? How did they..? Why was..? What if..?

From there it was a fast lunch and off to the city’s Central Library, the venue for HumberSFF’s first of three Spring Reading and Q&A events in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror genres. The three authors – BAFTA nominee Jim Hawkins, British Fantasy Award nominee Steven Poore, and ‘Not The Booker Prize’ long-listed Lee Harrison – provided an entertaining and thought-provoking afternoon. Tea & coffee flowed and most people walked out with a couple of donated books from the raffle as well as those purchased from the participating authors.

And everyone left with a smile and a spring in their step, most noticeably me who felt my creative well duly replenished. I can see that this sort of jaunt needs to be a monthly occurrence. Noted on the calendar.

Do you do something specific to replenish your creative well, or do you just slog through?

18 February 2017

Writing: Back to Basics - Outlining

Novel 25% lists: 11, 12, 13...14 chapters?
It’s near enough a month since I wrote my first Back to Basics post acknowledging that the Structure of my work-in-progress had become a horrific tangle. Since then I’ve identified the principle knot – my Hero had stopped acting Heroic – I’ve injected the required drive, and tweaked all the following chapters back into flowing order.

This leaves the novel at the 75% mark with, for me, around 25k words to The End. The climax, the denouement and the aftermath are already written in note form, and have been for months. My need now is to bridge the gap.

Considering this problem was caused by my steering the novel by the reach of its headlights, I decided to ape the ending and write a bridging chapter-by-chapter outline.

Hmm. Old habits die hard. Just as I undertake structure via gut-feeling, so my outlining capacity is similarly led. I work too close in, seeing the gravel of the tarmac road in all its shades and texture, rather than take an aerial view where the road is no more than a faint grey line traversing a landscape spread with blocks of muted colour.

Time for a rethink. I researched outlining on the Net, and even read a few. Invariably they are sparse enough to be meaningless to all but the author. 24: J&C attack bank; 25: J&C escape cops. To my thinking half a novel could be hidden between those two. Where’s the tone? The emotional baggage? The subsidiary characters?

My novel has the weight of 75% pushing from behind. This should not be difficult. It’s just a matter of giving the momentum its head, perhaps taking a different route. So that's what I did. Instead of working with fingers and keyboard I left the office with pad and pen and ended up with the same sort of precis that I usually write after a chapter is completed.

Has it worked? Sort of. I reckon 14 chapters will see it through, but averaging 2k a shot at this point in the novel that equates to 28k words. A bit of an overrun. Any bets my next Back to Basics will be Editing? Maybe that won’t be a bad thing.

11 February 2017

Free Images and Manipulation Software

free images and manipulation software
It goes with the territory these days that writers of words need images, if not to enhance the text directly, then to draw a casually browsing reader to do more than casually browse.

I’m using an image with this post so that the reader will understand intuitively which subject the post will cover. In effect, it bolsters the post title. And when I Tweet or Facebook this post, that is all casually browsing readers of those media will see. If the pairing doesn’t engage a need, the associated link won’t be clicked.

This is even more important for book covers – the cover image has to convey the genre category and tone of the novel, leaving the title text to tease at the storyline content.

Most images online are copyrighted to their owners/creators, which means that even if they are referred to as royalty-free a charge is made for their use, just not each time they are used. See agency portals such as Shutterstock, Getty Images, etc.

Some owners assign their copyright to Creative Commons Licensing (CC0), offering those images free for personal and/or commercial usage. See agency portals such as Pixabay, MorgueFile, Wikimedia Commons. Some agency portals offer a small size free but larger sizes for a fee - see FreeDigitalPhotos. It always pays to read the accompanying information. However, don’t ignore museums. The New York Metropolitan recently announced that images of 375,000 items in its care, from paintings to suits of armour, are now offered “open access” for non-commercial and commercial use.

You have an image. Now what? If you are intending to do more than simply crop it to a required size, you’ll need image manipulation software. The most well known is Adobe’s ‘Photoshop’, in all its many guises. But it isn’t cheap and would you use most of its features? How about something like Serif’s Affinity coming in at just under £50?

