Monthly Archives: January 2011

Dialogue by Tony Noland

dialogue

“I don’t know why you’re even arguing this.”

“I’m arguing because it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard, Kate. Starting a scene with dialogue is fine, but plopping the reader down into the middle of the conversation? All that does is confuse everyone.”

She shook her head. “No, the uncertainty creates a lure, a hook that draws the reader in. Without some context, pronouns without clear antecedents prompt the obvious question, WHAT is the subject of this conversation? For that matter, WHO are these people? Even more specifically, are you a man or a woman?”

“What? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, you called me ‘Kate’, and my action tag up there uses the pronoun ‘she’. I’m obviously a woman, but what about you?”

“You aren’t necessarily a woman. Female, yes, but you could be revealed to be a very mature girl, using an adult’s vocabulary. Or you could be a computer or a robot. I’ve seen that kind of twist in science fiction stories. I read this one by Robert Silverberg -”

“Don’t change the subject,” Kate said. “My point is that, by their presence or absence, the writer can deliberately use dialogue tags to reveal OR conceal.”

“Nice rhyme.”

“You are most gracious, my lord.”

“Huh?”

“Or should I say, nothin’ to it, General.

“General?”

“Or how about, you’re just teasing me, Bobby Thompson!”

“Kate, I think you should lie down.”

“No, I’m just making another point about dialogue. Look, did you see what I did there? With any one of those responses, I not only let the reader know roughly what kind of society the two of us are operating in – a formal aristocracy, a military structure, or a teenager setting – I also gave the reader a clue as to what our relationship is.”

“Oh, I get it! If you’re deferential and call me ‘my lord’, you must be at a substantially lower rung on a rigid social ladder. However, if you call me ‘General’ in a familiar way, then although your military rank must be far enough below me to warrant the use of the title, our personal relationship is such that you feel comfortable using the colloquial sentence structure!”

“Exactly, and in the young adult example, our relationship is clearly set as a flirtatious one between peers. Not only that, but in all three examples, I’ve told the reader that you are a man, or at least a male, without ever using the words he, his or him.”

“Hey, that’s great!” he said. “With just four or five words, the WHERE of this scene is outlined, at least from a cultural standpoint, and we’ve got a good start on the WHO, since I now have a gender, a name, and an idea of our relationship. That’s a fantastic economy of words, Kate.”

“Thanks, Rob. The WHAT is now apparent from the content of our speech – we’re talking about dialogue. WHY is a plot issue, not a dialogue issue, and HOW is self-evident from the vocabulary we’re using. However, the WHEN is still a bit uncertain. What century is this? More information will help to nail that down, but rather than state it overtly via the dialogue, it can be done more subtly via the interstitial action tags.”

“What do you mean, interstitial action tags?”

She smiled and adjusted the antimatter feed ratio in the cryo-arc lamp. “They’re little bits of action. If you use them right, they can tell a lot more than the bare facts of what the speaker is doing. However, you don’t want to have too many of them in a conversation, because then it will look like we’re twitchy and overcaffeinated.” Kate ran a fingertip around the edge of her glass. “Even if we are eating dinner, for example, making a point of mentioning every bite taken, every time one of us reaches for the salt and every sip of wine will get tedious to read. Even facial expressions don’t need to be mentioned very much,” she said. “It’s better to let the dialogue be the focus, and just let the readers fill in the blanks.”

“That’s a good idea,” he ejaculated.

Kate fumbled the spiced almond she was about to eat, then jerked backwards, recoiling from the splash the almond made as it fell into her glass of merlot.

“Don’t do that.” she said, dabbing at her blouse. “Please don’t do that.”

“What? What’d I do?”

“You ‘ejaculated’ in the middle of a conversation.”

He blushed. “You know perfectly well that I used it in the sense of -”

“I know what you meant. Just don’t, OK? And if you can possible help it, don’t splutter, shriek, bellow, state, whimper, whine, expostulate, utter, roar, or any other similarly unusual verb. Just say or ask.”

He shook his head. “The reader will get bored if it’s nothing but ‘he said’ and ‘she said’. That’s tedious repetition,” he averred.

“No,” she said, “it’s invisible repetition. The reader won’t even notice it, whereas that ‘averred’ you used in your last sentence is like a gilt rococo frame around an ordinary picture. It doesn’t matter what you actually said, the reader is stuck on that strange dialogue tag. You were obviously trying too hard to use a verb other than ‘said’, with the only result being that you sound like an overused thesaurus.”

“You’re being overly fussy and structural. English is a rich language, with a thousand ways to shade expressions of meaning.”

“I agree, and if you use them in the actual spoken part of the dialogue, the reader will be impressed with your erudition and eloquence. However,” she continued, “keep all that fluff out of the tags. A lot of times, you can skip the tags altogether. If you show someone doing something, then go right into their speech, you don’t even need a ‘she said’. ”

“Hang on, you just used ‘continued’! What happened to ‘only use said’, huh? You just broke your own rule!”

“Yes, Rob, I did.” She crossed the room to the bar, poured a large tumbler half-full of Jonnie Walker Blue Label. After taking a sip, she came to where he was sitting, stepped out of her shoes and eased herself down onto his lap. The silk of her blouse whispered against his tie. Kate ran her fingers through Rob’s hair and gently lifted the glass to his lips.

Her breath was warm against his ear. “I broke my own rules, Rob, because I am the writer, and I can do whatever the hell I want.”

