The Lyin’, the Which? and the Word-robe

Glasses and penThe Lyin’ – can otherwise be known as denial, delusion, or any one of several other descriptions. It’s how we deceive ourselves about any aspect of our prospective book.
I love that idea for a cover, we the author might think. Remember, unless we’re honest and open to outside influence and the opinion of those with more experience, a badly designed, or even inappropriate cover is a death-sentence for a book.

Until last year I was one of the worst offenders in this category, because I’m an artist, so who’s going to know better than me? Let’s see … oh yes, a book cover designer. I paid for three of my covers to be designed professionally and my books captured more interest – and damn me if they didn’t start selling more.

We can do the same with the writing. As the author who produced the wonderful story, we can truly appreciate how good it is – can’t we? We let relatives or friends read it and they suggest publishing, because they are so amazed at our talent … yeah, whatever.

DO NOT listen to friends or relatives; unless they are qualified to give an objective opinion.

That is an area where I’m pretty well protected. My wife and son don’t read fiction, and since leaving my military career in 1992 I’ve never had an acquaintance I would promote to the title of ‘friend’. The closest folk to me are those I’ve met on sites and blogs. I will give special mention here to Paul Ruddock, because we’ve actually met, and he really is a nice guy. We met at the Self-Publishing Conference earlier this year – an eye-opener.

The Which? – refers to how we can learn about the craft of presentation? Read, read, and then read some more. When you’ve finished … well read more. Don’t depend solely on one writer and one genre, but do consider reading authors who are already established. For example: Wilbur Smith, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Sue Moorcroft or any other author who is already a name and publishes in the conventional (paperback/top publishing house) system.

I would suggest that if you are a fellow Indie author it is a good idea to read those established authors in eBook format. Why? Quite simply because it lets you see what the book layout should look like and how paragraphs are dealt with. You’ll see for example that dialogue has a certain discipline. Dialogue is indented, just like fresh paragraphs are indented.

What else is there? Oh yes! Punctuation. You are not going to see more than one exclamation mark!!! You are not going to see an ellipsis of more than three full stops … or are you ….. “When do you use double quotes?” and ‘Why would you change to single quotes?’

The Word-robe – ah yes, and to make it easy straight away, I’ll rename it. For the sake of argument let’s call it a … Dictionary and Thesaurus. We must all learn to expand our vocabulary so that we don’t depend on the same word being used continually in a book, if there are alternatives.

Let’s look at moving from point A to point B:
He walked, jogged, ran, sprinted, hurled, fell, staggered, strolled, minced, and with a few drinks your character will probably invent some others for you.

Remember, don’t use a big word or obscure word when a straightforward, smaller word will work just as well.

I’d like to suggest checking out ‘Resources for Writers’ on my main menu. A decent, simple-to-follow book on punctuation and grammar is an investment. If I had to suggest three books to have close at hand they would be:
Any good, standard-sized Dictionary and Thesaurus
On Writing by Stephen King
The Writer’s abc Checklist by Lorraine Moore & Maureen Vincent-Northam

I do realise that I might sometimes come across as being hard-nosed in my opinions, but it’s hard to inject humour and be taken seriously when writing about something you care about.
Please keep in mind that your name, brand, credibility as a writer and integrity as a person are on the line when you publish. Don’t go ahead too quickly and above all don’t be greedy when you set a price if you are an unknown.

Why am I so passionate when I’m ‘only’ an Indie author? I started working seriously at this craft in 2007 and I want to help my peers to avoid mistakes I made in the learning process. I want to help others to find the shortcuts I had to learn about through hard work.

As always, I thank you for sticking with me through this blog, article, rant, outburst, tutorial or however you’d like to refer to it.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.

Advertisements

Resources – holiday

 

A loch within a forest near Glencoe.

A loch within a forest near Glencoe.

It’s not a book and it’s not a website, or even a single location. I’ve been on holiday for the past week and as I usually do, I tour the area extensively.

Being on holiday is a good source of resource for readers and writers as I aim to highlight in this post.

What specific resources are there?

1.  As a reader you might carry a notebook and pen. If you’re a writer you should carry a notebook and pen.

2.  Keep your camera handy. Seeing wonderful sights is all part of being on holiday, but to remember them clearly, and the ideas they provoked – take some pictures.

3.  Tourist Information. The classic holiday source for information whether at home or away. Maps, pamphlets, locations of places of interest, books and of course the staff. Talk to people who know the area.

4.  Museums of whatever size or type usually have a selection of books and leaflets. In those locations there are usually maps and guides to the local area.

5.  Accommodation can be a great source. I tend these days to hire self-catering accommodation and once again I’m living in an old stone cottage. A local village, a forest, mountains and a loch all within a few minutes walk make this an exceptional location, but you can find inspiration in any area if you look.

6.  Open eyes, open mind and active imagination are all at our disposal. It doesn’t matter if we are continuing with our regular life or if we are on holiday – we will find inspiration if we are open to it and look for it.

Time to go now, because I can sense a day of inspiration calling to me.

I’ll be on blog patrol as soon as I’m back in my usual writing location. Thank you for dropping by.

