Archive | July 2012

Change of perspective

So, I hit that delightful brick wall that sometimes materialises like a TARDIS in the middle of writing.  It’s quite a high wall and you can’t see over the top.  You try to chip away, writing a bit here and a bit there but when you read it back over you see it has no effect.  It blocked my view of the immediate path.  I could see the end though, because it’s at the top of the hill and somewhat distant.  What I knew for sure was that I did not by any stretch of the imagination, however vivid and bloodthirsty it might be, want to give up.

I realised what I needed to do was change my perspective.  Alter the view-point.  Side-step the wall for a time.  Did I pack a bag and go on holiday?  No.  No, I stayed right here with the laptop and thought about how I could take the writing into a different arena.  It occurred to me that when I read on the Kindle or from a paperback, I spot every single glitch with ease and see the story unfolding much more easily.  With other people’s work at least.  Might it work for my own?

Not having a printing press in the attic, it had to be Kindle.  A bit of converting to html later and processing into a Kindle book, I was ready to read it as though it was someone else’s work.  It took longer than I anticipated.  I’m used to reading it one part at a time for edits.  Sitting down and reading the first half of my own novel as a single entity was a curious experience and swallowed time voraciously.  I used the Kindle to highlight any issues to address at the end and it put quite a smile on my face that there really weren’t any horrible, glaring errors and very few typos.  There wasn’t much to highlight and that was a huge relief.

That reading Inkredible swallowed time even for me was no doubt a good thing.  It didn’t feel like a chore either, which was definitely a good thing!  What reading it through in this way really did for me as the writer though, was open the story up again so I could see that immediate path.  Side-stepping the wall put a slightly new perspective on things.  I now know exactly what I need to do and it feels right.  I’m smiling again and I can feel the intensity of the story burning through my veins on its way to the page.

If you’re hitting walls with your writing, I cannot recommend enough the idea of formatting up what you’ve got, taking it out of the writing field and into the reading, then sitting down and taking the whole thing in as one piece.  It’s too easy when you’re writing to lose sight of where you are because you’ve been so entrenched in the process.  Approaching it as a reader and not as a writer for a brief time gives you the ability to view your work as a whole and see where it needs to turn next.  You don’t have to transfer it to Kindle.  You can print it out, view it on a different computer or even in a different room to normal, as long as you’re looking at it in a different light.  The relief is tremendous.  Try it – it just might help!

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Reviews, critiques and objectivity

Was just reading a blog about the Amazon review process and its make or break influence.  It’s unfortunately true that a bad review in the early stages can do great harm to the success of a book.  Whilst it would be nice to think everyone might consider this when posting a review, we haven’t yet reached Utopia and everyone is not going to rate more highly than they’re first inclined out of sympathy.

What rattles me about Amazon reviews is the helpful and unhelpful rating scheme attached.  Now, from my perspective a review is helpful if it presents the reading experience of the reviewer.  However, many people will rate a review as unhelpful simply because they also have read the book and don’t agree with what you felt about it.  A die-hard fan will rate you unhelpful if you rate 4 stars and say it lacked a certain spark but was otherwise great.  Where is the room for objectivity in writing a review in that case?

A review needs to be objective.  It needs to describe your experience of a book and nothing more.  A review is neither a synopsis or a critique.  Synopsis is for the author and/or publisher; critique is for the literary circle meeting or the classroom, maybe some broadsheet literary pages.  In a review, by all means say whether the language was brilliantly poetic and maybe give one example, but do not write an essay about it.

But how do you retain objectivity when you’re conscious of helpful and unhelpful ratings on your opinion?  Well the simple way to look at it is this.  If it would stick in your throat to say it to the face of the author, don’t write it.  If 4 stars makes you swallow your pride, don’t rate it.  As much as I might be hurting my own future ratings by encouraging honesty, I see no point in dishonesty.

Amazon have huge power over the self-publishing world.  But who has power over the quality of what we Indie authors put out there?  The reader.  It’s now up to the readers to ensure the good books thrive and the bad ones wilt.  The reader must enable the cream to rise to the top.

Now, am I that confident about my own writing?  Of course not.  No-one is.  It’s a simple fact for me though that if I write something and publish it, the reviews should tell me whether I’ve hit the mark or not.  I should read reviews and see what readers like and dislike about my work, take it all onboard whether positive or negative and use it to my advantage for future work.  If you walked into a door and everyone laughed but it didn’t hurt, you’d keep on walking into doors for the comedic value without realising you were slowly destroying yourself.  Feedback in any respect is a gift that we can’t afford to dissuade anyone from giving.  It might hurt sometimes, but how can we avoid the same mistake in future if it doesn’t?

