Benchmark

Well, the report has come back from the editor and it’s a doozy, as our cousins across the pond would say.

Very drastic rewrite is needed, with the intended market not being right for how I’ve pitched it – it’s still a historical fantasy, but the Editor has determined that there are two books in here, with very good commercial potential.

I think I shall be pursuing the core thread of the book and focus my attention in one direction – but remember ladies and gents, throw nothing away. What doesn’t get used now, goes into the left-overs box – which I really must collate at some point.

I had strong concerns about the MS going in – but the problems I had a year ago have mainly been solved:

POV Use: Fixed, no problems

Dialogue: Excellent

Humour: Clever and appropriate

Spelling/Grammar: Good, no problems (the odd typo!)

However plot is a bit up and down still, with some confusion and too much subtlety – although the reason for this is because it’s a first foray into a different genre/market for me, but the editor also said this book with some polish is ready to go as is, into the adult market.

When a professional, experienced editor tells you that they enjoyed the book, loved working on it, that it was well written and the tone and theme occupy a rare slot in the publishing world – and that you, yes YOU – are “obviously an experienced writer” it feels like the the world just turned.

I know my friends will be smiling and thinking “told you so” and fair play to them, let them enjoy this moment too – because tomorrow, the real work begins. The ball is in my court and it’s time to start belting over the net – once I get up off the Chaises-Longues.

Have a Great Day Adventurers 🙂

Critical Winking

Saw this over on a fellow writer’s blog:

Crossing the Line | Barry Lillie (wordpress.com)

Where Barry describes that he wrote a 3-Star book review and has later been contacted by the author asking him to change said review. I don’t know much about the details beyond what Barry describes and to be fair it’s none of my business.

The question is raises, for authors as well as readers (reviewers), is:

Should you ask for a review to be changed, if your sales/ranking are tanking?

Amazon strictly forbids this – a free copy for a good review (wink, wink) and I am not one to argue, since I believe an author is only as good as their integrity and passion, and any work must stand up to scrutiny on its own two feet. (Or four, if you’re getting Orwellian).

Barry himself mentions that to request a re-work of a review is unprofessional, and it is. Once a review is made, you pin it down as a milestone for good or ill, and take it on the chin. In my not-so humble, chaises-longues dwelling opinion, the only time you can ever ask for a review to be changed is if you come at it from the point of a new edition or imprint, where you can say: “this is how it was then – what do you think now?”

Yet that is a very limited case.

Don’t be afraid of bad reviews (and Barry’s was a 3-star, that’s not terrible!) because they’re criticism, and they’re a benchmark. Show your scars, but be aware that criticism is mostly just advice.

I’ve written about this before – like any advice, you must apportion the correct weight to the criticism, but you must also understand as an author, that you are never going to please everyone all the time.

Another thought on this: bad reviews are sometimes good. Let me explain.

I was debating on picking up a new sci-fi video game that was poorly received by a critic who specialises in being an asshat, and makes his money off it. His negativity was enough to make me try the game. I bought it and enjoyed it greatly because it was for me and not him.

That’s right, no such thing as bad PR – besides Amazon rank tables are really nice and emboldening, but Amazon doesn’t always work like that. If you want to make writing your job, you need to play the long game. That one is out of David Morell’s book 🙂 (What?? I haven’t mentioned him in six months, stop booing!)

Don’t delete your reviews or ask for them to be changed unless you have a bloody good reason. It makes you look bad, and your product look worse. If your sales are tanking, ask yourself why. The problem likely isn’t your reviews.

Be bold, be resolute, be professional. Demonstrate your confidence in your work and display your integrity, and even your detractors will praise you.

And as always – have a Great Day, Adventurers! 🙂

A Quick Word

A very brief update from me today as I am absolutely bushed. Got some kind of horrible sore throat, kept me up all night. Ugh.

Anyhoo, have heard from the Editor and she has commenced work on the Fantasy/YA novel I’ve been brewing. She’s told me her report should be ready in three weeks!

This is good news, kind of, since the usual turnaround for work like this is six weeks, since the Editor does not know how much advice/examination they have to do, (because of the quality of prose/grammar/spelling/structure etc).

It also has to do with wordcount, which only increases the amount of careful perusal required.

