… in the land of the living.
Yes: I’m back from my holidays. For the record, I only had a couple of cheap weeks on the beach and returned a while ago to the usual chaotic crash-dive of return-to-work-related issues. To be honest, I feel like I need another break already!
But enough of that. My holiday did exactly what I needed it to. It cleared my head and, sitting on the beach, a little bit every day, I’ve somehow, amazingly, drafted over 25,000 words of my next story.
Being straight with you, I’m under no illusions that many of these draftings will end up in the recycle bin. Equally, many sections will require considerable, relatively easy, expansions when I start pulling it all together into a comprehensive whole.
When I get some time, I’ll pull together a graphic like I did for Thunder, to illustrate progress. I have no idea whether any of my visitors find this useful but, hey ho, it does serve as a bit of self-stimulus to make sure I keep putting in the writing hours!
Anyway, I suppose I ought to get back to the somewhat abstract title of this post: it’s a veiled reference to the subject matter of the new novel. I’m not going to reveal too much yet, but I can say that I’ve settled on the title…
The next book will be called G’host.
Well my trip to Finland was, once again, extremely restful. Except for the journey home where, somehow, I managed to damage my lower back on the way to the airport. Eight hours of transit and tight connections later; I couldn’t even stand upright unassisted! Ouch …
My doctor says, “Things like this happen, as you get older…”
Thanks, Doc. That makes me feel much better…
Anyway, I’m pleased to report that I’ve made a start on the new novel and the opening pages – assuming I don’t shuffle things as I go – have been drafted. Openings are vital for any piece of writing, particularly novels. They need to drag readers in by the eyeballs and may, in the end, determine the entire success or otherwise of a story. As a result, I try not to be too precious about the opening pages. If I get a better idea later, I’ll swap stuff out. Looking back, Firebird hasn’t got a ‘bad’ start but I think Thunder’s is better. For me, I’m looking to stir up shock, confusion and to create intrigue from the get-go – although I don’t deliberately sit down and try to force this to happen – and recently I’ve been to paying more attention to missing things out, rather than putting them in… In other words, I’ve noticed that a little deft cutting sometimes adds more value than a hundred extra words…
On another subject entirely, I noticed yesterday that Amazon have adjusted their pricing regimes again. As a result, I’ve been able to reset Thunder’s pricing so that it’s a little bit lower than it’s been since publication. Other authors might also want to check out the pricing policies in detail. Certain country price points are lower than the US which, thanks to Amazon’s global price-matching rules, means that there’s a little bit of headroom to offer better deals for your readers (and for us to still get a few cents to contribute toward our next computer upgrades!).
Right, it’s time for me to go and enjoy the, highly unusual and probably short-lived, British sunshine…!
And anyone daft, or masochistic, enough to want to publish a novel will no doubt have spotted it. However, just in case any budding book-reviewers are busy sharpening their critical pencils, the one in the title of this post is deliberate…
Anyway, what’s prompted this blog is a fascinating email I received about Firebird from Amazon last week which advised me, most helpfully:
There are typos in your book. You can see this error at the following Kindle location(s): 6548 … “An unusual number compared to the surrounding arid countryside.”
i.e. the sentence in quotations contains a typo…
Well, I looked and I looked…
And I looked some more…
‘This must be a real cracker of a typo,’ I thought to myself. ‘Not like that blistering, bold typeface, spelling mistake I just saw in the middle of XYZ [yep: my self-preservation instincts force me to refrain from naming of oft-offending but otherwise entertaining novel, and its perhaps-responsible professional publishing house]…’
So I tried reading each word out loud. First forwards, then backwards…
Nope. Still nothing…
Then I noticed that Amazon had kindly offered their erudite wisdom to aid me: poor illiterate that I am.
Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what I’d apparently got wrong?
Well, according to Amazon, my sentence should read:
“An unusual number compared to the surrounding and countryside.”
You may need to look carefully… I had to; before I laughed out loud…
I have, of course, not inserted the above, grammatically-incorrect and ill-advised text into my book… The word arid is welcome in my vocabulary, and it can stay just exactly where I’d carefully placed it in Firebird.
So, has this experience diminished my paranoia of all things typographical? Not a chance. My passion to eradicate any real mistakes I might find lurking somewhere on my pages remains indefatigable… Or as an Amazon proofreader would perhaps have it: in the fat gable…?
