A Little Bit of Advice

Avoiding writer's blockBefore you start...

Posted by Judageddon Fri, March 27, 2015 12:58:15

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Hello fellow writers,

As I’ve said in earlier blogs, when I started writing, in my childhood, I wrote to satisfy my own reading needs. I knew exactly how the story started and ended and enjoyed writing the bit in between. As I grew, however, I wanted more sophistication and complexity in my stories. I had to remember things that would have an impact on events later on, or go back and change past events to facilitate later developments. As my stories got longer, this practice became more problematic, and when I started writing full length novels, almost impossible to manage. I’d suffer writers block and self doubt and sometimes abandoning the story all together became the only real option.

I no longer have that luxury. Having made a decision to be a writer, and make a living from it, with the added duties of publishing and marketing, I can no longer indulge in long periods of low productivity.

Yes, I’m going to be talking about planning. Yes, I’ve already talked about planning. Yes, it’s important that I talk about it again.

But I don’t like the confines of a plan - I understand that some writers don’t like planning, it stifles their creativity. If you can write a novel that stands up to editing (by a professional editor) and it sells to the scale that you want it to, that’s great, I admire your skill and wish you every success. But, to all the writers out there who are tackling their first production…

Planning DOES NOT make you a lesser writer.

Planning AIDS creativity by reducing plot complications.

Planning IMPROVES productivity by reducing writers block.

YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR PLAN.


Let’s look again at other fields of art:

I accept that there are artists who can pick up a paintbrush, or a musical instrument, and produce beautiful works through improvisation that are held in high esteem among their peers. You must accept that those people are rare. Most painters, including the best in history, sketch and practice the subject on paper, before they approach the canvas. When they do start to work on the final product, using pencil or paint, they first lay down a drawing, to test balance and composition, and better understand any challenges they might face. They plan.

A composer will plot out a simple base line, melody and harmony that loosely outlines the music they hope to record, then add the details and complementary tracks that make the piece moving, or up-lifting. They plan.

But Planning is boring - Sure, planning can feel like a colourless process, so make it fun and challenging in other ways. This is just a suggestion, an adaptation/expansion of my earlier structure…

1 - Write your complete story as a tweet or haiku. Restricting your word count will help you to focus on important points.

2 - Write your complete story in exactly one hundred words.

3 - Expand your story to exactly one thousand words. This is where you start to focus on plot threads, characters and twists. The thousand word draft isn’t final, but it should work for you before you proceed.

4 - Break the thousand word draft down into titled chapters.

5 - Outline each chapter with a tweet or Haiku for each plot thread.

Congratulations, you have a plan that you can alter as you progress through your story.

I hope this has been helpful.

Thanks for reading, and keep writing.

Judageddon out.

More…



When bad news is good newsAs you progress

Posted by Judageddon Fri, March 20, 2015 13:19:04

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Hello Fellow Writers,

The most hurtful thing that anyone has said to me about my book is 'No thanks,' when I offered them a printed manuscript to read. I was taken aback because they'd often expressed a desire to read it on completion. I'd done the second draft. It was complete.

'Has it been edited yet?' they asked.

'Yes.' I insisted. I'd edited as I wrote.

'By an editor?' they probed.

'I don't need an editor.' I said.

Other friends had better faith in my skills, they took the copy and assured me they'd give me feedback within a couple of weeks. I couldn't wait to hear things like 'Ground breaking.' and 'Excellent read from start to finish.' but I had to. Two weeks became 'by next weekend,' then 'by the end of the month.' Eventually, feedback was received.

I suppose the most frustrating comments were...

'I haven't had a chance to read it yet.' and 'What I've read is great. I just haven't got much time.'

The most heartbreaking included...

'I keep losing track of where they are.' or 'I don't get it mate.'

While it seemed others were out to destroy me, saying...

'You need to look at how to punctuate speech.' and 'I assume this hasn't been edited.'

I was wounded.

