Best Fiction and Writing Blogs

I’ve reached a milestone! This blogger M.C. Tuggle whose site is solid and excellent has curated me onto a list of resources to help people become literary superstars!

Blogger M.C. Tuggle whose site is solid and excellent has curated me onto a list of resources to help people become literary superstars.

Blogger M.C. Tuggle whose site is solid and excellent has curated me onto a list of resources to help people become literary superstars.

Deeply chuffed and yet I can measure up to the task too, there is  no vanity there. I am like the lady at the beginning of Fame from the 80’s saying ‘You gotta pay, in sweat’.

The best thing? The list is great, check out Cindy Harris 8 tips for editing a manuscripts and Nihar Pradhan’s lovely scientific take on writing, which I find oddly comforting.

Best Fiction and Writing Blogs.

It Takes a Village to Raise an Ebook

A fellow blogger and self-publisher to be asked me some very relevant questions.

Q. Is there a synopsis of Gnaw anywhere on here?
A. There is! I have just completed my Amazon Author Page see: Jen’s Amazon Author Page. You can get the synopsis, or what is called ‘Product Description’ here.

My Amazon Author Page, surprisingly easy to set up. Better to have it than not as most people searching books don't know you, your blog, your work.

My Amazon Author Page, surprisingly easy to set up. Better to have it than not as most people searching books don’t know you, your blog, your work.

Q. Is there a project plan/timetable that I can scrounge?
A. What I love about this community? A spade is a spade with bloggers. We are definitely a sharing community. So fellow bloggers and non-bloggers too or just interested persons…here is the best I can do… a handy free PDF printable and screen guide ‘Pre-Conversion Schedule and Checklist’. It’s the first of several I’ll put up as I find my way through the desert of project managing, well, myself!

Instructions on how to download/view the PDF

  1. Click here to open the file.
  2. This link will bring you directly to the PDF.
  3. The PDF will automatically open in your browser.
  4.  View on screen as is or download PDF for printing or keeping.

Just in case it’s not obvious how to download or print the PDF here’s how:

How to Download PDF from browser

Download tools on PDF. This icon will appear when you scroll down. Click the round one with the arrow and the rectangle (computer icon) and it should download to wherever you need it to go.

  1. On a Mac: Point cursor to the bottom of a page in the PDF.
  2. An icon will appear as per the image to the right inserted in this post to give you a visual of it.
  3. See the icon on the far right? The circle icon with a downward arrow and a rectangle? Well, click on this and the PDF will download to wherever you have specified your downloads to go!
  4. On a PC?  I use a Mac, so let me ask one of my PC pals but I’m sure it’s intuitive.

BUT bear in mind, when you are the author as well as everything else? You WILL thwart this plan!!!

Here is the thing — I learnt it’s almost impossible to be all roles and stay on deadline! Which is why publishers exist in the first place I suppose? They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, so too for books. Publishers get people like me, or you (author) prise the work off them for a fee (commissioning editor), improve the sense of it (development editor) craft and produce it (Editorial/Production/Design/Typesetting) then launch and distribute it (sales/marketing, warehousing/distribution/customer service/finance). So you are now 14 roles in one, 15 if you count the fact that you may be also the only reader after all of that heft. So let’s face facts, publishers are very useful villages indeed to produce books. How and ever, you for whatever reason, are crazy enough to do this yourself, so expect delays. All 15 roles will struggle for supremacy. The dominant role shall win.

ebook schedule for pre-conversion

Don’t know where to start? Print this out. It will give a bit of shape to the schedule where it can often feel daunting. This is a four page PDF document that outlines the steps and milestones preferable to take as you prepare your writing for ebooking!

