Interior Book Layout & Design Principles

I have recently been helping several new-ish authors, along with some quiet well-established writers, with the design and layout of their book’s interiors.

It appears many authors, even those with some experience, do not understand the established and recognised principles of interior book design.

The standard layout of books is no accident. It has evolved from the first medieval printing presses to the current day online publishing and POD.

The issue here is, if these basic conventions are not followed, at least to the greater degree, your book will look and feel amateurish to readers.

Thus, leading to slow take-up of your title and possibly, even probably, eliciting poor or bad reviews.

In short, an inadequately formatted book, even one which has undergone meticulous copy, line and development editing, will fall short of the standards expected and required by today’s avid readers.

This post, unusually for me on this blog, directly addresses the basic principles and concepts of interior formatting of paperback & hardcover books and, to some degree, that of their lesser cousin, the eBook.

I have not called this post ‘Interior Formatting,’ as that covers a much wider and far more complex set of procedures and is covered elsewhere, much in my books ‘The Frugal Author’ and ‘Lots of Author Stuff you Need to Know’.

At the end of this post, you will find these two books which address many, if not most aspects, of independent and small press authorship.

Both books are ready to download now and, I am certain, you will find the answers to many of the question you have but have never asked.

NOW, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HERE IS THE PROMISED POST….


BOOK DESIGN AND SECTION LAYOUT

Note: a page is one side of a leaf.

When you ‘turn a page’ you are actually turning the leaf of a book, which is two pages. Each side of the leaf is a single page.

In this post, ‘Blank’ indicates a page typically left blank by traditional mainstream publishers.


FRONT MATTER

The front matter of a book consists of its very first pages: the title page, copyright page, table of contents, etc. There may also be a preface by the author or a foreword by someone familiar with their work.

First Page: Blank/Flyleaf

Leave this blank.

2nd Page: Frontispiece/Blank

Page 2 is the back of page 1 and remains blank unless you include an illustration.

Such an illustration is called Frontispiece.

This decorative illustration or photo appears on the page next to the title page.

Traditionally, a Frontispiece will be placed on a left-hand page.

Title page

Usually opposite the Frontispiece.

It shows the full title of the book, along with the author’s name as they appear on the cover.

Copyright page/Colophon

The Colophon or copyright page includes technical information about copyrights, edition dates, typefaces, ISBN, as well as your publisher and printer.

Usually positioned on the reverse of the title page.

Blank Page

Accolades

Quotes from esteemed reviewers and publications in praise of the book.

This praise, or some of them/it, often appears on the back cover too.

Dedication page

A page where the author names the person or people to whom they dedicate their book, and why.

This typically comes after the copyright page.

Blank Page

Table of Contents

A list of chapter headings and the page numbers where they begin.

The table of contents, often abbreviated to ToC, should list all major sections that follow, both within the body and in the back matter.

Blank or Epigraph

A quote or excerpt which indicates the book’s subject matter.

An Epigraph can be taken from another book, a poem, song, quotation or almost any source.

It generally immediately precedes the first chapter.

Preface:

Reason for writing, word of thanks.

An introduction written by the author, a preface relates how the book came into being or provides context for the current edition.

Blank

Foreword

An introduction is written by a person other than the author.

Often written by a friend or scholar of the author’s work. Otherwise by a recognised authority of the books subject’s matter.

It is an honour to be asked to write a Foreword.


BODY

The body of a book is pretty self-explanatory: the main text that goes between the front matter and back matter. For readers and writers alike, this is where the magic happens — but it’s not just the content that’s crucial, but also how you arrange it.

Prologue (for fiction)

The section before the main story begins.

A prologue aims to set the stage and intrigue the reader.

Many prologues contain notes of intriguing events which only become contextualized as the reader gets deeper in the story.

Introduction (for nonfiction)

A few pages that usher the reader into the subject matter.

The introduction clarifies the books setting and or events linking to the content, along with other information relating to the main narrative.

Note: The difference between a preface and an introduction is a preface is personal to the author, discussing why they wrote the book and what their process was.

An introduction relates directly to the subject matter and establishes the position of the book in relation to its content.

Chapters

All books have chapters, or sections, into which the narrative or content is divided.

Epilogue (for fiction)

An Epilogue is a scene that wraps up the story in a satisfying manner.

Often an epilogue takes place sometime in the future from the last chapter.

if the book is part of a series, the epilogue may raise new questions or hint at what is to come. A technique is known as a ‘Hook’.

Blank

Conclusion (for nonfiction)

This section sums up the core ideas, values and concepts of the text.

Explicitly labelled conclusions are becoming less frequent in nonfiction books, which now commonly offer final thoughts in the last chapter, but academic dissertations are still be formatted this way.

Afterword

This allows giving final notes on the books content not otherwise addressed.

It is a useful tool for edited, revised and new editions.

The Afterword can be written by the author or another person.

Postscript

A brief final comment after the narrative comes to an end, usually just a sentence or two.

For example, “Mr Archibald Carruthers died at his Cotswold cottage three months after this book’s publication. Happily, he saw his story come to fruition.)


BACK MATTER

Also known as the ‘end matter’ is the material found at the back of a book.

Authors utilise the back matter to offer readers further context or information.

The back matter is also an excellent marketing tool, listing the authors ‘other publications’ and giving links to websites.

Acknowledgements

A section to acknowledge and thank all those who contributed to the book’s creation.

The acknowledgements generally appear directly after the last chapter.

About the author

Is where the author gives a summary of their previous work, education, and personal life.

For example,  “John Doe lives in Hampshire with his wife, two wayward daughters and two even more wayward Great Danes”.

Copyright permissions

If the author has sought permission to reproduce song lyrics, artwork, or extended excerpts from other books, they should be attributed here.

Such items may also appear in the front matter.

Discussion questions

A section rarely used nowadays, but worth considering for inclusion.

Thought-provoking questions and prompts about the book, intended for use in an academic context or book clubs.

Appendix or addendum (nonfiction)

Additional details or updated information relevant to the book, especially if it’s a newer edition.

Chronology or timeline (nonfiction)

List of events in sequential order, which may be helpful for the reader, especially if the narrative is presented out of order. A chronology is sometimes part of the appendix.

Endnotes

Supplementary notes relating to specific passages of the text and denoted within the body by superscripts.

Most often used in nonfiction, but occasionally found in experimental/comedic fiction.

Glossary

Definitions of words or other elements which appear in the text.

In works of fiction, the glossary may contain entries about individual characters or settings.

A glossary should appear in alphabetical order.

For example, in a science fiction book, the Glossary could list the names and details of individual planets in the story.