No? Back to the free. If you want something more sophisticated than that bundled with your PC/Mac, how about the open source GIMP? Also, don’t ignore Adobe’s older versions or “lite” versions of Photoshop, some of which are free. Techradar lists and evaluates other possibilities, including Photoscape and Paint.NET.

If you don’t know how to crop an image or add a coloured framing edge, hit YouTube. A bit of research goes a long way. There’s no such thing as can’t do.

Which image sources do you use? List them in the Comments to help other readers.

Image: courtesy of the writer and Pixabay.com

4 February 2017

Writing: Back to Basics - Is Your Hero or Heroine Heroic?

The term Hero or Heroine is hardly used these days. It smacks too much of melodrama where the good are very, very good and the bad and just damned rotten. Main Character has been the term for as long as I’ve been writing, because readers expect characters in shades of grey [not those Shades of Grey].

Main characters have foibles and fears, wants and needs. They lie to themselves; they are in denial. They are, in a phrase, just like you and me. And herein lies the problem.

Ordinary people go with the flow. Few are so driven or ambitious as to start with a penny in their pocket and after 40 years of hard graft stand as CEO of a global empire. Ordinary people work for people like that; they don’t set out to become one.

Yet in fiction, they do; they must.

In my work-in-progress I have found myself in a structural taffle – read about it HERE – and I’ve been following back the threads to undo the knots. It seems that my main character, that ‘ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances’, has been so fascinated by the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that instead of being proactive he’s been marking time. Slap across the wrist for both of us.

Rather than thinking of him as the Main Character from next door, perhaps I should think of him as the Hero, or at least the Hero Who Fails. That way, at least, he’ll be trying.

How proactive is your main character? Proactive enough? Or is there too much going with the flow?

Image by JanBaby via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

29 January 2017

Author Interview: My Heritage Books

Today I’m in conversation with Rhoda Baxter on her website HERE. We’re talking Heritage Books: which book gifted to me in my early years made such an impression it stayed with me for life, and which I’d like to pass on and why.

Guess which I chose... the clue isn't necessarily in this image.

Discussing which books make an impression in our early years is an interesting concept for an interview, and when a website offers interview spots something out of the norm is needed to draw in readers. It is part of a writer’s marketing strategy and comes under the umbrella of author cross-promotion. It’s the reason Hornsea Writers set up a group website.

Do you read author interviews? What sort of questions do you prefer to see answered? Have you, in fact, a Heritage Book?

If you’re interested, I’ve also been interviewed at Library of Erana and quizzed on a very different set of questions.

21 January 2017

Writing: Back to Basics – Structure

A right taffle
There’s nothing like getting into a taffle while writing a novel. It’s easy to misstep, I’ll grant, even to take a wrong turn, but a true taffle is something I never thought I’d encounter, because in all the short stories and novels I've published it’s not previously occurred. 

I knew something was amiss, but as with that other type of yarn, pictured, I just kept pulling to free the length until it became impossible to pull any longer. That’s when I went back to release the knot, to be faced with a true WTF taffle.

Of course, other writers reading this blog will be rolling their eyes and muttering less pantsing and more planning. And I agree, which is why these past days I’ve been going back to basics: how best to structure a novel?

I know of novelists who brood over a story for months, then hide away hitting 12-14 hour days as they write the entire novel in note form. They sort out the outstanding niggles, then do the research, then calmly start writing the novel with only the barest nod to their previously written skeleton.

I know of novelists who write the plot and the dialogue in omniscient-cum-authorial viewpoint, leave it to fester, then go back in to choose dedicated viewpoints, add in description and tone, and the 101 other technical details that make up a fully-functioning novel, before going through it again with an eye to bolstering an identified theme.

And there’ll be a score or more other systems all serving their authors well. How it is worked matters little. It’s how it works for the individual author – in this case me – that matters. And my chosen method of knowing my destination and driving within the length of my headlights has, on this occasion, failed me.

At its most basic, a story is fuelled by conflict, and the momentum of that conflict can be separated into a structure of five major elements:
  • inciting incident
  • complication
  • crisis
  • climax
  • resolution
This basic structure alone may serve a short story, but for a novel-length project the structure will need interlacing by clones of itself, several clones, with individual elements not necessarily in that order. Each sub-plot will be carried on multiple clones of this basic structure, echoing or reflecting facets of the lead character’s or characters’ joys and woes, all deftly meshing into the main structure as well as into each other.

