Bucking the trend (or one reason why you are not making money)

writers-block

Unlike many of my Ramblings, this post is written in a far more focused manner, giving a clue to the importance I place on this content.

I think, ALL indie authors NEED to read the following, in full.


 

Recently I have seen a large number of indie authors discounting their books, or giving them away freely, offering a plethora of ‘giveaways’, from the humble bookmark to expensive looking jewellery, even a combination of all the above.

Whilst this form of promotion is not unusual by itself, the number of offers has increased to such a degree, that it seems no one is selling a book at full value price.

In fact, a quick scan of the internet shows very few books, (in relative context), for sale above zero, naught, nil, zilch, nothing.

This is excellent if you are a reader. You have the largest and widest choice of reading material ever produced in the history of human life, being offer to you at no cost; even incentivised, bribed, to take up such offers, by the additional giving of gifts.

Life has never been so cosy.

horn-of-plenty

This recent explosion of free books has been boosted by the hundreds of book promotion sites, offering authors the service of marketing their works to millions of potential readers, for a small fee.

The sales gist of this is, should the author give away books, each person receiving a free book may like it so much, they will buy more of that authors works.

This seems a viable strategy… in principle.

BUT… there is always a but!

This form of book marketing was, for want of a better word, pioneered by Amazon when they were quite a young organisation selling only books.

At that time, the indie authors publishing phenomenon had not established, making it a very different market place; one where the novelty of being offered a free book was the exception not the rule.

Furthermore, add this marketing fee to the cost of production, editing, proofreading, formatting, cover designer, advertising, etc. Now, work out your royalties per-sale, because that is what must pay for your books production costs.

From this simple equation, you will see how many books you must sell to break even.

NOTE: This figure is cost based only. It does not include a budget for your time, your internet bill, your software licence fees, office space offsets (even if ‘the office’ is a table in your lounge) and other associated costs, which as a business person you need to consider. If you do not, whatever monies you think you have made form that book, will be demanded from you by those wonderful, friendly folks at the Inland Revenue.

So…how much do your royalties add up too…oh, nothing… because you gave it all away, with the bookmarks and coasters you paid for to boost your sales.

Not very business minded, are you?

artlimited_img124247

 

Let’s fast forward to today.

The indie publishing business is a global industry, with hundreds of thousands of books being self-published each month, in every country and every language on earth.

This is a world where an adage I loth, ‘A victim of our own success’, has the hollow ring of truth.

Because computer technology has allowed the growth of, what was once referred to as ‘desk top publishing’ to grow in such an unprecedented way, the competition in the indie publishing scene is immense.

However,… there is always a however, too!

While the market place for book sales has undergone change akin to continental drift, the methods used by indie authors is still as primitive as the those used in the embryonic days of Amazon’s birth.

You see, Amazon has outgrown the indie author world. It has outgrown many, if not all the established mainstream publishing companies and, by doing so, has irrevocably altered the landscape of publishing in general.

Neither is this giant called Amazon about to offer indie authors a helping hand.

It does not have to and does not want to. Not only has it outgrown the publishers, but it has established itself as the master of sales opportunities. Basically, as an independent writer, if you want to sell a lot of books you must factor Amazon into your marketing mix. What is more, Amazon will need to be your prime ingredient in the clear majority of cases.

Which brings us back to the reader, those illusive, almost mythical creatures who may, one day, if you are extremely lucky, buy one of your books.

BUT… yes another but!

BUT… it is getting less and less likely any reader will put their hand into their pocket and pull out some money, simply to get hold of a copy of your book.

You see, they don’t have too.

There are hundreds and thousands of books available for free. The reader can order any of these, or simply download an eBook version, which they can add to the hundred unread books waiting on their Kindles and E-readers, without ever spending a single penny.

Oh, that fleeting promise of maybe’s, the one the book marketing sites sold you, you know, the one that goes… “if they like your style they will buy the rest of your series/books….”

You didn’t fall for that old spangle, did you? 

Because they will not.

TD&WDhardadvt1

Please do not dismiss the reader thus. Like all of us, our readers must be canny when it comes to spending, whether buying packet of sausages in a supermarket, or buying a good book to curl up with in front of the fire.

These folks will:

A, wait until another of your series is offered for free.

B, read another free book. (They may enjoy it better than yours.)

C, Both, of the above.

This is a reader’s market. It has got this way because of several factors, but (another but!), it is you, the indie author who has brought this situation upon yourself.

By publishing your book at a ridiculous low price, then lowering that price and eventually giving your book away, you are part of the overall problem affecting many, if not most indie authors.

You are simply adding to the situation you are moaning about. You know the one, about having too many free books on Amazon. That the competition is too great, because the market is flooded with cheap books, 99 cents and below.

