Why can’t I write!!?

G’day all. I have been suffering with a deep lack of motivation today. I meant to start working on my edits for Deputy at midday, I actually started at twenty past one. It is now three…and I have written about three paragraphs. It has not been my best day but there you go, you win some and you lose some. I am actually trying to force myself to get good work done at home as traditionally I do all my best writing in a coffee shop. The problem with that is that I am not yet a multi millionaire author and so buying three coffee shop coffees a day dents the old bank balance.

Usually when I am at home I get too easily distracted, which is exactly what has happened so far today BUT hopefully through effort I can change that. The old human mind loves homeostasis in all things and if I usually suck at writing at home, well my mind wants me to keep sucking at writing at home. The real question is who is really in control, me or my mind? Although, I probably AM my mind which makes that a silly question. Regardless, my mind is my tool, I am not its!

Even now, while writing this I just stopped to watch a Youtube video…I would say FML except I am not down with the kids enough to get away with that. So what do you guys do when you can’t actually get on and write? Any suggestions on how to force myself into the right headspace?

Ja Ne.

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Editing paralysis

Hey guys, it has been a while hasn’t it? Well I would love to say it was because I have been writing just too much…but this is an honest space. Truth be told I haven’t been writing very much at all. I am suffering from what I am coining ‘editing paralysis’. If the name isn’t obvious enough, it is the state of being so afraid to edit…that you don’t.

Some time ago I wrote a first draft of a novel I quite liked. It still doesn’t have a title but the bulk of the initial work is all done. 37 chapters and around 60 thousand words. I have been through a few times and done some line editing. I had put in place holder names which needed taking out and many typos to be corrected. Though that is all good and well that is not, by any means, the whole of what editing is.

I got myself a few beta readers to go through and give me their thoughts. I read them, I cried for a few days and complained about the darlings they tried to kill…then I was ready. I was there, I was prepped, I….did nothing. Looking at the layout and deciding if all the chapters are in the right place. If all the chapters are even needed. If there is more character development needed here and there. Did I really explain how that happened? All of these things just seemed suddenly terrifying. Like if I started to change things then it might break. All my hardwork might somehow be undone.

My logical brain knows that is not the case but my writers brain wont stop telling me it is. It is telling me that I should writer for myself, not for the readers. A wise man once explained to me why that just isn’t right though. Writers are, by nature, the most narcisistic of all aritsts. We write on some level because we enjoy it. We right on MOST other levels because we want OTHER PEOPLE to read it. That is the blunt truth and if I ever want anyone to read this book…I need to consider what the reader wants.

I am hoping to use this admittance of fear to you, my lovely reader, to prompt some action. This post is my attempt at making myself acountable. I have written down that I need to edit and now I NEED to edit. Because at some point someone is going to say ‘Hey…did you edit that book yet?’ and I better be able to say yes.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the editing process. How about you folks? Have any of you experienced this fear of editing? If so please share your experiences down below.

Ja Ne.

Working with a cover designer

Hi guys, earlier today I had a meeting with an illustrator about sorting a cover for a novella I have written and am looking to publish later this year.

I thought this might be a nice subject to touch on for any aspiring writers out there. This was a very new experience for me as up until now it has only been ME who has had any creative input into my book. As this is a book I am intending to self-publish for a little bit of experience into what that world might offer. I really have full control over the quality and style of the book. Sometimes that might mean that the best thing I can do to put a great book out there is to get someone else involved. I am a writer but I am most assuredly not an artist. If I designed my own cover…nobody would pick up the book. Not unless it was entitled “How not to draw”.

So what has my experience been so far? A one hour meeting where I got to check out a bunch of work the illustrator has done. We talked about the themes and plot of the book, my thoughts on the cover and what I wanted portrayed or wanted to see. The illustrator gave me his thoughts on what would look good or what might not look so good etc. Now I am waiting on some preliminary sketches and we will continue from there. One thing I picked up on that I had never considered prior to this meeting was terminology like ‘bleeds’ and ‘dimesions’. Ok sure I had heard dimensions before, and maybe in the back of my mind I had even thought about it. But as a writer I just write and think one day ‘this will be a book’ I have never got too technical about exactly what size a novel is. I just thought books were..you know..book size. My point is that if you are intending to self publish and you want to do your own cover. Well that’s fine, maybe just look into all of your options first. If you decide to go ahead and do your own make sure you know exactly what you are doing. The worst thing possible will be the cover not looking any good and scaring off potential readers.

