Tag Archives: Writing

Click Bait

There are a lot of good on-line articles on writing and publishing, but there are some not-so-good ones also. Nothing is more annoying than coming across a tweet with a link to say The Three Key Things You Must Know Before You Publish only to find when you click on the article tells you absolutely nothing of any use. Or, like Fifty-Five Short Story Competitions for Jack Russell Owners, the article turns out to be just a list of links, half of which don’t work, with a disclaimer at the bottom that the author isn’t entirely sure that these are short story competitions or that the organizers like dogs.

With that in mind I’ve written my own bait click article.

Ten Critical Things You Must Do To Write A Book:

(1) Breathe. Dead people cannot write a book.

(2) Open your eyes. Otherwise, you cannot see what you are writing.

(3) Have an original idea. It can be fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction is generally truer than fiction.

(4) Have something on which to record your story. Examples include word processors, blank pages, vellum, papyrus, and clay tablets.

(5) Use the appropriate tool to record your story. For example, pens and quills work well for blank pages, but not for tablets and computer screens.

(6) Write in a language you understand.

(7) Make sure you understand the concepts of ‘book’ and ‘novel’. Check them out on Wikipedia.

(8) Read lots of books about writing and publishing. You can find these books in book shops and on-line stores. They will cost money, but they are worth it if you want to build a successful career.

(9) Get a dictionary. If you don’t know what this is, look it up.

(10) Read my book as a good example of how the finished product should look. It’s cheap and it’s on sale at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Itunes, etc. There’s even a paperback.

DISCLAIMER: The author of this article does not maintain that this is an exhaustive list of steps, or that all steps listed are required in every case to write a book. The order of the steps is not prescriptive. The reader should do his/her own research.

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Two Steps From Hell

When I am in the mood for music while I am writing, I often turn to classical music or movie soundtracks. However, Two Steps To Hell dominates my favorite playlist. They are an American music production company. Their music is used on many film, trailer, video game and television soundtracks. You also will hear their music on advertisements. It is very dramatic, powerful music, ideal for writing battle scenes. My favorite albums are Invincible, Archangel and SkyWorld. If you want to learn more about them, check out their website.

The Worst Advice On Prologues

Prologues:

Some people love them. Some people hate prologues. Some skip them. Agents don’t like them, apparently.

Personally, I don’t like prologues that have only tangential relevance to the story, and I don’t like infodumps. Some people love a good six page history lesson. Some people might love tangential prologues too, though I have never come across anyone who publicly stated it.

If a prologue is interesting and relevant, I have absolutely no problem with it. I have even written one or two.

This post is not really about the virtue of prologues. It is about the lack of virtue of a certain piece of advice related to them. It runs something like this:

A writer walks into a bar and says to the barman, “I want to keep my book’s prologue but, if I do, my book will never get an agent. Prologues have gone out of fashion like the letter thorn.”

The barman scratches his head and answers, “I just serve drinks, but it seems to me, the best thing you can do is scrap the prologue.”

The writer jumps up and down. “BUT I CAN’T!! IT’S MY BEST WRITING EVER!! I LOVE IT MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF!!”

The barman waits for the writer to calm, pours him a stiff drink, and says, “Okay. This is what you do. Make the prologue the first chapter. Agents will read it and never realize you slipped them a prologue.”

If this reads like a joke, it is because it is. Don’t be the butt of it.

Turning your prologue into Chapter 1 is a terrible idea.

(1) Readers will assume Chapter 1 is the start of the story and the characters it introduces are important to the plot. When that turns out not to be the case, they will be confused/betrayed/annoyed.

(2) Agents will work out that Chapter 1 is a disguised prologue when they start Chapter 2. Will they be impressed? No. Their reaction is likely to mirror that of the readers.

If a prologue can successfully pass as the first chapter, then it was never a prologue in the first place.

Trust

I have read a lot of different books by a lot of different authors, some renowned, some unknown, and I have come to the conclusion that the SF writer needs the reader’s trust. In these days of relatively cheap fiction, losing the reader’s trust is the end of the relationship. The reader isn’t likely to look at that author’s work again.

When the trust is there, readers are likely to cut the writer some slack. That unexciting training lecture in the second chapter will be glossed over in the hope of something more interesting to come (soon). The reader will patiently wait for an explanation why the aliens were doing handstands while they planned their invasion of Earth. The reader will accept the nonsensical on the assumption that it will all make sense at some stage.

Of course, if your work is well known, if there are a lot of voices enthusing about it, the reader’s trust comes a little easier. But suppose, you aren’t. Suppose you’re self-published like me. Trust can be a fragile thing. Your main focus must be on securing it.

I know that very deliberately, it is mine.

Ten Reasons Why The Golden Rule Is Going To Be A Duology

(1) The story is too long for one book and too short for three.

(2) Because it is two volumes, it can’t suffer from middle book syndrome.

(3) I like succinctness.

(4) If it was one volume, the paper copy would have such a wide spine, it might be mistaken for an accordion.

(5) Empty shelf space in my house is limited.

