Reading, Writing, and Rhythm; Tick

BTL 3 Cast and Plans

I’m making headway with my ten writing aims for this year.

Reading

I’ve read and reviewed six titles from IASD authors since 1st January. On the flip side, I’ve read and not reviewed three titles, but I’d prefer not to get into my reasons right now. I’ve also started and not attempted to continue reading three other titles.Tom's Kindle

On Beta reading, I’ve performed the task for three authors, and was gratified to be told some of my comments were useful.IASD - globe (2)

Yes, my reading experience has been a mixed bag thus far.

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Writing

A couple of days ago I completed my most recent edit of Beyond The Law: Consequences, which as you all know is the final story in the trilogy. My target date for publication is next weekend, 11th / 12th February.

Novel - BTL 3 ConsequencesThe book will be a month later than I first intended, but I believe it has been much improved for the extra time spent reworking scenes and generally changing the sequence of events. At 60,000 words it is the shortest book in the trilogy.

I’ve had the advantage of one beta reader, and if I get any more volunteers I’ll need them to do a rapid turnaround if I’m to meet my publishing deadline.

When BTL: C hits the world I’ll get straight back to my series A Life of Choice, and get working with the next stage of Part 4.

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Rhythm

To maintain my working rhythm and achieve my ten aims for the year, I am intending to produce one blog post every month. If I happen to reach a publication date with one of my intended titles and it’s out of sync with my post, I’ll make an exception and write a brief ‘release’ post.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.

What’s my issue with blog posts?

I don’t have an issue with the idea of the blog, but if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, apart from letting off steam, or getting my voice heard by a handful of followers – blogging is a time-consuming activity.

Blogging is an interactive pastime, and for me, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t bring me an increased level of success with my priority activity – writing.

The Red Pen is mightier ...

My homepage for example boast of 937 followers – yeah, whatever. I’ve dug down into the bowels of my blog and found the true figure is 195, which I’d be happy to believe.

I don’t crave fame or celebrity, but I do have a deep-seated need for achievement. I’m confident I’ll feel fulfilled if I can maintain a steady course with my reading, writing, IASD admin duties and helping my fellow scribes whenever possible.

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Am I happy? Of course I am, however the tone may come across in parts of this post. I’m a writer and I have a list of ambitions to be fulfilled this year, and as I achieve each target, I’ll feel rewarded when I see a sale or a review.

As always, thank you for your time, and any comments.

 

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Why so … series?

 

Like so many creative writers, by the time I completed my first novel, Ten Days in Panama, I had grown to know my characters as if they were real people. A few of those people would be good to look at, and to have around, but like reality, others were not so endearing.

In my next big story, Beyond The Law: Formation, I had learned more about my craft and the characters became better developed much faster. I spent longer in their company, and each visit was like getting together with a few old friends.Novel - BTL - Formation - 220216

When I wrote my sequel, Beyond The Law: Retribution, I got back together with characters with whom I was well-acquainted, and I enjoyed the process of the story from the outset.

BTL RetributionIt was less frustrating when the storyline veered away from my intended direction. I was also forgiving of issues as they arose. I was still the puppeteer, but in some mysterious way I had been pulled into the scenes, conversations, and struggles.

I left those characters behind to get on with other projects, but I’ve been drawn back, so among other things, I’m presently working on the final story in the trilogy, Beyond The Law: Consequences.Novel - BTL 3 Consequences

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As with poetry when I started writing, I’ve come to realise I enjoy the familiar company of certain characters, and in recent times it occurred to me to take the series idea to a new level.

A Life of Choice - Part OneFor many years I’d worked on my autobiography, but it was never fully satisfying, so rewrite after rewrite left me feeling empty. There were too many anecdotes to include, because it made the story too big, but many which were so peculiar they refused to be excluded.

Apart from anything else, even if it was fact-based-fiction, which point of view would work best?

From this train of thought evolved A Life of Choice, a fact-based-fiction novel in five parts, but each part a generous size. I’m not interested in writing a handful of short books to top up my catalogue. To date, I have the first two parts published, and Part Three will arrive in the autumn.A Life of Choice - Part Two

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I dabbled in the writing of erotica and enjoyed it, so I wondered how best to continue. I compiled a collection of short stories which was well received, so I followed it with a novel. It too received positive feedback.

How could I achieve a hybrid, I wondered?

My foray into the novella length is how I’m heading. It will be a series of inter-related stories, each longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. The novella series will start with Highland Games – 1. By mid-June I’ll be looking for beta readers for this first story.

Due to it being erotica, anyone who volunteers will remain anonymous if requested.

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The answer to the question in this blog post title, ‘Why so … series?’

