Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tomorrow is the Start of July

Yes, I know you knew that. :-)

I haven't got highlighters yet - one problem with working until 6pm is the stationery shops are shut when I finish. However I'm off Thursday, and I won't need them until then, so it's moot. I just my red pens tomorrow - and I have them already.

Why do I need highlighters for editing? Well, so I can go through and highlight each type of problem a different colour. That will make it easier to go through and edit.

As I said I imagine that each chapter will take me two or three days to edit in the round. The longer ones may even take four - but hopefully not too many.

I've been re-reading "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" in preperation, and I suspect that this short novel may well end up even shorter. Ah, well, if it ends up being a long novella it ends up being a long novella.

Monday, 29 June 2009

About Antagonists

I was going to do "Show and Tell" as my resourse topic today, but I'm feeling a bit off-colour, and my attempts to write some examples failed totally. I'll try again when I have more time.

So instead I thought I'd talk about a sister topic to Characterisation.


In general - unless you're pitting your protagonist against nature in some way - your antagonist is a character. In fact they are the second most important character in your story because without someone to get in the way there wouldn't be a story. Therefore they come with the same need for development as any important character.

When developing your antagonist you need to consider the following things:

  1. Motive. Why does your antagonist get in the way? No one thinks they are evil. Your antagonist needs a reason that makes some sort of sense. It can be twisted but it should be comprehensible. BTW if your antagonist's motive is immortality - think very carefully about it. Why does he do things no right minded person would do for this goal? In short why does he want to be immortal? It's not even impossible for the antagonist to be right - though this can lead to a total downer ending if handled badly (unless you want a downer ending which is perfectly valid).
  2. What are their good points and how can you show them off? Unremitting evil is boring - and in humans at least unrealistic. If your antagonist is Satan, Great Cthulhu or similar then okay its fair that there are't any, but if you do have a supernatural big bad consider keeping him or her in the background, and having them make their presence known through their human servitors.
  3. What is their inner conflict? Just like your protagonist your antagonist needs inner conflict.
I'll probably be back to edit this post when I'm feeling brighter. I know there were more points I wanted to make - but right now I can't think of them.

  1. A Winning Antagonist
  2. Antagonist in Fiction
  3. Writing Believable Antagonists
  4. Writing Antagonists With Depth
  5. Sleeping With the Enemy

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Preparing for July and beyond (aka Editing Plans)

I've been preparing for the edit of "The Sundered Light" in July today. While I won't be starting the actual editing until July 1st there's plenty I can do to be ready.

So far I have:
  1. Printed out the first 104 pages of the Manuscript ready for Wednesday. This is a short novel at 61k and that's nearly half of it.
  2. Located my red pens and a couple of folders to use.
  3. Tried and failed to locate my highlighters. I'll have to buy some - which likely means on Thursday with the hours I work.
  4. Realised an entire scene was missing from Chapter 18 and added it from the notebook. I won't get to chapter 18 until late July/early August, so it'll have time to rest anyway.
What I intend to do in July and early August is spend two or three days on each chapter. The first day I will check that everything is coherent and change anything that needs changing to fit. Then the next day I will go through the chapter using the checklists from "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" to spot and correct problems. I expect this to take a day or so depending on the length of the chapter and the number of problems I find.

I hope that by doing this I will - by mid-August - have a much stronger manuscript. It can then rest again until October when I plan to use the exercises from the "Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook" to strengthen it some more. Then it can rest while I do NaNoWriMo in November before I go over it with the Self-Editing checklists again to check the stuff I added during October.

In early 2010 I'll be looking for critical readers. Volunteers welcome - even at this early stage.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Nearly the end of June...

I don't think I'm going to finish "Opening" this month. I'm beginning to think the whole thing is a dubious concept for a story. It's more like an extended exercise in worldbuilding. Good for me since it fleshes out one of my universes, but not really publication fodder. It's kind of like Star Wars Episode One - it's only interesting if you know what happens next. That's why it was getting busy - I knew something was wrong and was trying to make it more interesting (and failing spectacularly). I'll probably finish it at some point, but I'm not going to rush it. And, hey, extended back story and worldbuilding may not be for readers but it's useful, so it's not a waste of effort.

Outlining is going better. I'm going to try using a method in the writing book I'm currently reading, and which I'll be reviewing this Wednesday. If it goes well I should have the outline for "Healing the Sunbird" done by Wednesday.

So, while at this point in June it doesn't look like I'll finish everything I'd hoped to by the end of the month, it has been productive enough.

Now my plans for July are much simpler. I intend to edit my fantasy novel "The Sundered Light". It won't be ready after this round of edits, but it should be much better. I'll probably do some more Outlining of ideas as well.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Fiction Book Review - Constant Reader

It probably says something about me that my book to review this week is another independently published work. That's what two weeks out of five or six?

Once again this review of Constant Reader by Jennifer Reeve originally appeared on Amazon.co.uk under the name of Shutsumon (that's me).


Quick soundbite review: A wonderful story for any writer who has ever thought that their muse was getting away from them.

