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Showing posts from May, 2016

On Trust and Editors

Nearing the end of book three of my trilogy, I have a couple of quandries. One is around the motivation of why a central character takes the action they do. The action is set – either motivation upholds it – but the reasoning behind it isn’t. One establishes a character who is focused and makes a decision, one someone who is closer to their emotional reasoning than their optimisation.
My other quandry is a straightforward one – have I built enough to explain why a character (another one, behave characters!) acts the way they do. Or, have I built too much? (I do have a nasty habit of sledgehammering information, when my reader might quite like to join the dots themselves.)
In both cases, I’m not in a tizzy this time – I have been other times. Why not? Well, it’s fairly straightforward. I have an editor who will come at this manuscript with fresh eyes. At no point in the editorial partnership has Teresa asked what happens at the end of the trilogy. When I wrote book one and she quest…

How not to market

A year ago, I marketed my books everywhere - I thought. I went onto forums, I tweeted reviews and links, I did interviews, was in newspapers. I was everywhere.

Did I get sales from it? Yes, some. Has it been effective? Sometimes. But not always - because some of the approaches authors use are not just ineffective, but doing them damage.

From my experience only (and it is purely my experience - for another writer some of this might work well) these are the things which simply don't work (and which I see authors doing all the time). To cheer you up (and you'll need it), I've popped in some that do work at the bottom.

1. Joining forums* to promote your book.

*And facebook groups, and private groups. Basically anywhere people go to congregate and chat. 

Don't get me wrong. Forums are great. I have tons of support on a few, I have had people pick up and read my books and review them. That is great. That's what a forum should be for. But why did they pick up my book? Th…

On Character Arcs

Firstly, whoo-hoo! This is the 100th post to this little blog of mine. I started it about four years ago and it’s grown and grown and now lots of people stop by and read it, and some comment, and it’s all faintly astounding. Consider fizzy wine and cake shared appropriately.
Which meant I had fun trying to choose the subject. I thought about (and will no doubt come back to in the next couple of weeks) including thoughts about questions and answers in SFF – that one needs a bit of research first – or another about ‘why I’ve stopped marketing and don’t think most of what authors do works’, but I need to muse on that one and do more research. Since mental illness is currently the focus of an awareness month, I thought about looking at why I write characters who are on the fringes of unbalance, and what challenges that offers, but I need to form that one a little more, first.
Instead, I’m going to write about character arcs and, specifically, extended ones.
I write both standalones …

On pride

This blog has had many sources that came together in my mind today, in one of those light-bulb moments.

A few weeks ago, I was on an online forum for writers and two members took a differing opinion on a subject - as you do on forums. It got into quite a tit-for-tat, culminating in one of the writers indicating that until the other had as many sales, they weren't best placed to comment.

I was pretty astounded. I put up my own post, asking if I was unusual for not judging the validity of a writer based on their sales, and the replies that came back were interesting: sales were seen, by many but not all respondents, as a parameter by which a writer should be judged.

That depressed me. Not in case I'm less well judged than other writers - I don't expect to be deemed any better or worse than others, because so much is down to personal preference - but because of the way this industry works.

An example from my own backstory, if you will (I tend to use my own history in the blog…

Ripples in the pond

My take on publicity, promo and the new author.

There's a big pond stretching in front of you, and it's a pond full of frogs, and you're sitting on the shore. Now, not every frog will like what you're writing (I had my first one star review today, so this is good timing). Not every frog will read your genre (it astounds me. Stop press! Not everyone likes sexy space pilots. I can't begin to tell you how unfathomable that is...) The frogs that do read your genre might prefer a different type of book than you write: they might be into fantasy, not space; science, not characters; intrigue rather than linear plots that unravel.

Somehow, you have to start to fill that pond with ripples, if you want to reach the people who will like what you write. Each frog you reach touches another, and another, and another until it gets to a frog who does happen to like Space Opera with characterisation and not a little bit of darkness (just for the sake of argument...)

Here's ho…


So, your critique partner says your work needs to be tightened. But what in hell do they mean by that? 
It used to confuse the hell out of me. People would write things like it’s ‘overall okay, it could just do with some tightening.’ And I’d be wondering if that meant it needed edited, or words changed, or some magical ingredient. Mostly, I thought it meant I had to take words out (and, at the start, it often does. Check your that’s and see if any can go. Take out your looks, heards and felts, and think about those you leave in.)
But tightening is more than that. For me, it’s the detail that gives the final polish. To get from the first to final version takes me multiple edits by me, a review(s) by an editor, and a copy edit.
To illustrate, I took two versions of the same snippet from Abendau’s Heir (Tickety Boo Press, 2015). The first dates to around 2012, and it’s a perfectly serviceable scene:
The darkness, that was the first thing. The cold and fear. They were all distractions. S…


I have one consistent in most reviews of my books – people seem to like my characterisation. Certainly, as a reader, I select books pretty well based on the level of characterisation. I’ll read any genre, any length, for any age group - but I won’t read anything where I don’t care about the characters.
So, when I came to write a blog on something I might be able to be helpful about, I chose ‘writing characters who feel real’. I sat down, started typing and then had a most awful thought:
I’m not sure anything I’m going to say is helpful. (However, I’m going to go for it anyway. Someone might get something from it.)
I’m not going to propose you write out character sheets, outlining motivations and beliefs. If you asked me what my characters’ favourite colours were, I don’t know. (What a minute… Kare says he likes aqua shades, and Lichio is into purple. Sonly’s a yellow kind of person.) I don’t know what their favourite dinner is. I don’t have a list of character traits, and yet thes…

Here I go again, back on the query trail

It's been three years since I last queried. It's not something I've been relishing doing again.

For me, the writing career went along traditional lines.

Write the book
Find out it's not as good as I thought
Hone the book
Seek an agent

 All right, so it was for my second book I snagged an agent, but that's not unusual. I snagged one, drew a sigh of relief and looked forward to having her support during my writing career. And then, things didn't work out, we parted ways amicably (it's all in this post which was originally on my friend Millymollymo's blog: and I'll not rehash old ground.

Since then, I've been busy. I made a fairly half-hearted attempt to find an agent afterwards, and then the book I was subbing found a home with the lovely Inspired Quill and I had nothing new to put in. Also, I was busy - I had books to bring out, audio books to proof, promo to do - and barely had …

How I lost my agent

I blogged a while ago about the excitement of getting an agent and getting off the query-mill. But what happens when the other side of the coin happens, and an agent and you decide to part ways? I thought I’d capture it here, on Millymollymo’s blog, because we’ve talked a few times about how I deal with rejection and, generally, keep going like some sort of force I can’t control.
So, here goes. How I lost my agent. Something that happens more often than we perhaps think, through market reasons, and circumsances, and just bad luck. In my case, the process was amicable and profession, and was about what I write and the need to find the right agent, which made the whole thing a little easier, I think.
Now, I’m going to put my hands up and say I could have approached things differently, early on. That maybe I made a wrong choice in terms of what I did with my manuscript at the agent-seeking time. But I don’t like that term, wrong choice – I made the choice that seemed right at the time…