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Something for all you Authors to think about when constructing your prose…

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Something has been missing…

So if by some miracle, i have any followers, you would have noticed my undeniable lapse in attention for my blog. I disappeared like a thief in the night, never to return. Well not quite, seeing as i am here writing this now, but you get the gist.

Since the beginning of the year, i have found it increasingly difficult to focus my mind and actually put words on paper. I would have had more chance of winning the lottery than finishing the novel i have been banging on about for well over a year now. I had some personal issues that severely limited my creative output, so i put the novel to one side and didn’t even contemplate picking it up again. The thought just too large a proposition.

Well, its safe to say that i have given myself a metaphorical kick in the arse and decided to try and complete what i started out to do. Finish this god forsaken novel!

Will i succeed, who knows. Will i keep going, only time shall tell but for now, i have every intention of giving it a good bloody go!

Just a bloody shame i have left my novel at home and only brought my notes with me today. Fuck.

Maybe this will be harder than i thought *awkward smile*

 

Feedback vs Your Inner Critic

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I recently got back in contact with an old friend of mine and it turns out that he is also a writer. Although, he may be slightly more advanced in this area than me (He is attending university for creative writing), it’s nice to talk to someone who knows the struggles.

Anyways, we got to talking and he offered to provide feedback for some of my work. So I sent off my latest short story ‘Running Scared’ that I had also sent to the writing competitions. As any new writer knows, feedback and criticism of your babies can be the scariest thing in the world. More so when you know the person doing the critiquing. The inner critic in you starts throwing their toys out of the pram, demanding to know what you were thinking, and aiming the odd rattle at your subconscious head. After dodging the air bound missiles, you sit waiting anxiously for the email inbox to ping *You Have Mail*.

After pacing backwards and forwards for a few moments and biting your nails into a bloody mess, you finally work up the courage to click open and you hold your breath for the first words that will inevitably be there *Your work is useless, please give up now before you inflict and more nonsense on the world*. All of this was part of my process.

Oddly enough, and to my great surprise, he was rather complimentary about my work. He did include some spelling and grammar issues I missed. And also some things that he felt would enhance the story. As a writer, well maybe just a new writer, you feel rather attached to your work and my initial reaction was ‘How very dare you, my story is perfect. There is absolutely nothing you could suggest that would make it any better.’ After, getting over myself very quickly, I realised that actually, he was right. In everything he said. And furthermore, it helped me open up the story and entice people in. Creating a world where they want to stay and find out what happened. It gave my story more substance and reality, which I strive for in my work.

I sat down and went through every single comment that he had left me and work through all of the things that needed to be addressed. Out of everything, I think I maybe disagreed with one comment, of which I did not include in the story. Call it a writer’s prerogative. After reading it all back, with the changes, I can honestly put my hands up and say that they were all for the better.

I have never actually had something properly critiqued before but after this, I’m inclined to maybe go and find a writing group. Surely my writing can only benefit from the advice and opinions of other writers. Of course, it is up to the writer whether they want to take the feedback on board but it can’t hurt to see what the readership would see from an outsiders view looking in.

What are your views on workshops, writing groups and showing your work to someone new for the first time?

I think I quite like it. Now I am off in search of a writing group!

Writing Competitions… How do you do it?

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Yesterday, I finally bit the bullet and entered my first two (EVER) writing competitions *Waits for applause*. I bitch slapped my inner critic and pressed the send button before they could get back up again and bring me to my senses.

After searching high and low for some competitions that took my fancy, I noticed that even though most of them are genre based, once finally finding one for your genre, you were then asked to tailor it to a specific entry format. For instance, I came across a Horror short story competition, which wanted the story to be no more or no less than 666 words. Now I can see the irony in that, but it got me thinking. Do I tailor the piece I had already written or do I write a whole new piece?

Cutting a shorty story of 3800 words, down to 666 seemed a bit of a stretch so I skipped that one this time round but I thought I might be able to write something for it in the future. But I found a few that I could send my new story ‘Running Scared’ to, that were more general. This morning I thought I would give the ‘666’ comp a bash but then the dreaded writers block set in and I ended  up staring at a blank screen for more time than I care to admit to *Hides face in shame*. Does anyone else have this problem when it comes to competitions that put restrictions on their stories or do you just smash it out without a second thought?