This WILL NOT CHANGE until you…yes, YOU do something about it.

Ideally, for me. As of tomorrow morning, there would not be one book, not a single novelette being given away.

Novella’s and the such would be priced at around £2.00/$2.40 for the shortest book and escalating up from there.

Novels would kick in at a minimum of £10.00. Book prices would be back to a decent level, a level not too dissimilar to that before Amazon muscled in.

We all, from time to time, often with good reason, knock the major publishing houses who controlled publishing, much as DeBeers control the diamond market. Yet they ensured authors got a fair return for the time and effort involved in creating a book.

That cannot be said of Amazon, or any book promotion site encouraging free and 99c priced book sales.

I know there is a movement within the indie community, one which is trying to discourage the giving away of books.

I am part of that movement.

I believe, if ALL indie authors removed ALL free books, re-priced their books to reflect true value for authors, we would see a major shift change within the industry almost overnight.

Don’t worry.

People will not stop reading.

They never have and they never will. They shall simply be paying a fair price for the goods they receive.

Authors will start earning a fair return for their creativity, effort and investment. The quality of books will increase.

The world will be full, once again, of wild unicorns running free in green woodlands full of Tinkerbelle fairies… well, I may be pushing it a bit too far now; but the facts are, indie authors will be better served without cheap and free books…. FACT.

o-STEAMPUNK-WRITER-facebook

Which brings me to the title of this post, ‘ Bucking the trend’

What give me the right to state such?

Firstly, this is not me simply making a vortex of hot air.

I stand by my convictions. I do not have any FREE books. I shall not be giving any books away. I do not have gifts of incentives. I have no bookmarks or jewellery.

In fact, I am deliberately ‘Bucking the trend‘.

Recently, I have increased the price of all my books, both Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

One of which, is an Amazon No.1 bestseller.

The coveted No1 position, is something I doubt would have occurred, if the book was priced undervalue.

You see, perception plays a large part in decision making.

What value you initially consider an item, is easily disputed once furnished with a low price. Hence altering perception.

With that in mind, a low cost, or free book will hold little or no perceived value to the reader.

If the same book is viewed at a higher price, the value is assumed to be greater.

In association, the assumption of quality is also presumed higher or lower in direct proportion the estimated value implicit.

This is my view and the principles I adhere too.

I shall charge a fair price for my books. Not a penny less.

Readers can buy them, or not.

BUT…. (The last one I promise), consider this:

Should I just sell one copy of one of my books this year, I would have made more money than you, giving a thousand copies away.

I’ll leave you to muse over this.

Sleep tight, 

Paul

ill-1

 

Yoghurt Tasting.

yoghurt

We often talk of how important punctuation and grammar are when writing. I think this is also true of the spoken word, oration and pronunciation should be a foremost concern.

NOT, I hasten to add, for everyday conversation where colloquialisms, dialects and vernaculars colour our conversations and lives, but when the spoken word is transmitted by mainstream media.

I believe, broadcasters have a duty to society to articulate, to use elocution and enunciation to the highest standard and, by doing so, enable our young to learn the wonders of well-versed dialogue, gain the ability for constructive discourse and communication.

How can we expect our young to learn to speak clearly and precisely, to acquire the ability to explain, to communicate effectively, if the denizens of our communications industry cannot do so themselves?

Personally, I do not think ‘dumbing down’ standards to ‘accommodate’ those considered, in correct ‘PC’ terms to be ‘less fortunate’ is the answer. This only has the effect of decreasing the overall standards by suggesting the lowering of general standards are acceptable. Which, of course, they are not.

I fear for the future.

Today I found myself disappointed by such a badly enunciated sentence.

“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoghurt taster from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

Now…I have, as many of you do, a writers mind. This is a strange and oft uncontrollable beast. One which will pick-up on tid-bits and oddities which would, for the greater part, pass most people by without causing a ripple in their lives.

But for those of us who are cursed, or blessed, with such minds will know once this beast has focused on its intended target, once it has its victim firmly caught, there is little we can do until it has satisfied its hunger, or passions, or whatever desires need stating.

This was my situation earlier today. As soon as that sentence had been spoken my muse went into overdrive.

A quick and personal excuse (Disclaimer!): I was not watching or listening to the programme being broadcast, it was just ‘on’. My wife had switched the TV on earlier and it was playing away in the background.

So, where was I? Oh, yes my muse awakening, giving me a jolt.

Questions started to flood my head, ‘Yoghurt taster’ what kind of a job was that? Was it a flavour tasting position or simply to ensure the product was of a certain quality? Maybe this was a taste panel for R&D, for new products, new lines?

How did one get a job like that? Could I get a job like that? What qualifications, besides liking yoghurt, did one need?

