Saturday, 31 January 2015

Scribophile - a brilliant tool for authors

A couple of months ago I wrote that, for me, the jury was out when it came to Scribophile.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s an online writing critique platform, and it’s darned good! There is a paid version and a free version, and I’m not going to try to sell you the paid version because the free version is fine.

The jury has most definitely returned a verdict of brilliant!  Without the constructive comments and fabulous suggestions from the wonderful bunch of people on this site, I would continue to make the same old mistakes in my writing.  

I have the many in-depth critiques I received to thank for many fun hours of editing and the cutting of all those erroneous words from my WIP – 2000 of them so far, and counting. I have yet to tackle those dreaded adverbs…

There is only one small problem - if I keep on cutting words at this rate I won't have any left in my manuscript!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Etiquette for authors?

You’ve published the work that has taken you decades to write, you’ve let you book-baby loose on the world, and now you sit back and watch the reviews flood in.

Only, they don’t.

Unless you’re lucky enough to be signed by a really big publisher, the odds are you will be doing the promotional stuff yourself. And if you’ve taken the indie publishing route then you most certainly will be marketing your pride and joy on your own.

Just a few observations you may like to consider: 
  • ·        Don’t leave a review for your own book. Seriously. Don’t.
  • ·       When requesting a review, check out a reviewer’s preferences if you can. If they only read sci-fi,   don’t waste your time and theirs by sending them a contemporary romance.
  • ·       And don’t send an e-copy of your book without being invited to. It’s rude. Wait for the reviewer to agree to read it first.
  • ·        Make sure you tailor your request to the reviewer. I hate receiving generic emails from authors – and it’s even worse when it’s addressed to ‘Hi Fred’ because the author has done a copy and paste job – at least get my name right!
  • ·        When you are lucky enough to have a reader agree to review your novel, don’t hassle them if it’s not read quickly enough for your liking. Readers have lives, too. And sometimes they might like the blurb, but for some reason end up not reading your work. Leave them alone, if they want to read it, they will.
  • ·        If you’ve asked someone to read your book, the least you can do is thank them when they do exactly that– WHATEVER the review. If a reader has taken the time and effort to read and review, then they should be thanked, even if they hated your work-of-a-lifetime and said so. After all, you asked them. If you’re not prepared to receive an honest review, then you shouldn’t have contacted them in the first place.
  • ·         NEVER, EVER respond to a negative review. The reader is entitled to an opinion and the only thing you’ll achieve by tackling a reviewer head on is a reputation you don’t want. You’ll come across as psychotic, and word that you are a ‘difficult’ author can quickly spread. Maintain a gracious silence, however unjustified you feel the review to be.
  • ·         If the only good reviews are from friends and family, and the rest of them are consistently poor, take it as a kick up the bum. Not everyone can be wrong, and of course your bezzie mate and your mum like your work. They feel obliged to! Take a good look at those bad reviews and see if you can amend the issues highlighted, even if you have to withdraw your book for a while.
  • ·         Don’t pay for good reviews. It’s just not right.
  • ·         If you agree to a review swap don’t automatically assume your partner in crime will give you a good review. And don’t ask for one. This is why I don’t agree to review swaps.

Good luck with the marketing! 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Whispering in Toilets

This is not as weird as it sounds. Honest!
I, like many other people, get ideas at the oddest and most inconvenient of times. Very often I don’t have paper and pen to hand, and though I have my mobile phone, writing anything other than a brief text is excruciating and a lesson in not losing my patience when I consistently hit the wrong key with my obviously overly large fingers.
So, I came up with the idea of using the voice record facility on my mobile. After all, I tend to have this addictive little gadget with me most of the time, so doing a prattle into  it seemed like a great idea.
Then I thought about taking it one step further. I spend my working day typing, and am fairly quick and proficient, however my thoughts, when I am writing, come much quicker than I can type. So, in my infinite wisdom I wondered if I could use the speech to text facility in Windows. And, maybe, just maybe, I could go even further again, and as well as speaking directly into my newly acquired microphone, I could also press the play button on my phone, and let it ‘talk’ to my computer. Therefore, if I was in the car, for instance, where I often talk to myself, as I work through the next scene, I could dictate a whole chapter into my phone, play it back, and my computer could type it up for me. Genius!
Only it wasn’t. For one thing, I still haven’t persuaded my speech to text programme that I actually speak English, so that continues to be a work in progress several weeks later.
Secondly, I get frowned at if I use my mobile in work (and rightly so, too), so I’m having to resort to disappearing off to the loo and whispering furtively into my phone. I could cope with this, if it weren’t for the fact that my phone objects to me whispering, and will only play back a sort of hissy mumble. I didn’t realise this, though, until I had merrily filled up the voice recording bit with lots of brilliant thoughts and ideas,which I can't understand when I play them back, and I've now forgotten what it was I actually said...