One point I would raise here is this, how are you intending to get your book out there? For me, my bread and butter is going to be e-books. I may tinker with print on demand as it would be nice to have a physical copy of my book but really I intend to make sales through Kindle or Kobo…or both maybe. That being said, the first glimpse people will get of my book will be a thumbnail. A big fancy picture with lots of action may work great for a full size novel but as a thumbnail it may just look busy, a mess or even blurry. Something simple and standout might be more appropriate to hook a reader in.

You may be saying to yourself “This is great…but how much will it cost?” And well for that there is no real answer. It is down to each individual how much they will charge you and you should negotiate an agreed price before the work begins. Sign a contract and make everything official so that both parties know where you each stand. I have heard of prices starting from around £100 and ranging to maybe £450-£600 for very saught after and experienced designers. At the end of the day how much you spend and how good the book looks is entirely up to you. Just remember that though a good cover does not guarantee more readers, a bad cover guaratees less.

I hope you found this an enjoyable or even thought provoking read, until next time.

Ja Ne.

I cannot write paragraphs…can you?

Hello ladies and gentlemen, how do I find you today? Well I hope, or at the very least, not bad.

Today I need to ask for advice and share something that I would rather not. We all have faults, and we all have things we are not so good at. Never the less it can sometimes be difficult to openly admit them. I shall swallow my pride and tell you all my dirty little secret right here, live as it were, on the interwebs.

I recently finished a draft and preliminary edit on a novella I have written and asked my partner to proof read it for me. It turns out…that may have been a mistake. I am what could largely be described as a self taught writer, I read and I write for myself learning as I go. I have never had any formal tuition beyond primary and secondary school. My partner on the other hand is a PhD student with a stellar academic background. Her job is essentially reading and writing to a very high standard.

When I asked her to proof read my work. I expected a lot of corrections on coma placement, the use of semicolons and other assorted things. What I did not expect was the bombshell I received, something which I feel rather ashamed to admit as a writer, but feel I must to move forward. I cannot write paragraphs, at least, I cannot write paragraphs in a way that would be acceptable in academic works.

Thinking of myself as a writer it really shook me to be told this. As a native English speaker I would have thought that paragraphs are just one of those things that I could DO without really having to think about it. Finding that I can write (in my opinion) very good dialogue with relative ease and yet struggle with something so basic, has shaken me. That might sound a little over dramatic but I do not think it is. I should think it would be the same as telling a professional hairdresser that they have been holding scissors incorrectly for the last twenty years.

So, I decided to go out and visit some bookshops. I looked for books on grammar and punctuation, both for native speakers and English learners. To my surprise there didn’t seem to be anything regarding paragraphs to be found anywhere. I guess the rest of the world thinks paragraphs are as easy as I always thought they were. From now onwards I will be reading like a writer, rather than a reader. Closely inspecting paragraphs to try and find rules and patterns that I may have missed before.

So, before I ask humbly for your help, I shall tell you what I know…or at the least, what I think I know.

1) You must start a new paragraph when you change scenes, E.g. going from outside to inside a house.

2) You must change paragraph when a new character speaks.

3) You must change paragraphs if you are talking about a new idea.

In principle this seems easy and sensible to me, alas, I was informed many of my paragraphs. At least in this piece of work, were split too frequently. Several short paragraphs easily could have been one more complete and easier to read paragraph. I understand that in fiction there are less hard and fast rules and style comes into it a lot more, that being said, I do not want anyone to feel my work does not flow because of poor use of paragraphs.

Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated in the comments, and by all means if anyone knows of any resources then please let me know.

Ja Ne.

What is the hardest part of writing a novel?

Hello dear reader,

Today I would like to enquire, as I often do, are you a writer? If yes I should imagine there is some particular part of the writing process that you find harder or more tedious than the rest. For me, that part is most definitely editing. More specifically structural editing.

I have been thinking about that lately, why is it I find that particular thing such a blooming nuisance? I believe that it is due to a lack of familiarity and it is only something that will improve with time and effort.

Most people who wish to be authors will say things like ‘writing a book is so hard’ or ‘it is too difficult to write a story THAT long’. When I first started writing novels I was amongst this camp but that quite quickly change. Before I had written anything longer than a few thousand words, the idea of writing something that was several tens of thousands of words seemed insane. It was the most insurmountable challenge that writing had to offer, but was it? I don’t think so anymore.

After I finally wrote a book of 25,000 words, I then wrote a book of 50,000 and then a little while later 72,000. I have now written so many first drafts that I don’t really think WRITING a book (read, writing the initial first draft, not the entire process) really that hard. The simple action of setting out to do it, achieving it and then making a mental note of the steps I took to do it…made it seem simple. Writing a first draft now has a sort of a ‘formula’ that I can follow.