My muse was excited; could this be part of a plot? A Poisoning?  Mass poisoning…holding corporations to ransom? Maybe the start of strange happenings in a small town… Zombie like conditions…Mmmm? My mind continued to race.

However, I love that word so I’ll say it again!

However, somewhere beside my overly stimulated muse, I had a nagging doubt such a position, a job as a yoghurt taster, actually existed. Food taster, yes. But I could not believe anyone could be employed solely as a Yoghurt taster.

No, I convinced myself, something was wrong. (Much to the annoyance of my muse!).

Thanks to modern technology, satellite, cable, Digi-boxes etc. we are able to do so many things with ‘live’ and ‘on-air’ television which have previously been impossible. One of these is instant ‘re-wind’.

This is what I used to take the programme back to the point where the ‘voice-over’ presenter stated that Emma was a ‘Yogurt taster’ from Essex.

This time I would actually be watching and listening to the broadcast, rather than having it grumbling away in the background, where only my subconscious was taking note.

Sitting too close and staring at the screen, like a six-year-old child, I pressed ‘play’. The images began to move and the narrator started to speak.

DarkAngelcaps_008

“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoga teacher from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

I played this over and again, four times in total, until I was absolutely certain this version was the correct one.

Emma was a yoga teacher and not a yoghurt taster, as I had first thought.

This was not me miss-hearing, it was clearly a case of shameful presentation.

I must say, I was more than a little disappointed.

I am sure, in the world of yoghurt, tasters are required? although I am uncertain of what the progression of seniority may be in such a profession. Perhaps one starts with the ‘own label’ products, progressing to ‘natural’ before moving to thick ‘Greek-style’ yoghurts. Maybe, an alternative route would be to delve into the technical realm of flavours, or the scientific corridor of ‘low-fat’ and ‘healthy’ options.

I guess I shall never know.

A divergent track that leads me, by some circuitous route, back to where I began this post; which is where I stated my belief that major broadcasters and, in many respects, our respective Governments, should take responsibility for the clarity and precision of language when transmitting programmes.

The above is a prime example of bad annunciation and elocution, the equivalent in my book, (note the pun!), of bad grammar and punctuation in writing.

Besides, my restless muse was unnecessarily disturbed.

Now I have to find an excuse NOT to write a novel about a wicked dairy farmer, who decides to get his revenge on the local townsfolk by plying them with infected yoghurt, thus turning them into pliable and malleable zombie-like humanoids who forever more will do the farmers bidding. Of course, as with all good pulp-fiction, there is always one young girl who hates all milk type products, regardless of flavour. Perhaps it is she who can fight back against the forces of evil and bovine product manipulation to save the earth…or at least the local town?

That is all I am going to say on the matter!

Milkmaid

So, until next time, enjoy your writing, even if your inspiration has been stimulated by a miss-print or badly spoken presenter. But please, please take care with your grammar. You never know when someone may read your work live on air, they may even be an ex yoghurt taster venturing into a new career!

 

Thank you for reading, Paul.

You may like to visit my website and see what else I am writing? http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

© Paul White 2016    RTWM310716/975

Distracted.

images (2)

I sit back, sighing heavily. The writing is going well, but I need to take a break from this particular work. So I fill a large mug full of hot black coffee...the preferred drug of most writers…and sit back down, allowing my thoughts to scramble over the untidy mound of scrappy ideas which need to be sorted into some cohesive order.

Problem is, as I sip the scalding liquid, my thoughts leave the junkyard of unformulated notes and come here, the rambling parkland of gibberish and spill over this page in an uncontrollable splash of ink. Rather like the drips from the base of my coffee cup.

I know I should be focusing all my attention towards the new novel ‘Floyd’, because you cannot leave a psychopathic murderer running loose, which is precisely what Floyd is doing as you read this. Or maybe I should be writing some more short stories, or editing some old blogs ready to create another book. After all it is what I set aside these current hours to do. It was my sole intent today. So, in some respect I feel guilty I am not writing content for any of those projects.

However, I am also aware that in the shadowy recesses, in those dark corners of my mind where I have little, if any control, the cogs of intuition, of creativity, of inventiveness and imagination are whirling away without any conscious effort on my part.

I know they will, or at least I hope they will, rearrange the untidy pile of random thoughts, those initial ideas and concepts, into an organised and comprehensive inventory of clarified sketches which will then be ready for me to utilise.

This is one of the reasons I write such as this, (and drink copious amounts of coffee late into the night and often into the early hours of the following day)!

A few years ago, I was given a very good piece of advice by a successful writer; “Whatever you do,” he said, “just write. Write anything that comes into your head. Do not think about it too much. You can always re-write it, change it, even scrap it another time. But when you sit down to write do exactly that, write, write anything because what matters is not the first few words you put down, but the creative juices they cause to dribble down your thighs of inventiveness”.