More about Tony Noland

Tony Noland is a writer, blogger and poet in the suburbs of Philadelphia. His work has been featured in e.zines such as Evolve, and in the anthologies, 12 Days – 2009, Unluck of the Irish, Inhuman and Chinese Whisperings: The Yang Book. The most popular of any of Tony’s poems, Ode to the Semicolon has been featured on numerous grammar websites.

Tony is active on Twitter as @TonyNoland. You can
find his fiction and writing blog “Landless” at http://www.TonyNoland.com.

“The Yang Book” http://bit.ly/b9PjIQ
Blog: http://www.TonyNoland.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/TonyNoland
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/aSvNy1

Tagged , ,

Erotica and the Sexes by Eden Baylee

I’m not going to write about how men and women perceive erotica, whether one defines it as erotic and another as pornographic. I think it’s subjective, and the topic has been covered to death.

I’d rather provide some real examples of my own experience with writing erotica, and the difference in reactions I’ve encountered with men and women.

Women I know, and even women I don’t know personally love the fact that I write erotica. Their reactions range from interest about the stories to where my inspiration comes from to how I structure my work day.

It’s great talking to them because they are incredibly supportive in every facet. If there has been discomfort around the subject with anyone, I have not felt it. Even my mother-in-law is reading my book. This is a damn cool woman whom I highly respect, and she also reads a lot. For this last reason alone, I must admit I had apprehensions about giving her my book. I am, after all, married to her son.

What was she going to think of me? I’m happy to say she read the first two stories and sent me a note saying she found them steamy and well written. I couldn’t have asked for a better review than that.

I had to wonder why I assumed she was going to judge me. I’m a writer, and it’s fiction. Just because there’s lots of sex in the stories doesn’t imply I’m a sex addict, right? It would be akin to saying that because Stephen King writes horror, he must be a psychopathic axe-murderer—a ridiculous notion. It then dawned on me why I had been nervous. It had to do with some of the men’s reactions I’ve received when I told them I wrote erotica.

I’ve been writing full-time now for a year. During these months, I’ve occasionally socialized with men—some strangers, some acquaintances, and others whom I’ve known in one capacity or another.

When the conversation came around to what I did, or what I was doing, there have been some odd reactions to my response. They fall into one of a few different buckets.

  1. He immediately feels like he can start talking to me about sex, sharing some intimate sexual fantasy he’d like to fulfill. I’ve suddenly become his new best friend.
  2. He tells me I don’t look like someone who’s capable of such “dirty” thoughts (not sure if that’s supposed to be a compliment or an insult).
  3. He is really intrigued and wants me to recite passages from my book (as if I can call up my words at will and recite them like some Shakespearean Sonnet).
  4. He looks at me with raised eyebrows and becomes quiet. I have no idea what he is thinking.
  5. He giggles uncontrollably until I tell him to stop … several times.

It’s endearing, amusing, and awkward at its worst. Little fazes me, and to be fair to most men, I don’t think their reactions are mean-spirited, so there’s no point in getting annoyed. Perhaps it speaks a lot more to their interest in the subject matter, and the discomfort with knowing that someone probably thinks about sex, on a daily basis, more than they do.

I tend not to believe in stereotypes, nor oversimplify the reasons for the differences between the sexes. The belief that men are more visual than women, so they prefer to watch erotica rather than read it has as many studies that support the hypothesis as it has that disprove it.

The primary audience for erotica is women, but men read it too. It’s sensual foreplay, like watching porn, which supposedly men enjoy more than women do—yet another stereotype.

No science here, just my observations. I delight in the differences between men and women. It interests me because people interest me. Perhaps I’ll notice these differences less over time, but for now, I’m savoring the experience.

About Eden Baylee

Eden Baylee remembers hiding under the blankets with a flashlight and reading an erotic novel. It was past her bedtime—she was eleven.

Since then, she has continued to read and write erotica. Her first book, Fall into Winter, is currently available for sale. It contains four erotic novellas; two take place in the fall, and two in the winter, thus the title. Though common elements unify them, each story is unique and stands alone. The themes include: younger man, older woman; ménage à trois (MFM); BDSM; and past lovers looking for a second chance.

Website: www.edenbaylee.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/edenbaylee
Twitter: twitter.com/#!/edenbaylee

Tagged , ,

You have to write by Amy Rose Davis

A confession: I don’t get writer’s block and I’m not convinced it exists.

This isn’t to say that I don’t sympathize with writers who find themselves uninspired, frustrated, or stuck. I do sympathize, and I’ve been in all of those positions.

I also understand that it can be really tough to find time to write. Demands and noise and obligations scream at us from every direction, at best distracting us and at worst completely preventing us from seeking the Muse.

But the truth is that when I sit down to write, it doesn’t matter how uninspired, frustrated, stuck, distracted, or tired I am. I can always write at least a few hundred words. And when those few hundred are written, I’m usually able to keep going.

What’s the secret? A little thing that you all know, deep down in that secret writing place you don’t always talk about…

You have to—wait for it—WRITE.

Those few hundred words that I bang out when I’m brain dead are usually crap. I almost always delete them all. But the few hundred after them? Sometimes, they’re damn good. Occasionally, they have a flash or two of brilliance. I just have to get started, and the words will almost always flow. Even if they don’t, I can at least rest in the knowledge that I’ve done 300 – 500 words of crap. To me, that’s better than nothing.