Indepth Review: "Constant Reader" by Jennifer Reeve is a very slim book weighing in at just 104 pages. But then I knew that before I bought it, so I'm not complaining. It's a novella at about 30,000 words. That's one of the joys of POD. The ability to create and produce non-standard length work. I do have some strong issues with the layout of the book but I'll come to them later.

First the story. "Constant Reader" is an even faster read than it is slim - and I mean that as a compliment. It's a clever, fun tale that keeps you turning the pages until you're done. The book is written from the perspective of the main character - Claudia Danvers - and she has a compelling voice. I could hear her in my head while reading.

And it has an interesting premise - especially if you're a writer. So many times when reading authors' blogs its like 'and the muse did this' or 'and the muse won't let me write it that way' or some other version of the muse being obstreperous. I even know authors who post whole sections of 'conversations' with their muses. I think Jennifer Reeves must be aware of this phenomenon as well because the big idea at the core of "Constant Reader" is what if a writer woke up one day and realised that the muse isn't just the creative facet of their own mind but a demonic entity that they'd accidentally sold their soul to.

It's a good question. My muse and I were both cracking up throughout because this book is funny. Jennifer claims it as a tribute to Stephen King, but I think it's just as much a tribute to the pain, the joy and the absolute weirdness of the writing process.

So that's the good and the good is the story and plot well written and crafted. The cover's not bad either.

The bad is the internal layout. And it is - to be blunt - terrible. It's not the worst I've seen in a Lulu book, true. The paragraphs are justified and the page numbers suppressed until the start of the story.

But the rest of it screams self-published. The left and right margins are too narrow, the line spacing is too wide and the paragraphs aren't indented but separated by a blank line instead. That is to say that it doesn't look like the inside of a book at all. It looks like a short pod book where the author was padding for page count - except that she would have made wider margins if that were the case. The correct choices of font, spacing and margin width would have retained (or even boosted) the page count without looking padded.

It's a sad fact that some people are going to think that the amateur layout means amateur writing and this is still a very good story. I'd suggest that the author fix this but they've paid for an isbn now and it'd cost then a fortune to revise it. (One of the banes of POD is revision costs).

If I can sum up - please don't let the shortness or the poor layout discourage you from buying this book. It's a fun read.


The book has "look inside" active on Amazon so you can see before you leap, and a video trailer featuring the entire prologue is available on Youtube for your perusal before deciding if this book is for you.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

When Inspiration Strikes

So I'm sitting at work today staring at the screen and trying to work out what to do with a particularly nasty account when I look down at my post-it notes, and find I've written something without realising it. I was thinking about meters not post-apocalyptic ideas, but there is was. I stared at it for a moment then put it away and went back to the account. Can't write in work time. It was only a handful of words and will need some serious developing and world-building, but it seems potentially interesting. It's too early to say for sure of course.

It's so sketchy at the moment that I'm not going to go into details at the moment (except that - as I said post-apocalyptic), but it fascinates me how sometimes inspiration strikes without me even realising. How did the idea bypass my conscious mind to get to the paper without me realising? It's odd.

Does inspiration ever strike you in the same way, or is it always conscious?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Writing Book Review - Writing the Breakout Novel & Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook

Yes, I'm reviewing two books together this week even though I'm running out of writing books.

Writing the Breakout Novel and its companion volume Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maas go together as well as they were intended to.

Maas is a big name literary agent, and he's studied books that "breakout" - that is novels that sell significantly better than other books in their genre - and believes he has come up with traits they all share.

I think he's probably on to something. I thought that even before I purchased the books, because agents want to sell books to publishers - so they need to know what sells. Having read them I still think so.

These are not your normal writing books. There's little here about how to write an outline or shooting adjectives. This is about things like making sure the characters are multidimensional and that there are things the reader will invest in at stake (among other things). And these are lessons that apply not just to thrillers, but to every genre - though they will manifest in other ways.

Of the two I find the workbook the more useful, because the introduction to each exercises covers what the exercise is designed to achieve anyway, while the book is less explicit on how to use the wealth of examples in it. Together you get more detail and examples - but if you can only buy one I'd say go for the Workbook.

Now it should be said that not all breakout fiction is a bestseller - if you write something in a weird niche genre it's not going to break any records if you follow his advice to the letter, except possibly for sales in said weird niche genre. Maas admits this.

I also think these two books gel perfectly with "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" since they deal with different (though sometimes convergent) ways of improving your manuscript. "Self-Editing" teaches you to write stellar prose if you fully internalise its lessons. The Breakout books teach you to amp up your plot - whatever it maybe - and characters for best effect. There are plenty of authors whose work features in the examples in the Breakout books, who could do with learning the lessons from Self-Editing. Equally there are authors out there who write beautiful, expressive prose which lacks tension and could do with reading these two. A writer who fully internalised the points from both sources and use them correctly in their story would - I think - create something extra-special.

Please tell me if you find this useful and feel free to suggest any good writing books for me to buy, read and eventually review.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Shape of the Problem

I think I can see what the problem I have with "Opening". There's too much going on in it. I think I've actually said that before, but I'm begining to see why. I either need to simplify the story, or turn it into a novella. I shouldn't have subplots in a short story - but somehow they've sneaked in. I'm sure they weren't there in the outline.

