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!

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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.

Book of the Week

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Stephen King’s, Cell

After finishing one of the best books i have ever read, i thought that i would start a new feature, Book of the Week.

Having never read or watched anything ever written by the legend that is Stephen King, i thought i knew what his novels would be like. Im not a fan of horror as i suffered from night terrors as a child. Nothing could have prepared me for his Epic Thrillers. The writing style, the ease at which he narrates his story, transports you to his world at the blink of an eye.

I am by no means qualified to critique a legend such as King which is lucky because i do not have a bad word to say about it.

The blurb on the back cover reads…

” The event which properly civilisation into its second dark age is known as The Pulse. The virus is carried by every cellular phone operating in the world. Within hours, those receiving calls will be infected.

Clayton Riddle, a young artist, knows he has to reach his son before the young boy switches on his phone. And time is running out…”

The story begins with Clayton Riddle who has just finally succeeded in selling his graphic novel to a publishing house. He buys his estranged wife a present to celebrate and to try and start them off down the right path again. He is standing at an ice cream when The Pulse hits. In the first riots he befriends another non infected guy called Tom McCourt. They agree to stick together as far as they can and protect each other. They meet another non infected, this time a 16 year girl called Alice, before heading on the road back to Tom’s house to stock up and rest.

Those that have been infected are tearing around attacking each other and anyone that moves. They are talking gibberish, nothing slightly coherent. Their basic intellectual code has been over written by The Pulse. Their basic animal instincts have been brought back to the surface and replaced any sense of polite and ordinary standards that would be respectable in modern society.

As they make their way towards Clay’s wife’s house, they discover that the infected are starting to show signs of higher brain power. They can summon powers that the normal human cannot exhibit. They are confronted with the leader of the infected, Harvard Man, who harasses and terrorises them after they burned a flock of phoners.

I won’t spoil the ending but it is definitely one you want to read.

Based on this book i have become an avid fan of King and have began my collection of his work.

I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone that will listen.

This, for me, is without a doubt one of the best books i’ve ever read.

Why not give it a go and let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

To write or Type, that is the question

Generally speaking I would consider myself a pen and paper kind of person. I detest the kindle (although I can see why people like them), I have a gargantuan stash of stationary including notepads, books and pens, and if I could bottle the smell of books and market it, I would be a billionaire. However, when it comes to actually writing my novel, I am stuck to my Mac like you wouldn’t believe.

I would love to be able to sit down and write an entire novel in a beautifully bound leather notebook, but there are many things that distract me from doing this. One of them is the state of my handwriting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have lovely handwriting, but when it comes to keeping up with the words that eventually fall out of my hand onto the paper, it tends to get a little scruffy to say the least. Although there is something very beautiful and organic about writing your ideas and work in pen and ink, I think my perfectionism is getting the better of me once again.

Also, how do you keep up with the mass exodus of words that happen when you actually get those creative juices flowing? I mean, really, is it even possible? In an information age that we now live in, do we all not type faster that we can write? I am always worried that I will forget whatever nugget of gold that i just thought of, before I get a chance to record it.

When it comes to writing down raw ideas, I use a pen and my dedicated Novel Idea book. This I carry everywhere with me as you never know when genius is going to strike. Laptops are pretty tiny these days but they still aren’t as easy to use in public as a good old piece of paper and your favourite pen (And before you ask, yes I have a favourite pen.)

I always see pictures of notebooks filled with elegant writing and I think ‘why can’t my notebooks look like that when I’m in a rush’. Why can’t I be the type of writer to sit in a wine bar with a hearty glass of red while I scratch out the next bestselling novel with a beautiful fountain pen and notebook? Maybe it is a good thing that I have the best of both worlds. By day I work in Europe’s largest IT Company, by night I write my ideas in a note book and then type them out again on my Mac. Maybe I’m just stuck in between again.

Do you ever think that your brain functions differently dependant on the output of your efforts? Do writing in a notebook make you more educated and linguistic than tapping away at a computer? Are we barbaric for try taking the easy way out and typing instead of writing. I wonder what Shakespeare and Hemingway would have thought of the computer age.
We can only guess.

How do you prefer to write? Do you mix it up like me or are you one way or the other?

Happy Writing All 

B

Oh to be a Writer…. The weekly lowdown!

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So i wrote a post called ‘Oh to be a writer’, and after thinking on it, i decided to make it into a series. A series, in the sense that i will now write, every single day about my high’s, my low’s, my successes and my failures, in my pursuit of the day i can say that i finally finished my first novel.

Along the way, i will be pursuing other writing ventures including more short stories, hopefully some writing competitions and some writing tips i find along the way.

I may also publish my reading list as i have numerous books that i have collected over the last few months that i havent even attempted to open recently. Reading can only improve my writing and there is no point reading all of these advice books if am not going to do the most fundamentally important thing for a writer. READ.

So, you lucky lot get to see a lot more of me and my writing 🙂

Happy writing everyone!

B

Someone kick me in the…

I have had a revelation  of sorts… I think I’m suffering from writers block!

Every day I get up with the intention of adding to my 30,000 words that I have already laid down in the name of my first novel. And every day something seems to distract from my adding anymore.

I love to read about the art of creating fiction. I have numerous advice books including a new one I just added to the collection (Stephen King, On writing) which fill me with an undescribable desire to crack on and finally finishing my debut novel. However, when it comes to actually getting words on paper (or words In Mac as is the case with me), I fall short. I know I am capable of putting words down but I think I am afraid that the words that appear with be ridiculous and not in anyways desirable enough for someone to want to read. And if by some miracle I manage to get them to actually dedicate real life hours of their life to reading my ramblings, that they will despise it so much that the ridicule will begin.

I think I have unconsciously talked myself out of finishing the novel through lack of self belief. I think the gargantuan task of finishing a novel is so firmly routed in my mind that it is blocking any creative just that are crashing down on it from behind.

Maybe i need to establish a few smaller milestones to distract away from the bigger picture. Maybe if I set some smaller goals, before I know it I will be 100,000 words strong and ready to do my second draft. Who knows. All I know right now is that I need to do something. Anything at all, that will break this barrier and let the juices flow.

Maybe i need to stop putting some much pressure on myself.

Let’s see what the week brings.

Happy writing everyone 🙂

Facebook Author Page

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Howdy All!

So as you have probably guessed, i like to call myself an Author. After much deliberation with my inner critic, i came to the conclusion that i should actually start sharing my work so that people actually believed me.

This is where you will find all of my ramblings and writing mumbo jumbo. I tend to write about my journey, finishing my debut novel (if i ever get there) and the odd short story i throw out to the masses.

If you are at a loss as what to do this fine evening, why not stop by my Facebook and Twitter pages and say hi!

I’d love to hear from all like minded peeps, maybe we can swap war stories 🙂

B B Lewis