Here are some things that I think help me avoid writer’s block:

Deadlines:

I worked as a commercial freelance writer, and over the course of several fairly large ghostwriting gigs, I learned to produce a lot of copy very quickly with tight deadlines. I also wrote for a construction trade journal with some tight deadlines. Deadlines are “very clarifying,” as one of my friends says.

With fiction writing, we often don’t have “deadlines.” I suggest setting your own. Once I said that my novel Ravenmarked would be published by February 1, 2011, I found it a lot easier to make time to edit and revise and format.

Blogging:

Granted, I only officially started my blog about four months ago, but I’ve managed to blog almost every day. Even when we took a vacation in November, I set up posts to publish before we left.

I don’t have a big following, but it *is* a following, and I feel some sense of obligation to post at least some small thing every day. That obligation forces me to write at least a few hundred words, which often puts me in the right frame of mind to write other things.

Dividing my attention:

This may not work for everyone, but I do best when I’m multi-tasking. I’m happiest and most productive when I have several projects in various stages—something in first draft stage, something in rewriting stage, something in development, etc.

For one thing, when I’m stuck on one project, I have other options, so I’m always flexing some portion of my writing muscle. For another thing, I don’t have time to ruminate or wallow or ponder my next idea when I finish one thing. There’s something right there to move on to, so I keep moving forward rather than waiting for new inspiration to strike.

Too often, brain-death encroaches when there’s nothing waiting in the wings.

Thinking of my writing as a business:

It’s true this is more of a self-talk kind of thing, but it works for me. I have about six hours of uninterrupted writing time every weekday when my kids are at school. When distractions encroach and I find myself tempted to run errands, have lunch with a friend, go shopping without kids along, watch a movie, or surf the dreaded Interwebz, I have to remind myself that my writing is my business now.

At any other job, I wouldn’t be allowed to just blow off my work for no good reason. I have to remember that if I want to earn a living as a fiction writer, part of that process involves making the decision to keep my writing time sacred.

I realize that not every writer has the freedom to write basically full time as I do. But I know some writers who have insanely busy day jobs (sometimes even more than one) and still manage to produce high-quality pieces on a fairly regular basis. They use their limited time very wisely and don’t seem to let distractions or illusions of writer’s block get in the way. They just sit down and write.

Writing begets writing. Sit down and write.

Find out more about Amy Rose Davis:

Tagged , ,

Rise of the POD People by Bram E Geiben

Bram E Geiben

In many ways, I’m not the best person to be weighing in on the issue of POD (Print On Demand) services. I’ve yet to try POD out as an individual writer, and as a publisher, my plans for putting out POD products are still evolving. Nonetheless, I’ve done a lot of thinking about POD: what kind of market share it might occupy in the future, how viable it is as a model for emerging authors, and what it actually means for publishing as a whole.

I’d definitely agree with SF author Damien G Walter’s recent post, talking about his experiences at the SF writers’ bootcamp, the Clarion Writer’s Workshop. Damien argues that “…being a great writer takes real work and dedication and sacrifice.” Damien is a writer who has already travelled a great distance towards the goal of being a well-paid professional writer: at some point in this journey, he decided that he wanted to be: “a great writer.” You’d have to ask Damien what exactly he means by that, but one can assume that what he is talking about is that he wants to write fiction that is worthy, original, and not just a rehash of worn-out genre tropes.

Now, Damien is a good writer to wish to emulate: he has sold his work professionally, is linked in to several arts organisations and writers’ groups in his local area, and has taken steps to build his career and reputation. Therefore his advice to emerging writers is of excellent value.

Later in the same post, he writes: “If Star Trek franchise novels are truly how you express yourself then go ahead and write them.” In other words, there is room in the literary world for writers whose work is derivative or formulaic. There should be no surprises here: it is a well known fact that one of the most lucrative areas in SF publishing is in tie-ins and spin-offs. It’s also not correct to assume that all of these books are substandard, or mere hack-work: as someone who has immensely enjoyed Michael Moorcock’s take on Doctor Who, and Charlie Higson’s take on Bond, I would be loath to write off all commercial tie-ins as mere pap.

What Damien’s post says to me is that the business of being a writer is all about how seriously you take yourself, and how hard you work. That applies whether you want to be a ‘great writer’ like Damien, or if your goal is a little more modest – simply to be a working writer. I’ve read elsewhere that the best way to get a job writing these tie-ins is simply to publish a strong, creator-owned novel in the mainstream press, and then to seek opportunities in the field via an agent. In other words, in order to become a ‘writer for hire’ you must first earn your spurs as a Creator (an iteration of a ‘great writer’ in Damien’s terms – someone who produces inventive, original content).

How does this all relate back to POD, you ask? Stay with me.

In 2007 I started my website Weaponizer, in an attempt to energize my own writing practice, to meet and network with other writers online, and to provide a place for emerging writers to showcase their work. Because the site is Creative Commons licensed, none of the contributors are paid – writers donate their work, and in exchange they get a profile on the site with a list of their contributions.

After 4 years, many of the writers are themselves beginning to experiment with POD / small press solutions to publish their writing – K. Patrick Glover‘s collection ‘Parenthetically Speaking‘ contained some of his Weaponizer submissions, while the insanely prolific Paul S. Grimsley is working on a POD book now (not his first either, I believe). Many of the writers who joined Weaponizer already had their work published in journals or via POD – many others had never seen their work in print or online before. Now, as these writers start to find their voices, they are beginning to seek avenues to push their work further, and find new readers.

