First of all I want to talk about success. I want to be successful (doesn’t everybody?). I have learned that success definitely does not mean happy, or necessarily rich. I have lived in the Philippines for many years, among the poorest of the poor, and I mean poor. These people could not only not afford the television; they probably could not even afford the plug.
An anomaly struck me as soon as I moved there to live. Many of them did not know where their next meal would come from, but they were happy, friendly and generally content.
Coming from a reasonable (but not necessarily happy) life as a lawyer in the UK, this made me rethink my own values a lot. Generally, we are nearly all successful – we are warm, fed and safe, but we treat success as more of a distant target than an immediate achievement. “Success is a journey, not a destination” is a phrase I have heard many times – but I believe it to be absolutely true.
Another thought I would like to share with you is the habit of aiming your inky pen at whatever the current trend is, hence the millions of us who are busy writing novels involving vampires, werewolves, zombies and all other unspeakable creatures having sex with each other in unmentionable circumstances and positions and in groups of varying sizes.
Yes, of course this is NOW popular due to certain shady books and trending movies, but there are (at least) two serious questions you should ask yourself if you are considering the commercial viability of your work:
1) What are the chances of the trend and popularity continuing up until you publish, which generally will be at least a year, maybe two after you start writing.
2) How will you make your work stand tall among the thousands of other works of a similar nature which are taking shape as we speak on computers around the world.
Spotting a FUTURE trend is a crystal ball job, but for me, I would think carefully before writing in a certain genre JUST because it is currently popular.
On a really serious note now, although one lady said she hated cats, I had many people who said they loved cats and the cat picture. So, in a shameless attempt to keep you coming back for more, I will post a completely irrelevant cat pic in my blog each week. I actually used to keep tarantulas as pets and I find them furry and friendly, but my girlfriend has convinced me that pictures of furry spiders may not be so attractive to my readers. Let me know what you think – and subscribe to my blog, please, pretty please
Think before you write!
Before you even put fingers to keyboard you should have your storyline sketched out, your scenes, your characters profiles, your flow – of course this is not fixed, you can and will change it as you go along and get new ideas.
I want to admit straight away that I did not do this with my first book, and from my conversations with writers I know that most writers start out in a much more haphazard way just typing away and seeing where their fantasies take them.
When I was a practising lawyer in the UK I had a poster on my wall. It said “You should plan for all eventualities and anticipate any hold-ups, but when you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember that the original intention was to drain the swamp”. This is the situation we find ourselves in so many times. We (or our writings) have taken an unexpected turn, or we have writers block because we cannot work out what happens next, or, worst of all, we end up rewriting large parts of our book to put it back on course.
In learning how to go forward for my second book want to pay tribute to the following writers and teachers – much of what appears here I have learned from them, but I have tailored it to suit my lazy, butterfly-like tendencies – I am after all a Gemini with a short attention span.( In our defense, I am told we Geminis make good lovers, but perhaps that’s the subject for another blog!) For more in depth study I suggest you visit Joanna Penn, Shelley Hitz, Jonathan Gunson and the girls at Duolit. Their writings have assisted me greatly along my journey.
I started my second book in a much more methodical way and am trying to follow a plan – but I still allow myself to fly off in a different direction sometimes, good ideas can come to you at any time and you have to be flexible.
I will outline to you the methods I now use to try to plan my work. I do not stick rigidly to this, but I do try – and the discipline certainly helps in getting the word count up and I rarely get writers block or lack direction (in my writing). I certainly do not lack direction at all in other areas of my life, I always have about ten directions that I am going in at the same time).
Ok. It is time to start to plan. For this you will need a scientific calculator, one pencil, four erasers and two headache pills.
One of the things I have learned after writing my first 127,000 word piece of brilliance is that the optimum length should be about 80,000 - 100,000 words. So this is my aim for my second shorter, but equally brilliant opus.
I also decided to divide it into three Acts (Beginning, middle and end, Duh...), with four chapters in each Act and then to divide the actions and event within the chapter into about twelve scenes.
For me, the Acts are just a way of thinking and organising, they will not appear in the book – just the usual list of chapters. You may end up with 11 or 13 chapters. As I said before – do not be rigid, you are producing an original work of literature, not following the plans to build a do-it-yourself bookshelf.
I like my scenes to be 800 – 900 words long, so, (time for the scientific calculators) roughly 9 or 10 scenes will be in each chapter.
I have on my wall a long sheet detailing (in just one sentence) each scene in each chapter – all in pencil because it is frequently changed. I know many of you will be laughing at me and planning to do all of this on a spreadsheet – go ahead, the result will be the same – except you will not need to buy erasers. I guess it’s time to confess my technophobia – a great problem – I think that in these days of internet marketing, a technophobic writer is like an airline pilot with a fear of flying, but never mind, I struggle on.If you have either followed or chosen to ignore the suggestions above you will be ready to start.