In either event, three weeks sounds pretty positive! We shall see!

Other than that, and grinding on with Jovian Counter, that’s your lot!

Have a great day Adventurers! 🙂

A Loss For Words

As authors we are constantly thinking about word count. We want more, always more, and so do Publishers, as they will often specify a word count in their application process – some ones I have seen will take no less than 80,000 which does qualify as full novel length according to some metrics.

So it hurts when you’re doing editing, and you’re slashing words left, right and centre. For example, I’ve just re-written a section of Jovian Counter and I’ve burned it down to half it’s original size. It was a chapter of the book, but now it’s a slightly longer prologue.

“Gadzooks Arron!” I hear you cry, “at this rate, your book will be a STAMP!”

And that maybe so, but the writing will be tighter, and if it’s less than what a Publisher will take, it can go Indie, or I can refine it and change the market. YA looks for 30-60k ish, (IIRC) and so do some Fantasy publishers.

Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to cut, if it will make the story better. Wordcount for the sake of it is bloat, and not only will Publishers know, but the Readers will too – and at the end of the day, a bored reader is deadlier.

It is more important to satisfy your readers than Publishers, because your Agent/Publisher is a Reader too.

Anyway, that’s my dose of mind fart for now, and as always:

Have a Great Day Adventurers! 🙂

The Unsung Hero’s Journey

We’re going to get into the meat of this fast.

This has been on my mind as I consider several different series of books, including my own. I got to thinking that Sean Egan, my protagonist, is the hero of his story right? Yet he’s not alone. He has friends – some of them are as loved as he is, perhaps more so, because they’re larger than life.

These friends are prepared to follow and stand beside him because they mean so much to him, and vice versa. And I’m dodging spoilers here so won’t go any further for The Ares Gambit, but it did keep the old noggin’ joggin’.

There’s a Protagonist (Story Hero), and a Book Hero.

Let me explain:

In Lord of the Rings, we are introduced to Frodo Baggins and his crew of gobbling, big-foot Hobbits. We stay with him as he confronts his fears, terrifying foes, and the final temptation. I’m spoiler avoiding here too, so forgive me if I’m not as detailed as usual. With him, every step, is Sam. Now the function of Sam is to bring the audience along with Frodo, and show him that we’re rooting for the Protagonist, as well as to give him solid backup, so the threat of the quest failing, has somebody to right it.

Yet for all his courage, his wits and determination, Frodo is a Hero, but not the Hero of the Book/s.

Sam is.

He never falters, never shies away, and even when things go bad, he still believes – maybe not in the mission, but in his friend, because that’s who he came for, that’s who he looks after. Sam is the Hero.

Let’s have a look at another property – Harry Potter (I am not a big fan, but I know the overall plot). One of the sub-plots is that there were two wizards born at the same time and so in a very Herodian exercise, the Big Bad Evil Guy (BBEG for all your roleplayers) goes and murders or beats up everyone to do with it in order to stop the chosen one booting him in the conkers.

Now let’s have a look at these two characters. Harry Potter, good solid name you can write over and over again without too much problem (a lot of writers choose short names for their Protags for this very reason – don’t believe me? Ask Stephen King). Harry goes through a lot, to be fair to him, but there’s another young lad who arguably goes through just as much:

Neville Longbottom.

His name is again, quintessentially British, quaint, and made to raise a smirk. Whilst Harry is off doing mad stuff one wizard and his wand can, when the crud floats down the river, Nev is there. Don’t get me wrong, Harry is doing what needs to be done, but Nev is on the front line, risking his arse, not just as a wizard, but as a leader, as the face of defiance. He takes that sword in his hand and goes to war.

Can you tell I prefer Nev?

What’s more, Nev’s parents aren’t dead. Now you might think that’s good – but it isn’t. The BBEG made them nuts, so Nev has to face that all the time, as opposed to putting it behind him and grieving, he does that every day (and what long-term family carers do in real life, some real unsung heroes right there ❤ ). He’s a cleverly written character, because he, like Sam, is the back-up plan should the Protag get offed. They never do of course, but it’s planted there, in the back of your mind.

They pull more duty than that – as they are also there so they can be killed without the Protag being harmed, but still provide an emotional punch so you feel better when the Hero beats up the bad guys for it.