And there's way too many characters as well, but I've already decided on at least one that needs cutting.

I'm still in the midst of the last scene of Opening - it's taking for ever. Once I'm done with it I'll put it on the shelf and re-outline it in August once I've decided what to do with it. To hit my target I need to get it done by the middle of next week, and get two more outlines done. I fully intend to do this.

Monday, 22 June 2009

About Writing Fight Scenes

Back in May I made a post about how I dreaded writing fight scenes. Since then I've spent some time reading up on the subject to see if I can begin to get a handle on it.

I think I'm finally getting somewhere.

Firstly from the amount of stuff out there it seems this is a common problem writers have. Maybe it's just that misery loves company, but it always feels good to know that other people have the same problem you do.

Secondly I've picked up some good tips which explained why I found the process of writing fight scenes so frustrating. These can be distilled down to the following three tips.

1. Write don't Choreograph. I tended to try and describe the fight I could see so clearly in my head and I ended up telling not showing. They ended up reading like stage direction. Something I'd never do if I had a dance scene in a story. Sometimes the problems are really obvious when someone points it out.

2. Make sure you're inside the Point ofView character's head. An omniscient PoV will create too much distance from the fight. The reader needs to be right there with the character. A fight is an emotional thing even if you're just watching it. You should always watch your PoV carefully in a scene - but in a fight scene it's extra important. There's so much going on that multiple PoV's would confuse the reader. It's generally not a good idea to confuse the reader.

3. Emotion! Obviously this connects directly to point 2, but I felt it deserved it's own point. In many ways capturing the emotiveness of the fight is more important than the action. And the action? Imagine how the PoV character would perceive what's happening, how they'd react to it. You're in their PoV, so that's what you write.

I think this is why The fight scene in "Moonlight and Memories" actually worked for me. It was written very intensely in one character's point of view and concentrated on the emotion rather than the action per se. It still needs some editing, but it's heading in the right direction, I think. It also gives me some idea how to sort out some other fight scenes.

Links to helpful articles bout fight scenes.

1. Does Your Fight Scene Pack a Punch? Awesome article. I think this is the article I learned the most from. Especially the "write don't choreograph" one.
2. How to Write Fight Scenes into Your Manuscript. Full of useful tips that ought to be obvious, but probably aren't - like "fight scenes must make physical sense".
3. Best Ways to Write a Fight Scene. Another good set of advice. Especially the bit about avoiding monotony - another problem with choreographing fights. They tend to be boring.
4. Creative Writing - How to Write Fight Scenes. Another good one, that again mentions the monotony problem and talks about how to balance the needs of action and description in the fast and furious reality of a fight.
5. Five Ways to Write Sizzling Fight Scenes (Superhero and Fantasy) - Given my pechant for writing speculative fiction this one is especially useful to me, because obviously extremely improbable things can happen in fight scenes, and that can raise a whole different set problems.

If you found this post helpful, or have any feedback please comment. Thanks.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Checking in again

Tomorrow is payday and I think a coffee shop outing maybe in order.

I'm really struggling to write in the house at the moment - I have no idea why, because it isn't writer's block. I have Lots of ideas and I start to write them down. Then I get dizzy and start dozing off, even though I've had plenty of sleep. Writing is making me dizzy? What's up with that?

This had better not happen in NaNoWriMo later this year.

Speaking of which I've decided that I'm going with an idea that I nearly went with last year this year. Unless of course I decide to go with something else at the last minute sometime around the 28th October.

I'm still looking for suggestions for good short story writing books. I'm looking at one that's recommended in the back of "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" on the grounds that I really like that book, so book they recommend should be useful. However it seems to be out of print. Fortunately some sellers on Amazon have it. If anyone has any in-print suggestions for books on the craft of short story writing I'd be glad to receive them (please post a comment and include an Am UK link). In fact any writing books you'd like to recommend full stop would be welcome. I'm running out of books for my Wednesday writing book review spot.

Links to websites on short story writing that you've found useful also requested.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Falling Behind again

I've already fallen a bit behind with my plans. *sigh*

I have written more on "Opening" and started the outline on "Healing the Sunbird" but I'm not finished. I'll have a go at catching up tomorrow. If this means I can't move onto the third outline this weekend so be it, as long as it's done by the end of June.

It's not even Writer's Block anymore. I just got distracted. I'll do some before bed.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Fiction Book Review - Wit'ch Fire

Wit'ch Fire by James Clemens falls into a very unusual category for me. Books I don't especially like that I manage to finish. Since I only review books I finish this is one of the rare times you'll see a broadly negative review from me.

It took me two attempts. When I first bought it I tried to read it and gave up about a third of the way through. A few months later I uncovered it while tidying up and gave it another shot. This time I finished it, but I still wasn't entirely impressed.

This is Fantasy by the numbers in the worst possible way. Dark Lords, near human races, innocent protagonist with strange powers they didn't ask for and don't want, wise councillors, evil monsters - how many times have I read this story under other titles and names? Enough that I'd like to see something different for once.