Next week I will discuss the challenges of motivation, deadlines – frankly just how you can keep going until your first draft is finished. We will discuss methodology, motivation and discipline – no,no, you erotic writers can put your whips away – it’s not THAT sort of discipline.
So join me same time, same channel next week – and don’t forget to sign up for the blog over there on the right – in case you miss it – the usual freebie will wing it’s way to you soon after you have registered.
Juggling soot and herding cats (memo to self – get their attention with cute pic of cat) are just two of the many phrases I have heard over the years to describe something that is very difficult, or impossible to do. Well, that’s what I (and I suspect many writers) have been doing for quite a while now. The demands of marketing in this Brave New publishing world have taken over from whatever it was we used to do, what was it?..... oh, yes, that was it.... writing.
It is only going to get worse. There are more and more of us everyday, peddling our wares and notching up 5* reviews on our bedposts as fast as Amazon will allow. The only serious point I want to make in this blog is that we are now forced to sell our precious products for far less than they really should be sold for. I hope Mark Coker (Smashwords) is right when he says in his blog – “...authors and publishers must compete against free. Luckily, what writers write is completely unique. This unique creation has value, and if it’s desirable to readers, and the perceived desirability outweighs the price, readers will pay. Readers will favor trusted author brands. That means your opportunity as a writer is to build your brand.” I hope there will be some mechanism or trend emerging soon to allow really talented authors (of which there are many – and I do not include myself, yet) to earn a reasonable reward for their labours.
The benefits though of all of this is that more and more people are now buying ebooks, so it is not all doom and gloom. It is an exciting time to be a writer, no doubt, and I look forward to the year with confidence – but then, I always was an over-optimistic fool!
I have learned many things about building website, articles, content and blogs that my now seventeen year old son (birthday on 2nd Jan – Happy Birthday, Thomas) knew years ago and now I need to put this knowledge into action. This week’s lesson for me is ‘linking’. If any reader has a site they would like to link with mine, please contact me – and tell me how to do it!
By the way, as a Briton living in Hong Kong I love exploring nature’s wonders on my annual vacations. I have never thought of the USA as a target destination, but it seems to be the place everyone is talking about – perhaps I will visit the ‘Mountain of Debt’ or the ‘River of despair’ – are they anywhere near the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ (or ‘Fiscal Canyon’ that I have just heard about today)? – I tried to Google them, but came up with pictures of Obama every time – that guy must get everywhere. Seriously, I hope you guys sort yourselves out quickly, I know what is coming, I have seen ‘Red Dawn’!
Don’t forget to sign up to receive my bi-weekly dribbling regularly – the Tuesday piece will be a serious one seeking to help new writers. The other one will be frivolous – maybe herding soot and juggling cats next time. This paragraph is called a CTA – a Call To Action – an attempt to make you do something. You see I know all the jargon. I just hope I can make it all work for me and GMM – Get Me Money! Happy writing, and I hope 2013 will be good to all of you.
I want to start with the bleedin’ obvious. You MUST consider the genre of your book BEFORE you start writing. Why? Because it’s too ******* late to change when you have finished !!!
The guidance I give below is not that of a seasoned professional writer. One day I might get somewhere close, but for now, I am on a steep learning curve and I expect to be that way for many years to come. All I can offer you here are the results of my own experiences and my insights herein and thereon (it’s difficult to get out of lawyering habits).
I started writing my first novel about two years ago. At that time I knew NOTHING of genre, style, format or publishing. I just knew that for years I had wanted to write a book, and now I was going to damn well do it! No matter what everybody said!
I started my wonderful tome with reckless abandon, gaily tapping away and filling pages and pages with the most amazing and exciting prose it was possible to imagine. My modesty prevents me from comparing my outstanding work to other giants of literature, but only just. I did not consider whether it was a thriller or a goldfish, a crime novel or a cheese sandwich. To call me naive would have been a great insult to really really really naive people. If you would like to see the results, you can check out my book, ‘Deadly Election’ HERE
Now, it is fine to write this way if you are writing purely for your own satisfaction, and do not, and will not in the future want to sell your book for profit. You may as well stop reading this now. But, If you DO want to sell your book, or start to establish yourself as a professional writer there are many serious considerations you should have before you even open a word document.
All books that are offered for sale either electronically or physically will be classified by whatever type of book retailer you choose to use into a category, and probably a sub category – so that prospective readers will have an idea what to expect when the open it, and so that readers that want a certain genre can be pointed in the right direction. Publishers will certainly want your genre well defined, and one of the main considerations they will have in considering your work will be whether the genre you are writing is popular at the time.