Index

Generally used in non-fiction.

A list of special terms or phrases used in the book, along with the pages on which they appear, so the reader can find them easily.

An index should appear in alphabetical order.

Bibliography/reference list

A formal list of citations, a comprehensive breakdown of sources cited in the work.

Blank


Here are those two books I mentioned earlier, books no author should be without.

The Frugal Author

Amazon Kindle UK: http://amzn.to/2EYcJjZ

Amazon Worldwide: http://authl.it/B07B27SPBL

Non-Amazon bookstores: https://books2read.com/u/3JynnB

Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/301nGYY

Non-Amazon bookstores: https://books2read.com/u/bP5O9

Amazon worldwide: http://authl.it/B07K5Z3F9K

FLOYD, an excerpt.

It is rare for me to post about my works in progress (WiP) on this blog, but today I make an exception.

Following is an excerpt from a novel I am working on titled ‘FLOYD’, which is a fast paced ‘slasher’ style story, about the deranged psychopath, Floyd, who is on a mission of revenge against all those involved with his committal to an institute for the insane, after he murdered his wife.

WARNING: The following contains scenes of extreme graphic violence and more than a sprinkle of bad language & swearing, so readers discretion is advised beyond this point.

… Floyd did not expect the Bitch to run at him. Neither did he think she would seize the carving knife from the counter. He was wrong on both counts.

She crossed the floor fast. He managed to dodge the blade as it whistled past his face. Instinctively he grabbed her arm, twisting it so she would drop the knife. But the Bitch continued to struggle, the long steel blade sliced the top of his thigh. It was damned painful.

Floyd kicked her knife-wielding arm away with his foot, keeping hold of her other arm. Then she was spinning towards him again. He took hold of both her forearms as they wrestled. Bending her wrist, forcing the knife away from his face caused the tip to sink into the top of the Bitch’s left breast. Floyd heard her flesh pop like a sausage.

The Bitch seemed oblivious. She pulled the blade free and stabbed it towards Floyd. This time he was ready, he knocked the knife from her grasp and took hold of her hair, jerking her off her feet.

The other Molly, Floyd’s new Molly appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Go on Floyd,” she shouted, “give the Bitch what she deserves. Go on Floyd, give her hell.” His Molly was bouncing up and down with excitement. Her presence bolstered his reserve, Floyd’s blood came back to the boil. Without thinking he dragged Bitch across the floor by her tangled blond hair.

“Stop, stop, you bastard,” she screamed. He ignored her, pulling her roughly up the staircase. She half bounced, half backwards scrambled, her legs flailing as she tried to keep her body moving to stop her entire scalp from ripping off her head.

Floyd lost his grip as they reached the landing, he stumbled to his knees, a great clump of tangled peroxide hair entwined between his fingers. In an instant the Bitch was on him, her small fists ineffectually battering against his back. He pushed her off easily. Standing, he grabbed her by her left arm, pulling her to her feet.

For a second they stood, panting and staring into each other’s eyes before the Bitch spat into his face. Flecks of spit, snot and blood-splattered Floyd. He hit the Bitch with a sweeping backhand. Her head bounced off the wall and she collapsed, an unconscious heap on the floor. Blood began pouring from her nose and the puncture wound on her breast.

The new Molly cheered. “That’s the way Floyd, you teach that fucking Bitch a lesson.”

Floyd hoisted the Bitch from the floor, carrying her limp body into the bedroom and tossing her onto the bed, noticing for the first time the red weal’s adorning her buttocks. So that is what the Bitch was into now, was it? So, she found she likes a bit of pain with her pleasure. Well, she could certainly look forward to some pain now.

Floyd took his leather belts from the dresser and strapped the Bitch’s hands together, tying them above her head to the bedstead. He used her stockings to fasten her legs to the bedposts at the base. The Bitch was now restrained. Spread-eagled and at his mercy, something he would have her begging for soon enough. She could not fight him now. She would have to answer his questions… or suffer the consequences.

“Let me look at your leg, you poor thing,” said his Molly, crouching on the floor in front of Floyd. “It’s quite deep. I think it will need stitches. A clean-up and some tape will help for now. Come on.” Molly led him into the bathroom.

“Oh, oh, look at this,” Floyd said pointing to the floor. “That fucking bitch has bled all over my fucking cream carpet. I’ll never get the blood out. For fuck’s sake, it will cost a fortune to replace.”

Molly bathed his wound, temporarily taping it together with some plasters from the medicine cabinet. He changed his dishevelled, blood-soaked clothing. “Grab me a cold beer, Molly,” he said, as he made his way back to the bedroom. “I am certain the Bitch will make this thirsty work.”

Floyd splashed the Bitch’s face with some of the cold beer. She blinked and coughed as she regained consciousness. “Now, now Molly, my dear,” he said looking down at her, feigning a smile.

He spoke softly, much like talking to a child. “Now I have your complete attention, your undivided attention, you will answer my questions, no lies, no evasion. Do you understand me?”

The Bitch struggled against her restraints. “Untie me, let me go,” she demanded.

“Oh, but I thought you liked that type of thing, a bit of bondage, a good thrashing?” He kept his smile in place as he spoke.

“What?” she asked.

“The red marks, the welts on your fat arse. There is only one way they got there,” he said.

“You’re not man enough for me to let you do that. You don’t excite me or stimulate me enough, not one little iota. You never did. Now untie me, you bastard.” The Bitch’s voice was screechingly loud.

“After you answer my questions.” Floyd perched himself on the edge of the bed and gently stroked the Bitch’s head, brushing the hair away from her eyes. “That must feel better. I know how you hate it when your hair covers your face.”

“Let me go, Floyd. This is not funny anymore.” The Bitch spoke a little quieter but through gritted teeth.

“Oh Molly, you must listen to me,” he said, bending close and grinning.

“Fuck you.”

His voice changed to a spiteful hiss, “For once in your fucking life listen to me, hear me, answer me, you bitch.”

“Fuck you.” Molly was shouting again.

Floyd punched her full in the face. He found the crunching sound her nose made is it snapped deeply satisfying.

The new Molly stood behind Floyd, her arms wrapped around his waist, she rested her head on his shoulder as she spoke. “You know the truth. You know she’s been cheating. Why not finisher her off now, so we can be together.”

Floyd looked at the Bitch laying on the bed. Her face was turned away. She was crying. Her body shaking with each sob. The fuck, she looked so pig ugly with her mouth screwed up like that. Besides, there was blood and snot everywhere.

Glancing over his shoulder, the pretty face of his new Molly was smiling at him. There was no contest, no contest whatsoever.

