Seeing Red …

The Red Pen is mightier ...

The Red Pen is mightier …

In a blog post last year, I said I’d be revisiting my books to produce updated or revised versions. Whether the idea works or doesn’t, I believe it’s all about knowing whether the book is good enough – or not.

In the case of the book I’m highlighting in this post, the story took me four months to write, and eight months to amend by using my method of leaving it aside for alternate months.

It has taken me two weeks of non-stop effort to revise what has been out there for a couple of years.

I posted a request for opinions on the Facebook page of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group. One of my quandaries was whether or not to produce a banner on the cover when I’d completed my revised work. The general feedback was superb, as expected.

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Revision – creates the impression the first version wasn’t good enough.

Edition – creates the impression there might be more in time to come, especially if a date is used in conjunction with the word Edition.

Decision? I’ve abandoned the thought of either Revision or Edition as a banner. I’ve annotateded the blurb with ‘revised and updated – 2016’

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Ten Days in Panama - the cover 2904

Ten Days in Panama was my debut novel.

It still holds a special place in my heart. The story was intended as a romance rather than a thriller, but during the many rewrites over the year it took to produce the book, action evolved as an underlying theme.

Knowing no better, I thought romance-based thriller might work.

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Amazon – Universal (Preview/Buy)

Booklinker (if your country doesn’t support Amazon – Universal)

 

How has it performed?

It suffered in the early days due to an amateur cover, and because it was my first novel.

I paid to have a professional cover designed which created sales and taught me a valuable lesson. Since publication it would be fair to say it still sells, but not in great numbers.

Three and a half years have passed since first publication, and in that time I’ve learned many lessons.

I’ve written several more novels and I believe I’ve improved my craft.

I enjoy writing other genre, including romance, but my natural territory is action and thriller.

Without doubt, one of the most valuable lessons is to listen to others. Fortunately for me this is something I’ve done throughout my life. It was listening to others which prompted me to read the book again last year, and look closely at the writing – not the story.

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How have I dealt with the rewrite of Ten Days in Panama?

As I said I would, I read and made notes from every review, and then amended small points to tidy-up the plot. I had a particular passage brought to my notice by fellow author Julia Lund for which I owe her my thanks. Suffice to say I removed three large paragraphs and replaced them with one small one.

The passage was intended to highlight a fragile aspect of a main character’s psyche, and nobody else had seen it (and reported it) the way Julia did. My amendment to the scene has made the character’s issue apparent, but in a more subtle manner.

Evidence in the form of reviews would suggest the story is enjoyed by those who’ve reviewed, which is great news.

The main characters are well-rounded, readers care about them and how they are drawn together.

The locations, circumstances and imagery appeal to readers.

While they seemed important and strong to me when writing the action scenes, the thriller aspects are undoubtedly playing a supporting role – because whatever my intention, it is a romance.

This particular aspect of the tale was highlighted clearly by an insightful review by blogger, reviewer, writer and friend, Paul Ruddock.

I printed the story to work from hard copy, and I’ve given it the same effort I would afford to a new piece of work. Superfluous words have gone, and there were quite a few. The style is closer to what I would regard as my latest.

Working initially from a printed manuscript I took two weeks to edit, revise and rewrite the story. I’ve remained true to the original plot, however I would suggest it now reads better than previously.

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Where do I go from here?

My revised version of the story will now be marketed as romance, rather than thriller.

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How will I know if it works?

The first indication will be sales, and then of course any reviews which follow after the re-release in the new genre.

Should I receive good reviews after the revision I have a feeling a sequel will be on the cards. I have ideas in the pipeline, but I’ll have to be sure the characters are strong enough to go on.

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I’ve never been to Panama, however during the writing of the story I had incredible support from scientist, writer and dear friend Carmen Lopez. Using information gleaned from Carmen to ensure credibility but avoid legal action, no single character or location is exactly as it appears in reality. As I acknowledge in the front matter, without the aforementioned help, the story would have remained an idea.

In the original version of the story, apart from Panama City and Santiago I replaced the town names with fictional names. At the request of some of the folk who live in the region where the story is set, I have now used the real town names including: Torio, Malena and Coiba Island.

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As always, thank you for reading and now without further ado, here is the link to Amazon, and for those unable to use Amazon – Universal – a connection to Booklinker.

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P.S. I’ve checked the new sample and found two things.

The first two chapters can be read in their entirety.

Once again, the sample shows the sub-headings in different font sizes, but I’ve seen this occur in many samples. The ePub formatting remains true. 🙂

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2015 – A Year of Writing

 

Like many other writers, I enjoy turning a fresh page, whether it be reading, writing, or turning that page metaphorically. As we approach another year end / beginning, I’m taking a look back at my targets for 2015.