The characters are interesting enough and there is good dose of plot tension in spite of the clicheness of the story - Clemens even pulled off a couple of surprises but the ending and most of the "twists" were predictable. And for some reason beyond the cliches and the predictability it grated on me. This I suspect is a personal foible, so if you don't mind formulaic fantasy this might float your boat.

I won't be buying the rest of series though. Two stars.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Plans for the long weekend.

The long weekend - with it's almost unlimited writing and outlining time lies ahead of me. If I can just defeat the demon of procrastination I intend to get a lot done over the next four days.

Tonight I'm going to do the first part of the outline for "Healing the Sunbird". Since all I have is a basic idea and a pile of world building for this one it's going to be interesting to see if I can make a coherent outline over the weekend.

Tomorrow I'm going to take on the fight scene in "Opening". The middle may have gone a bit to pot, but if I can get the start and ending right I think the middle will fall into place during the rewrite in August. I'll also do the second part of the outlining for "Healing the Sunbird". Will try to put together a list of question for my Cryptozoologist contact.

Saturday - More work on "Opening" - I want to try and get the first draft with all it's lumps, bumps and false starts done by Saturday evening. Hopefully send questions to contact.

Sunday - More work on "Opening" and on the "Healing the Sunbird" outline if they aren't finished. Possibly start work on the "There Might be Dragons" outline if the answers to my questions are back. If not start work on reoutlining "Firebird's Song".

Monday - Absolutely must finish "Opening" if I haven't already. Also get whichever outline I started on Sunday finished.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Writing Book Review - Teach Yourself Writing a Novel

This is my review of the second of the two Teach Yourself books I own on the subject of writing. "Teach Yourself Writing a Novel" by Nigel Watts. You can find my review of the other one "Teach Yourself How to Write a Blockbuster" here.

And I have to say that this is the weaker of the two. It covers much of the same ground as "How to Write a Blockbuster", and the advice is theoretically just as strong. Indeed it's much the same (not a surprise - I've noted before that the advice always tends to be pretty much be the same for good reason). Sadly "Writing a Novel" lacks some of the spark of "How to Write a Blockbuster". Indeed at times it's very dry and hard going. And the section on Agents and Publishing is much shorter. It's much less interesting in general.

I can see no reason for owning both books - unless like me you happened the buy "Writing a Novel" first. This is one writing book I don't recommend - not because it's bad but because it's boring.


In other news it's exactly one month since I started posting in this blog and so far I've posted every day. :-D

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Taking my own advice

Yesterday I blogged about Writer's Block and tricks I use to overcome it. Today I was still feeling low and blocked up with regards to writing so I took my own advice and headed out to the park with my notes to work on the outline of "The King's Head". An hour later I headed home with a completed outline in tow. It's a little sketchy in the middle but my outlines often are. I know roughly what's got to happen between the beginning and the end and that's what matters.

One down two to go in the outline stakes.

Next up "Healing the Sunbird". Target - as well as finishing writing "Opening" do this one this weekend.

And amazingly I've actually found a cryptozoologist to ask questions of for the reseach for "There Might be Dragons". I found them on Twitter of all places. Now I just need to sort my questions out. This is the story least likely to be successfully outlined by the end of June as I have so much information gathering to do.

Now I just need to do some writing on "Opening" and today will go down as a success.

Monday, 15 June 2009

About Overcoming Writer's Block

We've all had it - that moment when you sit down to write and the words just won't seem to come out onto the paper. There can be a number of reasons for this. Sometimes you've got a plot hole that needs fixing before you can progress. Sometimes You're tired - it's hard to be creative when you're exhausted. Sometimes you're just stressing too much about it. There are other causes too - and the best solution is to work out why you have block and deal with that.

My personal solutions to writer's block:

1. If the problem is with the plot I'll work out what I need to do to fix it and make notes but not rewrite it at this point. Then I'll carry on as if I'd already made the changes. This can make the first draft a bit confusing to anyone who isn't you - but this is why I don't show people my first drafts (well that and the fact they're awful)

2. If I'm tired I do the obvious and get some sleep. I get some of my best inspiration from dreams anyway and lack of sleep isn't healthy.

3. If I'm stressing I do something distracting - in my case that usually involves reading, listening to music, or some combination of the two.

4. Write something else. If I really can't work on the project I had in mind I'll write something else instead. Sometimes leaving a project for a few days. This can be good with plot problems because it can take a few days to be ready to analyse the problem

5. Take a bath - always good for stress.

6. Go somewhere else to write. I've mentioned this one before - it really works for me. Get out of the house go to a coffee shop, the park or anywhere you like where you can sit and write. A change of scene can really help.

And here are some other people's tips. There will probably be some duplication here as other people have found the same tricks.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Writing Update

Things have slowed down to a crawl at the moment. Partly because my computer is acting up (it's rather old) and partly because I seem to have developed writers block - it happens to us all sometimes. I may have to do a post about dealing with it tomorrow.