I have followed his advice ever since, which is why I have very wet inventive thighs and write these ramblings. Hence I have found the cure for the condition that afflicts many, the so-called writers block.

Have a good, creative and productive day.

.

© Paul White 2014

To read more of my work, or find out more about me, why not visit my website?

http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

One reason why I don’t give my books away.

MagicBook

Because I have worked hard, very hard in making the book a reality.

The uninitiated may feel that is a glib remark, but it is not, if you consider….

I first had to come up with the idea, a notion of a story and ensure it had a start point, a good tale to tell, one which draws to a satisfactory conclusion.

That is, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Then try it now, in the next few seconds. Say these words aloud….ready….go…”My story begins when……

Well, come on. You said it was easy, so what’s keeping you?…… OK. Times up.

Let’s move on.

I shall say ‘we writers’ from now on, have an outline of a story in our head. We know where we want it to start. We may even have a few words which may become the opening lines, when we start writing.

Each writer has their own way of plotting and constructing a novel. So, for generalist purpose I am adopting the supposition this is a writer who plots onto a story line…to a degree.

For the next few days we shall be breaking down the sequence of the story in our mind, transcribing it onto a plot graph, a timeline of planned stages. This is something we shall change numerous times over the next few days. We shall have the characters, particularly the protagonist, face challenges they must overcome. We will build his/her character as realistically and as humanly flawed as suits the plot, and will have our readers empathise, at some stage, with the antagonist. Possibly disbelieving in the actions of the hero….who may yet actually be the real baddy!

This is the type of conflict associated with plotting the story. Already at this stage the story wants to take charge of the author, as later, during the writing of the first draft, so shall the characters. They WILL take on a life of their own. They WILL wake the writer in the early hours of the morning, banging on the door of new concept. The same characters WILL, on another night, keep the writer awake until the sun rises just so they can move forward, continue their journey within the unfolding pages of new manuscript.

Most authors become almost, if not entirely obsessed with writing the tale. Some seem, even become unsociable, withdrawn. Because the story must be told, it must be typewritten onto paper or into computer memory. If the writer stops, or is distracted for too long, the thread begins to fade, the momentum halted, the spirit lost. The new lives, those characters created start to wither, even die.

Writers are, in the worlds they create, Gods among characters, guiders of destiny and givers of fulfilment, destroyers of life, of societies, of cities and planets. The author is omnipotent. It is a role, a responsibility we take seriously. It is a heavy burden we bear.

Come the end of the first draft and an entire year’s supply of coffee beans. I/we, the authors, sit back in our chairs and breathe a sigh of relief.

It is short respite.

dead_tired_writer

Soon our noses are back at the grind stone. We now need to read, edit and re-write the entire work. A first draft, no matter how carefully crafted, is just that. A first draft.

Now we really start work. No longer are we flying in full creativity mode, now we are in a roll-your-sleeves-up and get stuck in approach to the task.

Generally, this stage takes twice as long as the first. Deleting words, sentences and replacing them…or not. Moving paragraphs or rephrasing entire sections of the manuscript. Rearranging the position and order of entire chapters, even deleting them…or writing new ones. There is no limit to the fettling undertaken at this stage.

Once we are (reasonably) happy with draft number six/seven/ eleven? We congratulate ourselves and add a tot or two of whisky into the large mug of rich black coffee, our drug of choice.

Happily, we tell our copy editor we are ready for them to scan our documents. Oh, she says. (Not a sexist remark, simply the fact I have found most of the best editors are women), you need a line editor before you run it past me!

So, weeks later, with some alterations to plot and structure you eventually pass the manuscript over to your copy editor…..and wait…and wait, which is a good thing. Annoying, frustrating, but good.

You see your editor should be busy…if she is not that could indicate no one wants her services? The second reason you should be happy to wait is you want a thoroughly good job done, don’t you? Therefore proper, good, concise editing with a comprehensive feedback means taking all the time required to do the job right. Right?

Everything is not lost during this time, because you have to have a cover. If you have not yet made any advance towards having one designed, now is a great opportunity, it will take your mind off waiting for your editor.

Unless you are a graphic designer of illustrator I would leave the cover to an expert. Even if you are an artist I would, at the very least, consult with one. You see a book cover is NOT what most people (readers/ writers/authors) think it is.

Comes the day when your book cover, both paperback and kindle versions are ready. You are excited because your manuscript has just arrived back from your editor….the pages listed with notes, amendments and suggestions.