So spare a thought for your sidemen/women and worry about them too, because they’re just as important and just as heroic as the next guy/gal.

What do you think? Can a book only have one hero? Should it? Are Sam and Nev the real heroes?

Let me know – and as always:

Have a Great Day, Fellow Adventurers! 🙂

Beginning Of The End

(Or My Opinion on Prequels).

Firstly, hello to all our new Fellow Adventurers! To those not in the know, I do not have followers. I have people along for the ride, and sometimes what I say entertains or strikes a chord with them. At other times, they roll their eyes and demand I retire to the Chaises-Longues, where I do my thinking and can do no harm.

Anyhow, to the topic at hand.

Prequels are very funny things. Some people loathe them because they don’t really want to know what came before, or (if you’re like me) they will hit you with the old adage “I Know How It Ends.”

It seems like Origin Stories are fertile ground, but there’s so many of them nowadays, especially courtesy of Regurgitated Hollywood Formula, that you can’t move for tripping over a coming-of-age story, or the 47th time we saw Bruce Wayne get his parents murdered.

At some point in a series, an Author will want to try a Prequel. There is no reason not to do this, but care must be exercised. One of the most well-known examples of a Prequel resides within the Star Wars Episodes I – III. Now, I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of it, as I am a casual Star Wars fellow at best (even if I did have a few toys as a youngling), but the approach here was correct IMHO.

If you’re Prequelising, (yes, that’s an Arronism, it means Prequel Realising…) you need to add time and space. An even better Prequel setup in the Star Wars Universe was the Knights of The Old Republic, which moved the action/setting 1,000 years into the past. This was a long game, with events playing out millennia later from the seeds sown at the time.

Excellent. This allows the writers to do whatever the hell they want – invent new characters, (and kill them) without affecting the overarching setup and payoff. You have to do this, because if you don’t: I Know How It Ends.

The consequence of that is your readers don’t care about your characters, they know your Protagonist is going to live. You can hurt the Protag all you want, put them through the abysmal hell of anything you can conceive and your reader just goes: “They’ll live.”

It’s boring.

Lets get into something a little less well known to extract what I would call the most egregious example of Prequelising done wrong: Warhammer 40,000 The Horus Heresy.

Basically everything is set in the 41st/42nd Millennium, and the Heresy is set 10,000 years before, in the 31st Millennium when everything all goes pear-shaped. (Don’t worry, I’ve given up hope of writing for Black Library, but if you ever do get a book with them, you’re an instant New York Times Bestseller, because about 3 million people all buy your book instantly, and generally will pre-order it too).

It’s not that the books are badly written, there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that the people in M.31 are still around in M.41. The setting has tied the hands of the author. It was never really meant to be explored and was intended to be backstory to give a flavour of how things got so bad.

Now the authors are in painted into a corner – and unfortunately that then leads to incredible leaps of nonsensical logic masquerading as “theme”, that if you were an emerging writer, you would NEVER get past an Editor. (Hey, Black Library Authors – if by some miracle you’re reading this, I am held to those standards, so I’m holding you to them as well).

Unfortunately that’s just the way they have to do it. (I’m still not forgiving a certain author for having a pressurised/habitable environment on the exterior of a starship, which because it’s so large, somehow creates a gravity well and retains expelled gases, which is then hand-waved by fans saying the shields hold the atmosphere in. If one of my Editors saw me write that, they’d have a God-damned aneurysm).

In short then, how to Prequel?

IMHO, this all comes down to a question of scope. Look at how far your series spans, look at the lynchpins of your stories, your plots and antagonists, see how they nail your books to the wall, because whilst a couple of hand-waves here or there may be forgiven, it is so much better to realise what masts you’ve nailed your colours to and build on that.

If you’re writing a Prequel – leave yourself room to tell a different story that marries with what comes next – it’s just a chapter of a bigger book after all. Distance adds charm, and space.

It changes “I Know How It Ends” to:

“I Know What Comes Next.”

Big difference.

Anyway, that’s my ramble for today. Do you think I have a point? or am I just pontificating from my Chaises-Longues? Let me know below, and as always:

Have a Great Day Adventurers! 🙂

Just Trundling

Welcome fellow travellers! Especially our new batch of friends as we march in a Pilgrim’s Procession to the lands of adventure and excitement, where our protagonists are battered senseless for the ones they care about, put through hell for our amusement, and given a bloody good ending (if you know what you’re doing) where they have cuddles and a biscuit!