If I am unable to provide a viable POD / small press solution for these writers, they will either find their own, or will gravitate towards more mainstream, traditional publishing. Inexorably, they will all travel down that same road Damien talks about in his post – towards becoming a working writer, perhaps even a great one. As the curator of the site that has helped, in some small way, to nourish and grow these authors, it would be immensely satisfying if I could now provide them with a paying market for their fiction – preferably a more viable and profitable one than they could find elsewhere.

This is where the money comes in. I don’t have the exact figures to hand, but the apocryphal legend tells of the fact that successful POD authors keep a great deal more of the profits from their books than authors going through the big publishing houses. This works exceptionally well for established authors – if they take a project outside the mainstream and people follow them, they stand to make a decent amount of profit. For an unknown writer, POD has few risks, but equally, it will be difficult to market the book, so sales will likely be low. This is where POD risks looking like ‘vanity publishing.’ If the book only sells to friends, is it a ‘real’ book, or just a self-indulgent exercise?

What I want to achieve by starting a POD-powered small press publishing imprint is to find the middle ground between self-starting, arguably self-serving POD projects and the more traditional publishing industry. A place where we survive and hopefully prosper on the strength of our writing, and the support of the community we have built.

To that end, I am going to attempt three POD projects this year – a quarterly magazine published via MagCloud, a graphic novel published via Smallzone, and an anthology of the best of Weaponizer, probably through Lulu or a similar service. I am sincerely hoping that the 1000 or so monthly visitors to my site support these products, enabling me to funnel some money back into the site, and to give me the confidence to start publishing actual novels by the writers on my site, and making some proper money for them.

Is this achievable? Only time will tell. With little in the way of a marketing budget, I’ll be relying almost entirely on social networking and local events to promote the products I’m trying to sell – our Facebook group, our Twitter feed and various online forums will be the battleground in terms of sales and promotion.

Hopefully, the products will stand or fall on their quality. This has to do not just with the individual pieces by the writers, but also my own abilities as a curator. Recently, while interviewing the rapper Beans of Anti-Pop Consortium for The Skinny Magazine, I asked the question: ‘What do you miss about the way music was consumed before the internet boom?’ Beans’ answer has as much relevance for fiction publishing as it does for music: “I think the act of making music and putting it out there is somewhat easier now, which is cool for people who are just starting out, but I miss a certain amount of quality control.” In other words, the signal to noise ratio has been increased by the advent of LiveJournal, Blogger, and sites like my own.

There are more bad writers and bad stories than there were before – many, many more. There are some truly talented individuals too, but finding them is almost more difficult, because they are no longer all grouped in specific places, and are commonly not subject to any form of editorial scrutiny at all.

In a sense, that is my mission as a publisher – to attract and publish writers whose work might be overlooked by the mainstream, or could disappear in the chaotic world of literary blogging, and to collect their works in one place. To tread the line between traditional publisher and independent POD dillettante; and build something resembling the small press / indie companies that inspired me to start my site, such as Avatar, Mutation Press and Rebel Inc.

I suppose this ambition will stand and fall on the quality of the work I choose to publish… which is why, at the very start of this experiment, I feel overwhelmingly positive. With the likes of the aforementioned Paul S. Grimsley and K. Patrick Glover, and Aaron Jacobs and Matthew McLean on board (to name but a few!), I think Weaponizer has a lot to offer, in terms of celebrating voices, techniques and approaches that are defiantly outside the mainstream.

What we’ve achieved so far, and what we are aiming at, is similar to Ziggy’s manifesto in an earlier post – we want to be Indie, to distance ourselves from both Big Publishing and Vanity Press. To be neither, with aspects of both: the creative freedom of self-publishing and the quality control of a traditional publisher.

And if that one day leads to myself and my fellow authors writing Star Trek tie-ins for dirty fistfuls of cash? Well, I’ll be one happy motherfucker.

About Bram E Geiben

Bram E Geiben (AKA Texture) is a writer and emcee based in Edinburgh. He is the curator of fiction site Weaponizer and the netlabel Black Lantern Music. Bram blogs over on the WPNZR Feed. Go bug him on Twitter. If you really want to know, read his rant-based LiveJournal.

Tagged , ,

The Secret Cure for Writer’s Block by India Drummond

For any of you who have spent a day, a week, a month (or more?) staring at a blank screen (or worse yet, avoiding the blank screen), I’m going to give you something that is worth gold: the super-secret cure for writer’s block.

There is no spoon.

What the hell?

No, really. It’s bullshit. There is no writer’s block. There is procrastination. There is being busy. There is being distracted. Then, God help us, there is Twitter.

Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block. Cops don’t get cop-block. Assassins don’t get a vague sense of malaise that prevents them from going out and slitting yet another throat. No, they just get up in the morning and do their damned job. And so should you.

Time to stop thinking of yourself as an artiste and get on with the hard work.

Writing is hard. I get that. I get it because I do it. Every time someone says to me something like: “Oh, I’ve always thought about writing a book, but I’m just too busy. It would be so nice not to have anything to do but sit around and write all day. Maybe when I retire.” I want to poke them in the eye.

Some days I’d rather do anything then face a half-finished outline, a scene that isn’t working, a corner into which I’ve painted myself. But if I lie to myself and say I’m “blocked”, I’ve lost the fight before I even get to my laptop.

So how do you get words on the page when the motivation isn’t there? Easy. Go back in your brain and remember the first time it occurred to you to be a writer. Better yet, the first time you read something of your own and thought, Hey, this is pretty good.