The mistake I made - was believing that the need for an editor was a result of being not very good. I hadn't really considered how the best selling novels are all produced with an editor on team.

The lesson I learned - I needed an editor. I didn't need to hear about how great the best bits of the story were, or how bad the worst bit's were, I needed to know what was wrong with my book and how to fix it.
All creative arenas have editors under one name or another. Imagine if cars were completely developed by designers, without engineers to tell them what works and what doesn't, or if our clothes were manufactured directly from the original catwalk design - We'll look great, walking halfway down the street and back, but most of it wouldn't fit in the washing machine.

I realised I'd rather hear the bad news from an editor, than read it in a review. There was more bad news than I'd expected, but I learned quickly to appreciate the benefit.

But editors are expensive!

Editors charge for the value of their contribution, but even £50 is expensive to someone who can't afford it. If you can find an editor who'll work for a skill trade, or even free, then you are lucky, but make sure they have experience of your genre.

If you pay for an editor, make sure that you have your business head on. Add it to your financial forecast and keep receipts.

Isn't there anything I can do myself?

There are a few things to do before handing your work to an editor, or as part of your self editing process. The most constructive thing you can do is read your novel, from start to finish, over the timeframe you'd expect of a reader. READ IT OUT LOUD. Your mouth won't make the same assumptions you're brain does. It doesn't auto correct your spelling. The really clever bit, is that by stimulating your ears at the same time, you engage logic processors that remain inactive when reading in your head.

DON'T MUMBLE! READ IT OUT LOUD!

You'll be unpleasantly surprised.

The other things you can do are use your word processor's search function to scour for common errors. You'll probably know these common mistakes, but we still make them. Sometimes auto correct get's it wrong. Let's go with that:

You're (You are)
Your (Belonging to you)

Their (Belonging to them)
They're (They are)
There (In a different location)

Were (Doing so in the past)
Where (Referring to a location)
We're (We are)

And who could forget...

Have (To own)
Of (NOT the same as To own)

Our (Owned by us)
Are (Qualifying positivity)

WARNING: Never use the replace ALL function, it'll mess things right up. I made that mistake, you don't need to make it too.

I hope you found this helpful.

Thank you for reading and keep writing.

Judageddon out.

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Asking for help takes strength...Self Representation

Posted by Judageddon Fri, March 13, 2015 14:18:29

Hello fellow writers,

Today, in a way, i'm talking about pride and stubbornness and the curses that they are, drawing from a mistake I made for a long time and the lesson I learned only recently.

I'm 43. I worked in a corporate environment for a long time; a place where every telephone conversation was target driven and every face to face, even with colleagues, was an opportunity to establish my value to the company by demonstrating superior ingenuity and unquestionable self confidence. Where I worked, sharing advice was strength, asking for help was seen as weakness (I believed).

I left that environment three years ago, in a storm of confusion, frustration and denial. Thankfully, I was already determined to apply my life long fiction writing experience to producing and publishing a horror novel (Still one of the best decisions I ever made), unfortunately, after two months, things weren't going as expected and I was running out of ideas. Keeping going still wasn't working. What could I do?

The mistake I made - was believing that the stuff I've written above, about the competition between peers in the workplace, was true and equally applicable to the online community. I strode out into the self publishing arena with my chest puffed up and my brightly coloured tail fanned out for all to see, full of ideas about how things should be done and how I was going to be best.
Imagine how I felt when nobody looked and nobody looked, no matter how much I told them how brilliant I am. You'll maybe understand then, why, when people finally started looking, I bombarded them with information about my book and how great it is (it is great, but that's beside the point), and how deflated I felt when, despite everything I'd read about online marketing and the time things take, deep down I still expected to have seen more sales than I had. You might not believe how close I was to giving up.

I was so close, I had no choice, i dropped my guard and asked for help. What happened next blew my mind... An online group of friends, people I felt I had competition with, came to my aid with genuine advice, encouragement and tales of similar experiences, reinstating my understanding of timescale, resetting my resolve and sharing invaluable views, resources and practices. I can't over emphasise how understanding and helpful they were.