“Your right. Let’s get rid of this bitch,” he said.

Molly stepped backwards and held up the kitchen knife, the one Bitch Molly picked up in the kitchen, the one she used to cut Floyd’s leg.

“This should do it,” she said.

He took the knife and held it in front of the Bitch’s face. “So, you like something long and hard inside you, eh? You like some pain, do you?”

This was it.

This was it. This was his dream.

This was the moment he recalled from all his nightmares.

The Bitch lying on the bed, looking up in fear, in terror. During his dreams it seemed wrong, it frightened him. But now it all made sense. It was a premonition. A warning about this evil Bitch’s intentions.

“Go on Floyd, do her.” Molly was bouncing with excitement again.

“Oh, I shall. I am going to slit her throat from ear to ear.”

The Bitch was staring at him. “Who the fuck are you talking to? You sick bastard.”

He smiled, “Say hello to Molly, Molly.” Floyd reached out and pulled the new Molly to his side. “Look, isn’t she beautiful? She looks like you used to before you changed, before you cheated, before you became an old haggard Bitch. My new Molly is taking your place now.”

“You’ve lost the plot, Floyd. You’re sick. Sick in the head.” The Bitch spat out a mouthful of blood. “You’re hallucinating, seeing things.”

“She looks like you did once, do you know why? Eh, do you?”

“There’s no one there Floyd, you’ve turned fucking psycho.”

“She looks like you because she is you. My new Molly’s from a parallel dimension, a multiverse.”

“Fuck you, fuck you. You sick cunt. Now let me go.” Molly began to scream. Loud, high pitched screams and shouts for help.

“Shut her the fuck up, Floyd,” new Molly said. She had stopped bouncing up and down and was covering her ears with her hands. “It hurts my head.”

Floyd straddled the Bitch, one knee each side of her chest. His left hand forced her chin up, exposing her throat. He held the knife inches from her eyes, “Say goodbye, Molly. Say goodbye.”

The Bitch shrieked an ear-piercing, spine-tingling scream which vibrated every bone in his body. The knife sliced through the Bitch’s flesh like a butcher cutting pork. Her screams turned into a bloody bubbling gurgle. Floyd noticed the realisation and saw the disbelief in the Bitch’s eyes as the last moments of her life soaked into the crisp white linen bedsheets.

“Oh, my love, you did it, you did it,” said the new Molly, slinging her arms about Floyd’s neck, smothering him kisses. “You are such a darling.”

“Time for another beer I think,” said Floyd…


FLOYD continues to be a Work in Progress, I’ll post more here when I’m nearer to completing this story.

In the meantime, why not read another of my books, perhaps an Electric Eclectic novelette like ‘A New Summer Garden, a classic Crime Thriller.

The Orb, a fast paced Urban Fantasy Thriller.

Or maybe Mechanical Mike‘, a retro, pulp-fiction comic book yarn?


The above are available as eBooks/Kindle, with A New Summer Garden and Mechanical Mike also as Pocketbook Paperbacks.

You can find all the above books, with details, along with my other books, on my website, http://bit.ly/paulsEEbooks 

Feel free to browse around, ask questions and follow me on Facebook,  https://www.facebook.com/paulwhitewriter

When is it best to release your next book?

Yesterday I completed another book, making it ready for publication.

Over the previous three days, I have titivated with the internal layout, put the final finickity touches to my tome, trying to ensure I have no orphaned sentences, that the images, I have a good number throughout the book, are set as I wish and then, once again a run-through for any grammatical, punctuation or other errors such messing about can create.

For the two days before, I worked on finalising the cover.

The book Is now filed away awaiting the right window for publication. (I’m thinking sometime around May.)

The reason, I believe this will be the BEST time for me to release this book.

But is there a best time for you to release a book?


Let’s look at how this publishing game pans out over the year and what else might influence when you make your book available.

Publishing your book as soon as it is ready is termed ‘soft publication.’

Your ‘media date’ or ‘hard publication date’ or ‘release date’ can be whenever you think the stars are going to align with your media coverage and the success of your pre-release marketing.

It should be when you think you can sell the most books.

Traditionally, in the UK, new books are published on a Thursday, especially a Thursday between the 7th and 14th of the month.

The weeks leading up to the autumn are often some of the busiest times for new releases, as publishers jockey to fill bookstore shelves ahead of the upcoming winter holidays.

If you read are a regular reader of my blog on writing, ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ or have any of my books on authorship, you will know I often say, “Copy what the big boys do.”

The reason I say that is, the major publishers rarely do anything by chance. They spend a fortune on strategic planning and market research to ensure they get the right books, in the right places, at the right time to maximise their sales and hence their revenue.

Regarding the release of your next book, you could follow my advice and do the same as the major publishers.

But wait a moment. Let’s think about a few things first.

Some would say, do not release your book anytime between a Tuesday and a Thursday, because doing so will put your book in direct competition with the major publishing houses releases.

Suggestions of when is best include weekends, a Saturday will (generally) give you five whole days before the big houses release another title.

Some industry data points to Sundays and Mondays for attracting the most journalistic attention.

Of course, It may be worth choosing a date early or late in the month, (before the 7th or after the 14th), just after or just before the ‘Monthly Payday’.

Of course, there are other considerations, particularly for books of certain genres.

Romance books do well in early February and a couple of weeks before the summer holiday period.

Horror works well from mid-November and through October.

Introspective works sell best during the Summer, books like ‘Go Set a Watchman’ for instance, as do many Adventure stories.

Books described as ‘light & airy‘ do well in the Springtime.

Unsurprisingly, winter tales, snowy themes and settings, do well during the winter months.

But there’s more to consider than the seasons.

The premise of your book can be all-important at certain times too.

Check out which television series are scheduled over the next six months to a year, find which have similar stories, settings, locations, or characters as your book.

If your book is a period tale and a new costume drama is to be released on Television in August, then that programme could help boost your sales too.

If the new Sci-Fi blockbuster is due out in March… go for it. Major publishers have been known to change the name of a book to align with a mainstream film title.

For example, say a film, a Sci-Fi blockbuster sequel is named ‘Beyond the Far Crescent’, the publisher may alter a book’s title from, ‘From the Planets Shadow’ to ‘The Light of the Crescent’.

Never be afraid to re-title your book to align it with the marketplace, demographics or current trends.

Consider too Special Calendar Days.

Easter time always sees a boost in Christian related books. Martin Luther King Day for Black origin works. International Women’s Day for strong female characters, Feminism and such. Remembrance Day for War Stories, or Memoirs for instance.