I also may have to do some purge writing before it clears. Some of my old stories that need sorting out, re-outlining and re-writing won't leave me alone at the moment. Which is annoying when I want to work on the newer stuff. I'm sticking to my initial plan for June at the moment - I have a long weekend off work next weekend so I'll put in a concerted writing effort then. By a purge I mean write a scene in my head that's not to do with any of the stories I'm currently working on, because it won't leave me alone until I do. I'll probably do some of that before bed tonight.

Tuesday is my normal day off and I intend to spend it outlining. I need to get moving on the outlines if I'm to have them done by the end of June. The one for "The King's Head" is half done but I haven't even started the others yet. Then next weekend I'll really put in a push to finish "Opening". If I manage that I will work on re-outlining "Firebird's Song". If not I'll keep plugging away at it and do "Firebird's Song" in July. July is also edit "The Sundered Light" month.

So I'm sorted out until the end of July hopefully.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Interview - Dawson Vosburg

This is turning into Indie Publishing Weekend for me. Yesterday I reviewed Stacey Cochran’s novel Claws and today I’m talking to Dawson Vosburg – the 14 year old author of Young Adult Suspense Novel “Double Life”. (also at Amazon UK and on the Kindle).

It must be said that haven’t actually read this yet, but I have read the sample that’s up on Amazon – and it’s caught my interest, so he’s doing something right. He’s also received some great reviews – some of which were unsolicited. Here are links to just a few:

Anyway without further ado here’s the interview.


Becky: Hello, Dawson, and thank you for finding time in your busy schedule to give me this interview.

Dawson: You're welcome, Becky.

Becky: Shall we start with the obvious - tell us a bit about yourself and your new novel.

Dawson: I hail from Anderson, Indiana (an abandoned GM town) and I've been writing since I was twelve. Double Life is a young-adult sci-fi adventure about a thirteen-year-old boy who finds a portal into his imaginary world of secret government agents, and finds out he's not the only one who has done so.

Becky: Interesting concept.

Dawson: Thank you. It's available in print or on Kindle on Amazon. (See above or at the bottom for the links)

Becky: Was the inspiration for this novel your own fantasy life or something else? If so where did you find your muse as it were?

Dawson: When I was five, I used to roll around on my bike in the neighbouring dentist office's parking lot. There I would imagine that I was on the BLUE Agency as Agent 12, and I was shooting at evil RED Agents. As I grew older, the story sort of went with it until I think it was 2002 that I came up with "Agent 12 and His Gang" as an idea for a movie. I came up with other agents' characters, and when I was writing the book I drew from those original ideas. (The characters David and Bob were my original imaginary friends, but their names were Bob and Joe. With the name for the main character being Josiah, I had to change it to David, which happens to be the name of one of my older brothers.)

Becky: On both your blogs (Dawson Vosburg, Author and The POD Journal) you talk about "No Plot, No Problem" and how it helped you. From this I guess you are more of a 'discovery' writer than I am. I like to give my readers an insight into many ways of writing as I believe there is no one true way of writing - just what works for you. Tell us more about how you write.

Dawson: First I'd like to say that there is no one way of writing a novel...it's just the one that has worked for me (and as far as I know the one that works the best for most people) is the one outlined in No Plot? No Problem!

The way I generally write is in three stages: First draft, I write down the main plot of the story and don't have any of the subplots there. I just have the main thread of the story.

Second draft, the one I'm currently on for the sequel to Double Life, is the one where I add in the subplots and extra characters and smaller plot twists to my original plot. I find it much easier to add these in afterward because I have a foundation on which to lay these things and I know what exactly goes on in the story.

Third draft, I focus on the prose, the writing, the word choice. I already have my story down, so this time I take the printout of my book and read through it several times at least and carefully scrutinize the writing each time. After repeating again and again 'til the pages are well-worn, I add my changes into the document and send it to an editor.

Becky: Again good answer. I outline before I write (except oddly enough for nano) but that's because I have never managed to finish without an outline. Like you say we're all different.

Dawson: The book that I did outline actually turned out quite horribly for me, so yes, this once again proves everyone is very different in writing.

Becky: Well my outlines are hardly rock solid - I'm something of a hybrid writer if that makes sense. But we're here to talk about you not me - I do that enough on here. Can you tell us about your experience with Amazon Kindle so far? It's been very successful for our mutual acquaintance Stacey Cochran. How's it been for you so far?

Dawson: It's been great--I've sold 69 copies as of 6 o'clock June 12. And that's just this month. I've sold 95 since May 30th. Stacey Cochran, whom I did a talk with on Blog Talk Radio last night about this very subject (you can hear the talk here) far outstrips me. He's already sold about 1,000 this month. But Kindle has been incredibly easy to use altogether.

Becky: Given that the ebook format seems quite successful for you and that the Kindle is currently North America only have you considered releasing your book in other ebook formats such as mobipocket or for the Sony ebook reader (currently being pushed by Waterstones - the biggest bricks and mortar store in the UK)?

Dawson: I haven't put much thought into having it on the Sony eBook reader, though I can't deny it crossed my mind. I don't really know what I'm going to do about that...right now my efforts are focused on the Kindle and this blog tour.

Becky: That's understandable - you don't want to spread yourself too thin. But at the same time you don't want to forget you may have potential non-US readers who's like an ebook version as much as your US readers. (I’d buy a MobiPocket version in a flash). Anyway, next question - you mentioned a second draft of a sequel - any teasers?