And this is my taffle. So I am following the cable of my multi-strand novel back to each of its structural elements to discover which has, or have, a mismatched clone that’s not reflecting in the direction it should. Wish me luck.

Next time I may opt for more planning and less pantsing. Once bitten, and all that.

[image courtesy of Vickisdesigns, Pixabay.com]

14 January 2017

Discounted Historicals - Final Weekend

There's nothing like stocking up your e-reader with titles from authors new-to-you, and discounted promotions are a simple way to widen your reading horizon in the genre or genres you prefer. Last weekend it was Science Fiction & Fantasy - see HERE.

This weekend the chosen genre is Historical Fiction, the promotion being run by Ryn Shell, and my offered novel is Beneath The Shining Mountains

The book has an interesting history. It's an indie-published re-issue of a novel that was never meant to be written. You know how it goes, the given wisdom is "write at least three books in a given world". 

My writing world at the time was Medieval Historical. I'd won a minor national award for my sweet romance Hostage of the Heart, the sales had been very reasonable, and my publishers invited me down to London to discuss my follow-up over lunch. Oh, the heady days of being taken out to lunch by a London publisher!

I travelled prepared, with a synopsis and what I thought was a good line in chat to enthuse the editor. We ate lunch, wine flowed, the small-talk moved to business, I proposed my coming project. 'We've enough Medieval,' she said. 'Write me a Regency.' 

I couldn't have been more taken aback if I'd been slapped across the face with a wet haddock. How did writing Medieval equate to writing Regency? Had the editor no concept of the amount of research I'd undertaken, would have to undertake to move into a new time period? Besides, I'd been force-fed "Mr Darcy" et al when a teenager at school. I didn't like the period, or the strata of society it focused on.

'So what can you write?' she asked, and the look I was given left me in no doubt that my writing career hung in the balance. And what period could I write that wasn't Medieval? '19th century Native North American,' I said. 'I belong to a living history group. We make costume and holiday in a tipi and I've over 200 research--'

It was the sneer and the dismissive wave of the hand that did it, that and too much wine. I can recall leaning across the table and the editor backing off as my voice shot across the space between us stating rather forcefully If I can't make a six foot, sun-tanned man with raven-black hair sexy...

The upshot was that I could write it and they'd see. I did write it. The publisher took it, and it sold over 30,000 copies. When my rights to it reverted I ditched the crass title it had been hobbled with and reverted to my original. It might not have sold another 30,000 copies, yet, but it is still my best-seller. Enjoy.

7 January 2017

Discounted eBooks Extravaganza!

Readers of this blog will realise that I'm dipping my toes into the world of author cross-promotions. I won't say that it is highly lucrative, at least for me, but it is an exceptionally worthwhile learning curve where marketing my books is concerned. This month I am engaged in two: 7-8th and 14-15th.

The first, with 100+ SciFi & Fantasy titles, kicks off today at http://pattyjansen.com/promo

My offered ebook is The Bull At The Gate being offered for 99p / 99c on all major e-retailers. Click the above link, choose your preferred e-retailer, and a host of ebook covers opens itching to be checked out.

It will seem strange that the second in a trilogy is offered at 99p/c when the first is full price - well it did to me - so I'm discounting Torc of Moonlight by a third from its normal price to £1.99 / $2.99 or equivalent. Direct links are below:

Amazon  ¦  iBooks  ¦  Kobo  ¦  Nook  ¦  Smashwords

More to the point, these discounted prices will be held until Sunday 15th.
Out of the blue I was offered a place on a Historical cross-promotion that runs 14-15th January, and I decided to enter Beneath The Shining Mountains into the Histfiction.com 99p / 99c promotion alongside other authors' titles

However, how many emails and notifications do I want to send? It seemed far simpler to put these three novels on promotion at the same time. So here are the direct links for Beneath The Shining Mountains:

Amazon  ¦  iBooks  ¦  Kobo  ¦  Nook  ¦  Smashwords

Enjoy! Me? I think I need to lie down in a darkened room. Or perhaps just get on with the final in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy. Now there's a novel idea...