In this case, my advice would be as I so often say, “do what the big boys do. Learn from them. Use their knowledge to compete with them.” It’s a bit like literary judo, use their size and bulk against them.

I admit there are no hard and fast rules, but I do suggest seriously planning when you release your next book.

Look ahead, research, find out what influences will affect your book and create your strategy accordingly.

To help you decide when here’s a rough guide cobbled together from industry data.

January

Self-help; diet; inspirational; business.

If your book fits into this category, this is what the media are generally interested in around this period, and it’s also what consumers are thinking about.

February

Self-help associated with relationships; debut authors; business; fiction.

If you are a debut/relatively new indie author, this month is not as full of new titles and there may be more promotion and media opportunities for you as a result.

March

Debut authors; mysteries; fiction

April

Women’s fiction

May

Beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies; books on mountain climbing (Good month for indies)

June

More beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies or nonfiction that will appeal to male readers on vacation or for Father’s Day

July

Quieter month better for debut authors; more of what you saw in June.

A good time for indies as there is generally less ‘new book’ competition out there.

August

Debut authors; education-related titles; narrative nonfiction by lesser-known writers… read indie authors. (Get in, before next month)

September

Public affairs and politics; serial authors in fiction and nonfiction; cooking; highly publicised titles by debut authors with mainstream publishers.

This is the main month, traditionally the annual main release month for major publishers. It is an incredibly competitive month and not indie-friendly.

October

More politics; cooking; big nonfiction titles by well-known personalities and writers; higher-end photography books; art books.

Not generally indie-friendly.

November

Photography; art; gift books; big names; and anything else you can think of that will sell in the current budget year’

Good for a well-planned strategic, high publicity release by indie authors in early November (Last few days of October)

December

A good month for lesser-known authors. A variety of books are published, including latecomers for Christmas or those titles that people want to get a jump on for January.

Good for indies looking to establish base sales going into the following year.

As for the book I mentioned at the start of this post, I am planning a ‘soft release’ in May, with a pre-order by invitation only, followed by an ongoing, subtle marketing programme. If you would like a copy of ‘Jack’s Dits 2’ (in May) email/message me and I’ll send you an invite.


Feel free to browse this site, there is a plethora of posts for writers and authors of all experiences and abilities.

I am open to comments and would love to answer any questions you have regarding ‘Being Indie’.

You may also like to read these two books about authorship.

You can download both right away, simply click on the link

http://authl.it/B07K5Z3F9K http://authl.it/B07B27SPBL

Dear Diary 2020… Round Two

You can blame ‘Dianna’ for this post.

You see, back on July the 16th, I wrote a post entitled ‘Dear Diary… 2020’.

Unlike many people, who believed this Covid thing was about over and soon we would all be dancing naked in the streets and shagg hugging random strangers, (at least I can print the word hugging), I did not believe any such thing.

You can read ‘Dear Diary 2020’ HERE and then come back when you are all caught up.

Okay, now your back I’ll carry on.

So, why do I say blame Dianna?

Because she added this comment to my original Dear Diary post, it reads,

“Please, please, please update this diary for us! Your humour here has us all chuckling and we all need that now.”

Except for this short comment, I have no idea who Dianna is, but I do know she has great taste in blogs, a marvellous sense of humour, and sounds like my kinda girl.

Thank you, Dianna.

So, I shall start this post, which I am calling it ‘Dear Diary 2020… Round two’, as that pretty much sums it up, and as this post starts off where we left the first, in July.


JULY

Let me take you back to July the 6th, something I neglected to say and something which was overlooked by just about everybody on the planet

This was the day CNN reported an outbreak of the bubonic plague in Mongolia.

Seriously. I kid you not. The world was focused on a strain of the flu, the warning the world could be overtaken by the Bubonic Plague, the same ‘Black Death’ that killed over 50 million people on its last visit seemed to pass us by.

I mean, what are a few boils and erupting pustules in comparison to a coronavirus sneeze?

So, nothing to worry about there then.

The UK announced it will suspend the extradition treaty with Hong Kong due to the controversial security law that was passed (or will be next month, August). Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned Beijing that the UK is watching and keeping track of the rights of Hong Kong citizens.

Okay, while this is a good thing, as many current Honk Kong Chinese were British citizens until 1997, I cannot see Beijing quaking an the knees knowing they are ‘being watched’ by the UK government… anyway, I don’t think the Chinese ministers have ever watched Cape Fear.

However, the most disturbing news was for Ireland, who may now have to reconsider their entire national identity.

It is now said Leprechauns originated in Italy rather than Ireland.

After a five-year study, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and Cambridge University have concluded the word “leprechaun” originated in Ancient Rome. According to their findings, the Irish “leipreachan” comes from the Latin “lupercus”, the name of a Roman god in charge of protecting flocks and also his cheeky male followers.

Devastating!


AUGUST

A giant explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, On August 4, killed 135 people and injured another 5000. It was soon revealed the blast was caused by badly stored ammonium nitrate.

Why any peaceful country would want to hoard such a vast quantity of that chemical is… well… let’s just say, open to speculation.

The bit I loved… okay, that may sound harsh, but hay ho… is the warehouse in question was called ‘The Firecracker’ warehouse. (Once, allegedly, being a fireworks factory).

At least the building lived up to its name. No trading standards investigation needed on that count.

On August 9, protests in Belarus erupted after the election results came in.

Current President Alexander Lukashenko beat opposition candidate Sventia Tikhanovskya after receiving 80% of the votes.

Tikhanovskya refused to accept the election results, stating it was clear more people voted for him.

Hmmm… Sounds familiar…

cousins maybe?

A possible Russian link…

nah, never… can’t be…can it?

Oh… and this… it was reported that Kim Jong Un was in a coma, and the photos of him alive and well back in May were fake. The rumour also states his sister, Kim Yo Jong is geared up to be his successor.

Then Kim Jong Un appeared at a party meeting, warning North Korea about the dangers from the coronavirus pandemic and Typhoon Bavi.

North Korea has still not reported any coronavirus cases in the country and Kim Yo Jong is still geared up to be something… or not.

Now an incident of note; Workers at a service station between Horsham and Crawley, (UK,) have been threatened with toilet brush during what they described as a “slight misunderstanding” over social distancing in the bathrooms.

Police Inspector Darren Taylor said: “How the toilet brush became embroiled into the disturbance we really don’t know.”

Readers will be pleased to know he added, “The toilet brush has now been returned to its cubicle”.

I guess the lesson we take from this is, keep you space… unless you want a prickly object inserted into a place the sun don’t shine.


