I'm thrilled to announce the launch of ALEX GONZO, ROYAL SPY on Kindle and Smashwords, and hopefully soon in hardcopy. Getting this book to readers has been an incredibly long but fulfilling process. I loved every single moment of it.
I hope you'll enjoy the book just as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you do, don't forget to leave a review or comment. Thank you so much.
I have to admit, it's been a while since I last made a blog post. Not because I didn't want to, I just couldn't stop thinking that it might not be worth it. Don't get me wrong, I have a few regular blog and feed subscribers, but apart from those, writers out there just don't seem that interested in learning new ways to promote their work. However, this morning, I woke up to a message from my friend Mike who's a gifted fellow writer. He said keeping this blog is all worth it, and then it dawned on me. It's not about reaching thousands of people and helping them gain the knowledge they need to market their books; it's about reaching out to those who seek that knowledge and want to implement it. It may just be a handful of people, but they're the kind that don't shy away from putting in the necessary work to get their books out there.
Starting this month, I'll be featuring self-published authors in a sidebar on this blog. If you're interested in cross-marketing, drop me a line and I'll get in touch with you to discuss how to get mentioned on this site (for free, obviously).
Any writer, whether new or experienced, will know that it's easy to become discouraged as they go through the motions or writing a novel. Often it's not writer's block or a lack in plot/character development that makes a writer want to give up, but what they do and don't do as they write. Here's my Top 4 pitfalls that may keep you from finishing that novel:
1. Going back and forth between tweaking and rewriting
Especially in the early stages of narrative a writer will be temped to start editing which will increase the pressure and will make it hard for any writer to get past the opening chapters. No matter how much you may feel tempted to revise while the book's not finished, stay away from it because it's too early to decide whether the pacing is right, a character has enough prominence etc.
I don't know about you but I keep rereading the first chapters of a new novel. Even though I don't necessarily tweak and edit at this point, rereading is just as bad because it clouds one's judgement due to the work seeming over-familiar and makes one focus on the flaws rather than the good points. That can prove just as discouraging.
3. Being over-critical
Rereading is necessary, particularly to remind the reader where they left off. In such a case, it's important to avoid being over-critical due to outside influences such as having had a bad day or lack of work motivation. Don't become jaded just because you're tired and feeling low; only reread when you're enthusiastic and feel positive.
4. Don't show your work to lots of people
This is probably my favourite tip because it's one mistake many writers make. Getting feedback might seem like a good idea, but receiving conflicting advice and opinions will only frustrate you and make the book idea less appealing to you. At this point in the writing process you need to keep a clear head, a definite vision and a high enthusiasm.
So you've finished writing and have edited for style and mechanics as discussed in previous posts, not it's time to format your manuscript before sending it off to agents and publishers. Formatting requests can vary from publisher to publisher so it's always worth checking submission guidelines. Follow the points below and you can't go wrong:
use paragraph styles (not spaces or tabs) to indent your paragraphs; every word processor will have paragraph styles so establishing your required settings once will apply to the entire manuscript
don't use fancy fonts; most publishing houses will prefer Times New Roman size 12
use italics only to place emphasis on a particular word to give that word or sentence a certain meaning. In some books, italics are used for thoughts, but if you have plenty of thoughts you may want to reconsider using italics as it may distract the reader
use ellipses or the em dash when trailing off or when there's a pause in speech such as someone interrupting
make sure there's only one space between words and after end punctuation
use quotation marks for direct speech
generally, manuscripts should be double-spaced with every new chapter starting on a new page. Don't forget to include your surname and the name of the book in the header and page numbers in the footer
Last time I discussed the importance of spelling and fact-checking your writing, today I'm looking at grammar and word usage. While spelling and grammar may differ from country to country (I admit US comma usage is way beyond me), you need to know the basics. As a writer, you should have at least one grammar book and one dictionary/thesaurus available to you at all times, either as a book, computer software or you should be able to access the information you need online.
Another two points to look for when editing your book for Mechanics:
As a writer you know what grammar is, but are you fully aware of all grammar rules and exceptions? Reading a grammar book once in a while to refresh your knowledge will help. Generally, make sure
subjects and verbs are in agreement with respect to number and person
you don't have any displaced or dangling modifiers
you've used apostrophes correctly to indicate possession and elision
you haven't used 'of' instead of 'have' in 'would/could/should have' - this may sound obvious, but many writers make this mistake
you use commas correctly; now this is a tricky one because comma use in the UK varies from that in the US. Just make sure your usage of commas is the right one for your spelling, don't mix 'n match
you keep away from hypercorrection and stilted constructions where they don't suit the situation, tone, character etc.
make sure you've used 'that' for restrictive clauses and 'which' for non-restrictive ones (unless your spelling is British English)
don't confuse verbs, e.g. lie and lay
dont' use ambiguous pronouns or pronouns without antecedents
begin subordinate clauses with 'that' whenever necessary
don't qualify absolutes such as impossible
Should you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask in the comment box below.