Firsts for 2015

I published A Taste of Honey in December 2014, so I was delighted to begin my new writing year with great reviews of my latest title.

In that happy frame of mind, I set myself the following aims:

1.  Update the ‘back pages’ information in all of my books.
2.  Read and review more work by the members of the IASD writing group.
3.  Step in quietly and offer assistance to new / novice writers wherever possible.
4.  Update my author website, creative writer and artist website, and this blog.
5.  Attempt a book or series for children.
6.  Write a new novel.
7.  Write a sequel to one of my present novels.
8.  Write another anthology of short stories.
9.  Work harder at my ongoing project of my fact-based fiction, coming-of-age story.
10. Work hard to make my blog topics interesting.

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How did I do with my ten general topics?

1.  I updated the information for the back pages of my published titles, and set out a standard document to make the process simpler as I moved forward.

2.  I read and reviewed 15 books in the IASD.

3.  I’ve given assistance to three novice authors directly from our group. At the time of writing I am editing a fellow writer’s debut novel. I’ll be formatting the finished manuscript, and producing the cover for him in 2016.

4.  I updated my two personal websites and my blog, and in an ongoing effort to streamline and improve them, I’ve gone on to overhaul my secondary website and this blog twice more within the past year.

5.  On my first attempt at writing for children, I failed on several levels, but rather than dwell on a specialised genre where I recognise I don’t belong, I decided to leave the genre to those who write it well.

6.  A fresh novel was beginning to look like another thriller, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and based on the success of my erotica anthology – I wrote a novel in the same genre.

In September, I published Give & Take: a Tale of Erotica.

7.  My first sequel saw the light of day, after a lot of procrastination, planning, and hard work – and then of course it was rewritten several times.

In November, I published Beyond The Law: Retribution.

8.  I started the year with three ideas for an anthology, and following the offer of including work by guest authors, the anthology was eventually created.

In December, I published, The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories, a collection of 15 stories, six of which are from guest authors.

9.  My fact-based fiction novel is now taking shape as my first attempt at a series. It is presently intended to be a five-part story. The first book is ready to be formatted.
A Life of Choice – Part One will be published on Amazon in January 2016.

10. I’ve written blog articles on marketing, blogging, writing anthologies, and a few other topics. My official followers have now risen to the dizzy heights of 170+.

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What else have I been up to?

writingmagazineI had an article in Writing Magazine in March, highlighting my writing successes to date.

I wrote Goals, a short story for the charity anthology, You’re Not Alone, being produced by Ian D Moore. Stories from 28 members of the IASD were included and it went live on Amazon in July. Book cover - You're Not Alone

I wrote Faith, Hope, and Charity, a short story for Holes, an IASD anthology produced by Eric Lahti, as a marketing tool for our members.

Holes snip

I wrote the poem Whisper Wood, for inclusion in a children’s anthology of stories and poetry being produced by Sylva Fae. The collection will be published in 2016.

I’ve been interviewed by Christoph Fischer, and had a Recommended Read award from Patrick (Max) Power.   Max Pwr Rec Read

Since October, I’ve been working hard on the IASD website with fellow Admin guys, Paul Ruddock and Ian D Moore. The restructuring is complete and the new, improved version of our website will be posted for public viewing in January, complete with our first Featured Author of 2016.

IASD - globe 2I’ve signed up to another couple of websites too, but whether they will prove useful in the long run is hard to predict.

My most recent trial has been signing up to BookLinker. This is a site where a regular Amazon URL can be transformed into a ‘universal’ link. I’ve been using the links on Facebook and I’ll be reporting my findings in January 2016.

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That’s about it for this year, so I’d like to say a sincere thank you to all who have played a part in my writing journey over the past 12 months, whether it be in buying my titles, reviewing, offering advice, reading my blog, or any number of other things.

Have a great end to the holiday season, thank you for checking out my scribbles again, and I’ll see you all in 2016 with a new set of projects.

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The Welcome … is launched

 

Yes, we have lift off … with a collection of stories which detail a variety of journeys.

The Welcome - 141215I’ve only dabbled in sci-fi in the past, but following a handful of kind comments, I had a need to feed.

I wanted to add a small collection of the genre to my catalogue. In an effort to improve on the idea of 12 short stories by me, I invited submissions from international guest authors, and I was not to be disappointed.

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The collection contains six new stories from me, plus three ‘bonus’ tales which feature in other anthologies, but there are also great pieces from: AA Jankiewicz, Pam Kesterson, CI Lopez, Paul Ruddock, Val Tobin, and WK Tucker.