Remember that feeling?

Hang on to that memory until the feeling fills you up. Ignore the doubts, the self-sabotaging chatter in your brain, the voice that tells you it’s too hard, you’re too busy with other things, or you’ll do it later. It’s later now.

Next, think about what you hope to get out of this writing gig. I did myself a huge favour last month and created a ten-year plan for my writing career. I’ve been doing a lot of research into indie publishing ever since I decided to go indie on my next two books.

The one critical lesson I’ve taken away from that?

I now see that the most important thing I can do for my writing future is to write more books. I realised I’m working on a career, not a story. So, I mapped out my next ten years in a business plan. That brought into sharp focus how much work I have to do to achieve the things I want.

The best part? Now I really know what I want. I’ve got it down in black and white. My sales targets, my income targets, and concrete plans for how to achieve those things. Until I’ve implemented my ten-year plan, nothing is going to convince me it can’t be done. That’s ten doubt-free years I’ve bought myself.

That blank page in front of you is not just a blank page. It’s an opportunity. It’s step 32 of 925 in your plan. Imagine how you’ll feel when those plans succeed. Don’t just say it. Close your eyes and picture yourself with thirty published books, making X quid a month, or whatever your own goals are.

Me, I want a fulfilling job where I love the work and make a living. I want my husband to be able to retire at sixty-five and my kid to go to a decent university without a burden of debt. I know how I will feel when I achieve those things, because that is the feeling I take with me every day when I sit down to write about faeries, angels, demons, and witches. I feel that success when I see that blank screen.

Writing is hard work. But it’s work I love, and it’s work I can do. Blocked?

Sorry, don’t have time. I’m one month into a ten-year plan, and I have things to do.

About India Drummond

India Drummond’s debut novel, Ordinary Angels, is a slightly smutty urban fantasy in which Zoe Pendergraft falls in love with an angel, frees a soul from necromancers, releases a ghost trapped in the Void, and saves his living grandson from demons. It will be released April 4th, 2011 from Lyrical Press.

You can find India Drummond on Facebook, Twitter, and at her blog. Join her Facebook fan page to be notified of release dates and info about her two indie books, Blood Faerie and Haywire Witch, also coming in 2011.

Tagged , , ,

Small writing goals by Reena Jacobs

Writers write.

The thing is: it’s not always practical. Fussy bosses, long hours, screaming kids, a billion and one extracurricular activities—sometimes we just don’t want to make the time to write. So go ahead and boast to the world, “I’m a writer who doesn’t write.”

Doesn’t sound right, does it?

The words don’t always come easy. Sometimes we have to take baby steps. That’s where writing goals come into play. No need to commit to 2k words a day. Set small goals. Start with something which isn’t a challenge, like 100 words. If you can’t dedicate yourself to 100 words, try 50.

Why set such a low goal?

Because it’s achievable. For many authors, that’s just 10-30 minutes. Can you spare 30 minutes of your day to push your writing career forward? I hope so, because it’s not much. Check out the excerpt below which is only 100 words:

The music blared throughout the house at full blast—Pretty People by Dexter Freebish. Yep, that pretty much summed it up. They surrounded me. Only thing, I didn’t want to be like them. Sometimes I was just so tired of the games the so-called “pretty people” played. Yet here I was, the girl hiding in a corner, decorating a wall.

The party was in full swing. Already people had consumed enough alcohol to loosen inhibitions but not enough to send them puking over the balcony. It’d get there though. I’d been to enough of these parties to know it was…

A hundred words might seem like nothing, but it adds up. In a year, you’ll have 36,500 words under your belt, which is a novella. In the world of eBooks, novellas are quite popular these days.

So, as Thomas Jefferson said, “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

Of course, it’s easy to turn a simple goal into mission impossible. You might be thinking, 100 words/day is easy. I can do that. Then the day ends, and you’ve accomplished nothing. That’s okay, you think, I can do 200 words tomorrow.

Don’t make that mistake. By the end of the week, you’ll be trying to make up 700 words. Two weeks later, it’ll be 1400. Eventually, it’ll be easier to give up than continue.

Write each day, but if you miss one, don’t set yourself up for failure by adding to the future. Start each day anew. There is no catch up, only what you produce today.

Here’s the kicker about setting an easy challenge like 100 words. Once you pump out your goal for the day, you might have more left in you which may lead to 200 words, 300, 1000. Those 100 words are just to spur you on. If all you can squeeze out is 100 words, you’ve still won.

Remember you’re producing 36,500 words a year, which is far better than none, and that makes you a writer.

About Reena Jacobs

Reena Jacobs is just your typical writer who loves to see her words in print. As an avid reader, she’s known to hoard books and begs her husband regularly for “just one more purchase.” Her home life is filled with days chasing her preschooler and nights harassing her husband. Between it all, she squeezes in time for writing and growling at the dog.

http://www.reenajacobs.com
www.reenajacobs.com/blog
http://twitter.com/ReenaJacobs

Tagged , ,

Writers should share experiences

  • How many sales do you make a day, a week, a year?
  • What do you charge for your book?
  • Should you give your e-book away free?
  • Where do Kindle and other e-book users hang out?
  • How do we get in touch with them and get them to buy our books?
  • Do we utilise all media to its full potential?
  • Should self-publishers/Indies be grouping together to sell as a collective?
  • Do you need to be playing the long-game?
  • Should we be sharing more or is selfishness a necessity in online marketing?
  • Are we really on the brink of a publishing revolution or is it just all pie in the sky?