The lessons I learned - Don't be afraid to ask for help from fellow writers. They are no more in competition with you than a person selling red paint, while you're selling blue paint. Some people like red, some like blue, but there's no reason why you can't both make a living off of paint. Share your successes and frustrations, give advice when you have it and take advice graciously. It's fine to admit that you are struggling. They've all struggled.

And the other thing is that friends on social media, which ever platform, should be treated as friends and nothing more. Be genuine and honest with them. Share things you believe in; things that have been of value to you and may well be of value to others. If you write a blog about something that's important to you, and is relevant to the group, share that too.

Become part of a community, or many, that share an interest with you, that you benefit from being a part of in terms of how much you enjoy interacting with them. And if people have helped in the production of your book, tell them when you release it, once or twice, as you would a real world friend or group. Let them share with the people, who share with their friends who talk to their workmates who'll do the selling for you.

Thanks for reading & keep writing.

Judaggedon out

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Rules are rulesBefore you start...

Posted by Judageddon Fri, March 06, 2015 11:11:24

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Hello fellow writers,

I'm just going to come out with it...

You can not revolutionise a creative establishment, by breaking all of it's rules!

The mistake I made - was thinking that was exactly how to go about it. I, with my fresh mind and new vision, would not only break those stuffy old rules, I'd parody them.

I made my website look intentionally amateurish, thinking people would look at it and exclaim, "Wow! This guy is clearly on the ball. See how he's used advanced web design skills to build a page which, to the untrained eye, looks like it was built by someone who doesn't care." (I have since taken professional advice and changed my website, BTW)

I wrote two thirds of a book which no one could actually read, because my clever layout and paragraph structure was unfathomable.

It wasn't that I didn't know the rules. I thought I was above them, and that all of my fellow authors would bask in the cleverness of me.

The lesson I learned - is that rules are not there to exclude me, they are there to include me. The rules about writing aren't there to restrict how you write, they are there to help you write something that people can read.

Likewise, the rules about website/book cover/promotion layouts aren't there to tell us how to design, they tell us how people see, and engage our promotional material.

The rules are there to help you. Embrace the rules, warm to them and, in time, they will start to flex for you.

I hope you found this helpful.

Thanks for reading and keep writing.

Judageddon out.

More...

Build a followshipSelf Representation

Posted by Judageddon Fri, February 13, 2015 12:28:51

Hello Fellow Writers,

The fact that you are reading this suggests that you already have a social network presence. Good start. Today I'm talking about preparing a body of friends, colleagues and potential readers BEFORE you publish your book.

The mistake I made

I invested all of my social networking on one platform. I thought that posting on Facebook would be enough. I thought if I enthused friends and family to look at my developing web page, cover ideas and blurbs, that they would share my brilliance and new followers would like my page in their hundreds.

Guess what happened...

They liked my posts, gave helpful feedback when requested, and that was pretty much it. Don't get me wrong; I'm very grateful for the support and help my friends & family gave, but what I needed them to do was share.

I had launched a Twitter profile. My opening Tweet outlined plans to Journalise my progress as I wrote PROLOGUE. I received encouraging messages from people I didn't know, but I didn't follow it through. I didn't think about how important my online presence would be when the book was launched; I was living the fairy tail in which ebooks sell by their thousands without any active promotion; I thought it was more important that I commit my time to writing the best zombie horror book the world had ever seen.

The lesson I learned

If you're writing an ebook, the best place to market and promote it is online. If you already have a substantial followship, then your job will be so much easier. The best way to build your followship from scratch is...

Be proactively reactive - Start by searching for posts covering areas of personal interest, then comment on and share posts and tweets that you have something to add to. If you see actual value in everything one person posts, then post a comment saying so. Follow people who interest you and soon your followship will grow.