I must admit, I do not have a vast library of short stories at the minute. I have been concentrating so much on my novel that I haven’t wanted to be distracted from it. But I do love the art of the short story and plan on continuing to build up my arsenal. But my question to you is, do you prefer to tailor your stories to fit the competition or do you prefer to write one specifically?

Writing for a specific competition has the added bonus of building your library much faster than perhaps you would do normally, but then when do you have time to write that all important novel? I guess, like anything, it is all about balance.

Let me know how you prefer to attack the competition side of things and if you have found any particularly great comps to enter. I would love to find new ones to enter.

When does more become too much?

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I have recently been delving deeper and deeper into the Horror/Post-Apocalyptic genre and I have realized that there are more ‘series’ than there are ‘trilogies’ in that neck of the woods. As mention in some of my previous blogs, I have thoroughly enjoyed some of the books I have found and they have left me wanting more. But my question now is when does more become too much?

One book in particular that I have ready seems to have a series of eight books and counting, dealing with the same characters and the many trials and tribulations they face in the now derelict world that they inhabit. Now, I know that when the whole world has gone to shit, there are lots of things that can be explored while trying to build some semblance of a working polite society. However how many of you would read through all eight books? I have yet to come across a trilogy in this genre although I am not saying that they do not exist, merely that they are less common and I haven’t found them yet.

By stretching your story over eight different books, are you in danger of watering down the characters and the world they inhabit or is there simply not enough pages in one book to accomplish everything that needs to be addressed? I, myself, can see my current novel rolling into two novels but I can’t imagine being able to write eight books on the subject without rehashing old ground. Maybe that is a downfall in my writing skills or maybe that is what is warranted for the current idea.

I would love to hear your take on the matter as maybe I am still too new to this to be able to make an informed opinion. The ‘Harry Potter’ series by J.K Rowling ran into seven books and no one even bat an eye, in fact, each and every one was met with a desperate sense of wanting before it had even hit the shelves. Being a Harry Potter fan myself (who isn’t?!), it never occurred to me that having seven books in a series was way too much. I bought and read everyone one, and they are still part of my ‘Library’ collection to this day. Does it depend on the individual stories themselves and the sophisticated way in which the author approaches them, that determines if they are suitable to be made into a series and not a trilogy? I can only imagine the depth of planning that is involved in splitting story lines over ‘x’ amount of books. The attention to detail alone must be so minute, so as not to trip oneself up on something that may have been written in book one and brought back up in book six.

Sometimes I find myself wanting more, and sometimes that want is satisfied. Maybe as I progress as an author and a writer, my prose will elevate to a place where people are still desperately in love with my work and characters in book seven as they were with the great J.K Rowling.

Reviews are the way to an Author’s heart

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Generally speaking, when buying a book (I mean an actual physical book), once completed, I do not go in search of sites to leave reviews for it. Bearing in mind that my general ‘To read list’ consists of authors such as David Baldacci, Stephen King and James Patterson, It never really occurred to me that they would need little old me to leave them a review.

Since acquiring my tablet and getting better acquainted with my kindle app *Grr*, I have found myself reading novels from lesser known authors such as Deirdre Gould and Ryan Cassey. Granted, the lesser known authors populate a genre that the others do not, but I find myself feeling more compelled to leave reviews on Amazon, from which I downloaded them.

Now, I must admit that bar Stephen King, I am new to this Horror genre and have not yet explored the vast corners and works that it has to offer so my knowledge is limited. Maybe the author’s I mentioned are indeed bigger than I seem to think. I got me thinking though. Does the size of the Author’s brand influence you in your decision to leave reviews of their work? And if it does, should it?

I know that as I am a new writer, reviews could mean the difference between life and death for my much loved characters that I have spent countless hours getting to know and exploring. I will no doubt swing from the rafters and declare myself king of the world upon the receipt of my first positive review *Does a little dance*. But if I am not willing to spare a precious few minutes to leave a few kind words on someone else’s work, that they too spent countless hours over, what right do I have to expect the same from another.