Typos, eh? I think they’re just the fingers’ way of keeping authors’ minds humble…
So you’ve toiled long and hard to pull together your first manuscript – or second – or whatever. You’ve fought the good fight and, by some miracle, formatted it so it looks at least half-decent on an eReader. You’ve swallowed back your fears, assembled your ego around you, grimaced, and pressed the publish button…
How do you judge success?
It seems to me that this is just as variable a concept as the diverse subject matter of stories themselves…
For me, my views have varied over the last couple of years and I guess I’m now coming to terms with the following phrase: whatever defines success for one of my stories, it will likely take a long time to reveal itself.
I suppose a lucky – very lucky – few will see success immediately. For some reason their books will spark a wildfire of enthusiasm amongst readers and their stories will fly off the shelves; personally I think this is an extremely remote possibility if you don’t have the weight and power of a publishing house’s promotional machinery behind you.
The rest of us will need to be much more patient.
I started writing with a simple ambition: to test myself at a personal level. Pretty much just to see if I could do it… It’s not an easy task, as I’m sure most of you will agree… In the end, I produced a book and faced a new question: what next? This was what led me to publish… no dreams of grandeur, or huge reward, or whatever… Basically, if I’d done nothing, Firebird would have sat rotting on a disk-drive somewhere. It would have had absolutely zero possibility of being enjoyed by anyone else.
Now Firebird has been out there for almost two years. It has been downloaded several thousand times but, generally, I feel pleased if it moves even a tiny handful of copies in a month. Is this the benchmark? Well – given the amount of books on offer, the amount of books I personally get through in an average year and the very limited exposure my books get – maybe the answer is yes? For sure, I feel very honoured and humbled that my story is still occasionally being picked up and read by people.
What publishing also did though, was give me new insights. The simple, brutal, reality of having your writing in general circulation, the often critical nature of feedback, and the occasional positive encouragement have enabled me to step forwards and hone my writing skills. I am, despite the occasional pains, eternally grateful for this.
It has also helped me to move on and produce a second book.
These things would have been denied me, if I’d not taken the plunge.
Like so much in life, the different facets of success are often hidden in the corners of the obvious, tucked away behind so-called measures of popularity, masked by charts, star-ratings, and sales figures… In my opinion, being successful is not, on its own, a viable motivation for writing. Better, surely, to write simply to find out if you can, to stretch your imagination, to see if you can find personal pleasure and enjoyment from the process and, in the end, to discover whether your tales can entertain others?
Perhaps the bottom line becomes: does it matter; tell your stories anyway?
Because an untold story has no chance at all.
I’ve finished my hardcopy edits and transcribed the changes into my master manuscript. Yesterday, I started the file conversion process and the usual iterations of layout corrections necessary to get the document into eReader format (which is something of a mind-numbing task that I’ll need to produce a guide for at some point…).
The net result is that I have a pre-publication copy of the first edition on my own device.
Now I’m doing a final page turn. Just to make sure that everything looks okay and, if all goes well, Thunder will be published at the end of next week.
Now a combination of nerves and excitement kick in… After over a year of hard grafting, I’m finally in the home straight and, I have to say, I’m feeling very satisfied with how the book is looking. The scary part is whether readers will feel the same way…!
Planned Publication Date: Saturday 15th December.
I know… I know…!
I was a little ambitious with my timeline for Thunder…
This post is a short update to let you know that I’m about halfway through my final edit and I suspect it will be a few more weeks before the book is finally ready for publication.
Why is it taking so long? Well, firstly, it was really important that I let the book settle for a few months before coming back to it. Being able to read with a “fresh pair of eyes”, has helped me to see that the front end needed quite a lot of fine tuning to improve flow and consistency.
With hindsight that’s understandable, I suppose. Even though Thunder was written over a few months, as an almost full time activity, the opening sections didn’t quite fully understand the final richness of the characters when they were written. Neither, despite working to a comprehensive storyboard, was all of the fine detail of the story fully fleshed out.
Proof readers haven’t complained. But I noticed that any comments were clustered into this area of the text.
The main delay, however, has been that I’m back to having to write part-time and have to find slots in my day where I’m not too tired, or grumpy, to concentrate as much as is needed for this somewhat onerous – yet at the same time strangely enjoyable – task.