SEPTEMBER

Breaking world news on September 1 came from Canada, yes, you read that right, something actually happened in Canada.

It’s okay, I’ll wait until get a stiff drink and are sitting down…

It was reported a karaoke bar in Canada could face fines after at 30 coronavirus cases were linked to it. The bar announced they will close for a week and urge their patrons to get tested.

What… you want more, sorry, that’s it.

After all, we are talking about Canada here.

BHM… Black Hair matters, no really… On September 8, protests in South Africa erupted after a controversial TREsemme advertisement was shown on Television.

The controversial advertisement compared black hair to blond, calling the blond hair ‘normal’ while saying the black hair was ‘frizzy and dull.’

The company has apologized for the advertisement and suspended all employees involved in publishing it.

So, the little man, who was most probably following orders, gets it; while the corporate marches on regardless.

(Get me, sounding all political and socialist.)

Anyway, the SH-1-T hit the proverbial fan regarding Coronavirus, when it was reported the daily Covid cases in Europe reached a record high. Lebanon’s coronavirus cases skyrocketed. Spanish officials urged the city of Madrid to enforce stricter restrictions or face serious risks.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the country is already experiencing its second wave of the virus. Israel passed a law banning mass protests during lockdown. Australia was sued by a consumer rights groups for the COVID-19 outbreak that occurred at the Tyrol ski resort, Ischgl. It was reported Belgium is at risk of becoming overwhelmed by coronavirus cases.

The Czech Republic faced a whole country lockdown, as the area has the most number of cases on the entire continent. France and Germany are inflicting stricter coronavirus guidelines after a rise in cases. Portugal announced new restrictions, implementing a curfew.

Chinese officials began a controversial emergency vaccine program administering emergency vaccines to hundreds of thousands of people before the vaccine has gone through safe clinical trials.

I want to say something funny or controversial here, but, to be honest, I am lost for words.

Let’s finish the month with this…

A sex shop in the US is offering female customers free red, white, and blue vibrators if they pledge to vote in the (then) upcoming White House election.

The ‘Erotique adult store’ in Montana says it wants to, “Make America orgasm again”, and is giving away 2,200 vibrators in a promotion dubbed The Great American Orgasm.

The sex toys are accompanied by an American flag sticker that states: “I came and I voted.”

Sorry if I mention this too late for you to take advantage of their generosity. (Dianna?)


OCTOBER

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson,  warned it could be a difficult winter for the nation (United Kingdom). Now, I am unsure if he is referring to the Covid situation, has advanced knowledge of the weather forecasts, or expects our estranged uncle, the one we never speak of, to come visiting?

I suppose much depends on if, when, and how restricted our lockdown measures are.

Who knows?

This is bad, an abortion ruling in Poland led to nationwide protests. The controversial ruling banned nearly all abortions except those in the case of rape, incest, or risk to the mother’s health.

While, in the US of America… (It could only happen in the States), a man in Illinois has kept a half-eaten sandwich the then-vice President, Richard Nixon, from September 1960. Steve Jenne, then a teenager, grabbed the sandwich when Nixon visited his hometown.

“I looked around and thought, if no one else was going to take it, I am going to take it’”, he said.

Jenne has since written a book about the sandwich and been interviewed about it on The Tonight Show.

What… a book and an appearance… now that takes the biscuit…

See what I did there… biscuit (cookie in American)… sandwich… food, eats, snacks… NO, oh forget it.


NOVEMBER

I’m not going to mention anything that’s happening right now, as I will leave scope for a third part of these Dear Diary posts. (If Dianna like this one too?)

Oh, except this one thing…

Scientists in Australia have discovered no signs of alien life after searching more than 10 million solar systems.

The research team used a gigantic telescope in the Western Australian outback to perform the vast search, which they dubbed ‘looking for ET‘.

“We found no technosignatures – no sign of intelligent life,” one of the scientists said.

So, while 2020 still has some surprises in store for us, Alien invasion does not seem to be one of them.

However, they have not ruled out a Zombie apocalypse 2020 https://amzn.to/3nogJMw, a Giant Asteroid collision , or Artificial Intelligence becoming self-aware… think Skynet/Terminator?

So, there is still time for 2020 to out with a bang… Literally… in a literal sense.

I’ll leave you with one more thing to mull over…

Australian scientists claim they have proven time travel is mathematically possible, by reconciling Albert Einstein’s famous theory of general relativity and the grandfather paradox.

Germain Tobar, who led the research at the University of Queensland, said a time traveller could theoretically go back in time to kill the first person infected by Covid-19 and thus prevent the pandemic.

OK… Hands up… Who want’s that job?

Unconnected connections of habit.

quote-creativity-is-the-power-to-connect-the-seemingly-unconnected-william-plomer-66-90-75

I recall reading Roald Dahl’s ‘Georges Marvellous Medicine’ to my son when he was a child. One phrase I found particularly hilarious was when George’s grandmother said, ‘Growing was a nasty childish habit’.

I’ll give you a short extract for context.

‘You know what’s the matter with you?’ the old woman said, staring at George over the rim of the teacup with those bright wicked little eyes. ‘You’re growing too fast. Boys who grow too fast become stupid and lazy.’

‘But I can’t help it if I am growing fast, Grandma,’ George said.

‘Of course, you can,’ she snapped. ‘Growing’s a nasty childish habit.’

As it happens, in the ensuing years I found my son adopted other ‘nasty childish habits’ growing boys seem to enjoy. I mentioned most of them to him in much the same way as George’s grandmother, not that it had any effect!

artworks-000327254838-3ctr91-t500x500

However, it is not childhood or growth or adolescence peccadillos I speak of today, but one of habits.

You see, like many other authors, my mind is constantly working overtime. Even when I am ignoring it, doing regular stuff like cleaning, gardening or shopping, it is whirring away noticing things, listening to other people’s conversations, reading notes, lists and phone screens over people’s shoulders and so forth.

It really is a bit of a rouge in many ways.

Rotational_symmetries_in_designs_produced_by_a_kaleidoscopeDSCN2440The thing is, those subconscious bits of my mind remember it all, record it and mull it over, twisting totally unrelated events, jiggling individual occurrences, shaking them together until a kaleidoscope pattern of instances which hold the possibility of illusory whimsy form.

This is when it digs a sharp elbow of attention into the soft kidneys of my platitude, painfully jerking my ‘normal’ daily thoughts away from the mundane and into the imaginative world of fantastical conception.

Last night, as I was going to bed, I felt the aforesaid sharp elbow ram painfully into the soft parts of my consciousness.

download

A voice in my head spoke excitedly to me.