Dawson: Ooh! I have a few... There are more exciting events surrounding the death in the first book. There is also a mysterious third party and a possible rogue agent. That's all I'll say.

Becky: Mysterious third parties are always good in my book. Thank you again for joining us, Dawson. Good luck with you blog tour and sales from here on in.

Dawson: Thank you for having me, Becky. Have a great day.


And remember people you can pick up a copy of Dawson’s novel at AmazonUS, AmazonUK and for the Kindle) - the Kindle version is only 80 cents so Kindle owners have nothing to lose.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Fiction Book Review - Claws

Before I review Claws by Stacey Cochran I feel that in the name of complete disclosure I should state that I got this book for free. And how I got the book for free is a tale.

A few years back I came across Stacey's first novel Amber Page and the Legend of the Coral Stone and was initially leery of buying it because the title was a tad Harry Potterish. But there was a sample chapter available, so I took a look and then bought it. It was enjoyable contemporary fantasy yarn, so I reviewed on the Lulu site where I'd purchased it. It was a broadly but not entirely positive review. A little later I got a nice email from Stacey thanking me for the balanced review and asking if I'd post it on Amazon, which I duly did since it was hardly a chore.

A while later he brought out the sequel The Colorado Sequence and I bought it. Rather amazingly I found myself mentioned in the credits in that novel. It was even better and I wrote an even more positive review - that I was only able to post on Amazon UK, because by that time Amazon was only allowing you to review things if you'd made a purchase and I've never bought from Amazon US.

So fast forward to now. He's bringing out his third novel Claws, and I want to buy it. Like his previous two novels it's self-published and this time he's chosen to go with CreateSpace for reasons I quite understand to do with making an affordable product. Unfortunately books published through CreateSpace are only available on Amazon US, and the Kindle (there's a Kindle Edition for 80 cents) is not released in the UK yet for technical reasons that have no place in this discussion. So I couldn't buy one. Having exchanged occasional emails with Stacey since my review of Coral Stone I commented on this to him and he sent me a signed copy!

So having established that I'm quite the fan of Stacey's you probably won't be too shocked that this is a broadly positive review. :-D


Claws is actually not a book I would have expressed an interest in if I hadn't already been a fan of Stacey Cochran's work. I'm a very fussy reader in my way - not so much about grammar and spelling (unless it's egregious) but I generally only read Speculative Fiction. Claws is a thriller, but it's not really SpecFic. However when - as here - a writer I like ventures into a genre I don't normally read I'll usually give it a go.

This is probably why - even though I can tell it's superior to his previous novels in writing skill and plotting I find that I don't like it quite as much as I did the other two.

That said I do like it. It's a tense and gripping thriller and I'd love to see a movie of it (I don't generally read thrillers but I love to watch them).

The novel is not amazingly deep (it's a thriller who expects depth?) but it still raises some interesting issues about wildlife conservation versus public safety without being preachy. The setup is quite simple - a mountain lion is stalking and killing people on a resort in Arizona - possibly because the place has been built too close to the wild. The Protagonist wants to relocate it while the resort owner (a thoroughly nasty piece of work) wants to kill it.

Stacey calls this book a mountain lion version of Jaws. I can see why, but I don't entirely think this does it justice. This isn't just Jaws with a big cat - there's more to it than that. Ironically though this book does suffer from a flaw I also found in in Benchley's "masterwork" when I tried to read it. (And there's one up for you Stacey - I finished Claws I gave up in the middle of Jaws). Both novels seem at times to lose a little focus by getting too caught up in the personal problems of the protagonists. Personal conflict usually enriches a novel - but not if it detracts from the thrill in thriller. But in Claws this isn't a deal breaker for me (it was in Jaws). I still found this a decent story.

And I couldn't help recognising a character who appeared in the very last scene as having also appeared in the last scene of Coral Stone. I'm not sure if this is a hint of a Stephen Kingesque metaverse or the guy is simply based on someone Stacey encountered in Hawaii. Maybe it's an Easter Egg? I don't know, but it amused me.

My thoughts - if you like thrillers with all that entails then Claws is certainly a worthy read in my opinion. And if you own a Kindle then at 80 cents you're hardly going to cry over wasted cash if you hate it. If I was rating this on Amazon I'd probably give it 4 stars on the grounds I can't give it 3.5 and I hate to round down).

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Writing Update

Writing is definately easier when you don't get a migraine. In fact it's impossible to write when you do. Last night I had a migraine.

And to be honest I don't have any great tips for how to write when you feel dreadful. I've never got the hang of it myself.

The upshot of this is that I'm not much further on with my writing than I was on Tuesday evening, and this is a very short blog because my head's still foggy.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Writing Book Review - No Plot No Problem

"No Plot? No Problem!: A High-velocity, Low-stress Way to Write a Novel in 30 Days" by Chris Baty is basically the NaNoWriMo handbook as written by the founder of said insane writing event.

This isn't a book about creating high literature or tightening your plot. No, this is a book about getting that novel idea out of your head and onto paper as quickly as possible. Everything else is for the editing stage.