Now, instead of moving forward, instead of getting a step closer to publication you must revisit you story. Once more you sit and work through the entire manuscript, making alterations, altering tense, reading those suggestions and editorial input regarding clarity, flow and all that other stuff.

Three days later, in a foul mood and with a raging headache you stab the send button returning, the now amended manuscript, to your editor.

This is when you wonder where the last year of your life has gone. This is when you look out of the window and wonder why it is snowing…in June…only June has long passed. You missed it.

You were living in your own Neverland, guiding your characters away from disaster and death. Now, all of a sudden life seems so much more….empty.

The story is with your editor. The cover made. Time seems to hang about endlessly, waiting…tick-tock, tick-tock.

917118ca61b1d3fec11ca87809fdb6a7

After a day or two of doing virtually nothing it all gets too much. You plan a launch date, but not too soon. Then you organise a thunderclap, a blogging chain, advertising, a cover reveal and whatever blows your frock up.

Hay, guess what, your manuscript is back, this time there are only a few notes, easy stuff to sort out. So, you do. It only takes the best part of a day this time.

Now you can busy yourself again. This time you need to format your manuscript into book form. One for each type of book, i.e. paperback and eBook, but also for the platforms you may be using, Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords and so forth. Of course, you can have a professional do this, or you can seek the help of a fellow author…all work well if organised properly.

The next stage is proofreading. Each format needs to be proofread. You can do a first run yourself, pick up on any errors made during formatting, check the margins, headers, page numbering, kern and such. But, I bet you will miss a shed load. So have other eyes, preferably an experienced proof-reader, one with a good track record, even someone recommended.

So, you press the send on your keypad again and hey-ho the formatted manuscript(s) is/are off to your proof-reader, who will pick up on any punctuation, capitalisation, space and…other issues you WILL have missed.

ONLY after you have fixed all those errors will your story, which up to now has just been a manuscript with a working title, become a book.

Upload to print…. congratulations. It has taken you around eighteen months of blood, sweat, tears and toil. Of mood swings and social deprivation, headaches, doubts, pain, fear and uncertainty to turn your dream into your baby.

Well done you.

NOW YOU WANT TO GIVE IT AWAY?

That is (one reason) I don’t give my books away.

Paul White.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed Media Inspiration: Lack of Inspiration — writings by Ender

It is not often I repost blogs/links here.

I do have invited guest bloggers, but rarely do this. The reason I have is it is an honest, origanal post which I think is worth sharing…it is that simple

I’ve found I’ve been lacking inspiration the last few days. It’s common writing practice to linger around until inspiration hits you, but that’s not what I do. It’s not what working writers do; we don’t have the time. In times of an inspiration deficiency I seek three simple pleasures: reading, music, and social interaction. Reading […]

via Mixed Media Inspiration: Lack of Inspiration — Writings By Ender

A bit about differing narration in your stories.

o-STEAMPUNK-WRITER-facebook

I have recently been asked if I can help another writer with regards to narration.

(Narration is sometimes referred to as the ‘stories voice’, at term which is frequently used in the USA and is essentially descriptive of its nature.)

The writer in question is not a ‘new’ writer, in fact she has authored several books over as many years.

She has asked for my assistance now, because her works to date have been of the same genre, they have required the same form of narration; one she has developed and honed, one which has also become her ‘style’.

Perfect for what she has accomplished, but a difficult task to abruptly alter, as it brings much self-doubt and worry with it.

Luckily, I am not one who writes in one genre, or in one style. Much of my work ventures into realms unknown and unexplored (from a personal perspective.) I push my wordsmithing skills every opportunity I have.

Whilst helping my author friend, I found having her read a sample of my own work, one with a certain narrative style, helped me explain how I achieved to create that chosen narration.

In this post, I shall try and do the same.

I have three examples to share with you; the first is taken from a humourus tale, the second from somewhere much darker and the third is told by a character where English is not their first language.

Each of the above forms of narration hold certain challenges for the author if they are to allow the story to flow smoothly, while still making each word believable.

Without further ado, here is the first sample, an excerpt for my short story ‘Fixing the thingamabob.’ (It is an exercise of using metasyntactic terminology.)

deckchair-1

I had a job to do which needed more than a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.

So, I wandered down the garden to my shed to find the whatchamacallit, which I knew was in the wooden box under the shelf between the screw box and the other thing.

My wife had been nagging me for eons regarding fixing the thingamabob, which had started to rattle and shake several months ago.

As it happened today was sunny, bright and warm. Just the type of day I liked to attend to the pesky little jobs that stack up over time. Plus…I was in the mood for tinkering, which was actually a big plus!

Once I had the whatchamacallit in my hand I wandered back to the house, placed the thingamabob on the kitchen table and started to dismantle it.