Avoid following everyone, or sharing everything you see.

Be sure to outline your craft and interests in your profile description, but don't let it be the only thing you talk about.

The three platforms I have experience of are...

Facebook - I started social networking on FB and I'll probably never leave. My primary profile is followed by friends & family and my posts cover family life and activities, which include references to my writing and design work, but I wouldn't think of it as a marketing platform, so rarely post book marketing material. For that I use Facebook Pages:

Gaz & Lou's Safe House - is a website that exists in my novel, so it seemed appropriate to build a page named after it. Here I post links to survival tips, news about the developing dystopia in which we live, and links to my blog of the same name.

Jumping Thumb - Named after my MULTeMEDIA web page. Here I post links to writing tips, zombie and horror media and this blog.

I try to post something new on my pages, once or twice a day, Monday to Friday. Posts on FB Pages can only be directed at Public and, unless you pay to have your post enhanced, will not be delivered to many users. Until a post is shared from your page, don't expect to see particularly encouraging seen by numbers.

Twitter - has become a mixed platform for personal and marketing posts. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, and I accept that many, if not most of the entities following me are bots, or have their own sales agenda. For example, a very high percentage of my followers are also writers, linking out to their own blogs and sales info, much like me. What I try to remember is that, like me, most writers are also readers (at least, they should be) and they are as valid as a potential customer as they are as a colleague or friend.

I tweet about my blogs and book info three or four times a day, Monday to Friday. I tweet about personal interests and retweet items I find interesting or funny and reply directly to tweets if appropriate. If there's space available, when I retweet I try to add a comment that explains why I'm retweeting.

Look out for entities that only seem to retweet from one source. I try not to invest much time in these marketing engines, but remember that behind that hi-res image of a beautiful person, there's a human being who might be interested in me.

If you can't think of anything to tweet about, look at the Trending list under Discover and join in with a #game or two.

Google+ - is an odd one. People have said that there are no real people on it, but I've found it to be a warm and welcoming community of helpful supportive people. I like the way that communities are structured and easier to understand than Facebook groups, and there's more real estate for words than on Twitter.

I try to post twice every day, Monday to Friday, sharing my interest in photography and photo manipulation, plus links to my blogs and helpful info.

The secret is to get involved: join in with conversations, comment on posts and tweets, share, like and follow people who interest you. Do unto others... i suppose is the bullet point of what I'm trying to get across.

I hope this has helped.

Thanks for reading and keep writing.

Judageddon out.




Getting the idea downBefore you start...

Posted by Judageddon Fri, February 06, 2015 12:57:50

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Hello fellow Writers

This week I'm expanding on last week's bit of advice, which was about being your best PR representative.

This week I'm focusing on getting your idea down on paper, and a firm vision of your novel in your mind, giving you confidence in your objective and an increased likelihood of completing it.

This sounds like a plan - It is a plan; a loose and malleable plan that you can complete on a single page of your notebook.

But i like to write organically - Me too. I write best when I'm not sure of what's around the corner, or I find my characters have developed their own agenda. These things make writing fun for me. It's important, to me, that writing is fun, and by fun I don't mean easy; writing can be frustrating and draining; a challenge. I like challenges. But...

The mistake I made - Writing blind was fine when I was a kid. I wrote for fun. I wrote what I wanted to read, which was mostly plotless accounts of how I was a hero, or my enemies had been destroyed. As I grew into adult fiction my stories adopted elements of plot, as I became familiar with them through reading. When I'd reached my twenties I'd started to manipulate plot devices and analyse character richness through back story and blah blah blah didn't finish a single story because, without a plan, I'd end up with plot branches obstructing each other, and time lines so tangled I'd have characters appearing at essential trigger points... after they'd died.

I didn't know what I was doing, because I was writing without a vision of the story.

The Plan

Writing the plan takes three steps. The examples I use will be taken from the plan I would write, if I was rewriting a fantasy novel I didn't finish twenty years ago. The hand written manuscript is still under the bed.