So write your reviews, give your star ratings and if you’ve been completely honest, you’ve done it right.  If you choose to bear in mind the harm a three stars or below rating might do to an author, then you have an altruistic heart and you’re very kind, but have you been honest?  A little white lie can do as much harm as a hurtful truth because you’re withholding the means for someone to become better.

Be objective.  No two people read the same book, so they say.  Your experience will of course be subjective in that respect.  But your review should have no agenda other than to share your experience and that is wholly objective.  That then, is my objective take on the subject!

Pebbles

I guess all writers have days every now and then when something makes them look back over old work.  I must have felt like making myself cringe because I opened the folder named Poems.  Yes, even horror writers indulge in such things.  Some of them do make me waver over the Delete key wondering whether they’ll ever be salvaged from the heinously pretentious moment in which they were written.  Then I found this; it must be nine or ten years old now and I remember what made me write it.  Clearing out the smaller attic room one day, in several boxes I found pebbles of varying sizes and shapes and every one of them with a memory attached.  My life in pebbles.  So here’s a horror writer’s poem about pebbles.

Pebbles

Pebbles from the beach where my father flew away
In my hand they look small and grey
In my heart they are purest white
Fragments of the stars that night

Pebble on a necklace my grandmother gave to me
In my hand it whispers secretly
In my heart I remember well
Days before the family fell

Pebble on a keychain, a fairground souvenir
In my hand it appears so queer
In my heart it was quite a prize
I was but a half pint size

Pebbles in a box at the back of my mind
In my hand I’m amazed to find
In my heart I’m starting to see
Pictures of who I used to be

Pebbles bearing memories since time began
In my hand with its brief life span
In my heart I know they’ll go on
Long after you and I have gone

I do hope it’s not too twee!

Listen to your dreams

A while ago I had a dream that George Clooney flew in from LA to meet me for drinks in my home city.  “Oh yeah” I hear you thinking, but it was nothing like that.  It was very vivid and very colourful and I wondered what on earth it meant.  Once in a while I have these vivid dreams that are obviously trying to tell me something but dreams being dreams, they rarely spell it out.  I know the drill – figure out the similes and the metaphors and you’ll work it out, but I never dream with archetypal symbols, I guess because I don’t think archetypal thoughts.  If my conscious mind thinks obscure things, imagine what my subconscious can come up with!

I’m having a really bad day today.  In many ways my world fell apart a little bit more but in other ways I know what I have to do.  While my mind was coming up with answers which can only have been on a subconscious level, I figured out the George Clooney dream too.  No, it’s still nothing like that.

Gorgeous George represents the optimum waking dream of success with the novel.  You know, that Shangri-La of writing something that’s an overnight sensation, the movie rights of which are snapped up and you never have to worry again?  That optimum waking dream.  He represents it; he doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

Now, in the dream, I went to the bar and bought two double shots of single malt, single malt being my favourite. What’s my favourite thing to do? You guessed it – write. To get back to the table though, I had to walk (!) for miles along a long, crowded balcony and I knew I was running out of time for the meeting.  I should probably mention that the balcony wall was painted deep red and red in my dreams usually means the right way although it won’t be easy.  I did eventually get back and was greeted with a hug by Mr Clooney.

So, what does it all mean?   The dream means it’s going to be a longer, harder struggle to get the novel out than really it should be but I will get there and my goal will greet me with open arms. The message, really, is to keep going along that balcony even if I can’t even see my goal for a time. It will reappear. The obstacles were people and in waking that’s also true, but in the dream I just kept shouting and slowly they moved out of the way.

When my dreams are that vivid, they want to tell me something important and they were telling me that to be successful, I have to make that trip to the bar and then push my way through to the point where I can rest and relax and smile at the outcome. It might not be entirely predictive of how successful the novel will be, but it was predictive of the obstacles now faced and that things might be a longer time coming than if I didn’t have those people in my way. It all makes sense.

Listen to your dreams and don’t lose sight of them.  I can think of no better message for anyone with a creative soul.  Hope my subconscious dreams can help you hold on to your waking ones.

Time, time, why have you forsaken me?

I know I’ll be one of those people who on my death-bed wails that I didn’t have time to do everything.  Where does one draw the line and say “no, this is what I want to do”?