I surprised myself. In the real world, the producer in me would stay firm on the deadline, usually because there’s money riding on it, a print date not honoured incurs fees, loss of publicity. In the ebook world Amazon will close rank if you put a title up for pre-order and then don’t supply by the agreed date. In my indie ‘Gnaw’ ebook, however, I let the author in me take priority. The writing simply wasn’t there yet by the appointed date! I even had it copy-edited and peer read. All I got from both actions was that I needed to clarify, tighten, cut. Producer and Author battled for time and the author won. In this case, from a production POV? Who was really waiting for this title? Me, I was, Production ego was, so after the Writer me explained that to the Production me we decided that it was a sensible luxury to break the rules in this case. My business, my decision. But I in no way would truck with this now that the title is on pre-order, it’s full steam ahead for 30 June. And under no circumstances would I recommend delaying if you were publishing another’s work and had money riding on it. But let’s assume your writing is finished and you are happy with your manuscript? Then handy free printout could help you on your way to organising your first indie ebook!

Q. I expect there’s some other stuff to do as well, like formatting, something called HTML?
A. There is. Too long to go into in this post. I feel another free printable guide sheet coming on. Check back here soon.

Q. SEO?
A. More on that in forthcoming posts.

Even the Flaws Must be Flawless

Draft 14 and Cameroned

Two different people, two different stances. They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. The result? Draft fifteen and counting.

Two different people, two different stances. They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. The result? Draft fifteen and counting.

I would have uploaded Gnaw by now if I didn’t have such a hang-up about perfection even though I know perfection isn’t possible. Yes, I was tempted to take Gnaw, published ten years ago, accept the flaws, pass them off as engineered and make it a quick repurpose job for ebook but I’ve learnt a lot in ten years. Readers deserve more than that. The characters themselves deserve more that that. When I wrote the male character initially, my protagonist did not need understand him. On re-read it nagged me. This guy could not just be a stooge for her musing; he had to be a real problem in his own right, an addition to the equation, possibly even a solution? It took nerve to develop Kenneth, who before was named after an alcoholic spirit (or pub), and make him more of a nuisance in his own right, but ‘our Kenneth’ is now firmly planted on the ground a spanner in the works for however long he lives in this format.

Rewriting it was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. Like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. I have excavated it, dusted it down and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that story now because I am less afraid of love (Illustration: Jennifer Brady).

Rewriting it was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. Like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. I have excavated it, dusted it down and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that story now because I am less afraid of love (Illustration: Jennifer Brady).

Another change: Gnaw was always a love story and within that, there was a metaphor for addiction. However while the metaphor was there, the love story was absent. I have put that love story in now. I had to be careful doing that. It was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. In the weirdest piece of rewriting ever, I had to respect the original writer (myself in this case), and ascertain from evidence (ie the printed story), what that story was. It was like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. Had I genuinely intended to leave the love story out back then? Or was I simply hidden to it? I have made a call on that now, excavated it, dusted it down with tact and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that love story now because I am less afraid of love.

The title remains. There is no better one. The conundrum and solution is summed up in that title. I still believe that. It is the firmest artefact in the reconstruction of this particular rewrite.

So, after fourteen drafts of Gnaw in its new form, it did finally get to the copy-editor before Christmas (see previous post: Postcard to an Editor). I also sent it for a ‘stress test’ read with author and peer Janet Cameron. Two different people, two different stances, the result? They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. Now, with draft fifteen incorporating editorial comments done, I realise I’ll need at least two or three more to get it close to flawless.

Postcard to an Editor

Cover B: Designer says ‘A response to the frenetic energy of protagonist…unravelling and of the tenuous hold she has on her life. The rope has not snapped yet, potential is there to stop the unbearable tension of whether to tame boredom or whether destructive contact will succeed.'

Concept agreed and on to Phase 2 of cover design; type size, positioning, technical issues explored etc.

From bungee jumping dragons to black vacuum tightropes and postage stamp anxiety, the poll returns the verdict 76.67% in favour of cover B. Cover B it is then.

I got some excellent comments and simulated samples from people who are busy in life and I thank you very much those who emailed me privately and those who commented online; Sean McCann, Laura Carpenter, Ferdia MacAnna and Recent Items. Very lucky also to have comments from Colm O’Shea writer and experienced bookseller, a wealth of awareness re categories, the mechanics of Onix and a justifiable wariness of self-pub. Also hats off to the designer now known as ‘The Sis’ for tolerating the dissection of her work while in beta form, not easy.