Personally, I would have ditched this one years ago and replaced it with a new, up-to-date, all singing, all dancing, micro chipped, high tech whatchamacallit. But because this old rusting one had some sort of sentimental attachment my wife was certain I could fix it and all would be well for another thirty years.

I was not so sure; especially now that I had umpteen bits and bobs scattered on sheets of newspaper spread over the table top.

I was not even sure if they all belonged to the whatchamacallit, or if some pieces had tumbled from the small jars of screws, washers and odd bits I had kept for repairing such items.

Besides the springs there were a few plastic doodahs of indiscriminate origin, a strange angular thingummy with various sized holes and a host of………bits…..loose sort-of-screw(ish) pieces.

I was still quietly confident that I would not have to fork out a fistful of klebies to purchase a new whatchamacallit, because despite the number of random odd and sods before me, I had all the key parts in separate saucers. The rest I could figure out during re-assembly.

Having got thus far, I decided a fresh brew was in order and proceeded to stand from the kitchen stool. That was when my knee came in painful contact with the underside of the table top, sending all the random and the carefully separated odds and ends flying into the air, most of which came crashing down onto the stone tiled floor.

As I have said, being an organised sort of bloke I was using several saucers to keep the whatsits from rolling all over the place, thus avoiding the chance of mixing them up with other doodahs or losing them altogether.

Now, not only were all these jumbled-up with the rest of the bits and bobs which I had previously spread out ready for use, but my wife’s best saucers were in splintered shards on the kitchen floor, mixed among the plastic and metal thingamajigs…..

End of Sample

In this excerpt the reader automatically senses the light-hearted pace of the story. The ‘nonsense’ words liberally sprinkled through the character’s speech seems to confirm the cheerful tones of, if we could hear it, the character’s voice; and that is the clue here, the character’s voice…his narration…his is telling this story and you, the reader, are sitting comfortably and listening with a half-grin already plastered on your face.

To achieve such a form for this stories voice I found myself ‘playing’ the character. During the moments of writing I was that ‘doddery, old, half- henpecked, half-happy-go-lucky, uncaring/caring, semi-foolish husband’!

I became that ‘chap’ and wrote this in a manner I felt was akin to which I would have done if I were sitting in a bar and relating the tale to half a dozen of my cronies.

<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>

Now read this next example of my narrative form. This is from the story called ‘Deep Waters’.

When they came to remove the last of the medical equipment from the house they found me laying on the kitchen floor in a pool of my own vomit.

The nurse said it was ‘lucky’.

Lucky I was found when I was, or I would have certainly died.

I did not consider myself lucky.

After that incident?

Two years of psychiatric help is enough to send any man insane, which is why I have come to the island. To get away from the hospitals, the clinics, the doctors and shrinks.

To get away from that house.

A house which held too many precious memories; cupboards in which her scent still lingered, rooms where her voice echoed at night and doorways where I always caught a glimpse of her figure.

I needed to clear my mind, to find out what I was supposed to do now.

To do that I did not need white coated, bearded psychoanalyst prying into my life, or friends constantly nattering in my ear, however good their intentions. I did not need a shoulder to cry on, or soft breasts on which to rest my head. I did not need friends with benefits.

Although I appreciated their efforts and the offers, all I needed was some peace and quiet. I needed isolation and tranquillity.

I needed time.

My time.

That is why I came here, why I came to the island.

Now I am here I realise how integral to life boats are. As I have said, I am no master of the sea, but I do fancy a small pleasure boat in which I can sail out to the centre of the lake. Maybe even take up fishing, something else I have never had the opportunity to try before.

But I think I shall deal with the boat first.

Small steps.

One thing at a time.

I think I know what I am to do.

But I am not in any rush.

 

The small craft I eventually chose was a twenty-five-foot cabin cruiser. Cabin cruiser sounds a grand title for a small fiberglass and wood boat with a slightly extended wheelhouse. I think the wheelhouse was considered the cabin, or was that the tiny compartment just below?

This compartment housed a toilet, which was half the size of a broom cupboard and a ‘main galley’. The main galley was a miniature sink & a two ring gas burner, opposite was a seat large enough for two people to sit on, providing they were in an intimate relationship.

The seat lifted and pulled-out to become a three-quarter size bed. I am not certain to what the ‘three quarter’ referred too?

However, the boat suited me perfectly, because I had no intentions of sharing it with anyone. This was the perfect vessel in which I could detach myself from the rest of humanity. Floating out there in silence in the centre of the lake sipping a hot coffee, or maybe a hot whiskey, would be absolutely perfect while I looked introspectively at my life.

While I considered my options.

End of Sample

This is an emotionally haunting tale, one which guarantees to bring a tear to the eyes of everyone who reads it. The reason is the soulful nature of the stories telling. It is spoken with an intimacy.