There’s an oft used but badly implemented process across similar businesses, particularly in places like the NHS, Universities and the Public Sector. And that is sharing best practice. I know a lot of you do this already and the stuff you put up is really helpful to the rest of us.

But some of you, well you just don’t get it.

For those of you who don’t know, sharing best practice is: letting other people know what works and what doesn’t. It allows a collective of similar interests to give the best service they can to their customers based on everyone’s experience…aka it’s giving away what you know.

As individual writers, unless we strike it lucky, we’re a bunch of pie munching failures who sit at our computers typing away most of the day, staring gloomily into the muse-o-sphere, creating our strange worlds and hoping for the impossible.

If we work together, if we share what we know, we can make this publishing revolution our own.

Publishers hate us

Let’s face it, they do. What’s more, they’re scared of us. We’re the zombies in the mall, the vampires slowly taking over the suburbs, the virus in the water system.

Now we seem to have destiny in our own hands, and these guys…well they can’t quite figure out what to do about it. If they could put a literary stake through our collective heart, they’d do it with a Van Helsing cry of triumph. You see we’re muddying the pool. We’re complicating things. We’re the fly in the ointment…God I just love those clichés.

So stop tweeting or blogging about what you had for supper. Start talking about the things that matter to us. Let us know your successes, but also let us know about your failures. Share best practice – tell us what works and what doesn’t.

SHARING works. With twitter and facebook and blogs we have a great environment to exploit the digital world. Publishers and agents will be pulling out their hair and I really don’t care. They’ve had their time.
Of course, I offer my sincere apologies to people who already do this and have been for some while.

I seen yah.

I know who you are.

God bless your little creative cotton socks.

You’re pretty damn good. You deserve the chance to succeed.

And who’s to say, you can’t?

Be good to each other. Form your little networks and Indie Publishing thingies. But above all, share. Sharing is good. Don’t be afraid. Be confident in yourself as a writer and be benevolent enough to grant access to your own particular wisdom.

Tagged ,

10 ways NOT to write a novel

There are really a million and one ways to not write a novel. And I’m guilty of most of them.

Okay, I’ve been procrastinating. I can’t really call it writer’s block because my head has been busting with ideas for the last couple of weeks, good ones too.

What I’m suffering from (or what I’m making myself suffer with) is a prolonged form of procrastination. I’ve become a master at it, you see. If it was an Olympic sport, I’d be the gold medallist.

It’s an evil and insidious thing this brain of mine. On the one hand it wants to write a novel, on the other it wants not to write. At the moment, the procrastination force is strong within me. Resistance may be futile. I could be fighting a losing battle.

I’m currently reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Will this help? Will it finally cure me of this mental virus that seems to infect all creatives at one time or another?

Or is it just another form of procrastination?

Anyway, here are 10 things that stop me from writing:

  1. Just a little catnap, to refresh the brain.
  2. What’s on TV? Normally another rerun of a programme I’ve seen ten times before on Dave.
  3. I’ll just have a quick drink to lubricate the creative wheels: I always make the mistake of sitting down on the sofa for my first one, just to get things going…three hours later…mmmm
  4. I’ll hoover the floor first. Something needs to be cleaned. Someone needs to do the washing up, don’t they. Right now. I’ll do some writing afterwards.
  5. I feel an insatiable need to spend money. Normally I’ll wander round town and buy absolutely nothing or I’ll buy something I’m never going to need, wear, put in my mouth, or juggle with.
  6. I should read something if I’m not writing. The least harmful of my procrastinations as it’s actually achieving something but for some strange reason this combines nicely with a catnap, as I generally read on the bed and after a couple of chapters will drift off into the land of nod.
  7. Oh, I wonder who’s online, who’s retweeted me, who’s commented on my blog. Major problem. We all know this one. If I spent as much time on my real writing as I do on my internet social media interaction, I’d have at least 300 novels written by now.
  8. I’ll start tomorrow at 6am. Write for 3 hours solid. I’ll start tomorrow at 6am. Write for 3 hours solid. I’ll start tomorrow at 6am. Write for 3 hours solid. I’ll start tomorrow at 6am. Write for 3 hours solid. One of my personal favourites that one. I file it under wishful thinking.
  9. I need to get myself fit. I’ll do some exercise first. I’ll have a cup of coffee. Oooh what’s that shiny thing over there…aka anything but writing time!
  10. And to finish off: Just a little catnap then…

I’ve only read the first part of Pressfield’s book. I’ll let you know a bit later if it works. But, by then, I might be taking a trip to the funny farm.

Okay, so now it’s your turn. What’s your favourite way of putting off writing? Let the Feckless Goblin know in the comments section below…

Tagged , ,

10 quick tips to improve your blog

If you want to increase your exposure, you need to improve your blog.

We know this, don’t we: Writers are selfish, inward looking creatures; wide-eyed monsters peering from behind their PC screens with a certain feverish disdain for the rest of the world.

They are caffeine clogged, emotionally damaged, conversationally crippled hermits who should be kept locked behind a strong door, only ever allowed out at Christmas or for the funeral of a favourite Aunt.

Writers are Gods of their own little worlds, legends in their own lunchtime and, as such, have no need of such things as social interaction.

So, now we’ve got my personal profile out the way, let’s begin.