The Sis also gives us the shortest tutorial ever for any self-publisher embarking on a cover design, reiterated here as one in hopefully many of a series of 10 Second Soundbites* in case it helps anyone else out there commissioning artwork or thinking of doing it themselves. I’m all on for self-empowerment and doing things myself but the cover is the face of a book. Designers spend years in college qualifying and then years getting industry experience for a reason.

10 Second Soundbite* for self publishing — Cover Design

  • Stage 1
: Design presented. Concept is key.
  • Stage 2
: Design concept agreed. Amendments made — type size, positioning, technical issues explored etc.
  • Stage 3
: Artwork presented in medium required for publication

Cover for Gnaw is officially at Stage 2. Concept agreed! Enlarge title, move up on page slightly, enlarge author name, check that image is rights granted.

What Next?

Postcard back

The backbone of producing text is in the editing. Roughly edited or non-edited text gives self-publishing a bad name — I may sell only one copy of this ebook, but it’ll be an edited one.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing, or more to the point, rewriting the text itself,  creating the end-matter, copyright page, author bio and sundries and preparing to hand over to the most feared and respected person in the publishing world…no, not an accountant…why an editor of course! I have someone in mind for this. Someone I work with whose red biro would put the fear o God in you, a grammarian with a photographic memory and an unnervingly accurate factual recall and said recently at a Gill & Macmillan Finishing School ‘The best editors know what not to edit’. These are the words of an experienced editor for sure. Now, although Catherine Gough’s expertise is in trade non-fiction I believe she has the all-round experience and editorial agility for lit fiction and Gnaw in particular. But it is a tricky thing getting an editor who can accept odd things you come across in literary fiction like one-line paragraphs or absent punctuation…hold on… absent punctuation? Egad says Catherine on previewing this post (See? Already in good hands). I’ll have my work cut out thinking what can I offer in re-payment, this will be weekend time. You can but ask. Or send a postcard?

Postcard to an editor from Johanna Basford 'Secret Garden' art as coloured in by someone who appreciates detail very much.

The other side of the postcard to the editor: Johanna Basford’s ‘Secret Garden’ art as coloured in by someone who appreciates detail very much and evidently abhors a vacuum!

  • Hmmm, can text be a soundbite? Oxford and other dictionaries say it relates to speech or audio, however Wikipedia allows that in journalism a soundbite is ‘characterized by a short phrase or sentence that captures the essence of what the speaker was trying to say, and is used to summarize information and entice the reader…’ Maybe to be sure when Gnaw is done I could record the soundbites to make them truly soundbitey?

Some Miserabilisms I Made Earlier

Fiction has more stylish ways of dealing with the stuff of  jeremiads. Early book cover of George Orwell’s famous dystopian society novel ‘1984’. (Pic courtesy of photographer and artist David Dunnico at www.1984lookslikethis.wordpress.com)

George Orwell’s famous dystopian society novel ‘1984’ shows that fiction has some stylish ways in dealing with the stuff of jeremiads. (Pic courtesy of http://www.1984lookslikethis.wordpress.com)

I learnt two new words today: ‘Jeremiad’ and ‘Miserabilism’ courtesy of Darran Anderson, my go-to for intellectual tough when it all gets a bit woolly out there in blogland. So a jeremiad (named after the dismal prophet Jeremiah) is a moralistic text lamenting society’s ills and possibly its doom. Miserabilism is what it is. Anderson tells us that Eliot known for his modernism wrote a jeremiad about modernity (interesting contradiction), read it here. Seems that a decent jeremiad is like a good debate with a dose of fear added. Fear of change. Fear of the future.

Dr Seuss’s ravaged society in ‘The Lorax’ was brought about by the invention of the uselessly useful ‘thneed’, but Dr Seuss is no miserabilist. The ‘Unless’ moment is one of the best narration opportunities you can get when it comes to variation of delivery. (Pic courtesy of www.pastemagazine.com)

Dr Seuss’s ravaged society in ‘The Lorax’ was brought about by the invention of the uselessly useful ‘thneed’, but Dr Seuss is no miserabilist. The ‘Unless’ moment is one of the best narration opportunities you can get when it comes to variation on delivery. (Pic courtesy of http://www.pastemagazine.com)