Surely, the likes of Stephen King and David Baldacci did not just explode out of nowhere (although we know that the internet definitely a more integral part of the author process that it once was) and they too, must have been desperate for feedback from their peers and fans alike whether it be on the internet or via the hand written word. Even now, they may be repeatedly typing their novel names into Amazon just so that they can read what the general public thought of their hard work. I know I would. As much as we all write because we love it, surely there is a small part of us that also does it because we want to make people happy and give them an escape from their realities. Otherwise why would we bother publishing our works?

From now on, I am going to make a conscious effort to leave a review on every novel I read, be it from an unknown author or one of the all-time greats.

Every Author deserves feedback and I think knowing how much time goes into writing a novel, we owe them that much.

Expect the Unexpected

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About six months ago, I fell into the wonderfully twisted world that is Stephen King’s work. I must admit, I have been known to hide away from Horror films because I’m a big wuss and I wouldn’t sleep for a week *hides head in shame*. But I came across a novel of his that was labelled ‘Epic’ rather than ‘Horror’. I mean, who could resist a book labelled ‘Epic’ written by the one and only Stephen King?! So I sucked up my courage and pulled my tail out from between my legs and dove head first into one of the most amazing books I have ever read.

The ease at which Stephen King can switch on the projector inside the readers head is something that I know almost every single author strives for. I know I do. The way that he makes you forget that you are even reading a book because you are so totally engrossed in the plot and the characters is without a doubt a god given talent. I found myself desperate to find more of his work and read everything I could get my hands on, including his non-fiction work ‘Stephen King: On writing’ and ‘Danse Macabre’. I must admit now, I have not made it to his ‘Carrie’ and ‘The Shining’ kind of works as of yet (maybe I’m still a big chicken at heart *Bows head in shame*) but I swear to you, I will get round to it. I just think he has so many other masterpieces to work through first.

You might be wondering where I am going with this or if I am just too busy gushing about my author crush. Well, you will be glad to know, I do actually have a point. The point is, I noticed that since reading everything that is Stephen King, I have noticed that my writing has taken considerable right turn when it comes to my approach and even my subject matter. I found that, actually, I do enjoy things that a little more dark in nature and that just because there are zombies or gore in my work, doesn’t mean that it cannot have that air of sophistication when it comes to the string of words that I lay down on the page. I am big and ugly enough to admit that yes, there are probably some aspects of Stephen’s own writing that are seeping into my own, but not the degree where I am outright copying the Grandmaster but more to the being inspired way of thinking.

In ‘In Writing’ he mentions that if you do not have enough time to read, you definitely do not have enough time to write and even though I find my schedule packed with day to day life, I have invested in a tablet so that I can fill any empty minutes with reading from my kindle App. Anyone that knows me or reads my work will know just how much of a hardship this is for me because I am an absolute advocator for the printed word. He also mentions that it is inevitable, that you will pick up certain habits and traits from your favourite authors before you finally settle on your own voice. Maybe that is what is happening or maybe this is my true voice after all. I have found that since I have decided to try my hand at a new genre all together to the one I originally thought I would pursue, my writing has come thick and fast, more so than it ever has when I tried to write my first novel.

If this was as far as my ideas and writing developed, I think I would be OK with that, because for probably the first time in a long time, I’m ok to be alone in the dark with my stories. But I can only imagine that things are going to be moving on up if I continue enjoying myself as much as I am now.

The Art of Longhand…

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Since the new year i have decided to embark on a new task, Writing a novel longhand.

Apart from being at school, and with all of this new fandangaled technology, i have never needed to write anything remotely longhanded apart from the odd shopping list. However, i was suddenly struck by he urge to create something that wasnt on a computer. I must admit, at times it can get a bit slow going but on the whole i find that writing everything by hand gives my ideas a chance to develop properly and not get rushed. Characters are emerging as though they truely exist and i am just there to narrate their story. This, i am told, is how the greats get it done.

So, so far so good and im actually enjoying my writing again, if anything at all, that is a huge bonus.

Happy writing all!

Interview with Author Lewis J. F Clarke

Lewis J F Clarke

Among many of my ever so talented friends, i have one who has managed to achieve 3 times what all of us aspiring author’s strive everyday to do once. Did i mention that has now done it 3 times?!