 

 

“You know,” it started, “you write a fair bit about remembering the past, about nostalgia and stuff?”

“Um, yes,” I said, not sure where this was leading.

“Well, what about if people get all nostalgic because they survived it?”

“Survived it?” I questioned.

“Yeah.” The voice was shouting in my brain. “Think about it.”

“I’m going to bed,” I said. Trying to placate my thoughts.

“Yeah, but you’ll not sleep, not until you understand this.” The voice said sounding a little annoyed and a more than a little bit smug.

Of course, it was right. I needed to do this now, as tired I was. So, I grabbed a notebook and pen. I have several dotted around the house exactly for moments like this.

“Okay,” I said, “fire away.”

“How about if… people love the past, the recent past, like the times in and around their childhood because they lived through it, or most of it. They survived relatively unharmed. Well, they must have done or they wouldn’t be here now, would they?”

“Um, no,” I replied, “I suppose not.”

“So, just like in a good book, or a movie, where the hero rides off into the sunset at the end, that’s what you have done, along with everybody else who reminisces. You rode off into your sunset and arrived in the here and now.”

“Well, maybe, sort of.”

“I’m right. The past is where your parents were. They helped keep you safe, mended your cuts and bruises, kissed your grazed knees. It was home, comforting, warm. Your bedroom your inner sanctuary, guarded by your parents.”

79637890_122497579249252_8403536715001863355_n

“I guess so.” I was chewing my inner lip. Something I rarely do. “But not all memories are good ones, bad things happened too.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” my mind said, “I’m not talking about those bits. No one gets all sentimental over the bad stuff. We remember it when we must, but not in a nostalgic way. Nostalgia is reserved for nice memories.”

“I’ll go with that,” I said, nodding to myself.

“Well, that’s the key,” my mind continued.

“The key to what?” I asked.

“The key to writing something captivating in your books, especially when you’re basing them in the past, or have characters talking about ‘back when’ & ‘do you remember’ and stuff. It’s great for flashbacks, prequels and shit like that. Think about it.”

I was thinking about it.

“Even a futuristic story must have its past.”

I scribbled a few rough notes, odd aide memoir single word notes I could refer to later. (That later being now).

The thing is, after a good night’s sleep, a day carrying out family chores and a visit to the dentist for a clean & polish, I have mulled over my conversation with the excitable voice from last night and my conclusion is… I agree.

It makes a ton of sense for us to hold fond memories of good times. They could well be recollections of childhood events, maybe a loving mother tucking you into bed, possibly escaping an annoyed farmer when scrumping for apples, or like some of the memories I have written about previously, such as days out for a family a picnic or a train journey to the seaside; all exciting experiences for a child.

My teenage years hold more life events which have helped forge who I am today. Don’t get me wrong, I have instances of near-death, but… I survived to tell the tale. I did ride off into my sunset… although some moments may be more akin to crawling along a drainage ditch in inch thick cloying mud… but those tales are for another time.8ZXBf5MBEC-10

It’s called living life.

As an author, I feed on such memories, use them to build my fictional worlds, create my characters, lay plots and write scenes. It is a habit I’ve adopted.

Until now, until the conversation with myself, I did not consider why nostalgia, which is according to the dictionary, ‘A sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past; even one never experienced,’ is such a powerful apparatus to use to elicit emotion.

Now I have spent time complementing the reasons, it makes perfect sense and one I shall be far more aware of when employing it in my writings in the future.

So, while scrumping for apples and reading George’s Marvellous Medicine may be unconnected events, both in time and geographical distance, the voice in my head found a way to join them together into a cohesive entity.

You could say they were unconnected connections of habit.

Keep Happy, Paul


File2

I would love you to check out my books, you can see them all on my website, even those not available on Amazon, including exclusive hardcovers.

Don’t forget to look at my Electric Eclectic books, eBooks and Pocketbook paperbacks You can find them on my website or on @open24, the Amazon store for readers & writers

I am open to comments and communication, so feel free to contact me at pwauthor@mail.com or via Facebook.

fbhead

 

Do you share my literary DNA?

dna-

Now, here is the thing.

Do you believe your writing has been enriched and influenced by the books you have read?

If so, is it just the good books, the ones you love, the ones which made some connection with your soul?

Or… would you say the bad books have an equal hand in affecting your stories?

By ‘bad books’ I don’t mean the poorly written, but stories that aggravated, annoyed and even rasped on your sensitivities. The ones that you recall for the opposite reasons to those you loved, which means, in their own way, they too made a connection with your inner being.

So, did those bad books achieve the aim of their authors and if so, should we consider them good books for that very reason?

Something to ponder.

Here’s another matter for thought while on this topic.

I don’t write stories which have any direct connection with the books that made a mark on me. Like the historic African based fiction of Wilbur Smith; whose books I devoured as a teenager. My books are not based in history, in Africa or in any set time, as it happens.

41ESMEKARML._SL500_AA300_

Neither do I attempt to write like Criena Rohan, (Deirdre Cash), whose book, Down by the Dockside still resonates with me today.

16279954While I enjoyed such wonderful works as Catch 22, Life according to Garp, and Do not go Gentle, I have never tried to replicate those authors style or attempt to write in their chosen genre.

In fact, I write the only way I can; by scribing the thoughts and feelings flitting through my mind at any given time. Oh, and as quickly as I can, before those very contemplations disappear into the amnesiac blankness of absolute… now, what was it, where was I?

So, I wonder how much and how many of those authors I read, the ones who pen compositions of illusion, write of their imaginary netherworlds and create the fictitious lives of the characters inhabiting them, find their way onto the pages and into my own work, without my being aware of their presence.

Are we, us writers and authors, part of all those who have gone before? Do we inherit, by some magic, some mystery, a trace of another, many others, literary DNA?

WtIPV1small

Are our own stories part of a continuous evolution of literary nature? Are you, in therefore my brother, my sister, my sibling or, in that context, my child?

If so, are you writing my words, is your hand guided, even in part, by that which I have written before?

Or are my words part of you?

Now, there is something to contemplate.


Thank you for reading this post on Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

I do hope you will read at least one of my books, either an Electric Eclectic novelette or one of my prime works. All can be found on my website right, HERE

Keep Happy, Paul

Pub2

Where to Start?

pooh_bear_and_friends_by_karesilver-d4quhfq

I shall start this post with a quote attributed to that most literary of bears, Winnie the Pooh.

“The beginning is a very good place to start.”

I cannot agree more.

BUT…

Knowing where the beginning is, is not always as clear cut as many may think.