This week saw me return to work on a phased return plan after 18 months of illness.  It’s good to be back and not sat here wondering what was to become of me.  At the same time, I’m exhausted and getting very little writing done.  Did some this morning before I set out, but it’s hard to settle to it when you know you have to be somewhere else imminently.  Just getting ready to leave the house is so exhausting that by the time I get to the office, I can barely sit up straight.  Plenty of mental energy, but physically am goosed.

Perhaps it was foolish to set a deadline for being ready to enter the beta reading phase on Inkredible.  Time is fleeting and if I’m not careful madness will indeed take its toll.  Writing is my art, my passion, my soul and it’s impossible to imagine letting go of it even a little.  The simple fact is, if I don’t sacrifice a vast proportion of it, I risk losing everything.  I can’t stay awake until all hours doing edits or writing new stories and chapters.  I have to be up early enough to perform that physical feat of getting ready and getting out.  When I get back to the 9 to 5, five days a week, that means being up by 5.30 and writing until 2 or 3am is just not going to happen without serious consequences.  The blood might begin to spill off the page and into life.

So what do I do?  Do I forget about all of the other things I need to do at home?  Some things can slide a bit more, other things absolutely cannot.  Do I find some way of never needing to sleep?  I wish!  Do I set aside an hour or two every night for writing and hope it doesn’t result in disjointed work?  Or do I only write at weekends after catching up on everything else?  I’ve been spoiled I suppose by having nearly every day to myself for so long.  What I can’t do is give up.  To give up writing would kill me a little more each day.  Perhaps I could train the cat to do some of the household tasks; vacuum up her own hair for example.  Perhaps I could hire someone to come in and do the cleaning.  Perhaps I could get myself cloned and send the copy out to work.  Right now, I could cry I’m so tired and I hate to turn out sloppy work which I no doubt will when I’m done here.  Maybe I already have in the above!  But ultimately, I’ll be writing and it will calm my anxious spirit.  Maybe I’ll kill someone and even if I do it badly I can edit it next time.  End of July can turn into end of September, end of October, end of the year as long an ending comes about.

The Higgs Bosun and the ICTh

A few days ago I mentioned in a post that my dog had a lisp and that I clearly heard her speaking voice if she could talk.  What I didn’t go into were the many amazing things she told me with that voice.  (As you read this revelation, you must try to imagine the complete and unequivocal sincerity on my face.)

One of her gems of knowledge and wisdom was the revelation of the Interdimensional Cupboard of Thtuff.  Some privileged dog owners and all dogs know about the ICTh.  Only dogs are able to perceive and access it though.

The ICTh is the place where dogs find apparently random things to chew.  Most dog people will have looked up at some point to see the dog chewing on something that has not been seen for years, be it a legitimately chewable item or a shoe you thought was lost.  The explanation is quite simple.  These things were either accidentally or, in the case of especially mischievous dogs, deliberately left in the ICTh.

Now announcements are soon to be made about developments in the search for the Higgs Bosun and only because of that pending information can I reveal to you that the Large Hadron Collider is in truth an attempt to recreate the ICTh.  What worries me is that if they are completely successful with this replica, the world may become suddenly buried in lost shoes, old tennis balls and sponges that went missing mysteriously from the bathroom one day while you were out.  Hopefully the sheer cost of such experiments will mean the noble dog retains its guardianship of the ICTh and its further secrets.

Ask yourself, now that you know this, why Bosun might be such a popular name amongst dogs.  Moreover ask your dog about the ICTh and watch his/her face.  Try if you can to hear what their voice if they could talk is saying.  If you don’t have a dog or never tried to hear your dogs voice if he/she could talk, think of the mind-blowing revelations you’re missing out on.  I’m most honoured to have been trusted to impart this knowledge at the appropriate time.

Dogs know.  Treat them always with the respect they deserve.

(That last sentence is the only one to which you need pay attention.)

Step it up there

Oh my, it’s July 2nd already and time is ticking by fast.  Set myself a deadline of the end of this month to get Inkredible ready for beta reading and since I did that, I swear the seconds halved in length.

First advance beta sections went out last week and feedback was fantastic, so feel pretty good about what I have written.  It’s the bits I haven’t written that bother me.  So much more to do and available hours are hugely reduced starting Wednesday.

In about six weeks, my writing hours go down to two or three a day in which time I also need to eat, keep house and theoretically rest as well.

So why are you wasting time blogging, Miss McHugh?  Well because I’ve been so focused on writing I haven’t done any writing about writing and I can’t let everyone think I just gave it all up now, can I?

Favourite line from this morning’s burst of activity: “Let’s just say I have a hunch, Wilkes, and it’s not the weight of this coat.” William Walker, out on site and bundled up against the cold.

Back to it while I’m on a roll!