(6) At the moment, each volume has a beginning, a middle and an end. If there were three volumes, the first volume would have a beginning and a middle, the second volume would have an end followed by a beginning (really problematic), and the last volume would have a middle and an end, but no beginning.

(7) Almost everyone writes big, fat fantasy books in three volumes. I like to be different by err…writing them in two volumes.

(8) In a multi-volume series, some concepts might have to be explained in each volume. I hate repeating myself more than once.

(9) I could only think of good titles for the series and two books.

(10) Anyone who reads the books will understand that two is the ideal number concerning any story involving Ors.

 

Why the worst book I ever read inspired me to write.

If I gave you its name, you wouldn’t know it.

I discovered it in the only English bookshop in Nice. Buying it was an absolute act of desperation. I read mostly SF and fantasy, and this was the only book in the shop I hadn’t read before. That’s not due to my encyclopedic reading but the sparsity of choice.

I have a problem with books. It is a stupid kink in my character. If I start a book, I must finish it, no matter how brain-rottingly bad it is.

It was a typical fantasy – the size of a brick and nearly as heavy.

The world made no sense. The characters’ actions made no sense. I remember the hero’s spirit was transferred to the body of a dead girl to hide him from pursuing villains. I remember thinking that was a bit of an extreme reaction.

There was an underlying seediness to what happened to some of the minor female characters that turned my stomach.

To this day, the phrase “beautiful cornflower blue eyes” affects me like rubbing bits of polystyrene together. It was repeated so many times, it had a mesmeric quality, draining my will to live.

The only good thing I learned from it was the use of cliffhangers at the end of each chapter to draw the reader on. The problem was that the cliffhangers did not move the plot forward.  They worked like this:

Chapter 10

…Something pushed her face down in the water.

Chapter 11

She stood up in the pool. The water was just up to her ankles. “Why did you push me?”

I actually gave the book to friends for Christmas as a joke (having already made my feelings about it loud and clear). The joke kind of backfired as they reciprocated with another book by the same author. I still have it. Unread.

Anyway, at the time, I had kind of given up on writing. I had been writing the first page of the same novel since I was fourteen (that’s a story for another post).  But this book inspired me to start tapping on the keyboard.

I wanted to write something different. Something better. Something that didn’t make me cringe.

 

The Ten Steps To Being A Really Slow Writer

Often writers post about how to write faster. However, someone who knows I am a slow writer asked for advice on how to emulate my speed. “Why are you such a slow writer?” he said.

Most writers cite distraction as the primary cause of slowness. Antisocial media together with the daily grind of work and household chores can all swallow up your writing time. But that is too easy. Anyone can do that. You never even have to sit in front of your word processor to never sit in front of your word processor.

The true master can be slow without any distraction whatsoever.

The answer isn’t found in the technology of writing either. Unless you use a quill…and you prepare quills one at a time…plucking each feather from a live fowl after chasing it to exhaustion. Technology is all about speed. It wants to record your thoughts before you ever have them. A bad workman blames his tools. A slow workman cannot depend on his tools for his slowness.

A writer must find his slowness in his own soul.

These are my steps for slow writing.

1) Stare at the blank screen till your mind is empty, and you have become one with the blankness.

2) Try to think of the best sentence ever written. Feel the impossible burden of such a lofty goal.

3) Write sentence. Obsess over every word. Check spelling of every word. Check grammar.

4) Delete line because it isn’t the best line ever.

5) Repeat steps 2-4 till your goal naturally slips to the best line you can write. Then do Step 3 and skip on to Step 6.

6) Reread what you have already written.

7) Write new sentence. Obsess over every word. Check spelling of every word. Check grammar.

8) Reread what you have already written.

9) Compare new line to your old stuff. If it is not as good, delete.

10) Repeat Steps 6-9.

Of course, you may fear that you will still make too much progress. It might take less than a decade to write your book. Don’t panic!

In effect, this is exactly like a painter painting one dot at a time, working across the canvas over and over from the top right hand corner to the bottom left hand corner, obsessing about every detail but never looking at the bigger picture. While each individual part might sparkle, the sum of the parts might be a little wonky. So time to revise. Plenty of opportunity to delete all those perfect sentences and replace them with new lines that you can obsess over!

Cover & Blurb Reveal – A Bright Power Rising

forkindle

The cover was designed by Marek Purzycki. You can find more examples of his work at http://igreeny.deviantart.com/.

The release date for the book will be announced very soon.

As for the story…

To the Ors, history and memory are indivisible.

Since the bloody birth of the cosmos, the death of their god, the Golden Light, has haunted them. The coming of a great darkness portends his return.

His would-be prophet, the Harbinger of the Dawn, was a pariah, but now few remain who would dare to challenge his authority. He is slowly reshaping a peaceful society into a genocidal war machine.

Grael Erol and the other inhabitants of the village of Pigsknuckle are unaware of this bright power rising beyond their mountains. However, an unlikely ally strives to protect them. For generations, the Gilt Spider has scourged their mountains and terrorized their dreams. Now, he may hold the only chance for their survival.

A BRIGHT POWER RISING is the first volume of THE GOLDEN RULE duology.