So you've finished editing for Style and now you're ready to dig deeper than sentence structure and variation. Readers nowadays rarely take what they read at face value, which is why editing for Mechanics is so important. A book may be written well in a voice and style that appeals to a broad audience, but with information available at the click of a mouse a writer has to have his facts straight. Otherwise bad things happen such as nasty reviews that damage one's reputation and credibility as a writer.
This is what to look for in no particular order:
Don't ever rely on your PC's spellchecker, invest in a good dictionary. It doesn't have to be a heavy, bound book. I love my MacBook's dictionary and thesaurus because it doesn't clutter my desk. Also, always read your chapters paying attention to each word, and when you're finished, do it again to catch any spelling mistakes that you may oversee the first time.
Be consistent in your spelling. If you write for a British audience, use British spelling. There's nothing wrong with sending manuscripts with British spelling to US publishers and agents as long as the spelling is consistent and you don't jump back and forth between British and American spelling.
As a rule: look up every word you're not sure of. Don't pick synonyms just to ensure you don't repeat words without researching their proper usage because a synonym can't always be used in the same context.
Always check your facts: names, places, titles, works of art, events, anything related to history, geographical details, anything related to nature such as flora and fauna, physical possibilities, travel times, street names etc. Never assume the reader won't know anyway because many readers are more critical than the writer. Reviewers often do their research, and as a writer you don't want to come across as too lazy to invest a bit of time to get your facts straight.
Quote material properly (if applicable); if you use anything from other people's work never ever forget to mention it otherwise you risk being accused of plagiarism.
I know my newsletter subscribers are eagerly awaiting Part 1 in the marketing plan saga. I’m still waiting for the all-clear to post examples from a certain campaign; in the meantime I thought I’d share with you one of last week's working days.
The alarm goes off at 7.30. Went to bed after 1 a.m. and now I’m knackered. I turn onto the other side and hope the repeated alarm ringing every five minutes may malfunction for a change…it doesn’t. Partner wakes me up half an hour later by pulling off my sleeping mask (which I call my personal blinds, BTW) and tries to lure me out of bed with the promise of a nice cuppa. I groan and get up, unable to resist the tempting call of caffeine. I’m an addict, have been for the last ten years. After some of my partner’s burned toast, I head for my office (a desk in the heart of the living room with a nice view on the concrete block opposite from ours) when my two cats remind me they need breakfast too. I bin the contents of the still half-full bowls—some quite expensive stuff that’s all natural and supposed to taste like heaven, which, judging from my cats’ half-starved state, is a big fat lie—and open a can of tuna with white rice. I wouldn’t usually give in so easily, but I can’t deal with any drama this morning.
Finally, at 10.30, I remove the cat hairs from my desk (their favourite sleeping place), sit down and remember today’s the deadline for two major reports. Gosh, I haven’t even started. A MacBook Pro might be pretty, but with all those various functions I have yet to figure out how to use the diary. I’ve no idea how to get those done on time, but five minutes more or less won’t really make a difference, will they?
At 12.00 sharp I’m exhausted and bored to death after checking my emails, reading the online editions of various newspapers, making a shopping list, planning the meals for the next three days, but still haven’t started on the reports. So, I pop an iron supplement—after all I was anaemic as a child—in the hope it might cure my boredom—sorry—exhaustion and go about work. An hour later I’ve an outline, but I can’t focus because I’m starved. I start wasting time until lunch and my next caffeine fix. At three I return from the kitchen, clutching another cup of coffee, turn my headphones full blast, wondering where time went. It’s 4.30 p.m. when I finally put the first finished report aside, but there’s still one more to do today. So much for my 5k writing target for the day.
At 5.40 p.m. I’m finished. Phew, no idea how I did it, but I’m proud of myself; in fact so proud I decide to reward myself with a 10-minute nice, hot bubble bath before sending off the reports. The joy of working from home! I relax with a new YA novel about bad faeries I bought a while ago, but never got round to reading it. The story isn’t that great, but I read it anyway to analyse sentence structure, variation etc. When I look at the clock it’s already 6.30 p.m. and my partner comes in to ask when I’m planning a break to have dinner. Huh? A break? Of course. I’m supposed to be working. I sigh and put the novel, I mean, my research aside and return to my desk to send off the reports. Trouble is internet’s messing up again. Thank god I’m changing providers in a week. Ten minutes later I finally send those off and check on my writing target for the day, then cut it from 5k to 3k. I still have a few hours until going to bed, I can do it. Dinner’s served at 7 and then I watch some cooking show I don’t really enjoy, but it’s kinda nice to switch off for a while.
By 9.00 p.m. I’m still stuck at 400 words and have no idea in which direction the plot’s moving (I usually write without outlines), but the drowsiness I’ve been feeling all day’s gone and the words finally start to flow. I’m not keen on it, but I put in a break to play with my cats, feeling bad that I barely acknowledged them throughout the day. At midnight my partner’s going to bed, throwing me a seductive look, which I ignore, and then advising me not to stay up too late, but I’m in a writing frenzy and can’t stop just now.
I'm happy to say that not all of my days are so chaotic.