You see, your story, any story, must start somewhere, but that start is often not at the beginning.

Take yourself. Take a tale you told about yourself the last day you did something… silly/forgetful/made a mistake… whatever it may be.

Now, consider how you began to tell your tale the first time you related it.

I bet it was not at the beginning, at least not the real, the true beginning of the string of events which led you to such an occurrence.

First, you would, by our very nature of communicating, have plugged it with a strong opening statement, or a soft lead-in, dependant on whom you were telling the tale, be it your Boss, you Mother, BFF or Lover.

You may have said something along the line of…

“You know, Sally and I often go to the bar on Staithes Avenue? Well, we went this lunchtime and, you’ll never guess what happened….”

OR

“I’ve driven down that road for the over ten years and I have never before…”

MAYBE it was, “Oh, my goodness, you just have to listen to this…”

None of those are really the beginning of anything but are leads to an section which is part way through your story, one which, during its telling, you will flit back and forth in time, building your tale of joy or woe into as a believable an anecdote as you can manage/feel right in doing, according to the circumstance.

Therefore, the same story told in the office to your boss will differ slightly to the version you tell your colleagues, or your family, once you are in the comfort of your own home.

girls-talking-restaurant-windowIt will definitely not be as richly dressed as your recount of the occasion in the bar later that evening, or as detailed with the emotions you felt during its unfolding when you share it with your lover while lying in bed.

The same is true of our fictional novels and stories; because the way we perceive them as we write is only a version of the whole. What we feel today will alter by tomorrow. By the time we re-write ‘that’ section of the first chapter, our entire viewpoint has altered.

Therefore, what we once perceived as the beginning was, in fact, only a starting point for us to begin writing. The true beginning is still to reveal itself to us.

The matter is, we should never believe our own opinion during one sitting, but allow ourselves the opportunity to alter and change the picture we carry within our mind. Each time we reconsider our work we must see it in differing light, simply because we are not writing to entertain ourselves, but others.Bloods-Veil-page-one.png

Consequently, by revisiting our works and by teaching ourselves not to become immovably fixated on any factor of it, such as the juncture where we originally started to tell our tale, we can then see our story from the viewpoint of others, those who will read our story.

Once again, Winnie the Pooh says it well…

“When you are a Bear of Very Little brain, and you Think Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

We want other people looking at our work, it is, after all, the whole point of writing; yet we want them to understand, to feel and to ‘live’ our story, empathise with our characters and lose themselves from the real world into our fantastical fictional world, we want and need them to believe.

To do so, we must see our books through their eyes, not our own. If that means starting the story from another place, be it a location, another moment in time, a different character’s perspective, then we must change the start of our story to this new beginning.

It may still not be the real beginning, you may alter it again before publication, write a prologue, an introduction, a prequel, or another book which leads on, even in an abstract fashion, to this one.

The point is, there is no true ‘right’ place to start your story, even the true beginning of your own life was far, far before any human existed, so where would you begin to start that story?

Now, while I much admire the genius of Winnie the Pooh and agree, “the beginning is a very good place to start,” I often wonder where the start actually is.


Looking for more literary insights, articles and short stories? Then look no further. The Electric Press magazine is available to read right HERE, for free.

Electric PressMay2019pub (2019_01_08 20_58_35 UTC)

Inspiration does not have to be Pretty.

vampire1

A good writer has no need to look for inspiration and ideas, they will come flooding unto them.

The fact is, each moment of every day we are surrounded by a million and one stimuli which only need us to recognise their being. We must feel, hear, sense what is around us, what is happening in front of our eyes.

We must allow our perception to absorb, to let our mind create fiction and fantasy from implied interpretation. We must permit our creative seed to run wild.

nathanblog4-700x375I have written on this subject before, albeit from another perspective, in a post called The Curse of the Muse

 

This post is a little different.

A short while ago, possibly a good few months past, I read a post on a social media site from one of my connections. I think ‘friends’ is the general term used.

I was touched by the raw honesty of the post; so much I saved their words so I might use them as a basis for my own writing, either in situation or character creation.

I feel a little guilty for ‘stealing’ these heartfelt outpourings, yet, I am acceptive to the reasoning of creativity and the understanding of where, how and by what means we writers find our inspiration.

You see, most of my works, regardless of genre or setting, focus on our humanity, on social and personal interactions and on life itself.

The following is an edited version of the social media post mentioned. I am sure you will understand the reason it resounded with me, especially if you are a reader of my books and other works.

***

This is it… 

“This isn’t poetry.

It’s not placed on a pretty post.

There are no pictures to pull you in.

This is just me needing to vent and I suppose those who want to know will read it through; there are a few thousand of you, maybe more and I’m just this sickly, tiny, thing who is easy to overlook.

My life isn’t an open a book, but should the play ever be released it will read like a tragedy of comedic design, one that tears the heart and rips the mind.

Irony, you’ll find, is the underlying theme.

I was everything I was told I would be; yet with time viewed through a rear-view mirror, I am nothing which holds value beyond the front door and those therein are on their way out.

I’d leave too, but domestic skills, they don’t count and writing words has yet to pay the bills; besides, without a degree to back up the lines, there are those who say I’ve spent the last three years wasting my time.

It’s pride, I know, but I’m pushing four decades old and I’m not sure I’m equipped to go back to the shit I did before I became a mom and wife.

I mean no offence, but I’m better than a burger to flip, or the next bag of groceries to sack, my mind knows too much to do that any longer.

I could go back to school, try and educate, but what do I do with the stack of debt that’s all late?

I have no resume. That’s the cost, the loss, of being nothing more than a stay at home mom.

What now?

Who am I without the domestic, the wife, the parental role to play, day to day?

So much needs to change and I’m scared to death I’ve waited too late.

Surely this cannot be my fate?

Even this, the sound of my self-pity makes me sick; but this decline of mine, it didn’t happen overnight.

It wasn’t quick.

My worth was stolen by minuscule measures, so slender the slices, I failed to feel the knife and yet looking at my life there’s nothing left but a bloodied mess.

I should find my way out of this.

I’m not as weak as I seem, but at this moment, I am on my knees.

This is not who I am, but damn, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be.

I’m a little lost and there’s no one looking for me.”

***

I titled this blog post, ‘Inspiration does not have to be Pretty’.

It does not.

Neither do the resultant writings. But I genuinely believe our words should be honest, open and emotional. After all, these are the driving factors of life, our lives. It is what we all have in common, it is what we all respond to… even in fictional stories.

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings.


Please subscribe/follow this blog if you have not already done so. The button is on the top right of this page. I appreciate your support, Thank You.