Step one > What's it about? - By this I mean, what are you writing about at the deepest level, what philosophy or notion has made you want to write a novel?

Example: Acceptance equals unity. Unity equals strength.

Step two > What happens? - There are supposedly seven basic what happens foundations, that all stories are based on. You can see them listed on Wikipedia, where they are listed as plots. I personally consider them to be accounts, because they lack the elements of conflict and causality, but that's maybe just me.

The idea here is to capture your novel, from beginning to end, in one sentence (Gasp).

Example: In a world of magic and steel, three strangers to a city, and each other, are recruited to find a missing prince and see him crowned king.

This is an account of what happens, combining a there and back with a coming of age. It lacks elements of plot. It lacks answers to the question why?

Step 3 > What's the plot? - This is where you add the conflict and causality, the lies and betrayal, the broken hearts and the enemies becoming friends. All the things that turn a travel log into an adventure.

Write your novel in a paragraph.

Example: Three adventurers from conflicting origins are recruited by a prince to find his kidnapped older brother, due to be crowned in two days. He's chosen three capable strangers to the city, because he doesn't want regals to hear about the abduction and abstain from attending the coronation through fear of low security standards, destroying any chance to discuss essential trade relations between them. The adventurers, unable to address their differences, agree to go their separate ways, overcoming individual obstacles and gathering clues in their own personal quests. Reunited by their pursuits, the adventurers reluctantly combine their intel and suppose that the young prince plans to kill the heir and incriminate them. Upon finding the fleeing older brother, their suspicions are confirmed and a new plan is made to return the would be king safely, while exposing his evil younger brother's treachery. In their endeavours, the adventurers learn to combine their strengths and forgive each others trespasses to overcome mounting challenges and ultimately destroy a demon.

It's a long paragraph, I grant you, and not a particularly original plot, but it outlines my story in less than half a page, while leaving plenty of growing room for new twists, objectives and characters that will make my novel fresh and original. If you can, make a digital copy of your plan; you're going to want to keep hold of it. As you write your novel, each new idea you have can be tested in the simple outline where blockages and confusion will be easier to see.

With this basic vision of your novel, you can move forward, writing or planning further with a good idea of what you're doing.

I hope you find this helpful.

Thanks for reading and keep writing.

Judageddon out.









So… What's it about?Self Representation

Posted by Judageddon Fri, January 30, 2015 12:15:13

Hello Fellow Writers,

Always remember that you are the first PR representative you will ever use and the most knowledgable expert on you that there will ever be. If you are not aware of that, then its time to get to grips with it.

This is a lesson I learned too late...

First a side note to create context: I compare my writing work structure with organic gardening: I plant the seeds where I want them to be, but relish the fact that I have limited control over how they'll grow. I understand that some plants will not grow well together, while others act as catalysts, and I expect I might have to move some of them into better growing conditions.

But… When I first started writing novels, I planted one seed, with no idea of what it was or how to cultivate it. What I ended up with wasn't exactly what I wanted, but it was the best I could do, with what I had. All novels written under those conditions are under my bed, waiting to be rewritten.

So, with that in mind...

Imagine you're at a friends birthday party; a barbecue in a park. There are people you know well, others not so much anymore, and people you've never met, but seem nice. You settle in with the friends you know, then find yourself with a stranger, stranded in the silence that follows introductions.

'What do you do?' you ask. It's a common icebreaker.

'What do I do?' they repeat, 'Well, I suppose I'm an electrician.'

'Oh! Right.' you are intrigued and probe for details. 'What sort of electrician?'

'Erm… Kind of commercial and sort of… A bit like doing stuff in houses.'

'O.K…' You're not sure how to proceed, are they an electrician or not? A better question might be… 'Are you working on anything at the moment?'

The supposed electrician seems embaressed. 'It's still in the planning stage. Bits are finished. Give me your email address and I'll send you some pictures of the things I've done. I could do with a bit of feedback actually. What was your name?'