And who could say no to that?

I usually don’t put something up these days without some news to accompany it, so we’re getting close to when my new Editor will be calling for my latest manuscript to beat it over the head and make it into something useful. If you’re new to this blog, I use this kind of euphemism a lot, (and welcome to the madhouse!) and if you’re a long suffering fellow adventurer, feel free to roll your eyes in jaded sufferance. 😀

In other news, I haven’t given up, and am working on a few projects to try and keep things moving and bombard the poor folks of this world with drivel about mine.

It’s just about finding the time.

And time is a commodity we could all do with more of, yet we can never accumulate enough, as it spills through the neck of the soul’s hourglass…

Anyway, moving on! Keep trundling onwards my fellow Adventurers! And as always:

Have a great day. 🙂

Five Star

No, not some terrible teenage pop-rock bank from Brooklyn who used to work in a petrol station and someone thought they looked good in oil and half-rolled down jumpsuits, this refers to an Amazon review.

Yesterday, Children of The Glyph was ranked 9,025 in Military Science Fiction on Amazon.

Today, it’s sitting at 2,045.

It now has, (Thanks Andy!) four five star reviews, and one very lovely written review. I know some of my readers have been having trouble adding reviews, so I know I have more…(morally speaking 😉 )

I just want to thank all my family, friends, readers, Adventurers and fellow Creatives for all the support, and all your faith, trust and belief that keep me going.

These stars are for you.

And as always, have a Great day. 🙂

Not Wasted

Well, got the email from the Publisher considering the Ares Gambit, and they were very polite, but formulaic in their decision not to proceed. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed, but they invited me to submit again with another proposal in the future and they replied to me shortly before the deadline of 12 Weeks, but with enough time passed to consider it – which tells me that I almost made it off the slush pile.

So it’s good news, really. In a way.

Because it means that I can Indie Pub the book and get on with it! 😀

However. There is a question.

There is another Publisher who is looking for submissions at the moment, and they too want exclusivity on my MS, just like the last one. If submitted, this would stop Ares Gambit going out for another 12 weeks.

In a way, that’s handy, as otherwise I have to get on to my cover artist and sort out some test covers, and it also buys time for the editor to pull apart my other books.

And yet…

Anyway, will have to think on it. Go steady out there fellow Adventurers, and as always:

Have a great day. 🙂

Back-Forwards

Welcome to all our new adventurers, and hello to all the long-suffering campers already here!

I regret although I am writing, my motivation is really suffering. I think I manged 300 words today, maybe the same every day, all week. That’s bad considering that the usual amount is 1,000 and I am capable of doing 7,000 in a day.

That number feels like a mountain at the minute.

I’m still having ideas, but I’m currently re-working Jovian Crisis, and it’s a slog. Some writers have trouble with a blank page, but I don’t really suffer from that, but what I do suffer from is Done-and-Dusted’itis.

Let me explain.

When I finish a project, even to first draft, that, in my mind is it – it’s finished, it’s over. I know I have a second draft to do of it, but I hate it. I absolutely hate going back in to sort it all out, because I know it’s going to be a slog. I’m one of those writers people refer to as a ‘Pantser’, aka I do it by the seat of my (trousers if you’re a Brit like oneself) pants. (Hmm, perhaps I could be a ‘Trouserer’, although that sounds somewhat dodgy….but I digress). A huge re-write is literally the effect of writing in this fashion, I accept it, but the other problem I have is that the style of Jovian Crisis is old.

By that, I mean it’s old to me. If you’ve ever handled computer code from 1994, or had to repair something made with old materials, stitched, riveted or glued together the way they used to in 1910, you’ll know what this feels like.

I think another problem I’m facing is the situation a lot of people are stuck with too: nothing is moving. I can’t complain too much, as a lot of people have it a lot worse than I do, I will never say they don’t, but the impasse of it all is now getting…frustrating.

Just have to keep plodding – 300 words at a time!

Well, that’s all he wrote – hope you’re having a safe and productive time of it and making headway with your plans, hopes and dreams.

And, as always, have a great day Adventurers! 🙂