1. Don’t Ad to your page

Don’t fill your pages with loads of Google Ads. Unless you’re getting a crap load of traffic through your site, you’re not going to make much money, maybe a couple of pence or cents a day if you’re lucky.

Ads annoy people and if they switch onto your page and see a tonne of banners for penis enlargement or “Yet Another Writing Course”, they’re more likely to run away as fast as their little tootsies can carry them.

If you feel you must have them, then remember the key is always moderation.

2. Including other media will improve your blog

Do break up your pages with different types of content. Don’t be afraid to include images and videos. Although you are essentially a writer of books, this is a multimedia platform and you should develop various content to keep your visitors interested. At the very least try to include a picture at the start of every blog entry.

3. Easy to read, tidy content

Make your content easy to read. It may upset some of you writing purists but large paragraphs are bad news on the web. Break up your text, even if it’s breaking the grammar rules. Try not (yes I said NOT) to write long sentences.

Writing online is different in that respect from writing, say for a novel. First of all, people tend to scan, looking for content that interests them (yes, I know that upsets you too), and, secondly, reading speed on a computer screen is a lot less than with a hardcopy book or magazine. If you want to help them along, highlight some keywords in bold that you think might keep them reading.

Keep your page tidy. Don’t have stuff all over the place or, god-forbid, overlapping. If you don’t know how to do something technically, find out, it’s not that hard. Just like your book needs to be carefully structured, so does your page. Ask a friend how it looks and don’t just ignore their advice if they say it seems a little crammed or higgledy-piggledy.

4. Write interesting stuff

Have something interesting on offer. Okay, so your book is interesting, I know it is, and somewhere, out there in the social media-sphere, there’s someone who thinks it is too. But, generally, you’re an unknown author and mostly, at least at the start of your online writing career, you’re going to be talking to other writers.

That’s cool.

It’s a good starting place. And they’re glad you’ve got a book…but…

And, hey…they don’t really want to know what you had for tea or that you couldn’t be bothered to write today or that you went to your moms for dinner. Give them something they can use, before they press that back button and disappear from your life for good.

5. Marketing is simple: Part One

It’s word of mouth. It’s about getting people talking, about you especially. You can’t afford big banner advertising on all the major websites and neither would it be financially astute to do so. Build yourself a following. Slow and easy.

That means making friends on the web.

Web friends are people you’re not likely to meet in a month of Sundays but who will quite happily tell their own web friends that you exist (I’ve been poked, therefore I am). This means you have to be nice to people. It means you have to “talk” to them on places like Twitter and Facebook.

6. Marketing is simple: Part Two

It’s word of mouth. Word of mouth. Yes. Remember? That doesn’t mean you just do the talking and no listening. Conversation, you idiot, is key to your success and it’s at least a two way process. If someone tweets you, make an effort to thank them and retweet something of theirs back. Get to know what they’re doing. Become involved in their world.

7. Give yourself a chance

Do give people every opportunity to promote your blog. That means include links to social networking sites. Most blogs allow you to download a widget that you can put on your website. It takes five minutes even for a complete idiot like you – they allow others to access things like their Twitter or Facebook account and comment on your page.

8. Promote others as you would have them promote you

Don’t be afraid to promote someone else’s material on your blog. Don’t sit there and stare at me blankly – we’re talking altruism here. It’s not just about you and how many books YOU sell. Being altruistic will make people think you’re nice, even if you aren’t. Have faith in your own work and be generous to others. You’ll find it will work in the long term.

9. Be you

Shock! Suprise! Some people you meet online are not entirely what they seem to be. The luscious blonde in 5 inch stilettos is, we suspect, a truck driver from Cleethorpes (Gunther get that damn frock off!). I myself am not a ruggedly good looking guy with a PhD in Macrobiotics but a bored housewife called Germaine who is losing her teeth and has a husband with incontinence problems.

Like in most of our mystery and horror books, not everything online is quite what it seems. Try to rise above that and be you. More importantly, try to have a profile pic that actually looks like you, even if you are second cousin to John Merrick. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a pen-name or embellish things. Just try to be MOSTLY honest about yourself, okay?

10. Don’t plagiarize

Don’t copy. It’s bad. It’s lazy. It’s stupid. Okay, as writers you probably don’t do a lot of that. But there are some out there, you know who you are, I seen yah!!!

You were put on this Earth to create original content.

Rejoice.

And finally…

This one is for me. Stop writing so many goddamn blogs and get on with some proper writing you bow-legged, short-sighed procrastinating little gimp you…

8 steps to terrifying horror fiction

Sit tight. Here are some steps you can take to write terrifying horror fiction.

You’re going to learn how to scare the holy crap out of your readers. You’re going to do it well and you’re going to enjoy every minute, every second and every nano-second as admissions to mental health institutes suddenly rise in the wake of the release of your next unholy tome. You alone will be responsible for the mass nervous breakdown of the human race.

Because that’s what we do, right? Capiche?

1. Horror writer, know thyself

First of all, drill down into your own peculiar fears and see what comes spurting out. Have a close look. Take a stiff drink if you have to, but let them out of the dark well of your subconscious and subject them to the third degree.

My point is this: until you know your own fears and why you react to them as you do, you’re not really going to scare anyone else (okay, so you might give Aunt Mildred a cause to sit up screaming in the middle of the night but she’s only read Barbara Cartland novels and didn’t know what she was getting into when she agreed to proof read for you).