 

It’s great to have this anthology ‘launching’ within a few days of seeing British astronaut, Major Tim Peake, setting off to join the International Space Station. By the time the Soyuz rocket was lifting from Earth on its remarkable journey, my stories were already written, but I was delighted to hear small details from my theories being mentioned about the astronaut training and life in space.

I don’t believe you have to be heavily into Sci-Fi to enjoy this collection, but then you’d expect me to say that, wouldn’t you!

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In this collection you will find regular people, strange people, astronauts, aliens, Earth, other planets, exploration and invasion.
The tales are made interesting by manipulating the situations in which the characters find themselves. Sometimes, all is not what it seems …
There is a high degree of ‘What if …?’ in the telling of these stories, which is where I believe the sci-fi aspect evolves effectively.

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Does this mean I’ll go on at some stage to write a sci-fi novel?

Let’s just say, for the time being I’m not ruling it out. As I’ve done since I published my first eBook I will read any reviews or comments and make note of the positives, and any negatives.

Both positive and negative comments are important, and attention to what others say is where we as authors can improve our craft the most effectively. We write first for ourselves, and then for others, but when we publish – we are hoping to entertain, so we must respond to the feelings of our readership.

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Metaphorically, The Welcome … has now left the launch pad and is on its own journey. As it passes among the stars and those stars take note of the vehicle and its contents, I would ask that anybody who takes a chance on it – please remember to check out the whole crew – because this wasn’t a single effort, but an international collaboration.

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I sincerely hope all who take a chance on our tales feels rewarded for their choice.

Amazon – Universal

(Universal linking to your local Amazon)

The Wallpaper Effect – Part 2 of 2

Wallpaper sectionIn the first part of this two-piece article I highlighted what I refer to as the Wallpaper Effect. As promised, this second post is not intended as a list of suggestions to bring success to all, but it is an insight into my own personal strategy.

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It may not seem like much, but if you saw Part 1, you will remember how busy the graphic appeared. There was so much it was difficult to see the information. In the picture above you’ll see the same information, but presented more clearly.

Even in a picture we must remember to keep it straightforward – or the message can be lost, or ignored. For an eBook, the cover must be effective – it has a job to do, so it might be the reason there is little or no interest in your hard work.

Be prepared to change your cover if there are no sales, or after a lengthy period only low sales. Yes it’s true, the cover can be the cause of folk taking no interest in a title.

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Who designs my covers?

The covers of my novels are usually designed by a cover designer – and this has proven to be a good decision. I saw my sales rise when I made that investment.

I created the cover for Give & Take, and then it was enhanced with the help of the very talented Nico Laeser. The whole idea of attempting the genre was experimental, so I didn’t intend a big outlay. Give and Take - the final cover

As we all do for all of our titles, I have high hopes for my erotic story, but I will only have a new cover designed if the sales continue to rise over the coming weeks. This is not through lack of faith in my work, but because of the saturated market in that genre. Since publication about two weeks ago there has been one day when it hasn’t sold.

I design the covers for my poetry and short story anthologies – because it doesn’t matter how good they look – they are both low selling markets.

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Why would I have a cover designed if my erotica story was actually selling?

Statistics used at a recent conference demonstrated that a professionally designed cover increases existing sales of an eBook by 34%, or if you don’t like percentages – one third. In other words if you are selling 30 books per week, the change to a professional cover is highly likely to take your sales up to 40 per week.

My own title Beyond The Law was selling a couple of days per week with the cover I produced. I had a bespoke cover designed. Inside the first week with the new cover it started to sell almost daily, and it is still my best performing title.

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Which outlets do I use?

I was with Smashwords for a year, and with Kobo about three months, and that was whilst I was also using the basic Amazon account. I decided early on not to spread myself too thin and end up with a possible conflict of interest between outlets.

A few months ago I moved all of my work to Amazon, so as I’ve said before in two posts, I’m an Amazon Bitch. Check out Amazon Bitch Part 1 and Part 2.

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What is my philosophy regarding marketing?

I treat my name as a brand with regard to writing. I know that many indie authors don’t agree with the ‘brand’ idea, but if I am promoting the sale of a product – my work – it is a brand. Fact.

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How do I use my books as a marketing tool?

My steadily increasing catalogue of titles is my best asset. If I can capture one reader with any of my titles they might go on to read more of them. If I’m really lucky the reader will talk about their experience.

I believe my general format helps. To ensure the prospective reader is offered a good sample – I place the minimum information at the front of my books:

– Title, copyright, acknowledgements, and Table of Contents (which lists the information at the back).

There is time enough for extra information at the back:

– Endnotes, a word from the author, a short bio, and also by the author – listing each title with a blurb to entice the reader to try another. I will soon be adding links to other authors – if I’ve read their work.