He has now self published, through Createspace, 3 novels out of around 7 that he has already written and all while travelling the world . I will add the links below for you to find them as i would recommend all of them.

Well without further adue, i would like to introduce to you, a very special friend of mine, Author Lewis J F Clarke.

Hi Lewis, What inspired you to write your first novel?

I never get tired of telling this story! About two years ago I was living in Thailand and decided to go back to England around November time. For some reason my boss back in Thailand sacked me and then re-hired me when I came back. However when I returned I hardly had any classes (I was teaching English out there) so one night I had a few drinks and when I got home I drunkenly said to myself “Sod it, I’m gonna write a book!” (as you do…) assuming that after two or three days I’d get bored of the idea. Three weeks in I realized that I was half way through and decided that I might as well finish it, and the rest is history…

How long did it take you from the first word to publishing?

I finished the first draft in six weeks. I then spent a couple of weeks not knowing what to do with it because admittedly I was too scared to let anyone read it in case it was terrible. I finally tentatively gave it to a friend of mine to read and she took a fair while to read it. In the meantime I actually wrote a second book! After she finished reading it and encouraged me to publish it I finally managed to get it on Amazon eight months after that day where I was off my face insisting that ‘anyone could write a book’…

The price of fame

Have you self-published or have you taken the traditional route?

I self-published. I got told by a blogger quite bluntly that ‘if you don’t have an English degree, you will never get published’. Me being the naïve and insecure person that I am I accepted this as fact and believed I would never be picked up by a publisher due to the fact I never went to university, and went down the self-publishing route. Of course, now I know he wasn’t a very good writer, and was trying to hold me back to stop surpassing what he had achieved, but in the end it had an adverse effect and spurred me on to prove him wrong.

Do you work with an editor or do you prefer to work alone?

I have various editors. I feel it’s very important to use editors as they are at the very least another pair of eyes to look at the book from another point of view and say, “Hold on, I think you need to change this because…” Also if you edit something yourself, you can edit it a hundred times and still miss out basic mistakes, because you are reading it in your head how it should be and could miss stupid mistakes. However when you use an editor it’s important to know that you don’t have to use their changes. There have been times where I have changed over 90% of the changes in a chapter because I didn’t feel like it was coming from me.

How did you find the process of self-publishing? (Was it daunting, was there enough information, is it an easy enough process?)

Daunting is definitely the right word to use; I was petrified of all the legal jargon that Amazon threw at me, but luckily a friend of mine (a very gifted writer by the name of Alec Hawkes) helped me through the process. Telling me to take my time and understand what was being asked of me. Now it’s easy. It’s like anything, once you’ve done it a few times you can do it in your sleep. But trust me, any first time authors, I feel your pain!

How would you describe your writing style? Are you a pantser or are you a planner?

I had to go online and find out what ‘pantser’ means. Although I took an educated guess and assumed it meant going with the flow. Yes, I’m definitely a pantser. I usually (but not always) have a spine for a story and I let my mind wander and branch off to come up with sub plots and plot twists. If I plan a book it tends to not come out naturally. I think of it like being a comedian; if you say the same joke over and over it’s not funny because you can tell it’s well-rehearsed. Whereas if it sounds natural and unplanned it’s much funnier. I do vaguely plan some complex scenes, but more often than not I let my fingers type and see where they take me…

What genre would you class your writing?

If I had to choose, I’d say they are psychological fiction. But my books range from horror to comedy to romance. I didn’t want to be the kind of writer who writes the same stuff over and over again but slightly changes the plot and the characters, so I took myself out of my comfort zone to see what I could come up with, and I must say I surprised myself.

Do you prefer to stick to one genre or are you happy to go wherever the ideas take you?

If I have a good idea for a book, then I’ll run with it and see if I can make it an interesting read. I have another six ideas for books at the moment. Some may be terrible, and others may be future bestsellers, but I’ll never know unless I attempt it…

The butterfly killings

Where does the inspiration for your novels come from?

I’m a classic over thinker. So I let my mind run away with itself and see what happens. I haven’t had a good idea for a book in over 5 months, however in a 2 month period last year I came up with 7 book ideas. It’s not really something you can sit down and say ‘OK, I’m going to come up with a book idea before lunchtime’, normally I randomly get an idea that I think to myself that psychologically I’d like to explore, and if it feels right when I’m about to start a book then that’s what I write about. In fact on more than one occasion I have changed my mind at the last minute what book I’m going to write because it simply ‘felt right’.