Next time I get a great idea, somebody please stop me!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Author interview with Fiona Collins

With the launch of her debut novel 'The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards', Fiona Collins is an author to watch, and I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed. Here's what she had to say:

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m a new writer. I’m married with three children and live in a draughty old farmhouse in the Essex countryside, although I confess I’m more of a high heels and handbags kind of girl than a wellies and wet dog one. I have been a stay-at-home mum for the past twelve years, but in my distant past I have been a television and radio presenter, a scriptwriter and an ‘extra’, as well as an easily-distracted temporary member of staff in various jobs including hospital laundry worker, vacuum cleaner demonstrator and waitress in a Japanese restaurant. Oh, and I once went to university, about two hundred and fifty years ago. 

What are you reading at the present?
Love and Devotion by Erica James. I thought the story might be a little sad for me, but I’m enjoying it. She is an excellent writer. I’m also currently re-reading all the Roald Dahl books with my seven year old son. 

What is the title of your book?
My debut novel is The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards. 

What is it about?
My novel is about Harmony Richards, a forty-five year old wife and mother who discovers that the unromantic husband she adores only proposed to her thirteen years ago because he was dumped by his One That Got Away. This ex-fiancee turns out to be not only much younger and prettier than her, but back in town to throw Harmony’s life into a tailspin. The novel explores what it feels like to be insecure in a marriage and have your looks, which you’ve relied on for so long, start to fade, particularly in the face of a stunning, younger rival. It’s about ageing. It’s about finding value in yourself again. It’s also about how delicious flirting with a younger man can be, when Harmony meets personal trainer, Blake. 

Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
Harmony is quite a complex character. She can be feisty and an outrageous flirt, at the same time she’s lacking in confidence, generally, and completely dampened down by her role as wife and mother. Once Melissa arrives on the scene, Harmony’s life takes off on an unexpected and slightly unhinged tangent: in stalking her rival she undertakes a series of eyebrow-raising beauty treatments, she starts the wrong-on-so-many-levels flirtation with Blake, but she also, fairly accidentally, gets a job – something she is surprised to find she really enjoys.   

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I suppose it’s that age is only a number. There is still fun to be had and new challenges to embrace, whatever your age.  It’s also that there’s more to life than marriage and motherhood: YOU are still in there somewhere! And for younger women, make the most of your youth but don’t dread your forties – they can actually be very empowering.

What was the biggest challenge during writing this novel?
I found this novel just rattled out of me like a runaway train. I really enjoyed steering that train in the direction I wanted it to go and I loved writing it. So to be honest, my biggest challenge was keeping the writing of it secret to friends and family. I wasn’t sure if I would ever publish it so I didn’t tell anyone. This meant lots of writing on the toilet in a locked bathroom (lid down!) and frantically scribbling things on bits of paper and shoving them in my knicker drawer!

Who designed your book cover?
Pixel Studio via An absolute bargain and I love my cover! 

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new novel about a single mum who, the first to admit she’s never really done much with her life, finds it transformed when she strikes up an unlikely friendship on the school run with an older, female rock star who was huge in the 80s. I’m cooking up lots of adventure and romance for my reluctant heroine who may find herself stepping into the spotlight of her own life for the very first time… 

Do you see writing as a career?
I would love writing to be my career!

Why do you write?
I love it. For me, it’s just enormous fun. I write when my children are at school and although I may turn up for the afternoon school run looking rather dazed and confused after writing for six hours straight, I have a big, satisfied smile on my face. I also find it tremendously gratifying to put all the mad, random thoughts that whizz round my brain down on paper.

What are your writing habits?
Drop the kids off at school, throw some washing into the machine, flick a duster around then write, write, write! I write on my laptop at the kitchen table in complete silence, interrupted by the occasional meow from my cat or the rumble of my tummy.

Which writers inspire you?
I am a massive chick lit fan. I love Adele Parks, Jane Fallon and Sophie Kinsella. The more you read, the better you write, so I try to mainline as much chick lit and contemporary women’s fiction as I can. When I fancy something different, my more literary hero is Graham Greene.  

Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’m new. I don’t feel qualified to give any! But I’m always happy to receive it :-)

I'd like to thank Fiona for her time, and if she's piqued your interest check out her book below:

Link to The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards on Amazon:

@FionaJaneBooks on Twitter

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Keeping the plates spinning

I really need to stop taking so much on! It’s not only the time issue, though that does play a part, it’s the fact that I am often confused.
Let me give you an example. So far last week, I critiqued chapters 1 and 2 of a novel on Scribofile. I finished an alpha read on a full length manuscript. I critiqued a middle chapter for another author on Scribofile (this was no random chapter, I have been following the progress of her novel for some time). I critiqued a short story, again on Scribophile, and was sent the first four chapters of a piece of work which I beta read a while ago and this is the next draft.
I also managed to read Kate Wrath’s new novel, Evolution (excellent, by the way), as a treat in the small amounts of time when I can fit reading for pleasure in (ie when I’m in the bath, or stood stirring a saucepan of something for dinner).