Ok, let’s start with the basics. What is a Genre, Really! - here is a dictionary definition:
a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content
Now, let’s look at the generally recognized genres. Many works will fall into several categories or at least have elements of many genres
Usually characterized by stuff like explosions, fight scenes, chases, daring escapes, etc.
Examples, James Bond, Die Hard.
Sub-categories would include Western, Spy, War, Military.
Usually involves travel, chases, exploration or such like Sub-categories include space, travel etc.
Usually about a series of funny or comical events, or involving funny people and situations, intended to make the audience laugh.
Sub-categories include slapstick, satire, slapstick, parody etc.
A story about a crime that is being committed or was committed. It can also be an account of a criminal's life. It often crosses over with Action or Adventure genres.
Subcategories include Detective, Legal, Murder etc
A story that re-tells events rather than create them. Usually, it is about true historic events.
Erotic literature comprises fictional and factual stories and accounts of human sexual relationships which have the power to or are intended to arouse the reader . Subcategories would include. Lesbianism, Group activity, Gay.
In literature, Faction is a text depicted as based on real historical figures, and actual events, woven together with fictitious allegations. Faction is often disliked as confusing to people who are trying to find facts.
A story about magic and supernatural forces, rather than technology, though it often is made to include elements of other genres, such as science fiction elements.
A story about a real person or event. Often, they are written in a textbook format, which may or may not focus on solely that person or event. Subcategories include: historical fiction, biography,
A story that is told to deliberately scare or frighten the audience, through suspense, violence or shock. Subcategories include: Ghost, monster, occult
Although normally associated with the crime genre, mystery fiction is considered a completely different genre in certain circumstances where the focus is on supernatural mystery (even if no crime is involved.
Philosophical fiction is fiction in which a significant proportion of the work is devoted to a discussion of the sort of questions normally addressed in discursive philosophy.
Political fiction is a subgenre of fiction that deals with political affairs. Political fiction has often used narrative to provide commentary on political events, systems and theories.
Traditionally, a story involving chivalry and adventure. In modern writing, a story about character's relationships, or engagements (a story about character development and interpersonal relationships rather than adventures).
Subcategories would include Chicklit, historical romance and contemporary romance.
Often strictly defined as a literary genre or form, although in practice it is also found in the graphic and performing arts. Satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony or other methods,
Similar to fantasy except stories in this genre use scientific understanding to explain the universe that it takes place in. It generally includes or is centered on the presumed effects or ramifications of computers or machines, travel through space, time or alien planets and life-forms genetic engineering etc.
SLICE OF LIFE
A story that might have no plot, but represents a portion of (everyday) life.
This is by no means a complete list or a definitive one, it is purely meant as a guide to the genre your book or proposed work may fit into.
If you want to be financially rewarded for your work you must carefully consider the genre of your work, and whether it is popular now, or trending in the future. You should spend time on Amazon checking out what is popular now, what is rising in popularity – and then READ extensively the popular books in that genre.
Next you have to get out your crystal ball to see what may be popular when your book is ready to be published.
The book shelves are overflowing right now with books about sexual adventures, werewolves, vampires, and all three combined together (you would be amazed at what they can get up to!) – I wonder why???
If you are considering following a current trend you must realise that everybody else and their cats will be doing the same, and that the trend may not last until your book is published.
A careful definition and categorisation will be necessary to impress a publisher, or, if you are self published, so that you can define your possible readership and target them in your marketing.
Next week, sketching out the storyline – register for my blog (on the right, over there) to make sure you do not miss it. (you also get a free book!) Happy writing, reading and relaxing – do not neglect your family, friends, pets etc. It is all too easy to work to hard, get frustrated and lose enthusiasm. Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt.!!!
Meet the author
Arthur Crandon is a lawyer, the boring office kind, not the exciting (and much better paid) courtroom type. He worked as a solicitor for a while before embarking on an interesting life overseas. He has spent most of his time in recent years in South East Asia, more recently in Hong Kong. Before that, Arthur lived and worked in the Philippine Islands.
He loves to fish, and play the piano – but spends most of his time writing, eating, drinking and sleeping
– usually, but not always, in that order.
His first book, Deadly Election, draws on his strange imagination and his
experiences, together with those of others, in a land that, beneath a veneer of civilisation, operates like the Wild West and is very
dangerous to innocent and gullible foreigners.
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My thriller - Deadly Election - is now on sale at Amazon. Anyone who buys the book and leaves a review will get a signed paperback. Please subscribe to my blog and newsletter here