By creating a series of three, five, or more stories which are interconnected – I can enjoy the company and emotions of characters I’ve come to know better than some of the real people in my life.Highland Games 1 - 150516

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I’ve learned during my reading and writing journey, in the case of some authors a series can be a method of continuing a story for the benefit of a readership. It can be a way of increasing sales by producing a series of extremely short stories, and I’m fine with either of those ideas. However, there are some series which are too short in quantity, and lacking in quality, but these are measures we find in every part of our lives.

Any books I produce as part of a series will be produced with the same care and attention to detail I devote to my other writing. I will strive to make every book a standalone, but without irritating anybody who’s read the earlier work. If I ever come up short, I can only hope it’s because a reader has a personal issue, and not because of the writing.

For me so far, writing about characters beyond a first story has produced the joy of writing about people I’ve become close to, and after the realities of life, my characters are great companions. They won’t let me down. If they do – I’ll kill them. 🙂

Thank you for reading.

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Making things Beta

A glance at my Work in Progress will give some idea of my intended output for the next few months. I enjoy variety in my writing as I do in my reading, so apart from working on novels this year – I aim to produce two anthologies.

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A Time for Courage - 1My next anthology of short stories is due for publication at end of March 2016.

I’ve already adjusted the font, and the angle of the plane on the cover for about the fifth time, but I believe the latest version does the job.

A Time for Courage is a collection of 12 stories. There are two which appear in other collections, but they deserve to be included here.

As always I strive to produce a varied selection, even when adhering to a theme, and I’ve worked to develop these stories in each successive draft.

I’m now looking for volunteers to sample the collection. Ideally, I’d like readers to try at least two stories each, but if you’d like to experience variety I can supply a surprise third story based on your two choices.

If I’m fortunate enough to have more than one reader for any of the stories, it will only be a good thing for the final product.

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What do readers need to know?

Photographic Memory* and Duty Bound* are the two tales which are appear elsewhere, so they don’t require beta reading, but I’ll be happy to send them on if somebody particularly wanted to see them.

I tend to set myself a maximum word target of 3,500 for short stories, but in this list I have one tale which is 4,000 words. There are two which are under 1,000 words.

If you would like to sample any of these and provide me with feedback, please get in touch via email, Facebook, or use a comment here. You don’t have to use the title of the story, (or stories) – the number, (or numbers) will be sufficient.

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1. A Time for Courage
2. Users Guide: Soldier
3. Thanks Dad
4. *Photographic Memory
5. Special Forces ?
6. The Odd Couple
7. Walking Wounded
8. Brothers in Arms
9. *Duty Bound
10. Roamin’ Soldier
11. Blood Brothers
12. The After Life

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I’m presently editing a novel for a fellow writer, so I will allocate time in mid-month to revisit this collection for final amendments.

Thank you as always for reading and leaving a comment.

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A Time for Courage …

 

Yes, courage is a strong word and conjures up a variety of images, but it can also be measured in different ways. For the purpose of this post it will be aimed at:

Free this weekend: 23rd/24th January

1. My latest marketing strategy.
2. My next scheduled collection of short stories.
3. Indie writer attitudes.

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My latest marketing strategy.

I’ve already published my first book of this year, A Life of Choice: Part One, and I aim to have the second part published by April 2016. All is going to schedule with my other projects.

I said in a post last year that I’d stopped giving things away, but on a recent update of my catalogue I realised a word which carries international appeal is ‘FREE’.

Throughout 2016 I will promote a FREE title every month. On the weekend 16th / 17th January 2016 I set up The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories as FREE. My idea behind the move was to promote the title and my six guest authors.

During the weekend 23rd / 24th January 2016 I am offering A Taste of Honey as my first monthly freebie. To make things easier and more tempting to the international readership, I am using the new Amazon ‘preview/buy’ link.

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My next scheduled anthology.

Collection - A Time for CourageApart from the heading of this post, A Time for Courage is also the title of my next anthology. It will contain my preferred number of short stories (12), in a collection which will be military-themed.

I had intended to open this new collection to guest authors, but with very little interest when I floated the idea last year, I went ahead with a selection of my own ideas. There may be one or two stories borrowed from another anthology, but I believe cross-pollination is good.

At the time of writing this article I have 10 stories completed and two more in the late stages of my editing process, so I’m confident of my target publication date of late March 2016.

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Indie writer attitudes.

As a member of the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group, I’ve been instrumental in coaching new writers. No, I’m not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to advice, but sometimes a little nudge is all a new writer needs.

Yes, I’ve been known to suggest that a ‘writer’ either works harder or finds another outlet, but I only do such a thing when I’ve worked hard to read past the first few paragraphs. On odd occasions it stands out when the person in question has an urge best kept to themselves.

We may be known as ‘indie’ but I like to think it stems more from the publishing aspect than the selfish, keep-it-to-myself attitude of some. I’ve only been a writer since 2007. I am not an authority on our craft, but I recognise when somebody’s heart is in the right place, and I will do all in my power to help. If my private offer is refused, I’ll back off – no offence taken.

