My Writing Year – 2019

 

A successful writing year is measured using a variety of criteria by different authors. For me, I must feel that if not prolific, I’ve at least achieved a good standard with what I have published. I’m a firm believer that if as an author I expect a payment, I owe the customer my best efforts.

Rather than talk about ‘numbers’ as a guide, it would be better to look at the time taken for some of my most recent publications. Codename: Nightshade, for example, went through my process for two years before I was happy with the end result. One Man, Two Missions, was a bundle of files for a long time before I was satisfied with every story.

 

 

I created Tom Benson-Erotica to avoid, or at least reduce the mentions of the genre on here, but this post will be one of the exceptions and for good reason. I wrote a novel, a full-length prequel novel, and a book of fifty erotic poems.

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Although the erotica output in my own name may not sound impressive, one of my most ambitious projects to date was the creation of a new author.

During 2019, I published five full-size novels as Katya Cumming. I’ve kept the pseudonym and the stories (in progress), a secret for two years. When I came up with the idea I promised myself not to go public until I had completed several books and published them over a period of twelve months. This would allow me to assess unaided development. The experiment was also to see if ‘Katya’ would be prolific, and successful. She has been both when considering she’s had no support or advertising campaigns.

The theory of creating ‘box sets’ was beyond me for a while. I’d checked a fair number on Amazon and couldn’t see many reviews, so I figured that maybe they were popular as a purchase, but not easy to review. Whatever … I spent a couple of weeks selecting and producing four box sets. They haven’t been my most successful venture, but in each case, I’m giving something back in terms of pricing, so it’s the consumer’s loss; not mine.

Throughout the year I offered my services as a beta reader to several members of the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), the finest writing group of its type on Facebook. Oh, yes, and in between other things I produced two stories for the IASD horror anthology Depths of Darkness.

To return to my opening statement regarding success in the past year … yes, I believe that with the sales produced under my own name, and the regular sales by ‘Katya’, it has been a successful writing year.

I’ve produced this summary a month earlier than normal for two reasons. Firstly, I am deep into two WIP and will not be publishing anything new in December 2019. Secondly, this post will be appearing in the November issue of the superb Connections eMag produced by fellow author, Melanie P. Smith.

 

 

 

I have a smaller but no less important target for next year, but more of that in my New Writing Year – 2020 post in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and summary, and for any comments or suggestions, you may leave. Sincere thanks go out to all you lovely people who’ve sampled or continue to read my efforts.

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May … I continue with projects

 

In the next few days I’ll be reading / reviewing which will take me to a new month.

May update - five

As this year got underway I made a list of ten targets, so I thought with one third of the year out of the way I’d revisit my list to check progress. As I hit 2016 the five titles above were at various stages of completion.

1. Publication of A Life of Choice: Part One – job done and, now has reviews.

2. Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm (Mali) Beadle – a detailed critique / suggested edits which took a couple of weeks. Manuscript is now back with Mali being redrafted.

3. Revision of my present novels – Ten Days in Panama – job done and, now appearing on Amazon categorised under Romance.

4. Publication of A Time for Courage: and other military stories – job done.

5. Produce artwork to accompany Whisper Wood, my submission for the IASD Children’s anthology – job done.

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What else is going on?

Since January, apart from my personal workload and, working on Mali’s book, for fellow authors I’ve beta read three short stories and, two novels.

A Life of Choice - Part TwoA Life of Choice: Part Two is in the final stages. I’ve heard from one beta reader and, in the next couple of days I’ll hear from the other, who is one of our IASD authors. I’ve printed the manuscript and, by the coming weekend I’ll be performing a red-pen edit, line by line.

  • No music and, no interruptions.
  • As usual it will be me, the manuscript, the red pen, my perpetual diary, character profiles, cast of characters, a plentiful supply of black coffee and, a notepad for worries, queries and, thoughts.

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Did I mention I’ve set up two more pages on Facebook?

I set them up without any grandstanding to see if anybody would come across them and, I’m delighted to report I’ve got a couple of likes by IASD members and it’s much appreciated. I’d noticed several authors had set up pages for individual novels, but I decided to go with my writing categories. I now have:

Tom Benson – Writer

Tom Benson – Short Stories

Tom Benson – Poetry

Tom Benson – Erotica

I look at extra Facebook pages as a passive marketing tool. I may not produce many regular entries on them, but they’ll add to my online presence. I felt I needed to demonstrate diversity by not using a single page with disparate genre spread throughout. Temptation (2)

As ever, I’ve got projects listed in my Work in Progress section. Some of these ideas have been planned for a while, but now I’ve added a new and, for me, exciting project. If you want to know what it is, you’ll have to look for the clue.

One of my latest projects is Temptation: and other stories. It will be another collection of short stories, but with an open theme.

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I’ve now decided the Beyond The Law series will end as a trilogy. The original idea was intended as a single story. I like to think of it as my signature style and, I don’t want the stories to become formulaic. The original tale is re-titled as Beyond The Law: Formation, the second is Beyond The Law: Retribution and, the final title will be Beyond The Law: Consequences. A lot of background material has been written and, the story will start taking shape in the summer.

Beyond The Law - pair

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Following the successful conversion of Ten Days in Panama to the Romance genre, I am intending to perform a similar conversion with Amsterdam Calling. Once again, there will be little change to the storyline, but I know where it needs to be adjusted.

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I’ve now made inroads into my two short stories for IASD anthologies. For the Indies for Charity anthology my story will be Taken for a Ride. My story for the Horror anthology will be Dark Places.

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I’ve got a bit of reading, reviewing and, writing to do guys, so if you’ll excuse me … oh, and, thank you for dropping by. It is much appreciated.

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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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Happy New Writing Year!

Ten Titles minus oneI’ve left behind a year which felt productive from beginning to end.
My primary objective for 2016 is that it will be at least as fulfilling as last year.
I will continue to deal with my Work in Progress (WIP) simultaneously, and in that way each project will feel fresh at every session.

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What’s on in 2016 for Tom Benson – Author?

1  Publication of A Life of Choice – Part One

Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm Beadle

3  Revision of each of my present novels.

Publication of A Time for Courage: and other military stories, my next anthology

Produce artwork to accompany Whisper Wood, my submission for the IASD Children’s anthology

6  Produce a short story for the next themed IASD anthology

Produce one of my present novels as a paperback using Create Space

8  Ongoing maintenance and improvement of the IASD website / blog

Read and review more titles from the IASD catalogue

10 Support of the IASD members in whatever capacity I am able

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Tom’s blog post – Supplementary

A Life of Choice - Part OneMy aim is to publish A Life of Choice – Part One by Sunday 10th January.

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Codename: Koki is the debut novel by Malcolm Beadle. He is fellow writer and friend who is more comfortable scriptwriting, which is why he needs support to edit and fine-tune his first action thriller. Malcolm has a direct and entertaining storytelling style.

Provisional cover idea

Provisional cover idea

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As mentioned in a blog post last year, I intend to visit each of my present novels in the order they were published. My intention is to revise each book, but using the reviews as my guide. I will amend the book covers as I complete the revisions.

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IASD - globe 2The IASD website / blog is now fit for purpose, but we are going to introduce new ideas and aim to achieve regular interaction for our members and visitors.

The Admin team will be driving the changes, but from this point onward, guided by the comments, suggestions and support of the whole group. There will be more on an update in January.

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I’ve got some serious work ahead of me now, so I will thank you for dropping by and any comments.

Let’s get reading, reviewing, and writing!

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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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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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