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What about pricing?

I maintain a reasonable and varied price range – bcause I’m an unknown.
My poetry anthologies are the cheapest – because few people buy poetry.
My short story anthologies have 12 stories – because I believe that gives value for money.
This year, I’ve started working on a sequel to one of my novels. I will eventually write sequels for all of them.

Wallpaper section

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Is there anything I do not do?

– When I post about my titles, I do not praise my own work, except occasionally with a humorous comment.
– I’ve learned to reduce my membership of social media to a handful of sites. I believe that one of the reasons for indie authors feeling stress about marketing is because they spread themselves too thin on the ground.
– Even on Facebook I try not to join too many groups. Once again, less is more
– I do not promote my work daily.
– I post on social media regularly, but not always the same title, or the same message. I alternate between the Books page of my author website, the News and Projects page, the Homepage, and this blog.
– I occasionally use a Kindle Countdown Deal, but I do not do FREE books. I have tried it three times and I don’t think it helped my cause.
– I do not rush my writing – so my publishing target date is not set in stone.
– I do not do a ‘release’ page or anything of that sort on Facebook. This proved to be fortuitous, because I postponed the publication of Give & Take by a week, and I believe I improved the overall product.

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How do I produce my books regularly?

I work on at least two projects simultaneously. Most recently I alternated one month on Give & Take (erotica), and one month on Acts of Vengeance (thriller). Whilst one manuscript is ‘resting’, I work on the other. I’ve found that method of working pays me dividends on various levels, but I may write more about that in another post.

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What else do I believe helps to market me as a brand?

– I have my author website which I paid to have designed. Writing is not a hobby for me – it is by choice a new career, so I wanted a professional look.

– I have another website, Creative Writer and Artist, which features both my writing and samples of my artwork.

– I have an account with the Independent Author Network.

– I have my separate page on Facebook: Tom Benson – Writer.

– I have an author page on both Amazon – UK and Amazon.com

– This blog is related to writing – it is not used as a journal of my daily life.

Please remember – if you don’t want to spend any cash, you can use a blog website as an author website.

My one suggestion is that if you do, you must maintain it as such, and not allow it to become a blog. WordPress have a good basic framework to build such a thing, and it is easy to use. This blog is a WordPress site.

Apart from all the efforts online I designed a business card, and business postcard. Image (28)

I have these produced regularly through Vistaprint. I designed the front with a gloss finish and downloaded a QR code so that it can be scanned by smartphones.

The back of the business card has all contact information except phone number.

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Is there anything that helps but indirectly?

It is probably the most subtle of all things, and I have never intended it as any sort of self-promotion. I make every effort to help other indie writers – especially those who are new to the game. There is not one of us so good that we can’t do with a little bit of help occasionally.

There is nothing more to it for me, than the desire to help, so I read and review work by others.
If I see something that would spoil a story, I hold back on a public review – I tell the author privately. There have been cases where the author has dealt with the issues and I was happy to go back and write a 4* or 5* review.

I do not promote an author’s work unless I’ve read it – for many reasons. If I do like an author’s work, I will praise it at every opportunity.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been in support of Paul Ruddock since he set up the Indie Author Support and Discussion group on Facebook. In the early weeks I ventured to send respectful private messages to those who were producing … less than a good quality product.

We lost three ‘writers’, but since then I’m pleased to say that I’ve continued to work the same way and we have several members who accepted my early criticisms and have gone on to produce great stories.

That is not due to my interference – it is down to the individual author’s hard work and positive attitude. They’ve accepted that their skills were lacking in a particular area – and done something about it. I still get the odd message from a fellow writer about a minor issue, and I’m always grateful.

Mutual support is key to our individual success.

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Do I consider myself an authority?

No, I am not an authority, but I learned most of what I do by reading reference material, hard work, and listening to my reviewers. I am now more of a hermit than a socialite, but I have a burning desire to help my fellow writers to avoid issues I’ve had on my journey.

I joined a writing group a couple of years ago, and it helped me in some ways. When it began to feel like a social gathering, I left.

For several years I’ve subscribed to the two main writing magazines on offer in the UK. They are Writers’ Forum, and Writing Magazine. I’ve won prizes and free subscription years with both of them in the past.

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I hope I haven’t bored anybody with my opinions and ideas, and as always, I’m willing to take any comments or criticisms coming my way. I try never to say anything that I cannot later justify.

Thank you for reading. My next post will be about my journey from ‘regular’ genre to the divisive area of erotica.

See you there … all you voyeurs.

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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 another 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 the 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 really 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 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 (alternatively Beyond The Law), 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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