2. Communicate the reality of your fear

Once you have your fears out in front of you, and you’ve become as good a friend to them as you’re ever going to be (and for sure you don’t want to get that chummy with them), start asking yourself these questions: How do I write these fears? How do I get someone to feel the same way as I do? How would I communicate it to my best friend. What specific words suit this fear?

Understand that the correct choice of words is very important – don’t just throw the old ones you’ve used over the years down on paper, find some new ones. And, listen close, we’re talking about accurately describing the thing that causes the fear not the actual sensation of fear itself (you know the sweaty palms, the bumpity-bump of the old ticker).

It’s a whole different thing.

If you’re scared of graveyards, it’s the shadows clinging to the stones, it’s the cold bite of the air, the crunch of gravel under the feet, the noise off to the right that could be a bony hand reaching out of the ground. Okay, got it? Hand shaking a bit, the words scrawled on a page? The right words and not just any old cliche (Like wot I just wrote!!)? Get the idea now?

3. Now you know your own fears well dear writer…

Choose a universal fear. People are scared of a lot of things. And a lot of people are scared of the same things. Most people are afraid of the dark. And I don’t mean a street or house at night, but pitch blackness. Put anyone in a pitch black room (okay, except a blind person) and they’ll get nervous.

Most people aren’t afraid of ice cream so a killer Cornetto isn’t going to get anyone crapping their pants (save for a few seriously mixed up individuals who shouldn’t be allowed to read horror anyway).

Better still, take something everyone feels safe with and add another element that’s terrifying. Take a bunch of lovely flowers your boyfriend bought you and put a six legged alien in it, take your own bedroom and add a strange new shadow in the corner, or put something under the bed.

That’s what we do as writers. Twist the dial so that’s it a little darker and a little scarier. So it’s the same, but not, quite. And this is where it gets tricky. Ask yourself how you transfer that fear you felt before onto this particular horror scenario.

4. Haunted houses and secluded roads

Setting is important. No shit, Sherlock, I hear you cry in unison. Every novice horror writer knows this. So where do you place your story? An old deserted house? A dark, dank cellar? They’re clichés, of course, but everyone knows what haunted houses look like even if they’ve never been trapped in one.

But what about more mundane settings?

An ordinary house for example? A supermarket? A hospital? A city street early in the morning? Any setting can be used for horror. Choose one your reader knows well and then twist it. It’s the street outside their house. But now it’s suddenly dangerous because they can sense…what? It’s the shopping mall they used to go to that is now infested with malevolent creatures. It’s any number of safe things made dangerous all of a sudden by the power of your mighty pen.

5. Five horror senses, not one

Your senses are important too. People have five senses. Not just sight. They can smell. They can hear. They can touch. They can taste. Neglect any of them at your peril. Think to yourself, which of the five adds another frisson of terror to the scene you’re writing. Don’t be afraid to play around with it. But get your head glued to the idea that that it’s not all visual. Unlike film, you can experience anything in a book, you just need to be able to describe it.

6. Ramp up the horror, baby!

Time to build all that tension. Fear is all about building tension within the reader. You can get away with a “BOOH!” in a film every so often, especially with impressionable teenagers, but us oldies are used to it. What you need to do, and this is probably the most difficult things in horror, is slowly build up the tension until your reader is at the point of screaming.

Anticipation of something nasty is far more powerful than the nastiness itself.

Then ramp it up and up. Think of fairground rides. Personally I hate them. They make me feel sick to the point where I’d be quite happy to die. But, the thing with the good rides is they have peaks and troughs. You’ll scream like hell on the down ride and then there’s the relief you survived as you go up the other side. Before you have time to count your blessings, you’re faced with trepidation again as you come to the top because you know what’s going to happen…oh yes you do…and then suddenly you’re screaming with terror again…horror books should be like that, continuously ramping up the pressure until you get to that big, final drop…and boy, should it be a drop like no other.

7. Writers and the fear response

Your job is to elicit a response not to describe one. Describing your lead character’s heart pumping like a piston is not going to make dear reader’s heart do likewise (and by the way, if I see one more description of heart beats or goose bumps I’ll fry my own brain in garlic and olive oil).

If you’ve done your job, you won’t need to describe those emotions to the nth degree. Okay, you can put a smattering in here or there, but if you’re touching the core of someone’s fears, they’re going to do it for you. Trust me, I’m a doctor…

8. Horror writers should always deliver on terror

Finally, and this is true of every book ever written, DELIVER what you promise. Don’t cop out just because you can’t find the right words or the perfect scene or you’ve run out of the fear stuff. Your reader will never forgive you if you allow your hero to stutter down dark corridors for pages on end only to find the next door leading out to Sainsbury bread section.

If you’re heading for a massive confrontation with the abominable snowman then make it the biggest, most terrifying moment in the whole book. If your protagonist isn’t challenged to breaking point and beyond, the reader is going to feel cheated…and so he/she should. It’s like taking home a packet of Jaffa Cakes to find the it contains broken Custard Creams. You started this crazy journey…you have no choice but to deliver.

And if you don’t…well, frankly, you should be ashamed my young scribe of the dark naughtiness.

The darkness deserves to be treated with more respect than that..

Now, obviously, I’m just sitting down letting my horror shit pour forth as I normally do, so I guess I may have left a few things out here. Which is why it’s your turn to add your choice literary  tip of the day.

Let me know of any other ways to pile on the fear…Come on guys. Let’s help all those little horror writers out there to become better scary people before they lose their wills and become serial killers or some such thing…

Tagged