IASD - globe (2)I’ve noticed at the other end of the scale we have a great number of new authors who have great storytelling skills, but they have little or no confidence in their ability. It may surprise those reading this, but I started like that, before realising the only person who could shout for me with any conviction in the early days – was me.

Authors with several titles are always asked for a piece of advice. I’m always open to take advice, but if I could offer a piece of advice to my peers it would be to lean on the rest of us. Yes, the first and general idea is ‘don’t give up’, but importantly, I believe having your work read, critiqued and read again are essential requirements.

We can’t judge our own writing, and anybody who shouts about how good their own work is will put me off the idea of reading any. Self-promotion is not about how good you think you are, but about letting people know you have titles out there. There is a big difference between self-belief and marketing.

I’m proud to be a member of the IASD, which in my opinion is the best writing group I’ve associated myself with, and I’ve been with a few. An honest opinion is never far away, but by the same token, it has to be sought.

As I said at the outset, this is A Time for Courage. We must work hard to produce a good story, and then edit, edit, and edit, before we ask for another person to give their views.A Taste of Honey

If you haven’t already tried my writing, here is A Taste of Honey, the title which is FREE this weekend.

Click on the cover to preview before downloading – if you like what you see:

As always, thank you for reading.

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Creating Anthologies

What is an anthology?

Rather than write a brief history of the word and its meaning, it is to all intents and purposes a ‘collection of artistic works’ which have a common theme, style, or other general pattern. Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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Anyone who knows me and this blog, will be aware that in early April 2015, I wrote a post specifically about anthologies, theme and genre. I’ll provide a link to that article at the end of this post. I will also create a dedicated section on my main blog menu for anthology-related articles.

 

On this occasion I’d like to introduce my latest idea, which has been underway since earlier this year.

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What is this new plan?

I’m basing my idea on the theory that the best stories are written by creating a first draft, leaving it aside, bringing it out again at a later date to edit, leaving it aside again, and so on. Using that system, it might take me around two months to produce that one short story.

Now, when that one has been filed away for the first time, I can look at another story. I write the first draft and file it away. Perhaps it has taken me a few days in both cases, to get those first stories written before filing my efforts.

Let’s say that it’s now about ten days since I wrote my first short story, and both the first and second tales are ‘resting’. I could now start my third idea for a short story.

Using this method, by the time I find myself filing my fifth or sixth story, I could feasibly pull out my first one again, and take a look at it. When I’ve read it, and edited it again – I would then file it as ‘second draft’. I then take each first draft in sequence and take it to the next level. During the process I might find the inspiration to add to the collection.

Once the collection is underway it’s important to annotate each title with ‘first draft’, ‘second draft’, and so on to retain control over the work in progress. There is no need to worry about the resting period for stories, because I’ve found that the longer they are left alone, the fresher they look on the next read-through.

In theory, each story will have a minimum of three weeks between drafts, but in most cases longer, which is a good thing.

Slow and steady is the way to work.

Not What You Thought*

Will it take a long time to produce the finished collection?

Yes, of course it will, but anybody who aspires to be worthy of the title ‘writer’ or ‘author’ must have the patience to continually chip away and polish work until it is honed to the best it can be.

 

If it takes months – it takes months.

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How will I keep my ideas fresh during the process?

This is where the second part of my plan comes into play.

For some time, I’ve been working on my next two anthologies – simultaneously. I have one collection featuring military themed short stories, and another collection featuring science-fiction themed short stories.

No, I may not be a recognised sci-fi writer, but I’ve written a couple in the past, and I feel I can produce sufficient variety in the genre.

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Is there any other way I can maintain a fresh outlook on the construction of my two anthologies?

Yes, I’m also working on two novels simultaneously. For some people it may break the rules, or test their resolve to work on more than one project, but I find it works for me.Image (23)

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How do I write two stories at once?

Simply by using the same method I outlined earlier in this article. I took several weeks to get my next thriller up to first draft, and then when that manuscript was put aside, I started work on my first attempt at an erotic novel.

When the erotic novel manuscript was filed away, I pulled out the thriller again, and gave it another rewrite. Both novels are now at fourth draft and resting whilst I read and review for a while.
Yes, I will no doubt write a short story during that time too.

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Are there any tips here?

Yes. If you’re in the early stages of whatever type of writing, be it short stories or novel – you must learn to take time away from the manuscript.

I know from personal experience, that for a novice in particular the work in progress (WIP), is an all-consuming aspect of life. It soaks up time that realistically should be spent away from it. We must learn to allow our WIP to rest, or ‘breathe’ occasionally. It does help.

My two favoured methods are, to read, or to start writing something else. It helps to let your other work rest properly without interference. It also stops your primary WIP becoming a ‘task’. It should be a labour of love, not simply a labour.