I like this book. Chris Baty has an engaging way of expressing himself that makes it fun, and it's full of amusing anecdotes and tips from other Nanoers (not many writing books have tips for upping your word count).

It bears repeating - I really like this book. I read it a lot.

I just don't use it much.

With a few exceptions the tips I use from it I used before I read it, and the others don't suit me.

However this is exactly how a large chunk of NaNo winners write their novel - just not me. People who want to write a novel and struggle to get started could do worse than to give it a whirl. Even if you don't want it as a writing guide it's worth a look anyway for the fun factor. It's inexpensive and doesn't claim to be the one true way to write a novel - just a way.


Before I go could anyone possible recommend a good writing book that deals with Short Story Writing? All the ones I home deal mostly with novels. Thanks.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Short Stories shouldn't be this complicated

I've hit an interesting problem with "Opening" (yeah I dropped the 'The'). There's just too much happening for a short story or even a novelette. I'm either going to have to drop some things, or increase it to novella length in order to make it coherent.

I almost think the problem is too much Worldbuilding - I know all the people and groups who would react to what the protagonist is doing and can't justify not dealing with them. It looked okay in the outline but now it seems manic. For now the thing is to get what I have typed in and finish it and sort it out in the rewrite.

On the upside I'm halfway through the outline of "The King's Head". It should be finished before bed. And no way is this story going to be excessively long - it's far simpler even with the complication I've added. Given that my targets for June, as defined in this post, are merely to finish the first draft of "Opening" and outline three other stories by the end of this month I'm well on the way to fulfilling my goals. I'm actually considering adding 'write the first draft of "The King's Head"' and 're-outline "Firebird's Song" (my 2007 NaNo which needs to be made coherent)' to my June project list. I'll see how I'm doing on Sunday evening and then decide.

Monday, 8 June 2009

About Research

I feel a bit odd writing about research. I hate research. Well hate is too strong a word, but I'm not very comfortable with it - mostly because I'm not very good at it.

I mean if it just involves reading up on a subject I'm fine. I can find and read a book, article or Wikipedia entry no trouble. If someone I know knows about it I can ask them. If I actually need to find someone new who knows the subject and ask them questions I run into trouble. The thing is I'm a little shy and the thought of contacting total strangers and asking them nosy questions about it makes me feel ill.

As of yet I'm still trying to find a way past this hang up of mine, because research is important if you want to your fiction to have that element of versimilitude.

Anyway I've been researching research so to speak, and here are the links I've come up with so far.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Writing Update

This is one of those posts when I will talk about the rest of my life, because it is impacting my writing.

This weekend I've had a guest and have been to a roleplaying convention in Birmingham. This was great fun but it's left me without any time to write. This means that the last scene of "The Opening" is still unfinished. However I also have tomorrow and Tuesday off so I intend to get it done before I go back to work.

I also hope to get some outlining done at the same time.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Quick Link Post

I have a friend visiting this weekend, so no time for a full post. Therefore I thought I'd link to some interesting blogs I've come across.

According to his latest post Noveldoctor is planning to launch some sort of contest next Friday. It has the entertaining title of “Help Keep Stephen Off Prozac Writing Contest Extravaganza.”

Daily Writing Tips can be very useful - and does exactly what it say.

Natalie Hatch has a post about George Orwell's own writing tips.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Fiction Book Review: Storm Front

Wow, I came late to this party. In spite of the fact that these novels were first published but this series had already been around for some time before I discovered it in 2006. Still I like it enough to feel that posting a version of the review I posted on Amazon at that time
is worthwhile.


hey may not inhabit the same universe but it would seem that there's more than one wizard named Harry out there in the world of modern urban fantasy fiction. In Storm Front - Book One of the Dresden Files Jim Butcher introduces us to Harry Dresden - Chicago's only professional wizard in the phone book.

It's an interesting concept. Dresden is a Wizard come Private Eye and this book plays to the conceits of both genres well. The story starts with a cash strapped Harry taking on two new cases. The first involves a very grisly double murder committed via magic while the vitims were doing the nasty together that he takes on for the police and the second is a missing persons case. They seem totally unconnected but if you know the genres you know things will get complicated very quickly.

It's not a book without flaws however (few books are). The villians are a little weak and and the PI side of the story can sometimes be a bit cliche and there is way too much backstory crammed into this first novel of the series. But unlike many series' starts it wraps up neatly and the style is good. Hopefully now all the back story is out of the way the pacing of the sequels will improve.

In spite of it's weaknesses I really enjoyed this novel. It's not high literature but it's entertaining and worth reading and yet another book I heartily recommendd to you.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Writing and Editing

I have given the advice "write when you write and edit when you edit" on several occassions. And this is advice that works for me. It isn't advice that works for everyone - there's very little writing advice that does.

In her excellent post "Three Things Necessary to Make Writing Good and Powerful" Yvonne Perry of "Writers in the Sky" discusses this, and how "right brained writers" and "left brained editors" and how they need each other. Her three points are also excellent and well worth reading. Go take a look.

