Writing Blog Tour…

Welcoming all readers and writers to the Writing Process Blog Tour. It’s kind of writers’ online chain letter all about how we like to work, and I commend it especially to those of you who use your keyboard for creative stuff, whatever your style or subject. Find out what makes your fellow writers tick. After all, we wordsmiths have got to stick together, right? Thank you to the ever-dynamic Ben Warden for inviting me to join the tour. Check out Ben’s site and you will find enthusiasm for the written word that will inspire you, even when that blank screen seems impossible to fill.

The blog tour gives us a four question structure, but like politicians and other talking heads, we can say what we want in the answers. Here goes…

What are you currently working on?

Well, obviously, I’ve been working on a blog entry about the way that I write, and I’ve been trying to create a self-deprecating but witty tone of voice for the piece. I’m already having doubts about how this will finally turn out… I’m also trying to get ahead of the game by working on a summer-themed short story for the utterly brilliant Words from a Bench project. My spring contribution is already with the editor, but a quick idea appeared for the follow-up, and so a few hundred words are now sitting on my desk waiting for more inspiration. I’m very pleased with the first sentence, though… And, of course, I really should also be working on chapter six of the next ‘Larry Di Palma’ crime mystery, and I should be writing a few more press releases and emails to bookshop managers.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I think our general view of the crime genre is more informed by television than books, and that the bulk of TV detectives seem to fall into the same miserable, middle-aged mould. Larry Di Palma is as insecure as all the rest, but because he narrates the story, he has to tell us about how he thinks and feels; he isn’t some closed-off, would-be macho character who fails to understand his own faults. He can be an unreliable narrator, but he tells his story with a desire to be honest, and he can also be pretty funny.

Why do you write what you do?

I probably can’t do better than repeat an earlier online interview: I’ve been writing for a very long time, and, as many of us do, I’ve experimented with poetry and short stories, and written an early, semi-autobiographical novel. Crime fiction is, broadly speaking, the biggest selling genre in the UK, so it made sense to consider moving in that direction with a view to getting published. But crucially, the result is a book written very much in my own voice, and saying things that I want to say. Alternatively, we could shorten this question, and make it Why do you write? Certainly not for the money, but why does anyone write, paint, compose and so on? It’s a kind of compulsion. If you love reading enough, you will inevitably want to write.

How does your writing process work?

It’s variable. With ‘Death Benefit’ I had written quite a lot of chapters, not necessarily in chronological order, before finally getting the plot structure in place. I’m working now on ‘Live-in Killer’ and spending more time planning the plot in advance, although I don’t think I will ever be the sort of writer who plans everything before starting the text. In the end, every writer will have a different approach or many different approaches. When I write short stories or poetry, it is different again. But one definite advantage of following the advice to ‘write what you know’ is that you don’t get bogged down doing hours of research before you can write something. I definitely need to keep some sort of momentum, and the feeling that I am making progress.

Further links

This is possibly a bit of a cheat, since the original premise of the tour is that each writer should nominate three more blogs for you, dear readers, to visit. Anyone familiar with pyramid-selling, or even anyone quite good at maths, will guess that this quickly becomes unsustainable. Never mind. Just check out the websites of these talented writers and groups. No need for the blog questions, just enjoy what they have to say… Happy reading and writing!

http://www.benwardenauthor.com/blog.html                                             http://www.thebigbuzz.biz/                                          http://rowntreeparkblog.wordpress.com/words-from-a-bench-2/

Back on the horse…

There are hundreds of New Year’s resolutions that a writer could make, but they probably all contain the word ‘Back.’

Maybe something dented your confidence, and, like a rider after a fall, you tell yourself to get back on the horse…

Maybe you’ve been a bit unwell and have to accept being back on the medication.

Or (is this the hardest one?) you have to archive a whole lot of hard work that isn’t going to work, and start a new project: back to the drawing board.

[It is highly unlikely you have spent so much time on your books, so much time ignoring your other responsibilities, that your resolution about writing is to Back Off].

Fellow writers, welcome back. I wish you all luck in 2014, and I hope you get the backing of all the readers you are hoping to reach.

Top tips for self publishers (and all those with a book deal, too…)

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Hi again to all those writers with a book that is coming into print – or indeed coming into cyberspace…  Check out a couple of the the top tips that were on display around the room at my recent book lauch:

Top Tips for Self – Publishers  (1)

Get into graphic design

Don’t accept any old cover design      Find yourself an artist or photographer friend

Work on your own designs

Use them consistently online and in marketing materials

Create a ‘brand image’

Top tips for self-publishers  (2)

Support your fellow local writers

Their feedback can be valuable      They understand your struggles

You could carry out joint events

They might even buy your book!

A few more to follow soon…

Happy writing…

The joy of proofreading, part two

Yes, I wasn’t kidding when I said it would take a lot longer than expected…  Four proofs down the line, and there are probably still a few errors in there:  evidence suggests they will be mainly capital letters which should be lower case…  To my shame, it took that many proofs to spot the error of writing ‘principle’ when it should have been ‘principal.’   But on the  positive side, I am now getting to spot errors in other authors’ work.  I’m guessing it is a rare book that makes your shelves without the odd little mistake, since I have spotted some in all of the fiction and history books I have been reading since I started copy editing and proofreading my own.  So I won’t feel bad if a few errors slip through the proverbial net…

And so if you are self publishing, I would make sure that you don’t set in concrete your book launch date until you have the final product in your hands.  I have an awful lot of lovely postcards saying that ‘Death Benefit’ is available from July.  We may yet make it for the end of the month, but it will be a close run thing…

The joy of proof-reading

How hard can it be to run through a manuscript and check for spelling and grammar errors?  Well, harder than you think; or at least much more time consuming than you think…

A few tips:

1) Save your MS in a different font and a larger size, and look through it again.  Apostrophe and inverted comma mistakes especially show up better in a font like Times Roman compared to Ariel.

2) Invest in a style guide. Do you really know when to put a full stop outside of a closing bracket and when to put it inside?  What is the difference between writing ‘the 1960s’ and ‘the Sixties?’  Look for the answers in something like the Oxford Guide to Style (Oxford University Press).  If you don’t want to buy it, look in your local library or your nearest university library.

3) Make good use of spell checks, but of course bear in mind that the spell checker will not identify an error such as writing ‘there’ when you meant to put ‘their.’

4) If you can afford it, seriously consider employing a professional.  Nothing looks more amateurish than a book full of errors, whether they come from your own manuscript, or from glitches in the typesetting process.  If you can’t afford a professional, get as many very literate friends as possible to help your out.  You and they will discover more errors than you expected!