Eliot in his jeremiad says ‘When electrical ingenuity has made it possible for every child to hear its bed-time stories through a wireless receiver attached to both ears…it will not be surprising if the population of the entire civilized world rapidly follows the fate of the Melanesians.’*  My inner Jeremiah eyed this sentence prophetically in conjunction with a study referred to here. In this study a group of 20 kids were found to have stronger text focusing abilities when read to by recorded narration with highlighted words than they did when a parent or a caregiver narrated the same story to them on the same device. I had to ask myself was I a bit of a miserabilist by limiting my kids’ access to recorded narrations of their favourite stories such as ‘The Lorax’ or ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’? The answer was no. There’s no ominous depth to the reasoning. I’m just too vain to let an iPad steal my legacy. I want my kids to remember me as the person who tucked them in and read to them in funny voices and put up with the irritating interruptions and inane questions. That’s the shallow extent of my miserabilism there.

Futurist David Houle sees opportunity behind the disruption of the last five years. He believes we have already left the information age behind and have entered the shift age. The book itself is an example of agile publishing embodying the points he makes that we are undergoing a collapse of legacy thinking'

Futurist David Houle sees opportunity in change. The book itself is an example of agile publishing proving the collapse of legacy thinking in the shift age.

The literary world has its fair share of miserabilists. Writers tend to be gloomy and publishing is the last of the entertainment media to go through the digital transformation. It’s understandable and quite pleasing that publishing/writing types will always have a mental armchair planted in the halcyon days of cigars, brandy and leather-bound books, but to genuinely live in that ideal is crazy. Here we are bang in the centre of what the futurist David Houle calls ‘the shift age’ – the most fascinating time in publishing since the Guttenberg Bible and there are still people in the book world, be they writers, agents or publishers who think that ebooks will go away, that Amazon is evil (or even more evil than any other corporate global) and that reading isn’t real reading if it’s not done on paper with folios and running heads. The worst lament of all is that the existence of ebooks negates the existence of print books. See? The tendency towards doom. It comes naturally to book people. As someone who writes in an industry littered with the last of the mega miserabilists here’s a coping mechanism that works for me: Make up some miserabilisms of your own so you can compete, jeremiad scale with the whingers if needs be.

Here are two I made earlier:

Miserabilism No. 1) Facebook is Orwellian and will lead to a dystopian society based on the ‘liking’ of really boring pics of cats/babies of people you hardly know. You will also find yourself being ‘friends’ with an ex you still have nightmares about and spent years trying to getting rid of diplomatically. Civilisation will descend into a pyramid selling/chain-lettering creepy nagging hell where you will sit all day with your finger on a keyboard ‘liking’ what Facebook Police tell you to like before you’ve even thought of what it is you like.

Miserabilism No. 2) Parenting will be superseded by the iPad/Kindle and civilization will get so bored off their nuts with the homogenous offspring raised by iPads/Kindles that human beings will stop fancying each other and stop having sex and a dying generation of white haired half-bald pre-native digitalists will sit around reminiscing about the good ole days when they fancied a real human being for their quirks and strange accents and for the times when they had to work out what a person meant when they said ‘Throw us over that buke there!’ Great grandkids, if such a phenomenon exists in the flagging libido of the ‘Tablet’ race, will be allowed to have only one of two possible names on their birth certs: Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos thus honoring the fathers of The United Devices.

* I figured out after some confusion that the ‘fate of the Melanesians’ was not an ominous reference to their blond afros. I was wondering. The bit in Eliot’s jeremiad about the Melanesians was in ref. to an essay by psychiatrist W.H.R. Rivers who explored the idea that the Melanesians c. 1922 were being depopulated because they were bored to death by the merits of civilization. (Pic courtesy of www.permedtonatural.com)

* I figured out after some confusion that the ‘fate of the Melanesians’ was not some ominous reference to blonde afros. I was wondering. The bit in Eliot’s jeremiad about the Melanesians was in reference to an essay by psychiatrist W.H.R. Rivers who explored the idea that the Melanesians c. 1922 were being depopulated because they were being bored to death by the merits of civilization. (Pic courtesy of http://www.permedtonatural.com)