My first Novella was only ever really line edited for the most part. I felt pretty confident the structure was as good as it was going to get. With that in mind, I am now enjoying the joys of trying to fix and perfect the structures of some of my newer manuscripts. Essentially this is the first time I am doing that, and as a result, it is proving to be the hardest writing-thing I have ever done.

So what do you think? Is there REALLY one thing about writing that you struggle with and always will? Or is it just another skill you are yet to improve, or better yet, master?
Until next time.

Some of my favourite reads

Hello avid reader.

Today I thought I would offer you something a little different. Today I wanted to speak to you about one of my favourite series of books that I have ever read.

As you probably know, most of what I write is for the younger audience. Middle grade as they call it in the trade or about 9-12 to you and me.

You may not know however, that this is also the majority of what I read. Don’t get me wrong, I can read big words, I can handle serious topics, but I LIKE young persons literature. The pacing is generally better, there is less filler and best of all they tend towards short chapters. Maybe it is just me but short chapters make me feel more accomplished as a reader.

So it may not surprise you that one of my best loved books series is The Edge Chronicles. If you haven’t read them go out now and buy Beyond the Deepwoods, that is the first of the bunch and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddel these books are truly phenomenal and in my opinion wildly underrated.

Why somebody in Hollywood hasn’t snapped these up to make a movie yet is beyond me, who doesn’t want to see airships and magical woods and devious villains on the big screen?

This isn’t really a review as such, it has been such a long time since I read these books that I couldn’t do one fairly, this is more a love letter to the books.

The illustrations are fantastic and vividly bring the stories to life. The characters are deep and inspiring, there is love and danger and intrigue. Not to mention while being very clearly high fantasy they have not stolen from Tolkein like most. Here they have populated a thrilling new world with an endless array of creatures and races of people none of which feel cliched or tired.

In the days when I was not as much of a reader as I should have been I fell in love with these books and read them quicker than anything else I had touched at that age.

I couldn’t say that it was the reason I wanted to be an author as I stumbled upon that idea much younger but they were certainly the first books that made me say things like “When I grow up I want to write books like these!”

In short, there is little of real substance for me to write here other than the following.

Thank you to Paul and Chris (Yes…I imagine myself on first name terms with these fine gentlemen) and if you haven’t read these books, go and do so, you will not regret the time invested.

Ja Ne
P.s. I am aiming to get a more coherent category section going on this blog as I write more posts. Starting with writing advice, Reading and Lifestyle. Any suggestions or ideas please do comment.

Writers who write different genres to you?

Good afternoon fellow internet consumers,

I thought I would write a blog today about something that has been on my mind for a few days. As many of you will know when I am not writing this blog, I am writing books for young people and almost always these books are fantasy, sci-fi or a mixture of the two.

I was recently introduced to two new writers and they both surprised me by saying they didn’t write fantasy at all. It isn’t what they read and it isn’t what the write and/or want to write. They like to write about the ‘real world’ about relationships between people in our reality. Things which would either be considered chic-lit (sorry to anyone that term frustrates…I didn’t make it up) or perhaps literary fiction.

Some of you who are far less judgemental than me may be asking yourselves why the fact they said this has been weighing on my mind? Well I shall embark upon the tail now and hopefully we can all learn something, myself included.

When I read and indeed when I write, I use that time as escapism. I exist in this world, which forgive me if you do not share my opinion, is just a little bit droll really. I do not own an Airship, a pirate ship or a spaceship. I am not a daring adventurer fighting with dragons and saving princesses. I am not nor can I be the great fabled hero of light who inherits a crystal that allows me to vanquish all monsters…I could go on but I think I have driven my point home.

I think what I am trying to say is that if I wanted to escape into a world where I can go to a coffee shop, meet a handsome stranger or have a trouble relationship with a family member. Well, I would just put my book down and experience my real life. So whenever I pick up a pen to write I escape off to a wonderful and far more exciting world than the one I live in and frankly I cannot understand people who don’t.

After I thought about this for a while I decided that this probably said more about me as a person and any chips I have ony my shoulders than it did about people who don’t write fantasy. In short should we judge people who don’t write the same things as us or indeed don’t see the world in the same way that we do? I think we probably shouldn’t, because the world would be a jolly borring place if we were all the same.

P.s. Even after this period of self reflection…I will probably always still find people who don’t like fantasy a little bit strange.
Ja Ne.