The rest of her blog is good as well, so spend some time looking around. :-)

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Writing Book review - Teach Yourself How to Write a Blockbuster

Teach Yourself publish a wide range of books on a huge number of topics from foreign languages to writing to web design to whatever. They claim to have 750 subjects covered by their books.

They have at least two on novel writing - both of which I own.

Today I'm going to review "Teach Yourself How to Write a Blockbuster" by Lee Weatherly and Helen Corner.

Like the authors of the previously reviewed "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" these two are professional editors, and Lee Weatherly also has a background in agenting. It's fair to say that they both know their stuff.

The book is split into two parts. Part one deals with the mechanics of writing a novel while part two deals with getting into print. Throughout both parts are sprinkled gems of wisdom from published authors.

While many of the writing tips found in part one are explained better in "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" this book covers more than just editing, and is thus more comprehensive. It also understands that not everyone writes the same way and acts more like a map than a 'write this way' kind of book.

Part two is where it really shines with advice on finding an agent and how to submit you work to them. It also has a walkthrough of the publishing process once you get accepted, and even a section on self-publishing that isn't negative (though it does warn you that it's not going to make you rich - but that's not news to anyone who thinks about it).

My one criticism would be that it possibly tries to fit too much in, so certain areas don't get the attention they deserve. I suspect that for any section of this book there is a book that does it better. I doubt there is any book that covers them all this well.

It's inexpensive as well which is always a plus.

This is another book I'd recommend, though perhaps not as highly as I do "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers". If you can only afford one I'd suggest buying "Self-Editing" before this one.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

When first lines attack - and more on characterisation

Yesterday I posted a post about characterisation. This evening as I was browsing the web and wondering what to post tonight I came across another excellent post on characterisation. Bend and Break by noveldoctor. I'd never seen this blog before today, but it's been added to the blogs I subscribe to on the strength of this. (I should think about putting a proper blogroll soon, shouldn't I?)

Today has been a bit quiet on the writing front. I'll have to do some before bed. However, in my defense, I must say that the reason I was light on writing today is that I was researching stuff for "There Might be Dragons" - which still isn't outlined, but which I now have a good idea of the first line for. How do I have the first line before the outline? Well it fell into my brain like a thunderbolt from heaven when I was musing on the first scene.

And I'd like your feedback on it if possible please, people.

Nothing interfered with the continuing search for creatures unknown to science like finding a dead body. A dead human body that is.

Does this grab your attention and make you want to know what's going on? All feedback is welcome - even negative feedback - as long as it's constructive, thanks.

If you're new to my blog and wondering about this "There Might be Dragons" story I'm planning check out my "so where am I at?" post where I talk about my projects. Feedback on my idea is also always welcome.

Monday, 1 June 2009

About Characterisation

It's very important for characters in fiction to be three dimensional, and it can be very confusing when your critical readers tell you that they aren't.

One of the reasons this happens - as far as I can tell from my own writing - is too much focus on a character's primary trait. Real people tend to be living breathing bundles of contradiction. A kind person might well be cruel if stressed. A tolerant person may have a secret hatred for something. Human beings often think one thing and do another without even realising it. Cognitive dissonance is part of the human condition.

But if you make your characters too contradictory they'll be too confusing for the reader. Random personalities, like coincidence, are perceived as unrealistic in fiction even though both are common in reality. Characters, like dialogue, need to capture the essence of reality without the confusion of reality.

They also need to be likable without being perfect, or unlikable without be irredeemable - if a character isn't a mix of good and bad people will find them shallow.

All this can be bloody hard to balance.

The other reason it happens (again my opinion) is that I know my characters and their quirks, foibles and negative traits so well that I don't always notice when they're missing from what is written. It's just so obvious to me. Putting too much emphasis on certain behavorial traits like tongue tapping or a certain turn of phrase can also be an hindrance. They'll make a character recognisable - but that's not the same as deep.

So what to do?

One good piece of advice I've found in several places is 'inner conflict'. That is the character should want two mutually exclusive things. The things can be external - they can even be part of the external conflict, but they must have an internal effect. The internal conflict comes from the character's reaction to their dilemma.

Another good thing (also from multiple places) is to list the character's various traits - both good and bad - somewhere and what sort of situations are liable to trigger them. Then make sure that you write a scene for all of them at some point. In the end not all such things will be suitable for the plot, but if you've got them you can sort in the suitable ones and cut the rest. As long as you keep a balance.


  1. Writing Fictional Characters defines the above in terms of commonality, originality, dichotomy, desire, and peculiarity. This is a very good way to put it. Though I think the explanations could be a little more engaging.

  2. How to Create a Character is an interesting approach. It's not the one I use - but I do see where it can be useful and starting with what your character wants is certainly a good point.

  3. Building Fictional Characters. The chart and questions she's created are useful, and she has a load of helpful links.

  4. Character Development in Fiction is very detailed and goes beyond simply developing characters. It's interesting reading, and amusing for the author's comments on their first published novel and how bad it was.
Well that's my twopenneth about characterisation. I hope you find it helpful.

Oh and if you're wondering I did manage to write a little over my 250 word target before bed last night.