This is not like the first example, you could not relay this in a crowded bar. The narration is designed to ‘almost’ be a secret; a secret solely shared between the character and the reader. It is the reader finding a personal diary, reading that person’s own thoughts and secrets and fears and doubts.

Once again, the writer, the author must have their mindset ‘set’ into that mode and write as they would themselves, should they ever find themselves in such a position.

As the writer sits at their desk or in the café they should feel everything the character would feel if this were true. The author must become the moment, feel the air temperature, hear the ripples lapping the shore, smell the ozone and the scent of pine trees on the breeze.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

My third and (for now) final excerpt is from ‘Estell’s Tattoo’ (A story which raises awareness of the rape of women in Africa.)

When I wrote this, I wanted (and still do) to show that fiction can also be used to spread the word about important social issues.

sad-girl-cry-1

      Grace and Estelle and I once more walked along the dusty path that wound its way from our village, down the steep hill and on towards the river. The river was wide and twisted, like a glistening giant brown snake that wound its way through the lush green vegetation of the forests.

     As we became closer to this river the path changed from dust to crushed grasses. Many feet had trodden this path and in their passing had squashed the plants along the way, so that now only the toughest grass and the most persistent of weeds grew along the narrow footpath.

   Grace, Estelle and I spoke of many things during our journey to the river this day and when we were not talking of our village or family matters we sang our songs. I am sure that on this morning many birds came close to us to hear our sweet tunes, or at least that is how I remember it.

    I do not remember before that day seeing so many birds along the edges of this footpath. On any other day to see such colourful birds you would have to stray deep into the forest and sit very still for a long time. But that morning they came to us.

    It took us about one and a half hours before we reached the river. On arriving we put down the large bundles of clothing we had brought to the river to wash. All through our journey along the footpath we had balanced these bundles upon our heads. It is the way we women carry heavy loads over such long distances.

    Once we placed the laundry on the bankside we sat and drank water and rested our legs for a short while. In fact, it was a long short while because today was also a very hot day. The winds were not blowing at all and the sun shone fiercely down upon the earth, baking the soil into a hard crust which began to crack open and crumble.

    But here, in the shade by the river it was much cooler. So, we sat and spoke between ourselves for a long time during our short rest.

    Finally, we began to wash the clothing we had carried all this way, which was after all the reason for our journey to this place today. Using stones and a lot of effort we washed the dirt and grime from the materials. After which we hung the garments upon the branches of the nearby bushes to dry in the sun. The sun would soon dry the clothes today as it was a very hot sun, much hotter than on most days, something I have told to you already.

    We had also brought with us a little food. So as the sun beat down from the sky we sat near our drying clothes and ate. After that we decided to go into the river to cool our bodies and to cleanse our own skins from the dirt and the dust….

End of Sample

Before I wrote this story I read several books and listened to audio readings of books, written by people whose first language was not English, but of African origin.

I wanted to create an authenticity of ‘voice’ in this story. By using long descriptions, yet using simple words and repeating some of them far more than one would ‘normally’ do, I found I could capture ‘Estell’s’ voice.

Once I was happy with some short draft pieces, I became Estell and, looking through her eyes, began to write this story in earnest.

I have received many compliments for this story because of its narration.

<<<<< >>>>>

Please note: as a way of comparing the three examples above, you will note I have chosen stories which are all written in first person singular.

I shall leave you to consider the above and how one can alter each story’s narrative by some simple, and some not so simple, adjustments!

The prime factor is to try. Write some shorter pieces, use them as a literary exercise to flex your wordsmithing muscles. If you are uncertain, try poetry or prose to create those first few lines of text which take you away from your standard form.

I for one love to try something new whenever I get a chance.

I love to flex my literary fingers and fumble about in places I have never been before. It is often surprising, frequently exciting and, more often than not, extremely rewarding.

Paul.

Read more of my short stories: A Little more Fiction

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running on empty

download

A simple title, but one containing much truth. How many time have you sat and started to write, or at least tried to scribble out some rudimentary sentences, when your energy is not there?

No, this is NOT a post about writer’s block.

This is a post about being drained. Being drained mentally, physically, intellectually, when even the most basic concepts evade simple thought. All of which can be emotionally exhausting.

I know. I have been there, as I suspect have you.

This is the bane, the curse of a writer’s life. This is our penance for shutting ourselves away for hours upon hours, for living our lives with one foot in the fantasy world of fiction, of sharing our days, even our dreams, with fictitious characters, those illusory, invisibles who inhabit our secret worlds, worlds which we never divulge to the others, at least, not until we are certain that they are ready to be revealed.