Anyway, I’m past the 50,000 word point and corrections are becoming fewer and farther between – though I’m still finding the occasional apostrophical goof here and there!
Time for me to get back to it…
[NB1: Apostrophical: A British English, Warwickshire County, made up word meaning: the description of an author’s doomsday-like feelings when discovering that a possessive apostrophe has snuck, unbidden, to the wrong side of a pluralising ‘s’]
[NB2: Pluralising: also a made-up word… meaning: not enough time to concentrate properly on a post…]
Initially I found editing laborious and unpleasant, but on reflection – given how long it takes to craft a draft novel – it’s well worth spending the time and running a fine-toothed comb through anything you write.
For me, the hardest part of this process is leaving it to ‘settle’. By this I mean, putting the work away for long enough that you can come back to it with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’. For Thunder, the settling period has been just over four months. For a shorter work, like this post, it might only be a day or so.
Anyway, to the subject of this post, I set up a playlist whilst I was writing Thunder. Mood music, if you like. I found it helpful. Music is very important to me. It seems to entertain my muse and open up my imagination. I started with a few songs, then added items as the weeks went by and now, of course, I’ve got it playing in the background while I edit.
The final list has eighty-four songs on it, so I’m not going to post them all here! Some are quite popular, some more obscure, and here are the YouTube links to five of my current favourites, in case you’re interested in sampling a musical flavour of what’s coming in the book (don’t forget to skip the ads!)…
No One by Maja Keuc (live performance from the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest Finals).
[AB: A Eurovision song… I know…! Nonetheless, it’s a brilliant tune which builds dramatic tension through to an awesome conclusion…]
The Only Hope For Me Is You by My Chemical Romance.
[AB: I especially like the gothic-opening followed by classic MCR, creative, thump-rock, heartbeat-lifting, guitar-pounding energy and – of course – an uplifting, glorious, lyric…]
The Running Free by Coheed & Cambria
[AB: I have to blame a couple of ‘youngsters’ for introducing me to the whacky world of Coheed and Cambria. This is classic rock at its very best… And, what a hook…!]
World’s On Fire by The Prodigy
[AB: Thunder is, at times, an angry book. This track spent quite some time on repeat play…]
And finally, something completely different:
O Mio Babbino Caro by Giacomo Puccini (this version sung by Angela Gheorghiu)
[AB: This is one of my favourite operatic pieces. Simply beautiful… :'( ]
A small but serious post-script: I listen to legitimate copies of these tunes and am sharing these links only in the hope that it supports the promotional interests of the artists involved (Mr.Puccini excepted). Please support fellow artists by avoiding file-shares and other forms of piracy… Thanks. AB.
I’m in the middle of my first end-to-end edit of Thunder. So, I suppose the good news is, that I’ve finished the base draft! The bad news is, I didn’t let my writing get bogged down during the bulk writing and, as a result, there’s quite a lot of tidying up to be done. I think it will be a few weeks before I’ll feel happy enough to release an initial preview copy to my alpha readers.
This first edit is also where I’m trying to lock down some of the formatting decisions, including choice of language…
Simpleton that I am, I laid out Firebird in British English. It made sense to me. I’m British. It’s how I spell and write. Unfortunately, I hadn’t considered that my book might sell internationally, and I certainly didn’t expect it to do more than three times as well, overseas, as it does at home.
Equally, I laid Firebird out with single quote marks for speech. It’s not my favourite form of punctuation (note: British English spelling of favorite) but it’s the method used in virtually every print book I’ve ever looked at. Perhaps this is a British thing too? Perhaps it’s only British print books which are laid out in this way? I can’t think why it’s done though? Maybe the printers are trying to save a tiny amount of ink…?
Anyway, both of the above points have been picked up by one or two readers as being negative attributes for Firebird and, given that I need to prepare my works a little less parochially, I’m changing both facets for the new book.
As it is, I’d already laid out Thunder with traditional sixty-six and ninety-nine punctuation (“Like this,” he says, somewhat nonsensically… ‛As opposed to, like this…’). Personally I think this is a more pleasing-to-the-eye layout.
As for the spelling… Well, I’m now having to rely on the Mac’s International English dictionary which is an odd feeling. It’s tough being told by my computer that I’m no gud at spelling in my own language…!