Are you inspired by any particular Author?

I’m not really a big reader to be honest. I know that sounds bizarre but the only books I tend to read are autobiographies, which I suppose is why the majority of my books are written in the first person.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I read a book called ‘A Simple Plan’ by Scott Smith, and it was one of those books that once I finished a chapter I went to put it down before saying “go on then, one more chapter!” But like I said I’m not an avid reader. If you were to ask me about a film I would say ‘Fight Club’. Because it is one of those films that is so well written and has so much depth to it that you can watch it five times and still see something new and enjoy it just as much as you did the first time. That’s how I try to write my books. Whether I do or not is not for me to judge.

Do you have any advice for first time writers?

Just write. Fuck what everyone thinks and just write. Most successful writers nowadays appeal to the general public because they don’t write in a pretentious way, they write in a style that is easy for the average person to follow. I’m fortunate enough to have had many people come up to me and say that I’ve inspired them to write, and I’m happy, because the next generation needs something to read. I know one way I will be a successful writer so I have no need to hold people down like the guy I mentioned before who said I will never be published by a recognized publisher. I want to see talented writers shine through, but so many people are scared to take the first step out of fear of being ridiculed. I say those people are the people who should drive you to write that best seller even more.

Do you have any advice for first time self-publishers?

Like I said before, read all the legal jargon carefully. I know it’s overwhelming because most of us didn’t go to university to study law. So don’t be put off if you don’t understand any of it, you are not supposed to! Take your time and sometimes you may even have to leave it and attack it another day. It took me over a month before I felt confident enough to press the publish button, and even then I was convinced I’d missed something out!

How do you go about getting a cover designed?

I’m incredibly lucky, because my sister happens to be a world class artist. I know everyone is supposed to say how great their friends and family are at certain things but my sister is actually that good! So I contact her and tell her a vague idea of what I want, we talk about it for a while in-between chatting about what siblings usually talk about, then she goes off and creates three or four different covers and I tell her which one I like best, or if she could slightly change one of them. Normally though she is bang on.

What other platforms, apart from Facebook, do you use to stay in contact with your fans?

I have a blog (sirlewisofclarke.wordpress.com) that is predominantly about my books but also about my life on the road. I was in Thailand teaching English for a while but now I’m travelling back to England by land (and a couple of boats) so that attracts an audience I wouldn’t normally reach. Other than that I’m not very good at marketing, and most likely need to employ a marketing manager if I ever want my books to become common knowledge.

Finally, If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing that you know now, to your first time writer self, what would it be?

“Believe in yourself. You have a natural talent for this and you need to embrace it.”

I’m my own biggest critic which is good for writing because it helps me maintain a high standard, and when I write something that is simply not good enough I delete the whole thing. However this stops me from enjoying the writing process. I’m normally convinced the book I’m writing is terrible, and that ‘my last book was so much better’. Then when I start the next book I say the same thing. I would also say ignore the doubters and look for a publisher. I heard that J.K. Rowling got rejected sixteen times before someone took a punt on an obscure book known as ‘Harry Potter’ so don’t feel bad if one person closes the door on you.

Destiny

So there you have it, some very wise words from someone who has been there and done it.

If you would like to purchase any of his books, they are available on amazon and the link to each one can be found within the book cover image.

 

Writing challenges

I have been trawling the internet as of late, in search of some writing challenges to participate in and I have noticed that there aren’t actually that many about. Not that I have found anyway.

 

So I thought, why not just put one out there and see if anyone participates. Rather than complaining about what I couldn’t find, why not just create what I wanted to find.

 

Well, as you might have guessed, that is exactly what I have done so…drum roll please… today is the first of what I hope to be a regular thing…

 

This week’s writing prompt is just one sentence that you should start your story with and should be no longer than 300 words.

 

If I get any responses, I will post them on Tuesday next week along with my own effort. Let’s see how we get on.

 

“She sat silently, gazing absent mindedly out of the window, into the hollow shimmer of the evening moonlight…”

 

Happy Writing!