'Erm…' You're unsure about commiting. 'What is it though, what… what's it all about?' you ask with controlled frustration.

'Imagine you go to work somewhere really hot and… OK, you've got a big family and so you need to do two big wash loads, lets say, twice a week and… It's a bit like you've got this massive building with loads of families like you but you all have to share only three washing machines and so they've decided to put a washing machine in every flat so… And they'll all need power so...'

'Sorry to interrupt you. I've just realised my sausages are going cold.'

That would be a strange conversation eh? Believe me when I tell you that this conversation happened. OK, most of the words were different, and it wasn't an electrician being vague about their chosen profession, it was me, the first time I felt it appropriate to answer the question 'What do you do?' with the words 'I'm a writer.'

I felt immature and unprepared, like I'd turned up at a black tie event, wearing a black tie. I had decided that I, if nothing else, had sufficient belief in myself as a writer to proclaim it… But I sounded like I was making it up on the spot.

Don't make the same mistake...

The determination to spend some years writing a compelling novel, that you will publish and promote while you write the next and the next is a life choice that deserves respect and firm handling. The first thing you must do, and it need only take a couple of hours, tops, is prepare the following:

A Mission Statement - It doesn't have to be long. A couple of sentences will do, though a paragraph would be great. Outline your plan. Here's mine (Keep in mind that I am 45)...

I shall draw on my experience as a hobby novelist and the training I have taken from the open university to write a series of Apocalyptic adventure books which I intend to publish and promote independently. I shall engage marketing and business training (as cheaply as possible) to help develop my marketing plan and, if nothing else, generate a retirement income from something that makes me happy.

An answer to 'What do you do?' - The path you've chosen isn't necessarily something to brag about, but it is something to be proud of. Have your punchy answer written down and ready to use. I say...

I'm a horror fiction writer; I write apocalyptic adventures.

An answer to 'What's it about?' - It's important to get this one right. Remember that what happens in your novel is not what it's about. If you don't already have a clear and concise answer to this question, I strongly suggest you stop writing and have a good think about it. You're allowed a little ambiguity. My response when asked what Day Two Dawns is about is...

The assumptions we attach to people we think we know, and what happens when they're proved to be false.

Lots of stories are about that, of course, but none will be like mine, or yours. Never fear that you're giving anything away when you reveal the heart of your tale. It is only a seed.

If someone is interested in what happens in the story, I recite whatever I wrote in the early stages of my writing plan, which I'll outline next time. For now though, show that you believe in your commitment to the writing path by doing the tasks above. Be your best PR representative...


Thanks for reading and keep writing.

Judageddon out

If you would like to see my website and associated blog, click on the word here, here
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The Fairy Tale...Before you start...

Posted by Judageddon Mon, January 26, 2015 15:08:17

Hello Writer

Sit back, relax and enjoy this story...

Once upon a time, a creative, imaginative and resourceful individual realised that they had what it would take to make a living writing their own fiction novels.

Uninterrupted, they had their first draft complete within just a few months. All of their friends and family committed their time to proof reading what they described as a faultless masterpiece. With no need for further editing or spell checking, the book was ready to go.

Self publishing was easy. It was literally as simple as sending an email, and the book was in the online stores within an hour.

From then on there was no looking back. On the first day, ten people downloaded the book. On the second day one hundred people downloaded it and the five star reviews were pouring in. On day three there were thousands of downloads and the phone was ringing off the hook with calls from mainstream publishers and agents, all offering millions of pounds for a signature on a contract. Then there was the film to discuss... and they all lived happily ever after.

That was a lovely story, wasn't it? It's how I expected events would play out, back when I first started writing for self publication, but it is just a story.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to catch shouts about my Friday blogs, designed to help new writers understand the tricks, best practices and avoidable pitfalls of being an indie author/publisher.

Thank you for reading and keep writing.

Judageddon