When I list it like this, no wonder I get confused.  And it’s no suprise, if after sending feedback to an author and they email me asking further questions, that I stare at said email, with no idea which piece of writing they are referring to! I honestly have trouble remembering which main character belongs in which author’s work, and as for plot lines…? Is there really an astronaut in the jungle, fending off an elderly woman with dementia, whilst battling a deadly virus and who lives in a tower block? Oh, and don’t forget the mermaids and the drug baron. No? I thought not…

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Supporting cast - Joan, Lady of Wales

Born in 1191, the illegitimate daughter of King John and a common-born woman named as Clementina, it is thought that Joan spent her early years in Normandy. She was brought to England in 1203 prior to her marriage to the Welsh prince, Llewelyn the Great in 1204.She was wed to this most formidable and famous of Welshmen when she was just thirteen. He was thirty-two.

Joan fast became a confident, outspoken and passionate character amongst Llewelyn’s people, far different to most wives of the kings and princes of the time, who had little or nothing to do with politics or the government. Joan managed to win much of the land in Gwynedd under Llewelyn’s reign, quickly making a name for herself within the political world at the time.

They had at least four children, the eldest of which was Gwladus Du (‘du’ means ‘the dark’) and Llewellyn already had several children by his Welsh mistress, Tangwistyl. It is uncertain whether he broke off relations with her when he wed Joan.

Although their marriage showed no troubles in the beginning, Joan betrayed Llewelyn with another man. Furious, Llewelyn had the culprit, William de Braose, hanged in a field behind the palace known as Garth Celyn in Abergwyngegyn, North Wales. In his heartbreak and outrage, Llewelyn imprisoned Joan in a tower, for twelve months.  Llewelyn forgave her for her adultery and took her back as his wife. She restored her title as princess and once again became the Lady of Wales.

Joan died in February 1237. In his grief, Llewelyn founded a Franciscan Friary near to the shore of Llanfaes, on the island of Angelsey, where he had Joan buried. From his castle on the mainland he was able to look across the waters towards the Friary, remembering Joan as he did so

Joan’s Friary was destroyed in 1537 as part of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in Wales. Joan's tomb was desecrated by the English army and the whereabouts of the coffin were unknown for many years until it was found in the town of Beaumaris, where it had been used as a horse trough for some two hundred years. Today Joan’s huge stone coffin lies in the church porch at Beaumaris Church where flowers are still displayed to celebrate this great Welsh Lady.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Busman's holiday? Anyone else feel the same?

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. The stories inside their covers transport me to other countries, other worlds, other universes. I am me, and not me. For the brief time I am immersed in a story, I am looking out through someone else’s eyes.
Not even majoring in English Lit at University and the subsequent dissecting of a plethora of classic works, didn’t spoil my love of fiction. But during the last couple of years most of the reading which I do for pleasure feels like a busman’s holiday.
This is for a couple of reasons. One of them is that now I am a writer myself, I am much more conscious of the mechanics of the craft. As I read, I realise I am subconsciously wondering why this character did that, or why this particular piece of information was inserted here and not somewhere else. I also find myself thinking things like, ‘oh, that was a good twist’, or ‘that was skilfully done’.
And another reason is that I spend a considerable amount of time beta reading and critiquing other authors’ work. Analysing a novel in order to submit an essay involves a different set of skills and priorities to beta reading. I have no interest in the motivation behind the writing, or the social and cultural history of the author, which may affect their writing, and which students are expected to comment on. For example, when I submitted an essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I was expected to include details of her private life – the fact that she had lost a child, and how this influenced her ideas for bringing the dead back to life. 
With beta reading, critiquing, and reviewing, all I am interested in is the story, and the things that go into making it work. The more alpha and beta reading I do, the better I hope my own writing becomes because I am constantly analysing what is good and what is not so good. I nit-pick at grammar and typos, spellings and homophones, and at the same time, I am looking for clich├ęs, both in the actual words used and in the concepts. I am looking at believability and consistency, and plot lines and how well characters are drawn, and how they develop.
I hope every book I read adds to my own author skills set, but there is a downside to this: I now find it very difficult to completely lose myself in a book when reading for pleasure.  Even those written by well-known authors are subjected to only a slightly lesser level of scrutiny than when I am critiquing. And in fact, I am probably harsher because of the level of editorial support the major players receive. If a high profile author produces a novel with typos, weak plots, etc, then what hope is there for us far less resource-rich indie authors?

Okay, rant over. But my point is that I now do not get the same level of enjoyment as I once did from reading. And that is such a shame…