Until my most recent work I’ve only ever used one person as a beta reader, but I would suggest at least three other pairs of eyes to have a look at work before hitting that publish key. As I’ve said before, I don’t have any relatives or ‘friends’ to read my work, so it pleases me that any feedback I receive will be genuine.

The people reading your work to give feedback prior to publishing, don’t have to be writers, but I believe in my limited experience of such things, that it helps if they are. They have a keen eye for issues. A non-writer is more likely to simply enjoy the story.

If you have short stories of a reasonable standard, whether or not, you do, or do not have an anthology of your own, it’s a good idea to increase your platform with a guest appearance in somebody else’s collection, or in a compilation by various authors.

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When will I be publishing my next work?Image (25)

I’m hoping to have my debut erotic novel, Give and Take, published in August / September 2015.
A target date for my thriller, Acts of Vengeance, is now around October / November 2015.

My two anthologies are building steadily so there will be no rush to complete them and publish them. They will appear when the time is right.

Do I have any short stories apart from those appearing in my own anthologies?

Yes, I have short stories appearing in my blog menu under the heading Short Stories. I also have short stories making an appearance in mixed author anthologies like:

Whitby Abbey: Pure Inspiration by English Heritage (various authors),

Christophe’s Farewell and other stories by the Inkerman Writers (various authors)

Out of the Shadows by the Inkerman Writers (various authors)

The Last Waltz (an audio anthology) by the Inkerman Writers (various authors)

Not What You Thought and other surprises by Paul A. Ruddock (includes guest authors)

You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology by Ian D. Moore and friends (various authors)

Book cover - You're Not Alone*

Thank you as always for taking the time to read my thoughts, theories and opinions.
Comments and feedback are always welcome.

If you’ve enjoyed this topic, you may find my earlier post on anthologies interesting:
Anthologies: theme or genre based?

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A Review of Reviews

A Review of Reviews?

An Amazon Author Page

My Amazon UK Author Page

For creative writers the review is a necessary evil. We want feedback so that we can see if weeks and months of effort stand up to the challenge of entertaining our readers.

We must be prepared to take the rough with the smooth, which for some writers is easier said than done. Personally, although I feel annoyed when I see a negative point within a review, I don’t feel annoyed with the reviewer, as long as they have justified their comments.

I am most annoyed at myself if I can see that a negative comment is justified.Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904

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What is my average review across all of my titles?

I have so far published: four novels, two short story anthologies and five anthologies of poetry, and my average review: 4.7 stars. Over the full spectrum of my titles, I’m happy with that result, but I aim to improve on it.

Yes, it’s great to read a five-star review that praises one of my books. Irrespective of the rating, when I see comments that are less than complimentary I still tend to question my work, even if the reviewer has not qualified their reasoning.

Up until now, when I’ve read a comment that suggested that any part of one of my stories could be improved, I’ve made a mental note for the future. This is something I intend to amend in the coming months.

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What is my new strategy?
Beyond The Law - the cover 2904

I am planning to start with the reviews of my most popular book, Beyond The Law. I will read each of the reviews in detail, including the five-star rated, and then I will make a list of both the good and bad points.

A well-written piece of feedback will give both positives and negatives, but where there are negatives, the review author will suggest why they’ve raised those particular issues.

My intention is to locate, analyse and amend any offending dialogue, narrative or plot issues.

Yes, it will be time-consuming, but if it means the reading experience will be improved for my future customers, then it will be worth any time I invest.

If I find that there is a point made that nobody else has highlighted, and I believe it’s simply a personal dislike of that particular reviewer, then I’ll leave the issue unchanged.

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Why have I not done this already?

I have made several minor adjustments in the past, if I thought an issue warranted it, but this time I will revise whole sections of a story, not simply content to change a word here and there.Amsterdam Calling - the cover 260714

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Do I have a sequence for how to prioritise my titles?

My plan is to start with my most popular book, and then deal with the next most popular and so on. At time of writing, I have four novels to work through.

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How soon do I intend to get underway with my plan?

A Taste of HoneyI am working on two novels simultaneously at the present time, and for the first time I’m using more than one beta reader prior to publication.

My aim is to have both of my current stories published by October 2015. My review of reviews plan will begin a week after the second of my latest stories is published.

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Do I have a target date for my first in-depth revision?

Yes, my target date for the revised edition of Beyond The Law is December 2015.Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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What are the reasons for performing such an overhaul?

First of all an improvement to any book must be a good thing for readers.

Secondly, if my undertaking to improve my previous titles then produces predominately good reviews, then it will strengthen the case for multiple beta readers instead of paying an editor. Although my books are selling, I don’t earn enough to pay the rates of an editor.

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912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_As always, I will follow up this article with any tangible results when the time comes.
Thank you for reading, and if you have anything you’d like to add, or comment on about the topic, please do.

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