Resources – the Atlas

Europe - featuring Sweden (green section at top centre)

Europe – featuring Sweden (green section at top centre)

I feel that this is an area that might be interesting to readers and writers.

Prior to the April A to Z Challenge 2014, I set up a menu to build a list of resource materials.

In my menu I listed several books that I use myself as handy resource tools. Online resources are a separate idea in my opinion, so I’ll leave them until after I’ve written a few posts on that wonderful idea; the book.

What do I use?

I use the Philips Navigator Britain, which is excellent whether being used for journeys or as a writing resource. I have a good map of Northern Ireland and a separate map of Eire aka; the Irish Republic, or Southern Ireland. To handle international issues, I also have the AA Road Atlas Europe and The Times World Atlas, which is much more than a book full of maps.

What do I get from my ‘Navigator Britain’ atlas?

1. Route planners, which enable me to decide which way characters might choose to get from A to B.

2. Town and city names which apart from anything else sometimes provide ideas for character names.

3. Motorways, major roads, minor roads, bridle paths, rivers, lakes and railways are clear.

4. Densely populated areas and remote areas which can help with a plot.

5. Places of interest like: castles, golf courses, museums, historical sites and much more.

Why not use Google or another search engine?

My atlas is physically there with no searching, opening various windows, setting parameters.

If I find something that has an appeal, I then follow up with a search engine for up to date details.

What do I get from the World Atlas?

1. My geographical knowledge is reasonable, but it provides so much confidence to double-check things like borders, flags, populations, average temperature, the currency, languages spoken and more.

2. I’ve been to many cities in Europe but it’s nice to relate to a route by road number and see how a city can be approached from a variety of directions, including from other cities.

3. Distances between places and the terrain are all there by taking a closer look, not be going screen to screen, zooming in and out and so on.

4. If I find something that appeals, I can as said before, use a search engine for up to date information.

5. Time zones, latitude and longitude are all inter-related and help when characters are travelling or communicating with somebody across the world.

I have a good selection of city maps and individual country maps to supplement these two main books, so for me, these things are so much more than mere books full of maps.

Are you a map person, or a search engine person, whether a reader or a writer?

My next blog patrol starts today so if you’re on my list – see you soon.

In my next post I’ll look at the Zodiac Signs book, but for now, thank you for stopping by.

 

 

R … is for Resources

R[1] is for resources, which for me includes reference and reading. I’ve added the other two words because they are interconnected, and play their part in today’s topic.

What do I mean by resources?

This covers anything that assists us as writers. In some ways it’s unfortunate that in these times of the information super highway, when many people think of resources; it means the Internet. Rather than reach for one of those neat, tightly-packaged items – a book, a lot of folk are content to ask Google or some other search engine.

Yes, it takes a few keystrokes and virtually any subject can be traced. Likewise, when this is done, there are several sources. Without doubt, one of the main sources is Wikipedia, so we’ll take that as our example to prove a point.

What do we find in every Wikipedia entry?

In it’s simplest form, we find a disclaimer. The fact that the statement mentions words like ‘verification’ and ‘reliable resources’ doesn’t indicate that everything in the entry has them – it indicates something else. The information is verified up to a point, which means if you quoted it, you are putting a lot of trust in those who compiled it. Use it by all means, but cross-reference your information with at least one other source.

What do we find in an established reference book?

Apart from being there, (even when there is no electricity), we find the names of the author, or authors. Not far inside, we will find out what qualifies them to suggest they know anything about the topic. We will also see whether it is written as a credible reference, or it is simply an opinion piece in book format. Remember also, that these handy packs of organised paper are great for filling up a shelf beside your desk.

For me, the Internet sites serve to remind me, or point me in the right direction, or to give me a basic understanding. A book on the other hand normally carries with it a certifiable qualification alongside the author’s name, and that is important if I’m intending to use the information elsewhere.

Why is reading a resource?

The immediate answer to this is, that if we are writing creatively, then we should read. There are several reasons for this, and not least because the celebrated author Stephen King recommends it in his outstanding book, ‘On Writing’. Before I forget, if you haven’t got a copy – get one!

Reading helps to expose us to a variety of genre, authors, and styles. In my own case for example, in the past couple of months I’ve read: thriller, fantasy, romance, adventure, erotica and historical. I have many books on my shelves that have yet to be read, but I also have reference books that have paid for themselves many times over.

We can learn snippets of information by reading, even if it’s a short story, or somebody else’s blog or website. Okay, perhaps we will find information and want to chase up more sources to clarify it, but it might first have been found reading a competition entry. As I’ve tried to do throughout this A to Z Challenge, I’ve given examples, and this post has what might be considered a peculiar example.

A few months ago, I wanted to point out some of the basics of creative writing, so I wrote a short story to do it. The story is, ‘An Aspiring Writer’, and although I’m not an authority on the subject, the comments I’ve had, indicate that there are some credible points made. It was fun to write, but I did give it plenty of thought.

On my blog now is a new and expanding menu for the use of any visitor which contains resources for writers. If you have any suggestions, they are welcome, and will be accredited if used. Apart from that particular menu, my intention is to create a menu to feature all my ‘A to Z’ posts.

Once again, I thank you for reading and I’ll be back tomorrow with ‘S’.