Considering this, it comes as no surprise that stress and anxiety often effect our temperament. We are, after all, artists and creatives. As such, why should our general disposition be any different to that of the most prima-donna of actors, or a highly volatile chef?

What is more, unlike the actor or chef, who have a surrounding cast or brigade onto whom they can cast their wrath and vent their spleen, we, the solitary, the secluded and oft isolated writer only have our keyboards and, maybe, a cat or dog. Neither of which deserve to suffer the brunt of our derision.

Now, that brings me to where my head is today, to what stimulated me to start writing on this particular topic.

YOU.

Yes, you.

Of course I am using that term as a general. What I mean is that I am ‘connected’, my social media is up and running, notifications, messages, hangouts, emails, chat and whatsupps and talktomes and haveyouseens are flashing and popping up every Nano-second, calling out my name, vying for my attention, from just about every social media platform that has been created.

Like you, as an author, an independent, self-published writer, I want to sell my books (hint!). Not having millions of pounds in my bank account means I do not have the wherewithal to pay for Saatchi & Saatchi to advertise and market my books. I do not have the distribution power of WH Smiths, Barnes & Nobel, Waterstones or indeed Walmart and Amazon.

I am one man, not a corporate host of many. As such my reach and capabilities are somewhat limited to what is physically possible. I have limits I cannot exceed alone.

To try and combat this disproportion, my being of David to the conglomerates Goliath, I have spread myself widely over this wonderful, glorious and most obnoxious of modern invention, the internet. I have, often with much reserve, spread myself over the world wide web by way of social media platforms in an attempt to attract at least one person who will purchase at least one of my books, who will read my words, share my fantasy and, hopefully, enjoy that netherworld I created.

Perhaps they may even return, buy another one of my books and re-join my journey? Maybe.

Yet to get to that point, where someone may actually want to own a copy of your work, a copy of that book you have spent all your spare time writing, for the past two years, means that you have to talk and communicate with thousands. You have to build relationships, acquaintances and associations. You have to make connexions and affiliations, create rapport, bonds and liaisons.

For the greater part this works fine. There may be the odd and occasional idiot you come in contact with, but that is no different to the ‘real world’, the meat space that we inhabit in natural form. At rare times you might encounter some who take pleasure in belittling others purely because they derive some sick pleasure from doing so. But you can turn a blind eye to these, block, delete, report and so on. Again this is only a digital interpretation of today’s world. One only has to watch a single new bulletin to make that simple comparison.

Yet it is those you choose to communicate with, those you classify as ‘friends’ who can flick that switch and send you plummeting into the deep pit of depression. A simple word, a throw away sentence, a wrongly worded, or indeed wrongly interpreted text, can combine with the isolation, the frustrations and become that final once of pressure that sends you spiralling into darkness, or rage or both.

This is where things get bad!

 slepatdesk

 

 

 

 

Once you are there, at the base of that gloomy depression of despondency, it all becomes a vicious circle of seemingly hopeless misery. Each time you type out a word it is wrong, you have nothing to say, nothing to add, you cannot think of anything to write, nothing at all. The last chapter you wrote is crap, I mean total, pathetic, amateur crap with a capitol ‘c’.

What on earth were you thinking about. Best scrap it, delete it…in fact why not delete everything? It’s all crap anyway and you know it. You will never make it as a writer. You are pathetic, your writing is woeful, ridiculous and nobody will ever want to read it anyway, so you are just wasting your time.

Now you have ‘writers block’ on top of everything.

Have you been there?

I have.

You sit and stare at the keyboard, the walls, the window. Your head is pounding, not with a headache, not yet anyway, but with frustration. You are trying to think, inspiration, a plot, nothing works, nothings coming. That is what hurts. You can’t even read Facebook. Your eyes wont focus on the screen.

Your teeth are clenched. Those words keep flashing in your mind.  How dare she say that. What a senseless dickhead he really is. How come so many liked my cartoon of the dog and the Vicar, but all I got for that insight was one like and a truck full of insults and derision.

The truth is that YOU are making too much of it all.

You have taken your exhaustion and converted it to emotions…not the shrewdest move you could have made.

All the mental, physical, creative and intellectual output has drained you. Each and every event surrounding you seems enhanced, seems far greater than it is. You need to rest from writing, let your mind relax a little, slow it down…schuush….rest.

We lone writers do not have a gauge to tell us when we are getting low on that energy. We do not have an entourage to bounce our frustrations off. We do not have a colleague to share annoyances or vexations with.

We just have us (and, possibly, that cat or dog!)

But we need to learn how charged we are, we need to know when we have used our stock of vigour and are eating into pure emotion.

We need to know when we are running on empty.

dead_tired_writer

Thank you for reading.

Please visit my author page and take a look at my books.

Paul 🙂