Visit my website (HERE) to see my books, works in progress and other projects currently underway.

https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/artworks/boggleeyes
Selfie!

Moment of the Muse

How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot find a topic for your next piece?

I know many writers frequently struggle with finding subject matter. It is something I hear often via author groups and writing associations.

I am a prolific writer, yet have never suffered from either of the above.

Most often, I can be found tapping away on my keyboard as I continue my ‘works in progress’.

7283840-3x2-940x627

I usually have a few of these on the go at once; non-fiction, a novel, some short stories, a compilation, it is pretty much par for the course.

I have files called ‘stuff & stories to read’; ‘story Ideas & notes’; ‘more writing notes’; ‘other stuff’, and so forth. Each file has sub-files, documents, snipped pages, images, sticky notes and a plethora of summaries, transcripts, annotations, memoranda, footnotes and odd bits I am unsure what to call.

The overriding connection is, they are all my Aide-mémoires to moments.

Some of these notes were transferred from my notebooks. I tend to carry at least one notebook with me at any time, generally, a small flip-type book. If I am leaving the house for any length of time. On long journeys and holidays, I take several, so I always have one to hand.

The jottings in these books can be about a place, a view, something said to me, part of an overheard conversation, or an observation. I even have notes about signposts I find amusing or incoherent.

Other items have been stored from browsing the net, finding ‘stuff’ while researching something entirely different. Some are from messages, spam, sales emails and so forth.

Occasionally reading another’s story sets my mind racing along parallel paths, so I need to scribble down my thoughts of the moment. The result of the stories which develop from these are a far cry to the original stimulus, but sometimes one needs the initial jolt to send the imaginings down a certain pathway. image_block_full_iStock_68956147_XLARGE

These files also include part stories of various lengths. They are from a single sentence or paragraph through to several thousands of words… unfinished works if you wish.

Some are my deletions and edits of other work. The bits I cut out. The parts which did not make the final manuscript or published book. Waste not, want not. They can all be used again in one form or another.

But, the point of this post, each and every one of the notes in those files have come from a ‘moment’, a single moment I have experienced during my life.

After all, life is simply a matter of moments, one after another, after another, like the single frames of a cinematic film they whirr past us in a seemingly continues unbroken stream.

I believe great writing is having the ability to capture any one, or more, of those given moments and revealing its secrets, sharing them with all who will read your words.

Even the longest of novels is created by producing a string of ‘scenes’. Each scene depicting a moment.

Personally, I have a fondness for creating shorter stories, anywhere from about 250 words to, say, twenty or thirty thousand. My favourite though is around 2,500 to 6,000.

This proposes the challenge of making a captivating tale, one with a ‘proper’ beginning, middle and end, with so few words.

I feel the main test of writing such a short story is to examine the writer’s skill, in not only having a complete story but one which burns its presence, its being, into the mind of those reading it. A great story should ask questions, probe the beliefs, principles and convictions of the reader.

Which leads me back to the start of this post where I asked,

“How often do you struggle for something to ‘write about’? or face the so-called writer’s block because you cannot settle on a topic for your next story?”

My belief is you may be overthinking the issue.

Do not try and think of an entire story, of a whole scenario, before you put pen to paper. Just take one moment, one seemingly insignificant moment of your life and write about that.

Think about today. What has happened to you, with you, so far today?

It does not have to be anything exciting.

Not all stories need to have a romantic outcome or bloodshed, murder and mayhem splattered across their pages. The characters do not have to be heroes or superhuman, to have suffered or survived.

Ordinary people, people like you and I have stories to tell too. Try telling one or two of those. Stories and tales regular, normal people can relate to and understand.Article_wakeup_tired

What did you think of the moment you awoke today… write about that?

Expand on that.

Why were you thinking it, what does it relate to, who was involved, what will be the outcome, can you change it? Do you want to change it? Can you stop it changing? and so forth.

Become your character. Believe you are they. Wholly, totally convince your muse you are.

Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.

Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.

Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.

 

I’ll leave you with an instant.

A while ago, I read a social status in which a young lady was distressed regarding her writing.

It seems her family, particularly her father, not taking her wish to write seriously, held little interest in what she was writing about, suggesting it would be better if she wrote about him.

Of course, this is not what this young lady wanted to write about. She did not want to write about her father. She wanted to write about something she knew, something she understood.

But everything she had written so far was slighted by her own father. Not very supportive, encouraging or helpful.

This made it extremely problematic for her to choose a topic or subject which would not amplify the situation further.

I shall not repeat the derogatory remarks made or the well-meaning, but pathetic and ultimately unhelpful, words of comfort offered on social. But all the responses took this young ladies post on its surface merits.

The deeper conflict was her relationship with her family, particularly her father and the anxiety it created within her.

This stress was heightened by her desire to write something meaningful while not adding to the household turmoil. Yes, she could have written in secret, but it was obvious she wanted, even desperately needed the encouragement and backing of her family.

All this young girl was looking for was some reassurance. She needed positive reinforcement from her family.

I suggested she write exactly what she posted about. The conflict with her father, why she wished to write and why she wanted to write the things she did. How hurtful her fathers’ remarks were and how the lack of support was so dispiriting.

I proposed she then gave her family the manuscript to read and await a response.

She now has a new laptop her father bought for her writing and a small desk in the corner of the room where she can work uninterrupted.

This is a true story.

As I said above, my advice is;

Open your heart, let your soul pour forth. Be honest with yourself. Don’t force it.

Your story will come and it just may be the best thing you have ever written.

Grab the moment, grab the moment of the muse.


If you want to see my books, find out what I am working on or contact me, then visit my website, HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Associating the Oblique and Ambiguous.

 

Firstly, a note:jot_a_note

It is a while since I have written a post focusing on the process of creative writing.

The reason being, I have said much about other ‘stuff’ associated with authoring and publishing. Stuff I felt important enough to warrant writing about.

However, doing so led me away from the core value of this blog, which is to give, in my usual rambling and rather haphazard way, tips, advice and suggestions on improving one’s writing skills and understanding of authorship.

Those of you who follow me will know I do not write in a scholarly constructive fashion, because I do not consider myself a teacher or an authority of literary genius.

I prefer to allow indefinite abstract descriptions to suggest and evoke one’s own perceptions and introspection to convey the messages in each of these Ramblings.

In my heart of hearts, I believe the soul of the writer, the artist that lays within, is the greatest asset of all. No one can learn to write unwillingly; the writer must have love and passion above teaching and education.

A writer must want to write, above all else.

So, with those matters cleared away, I guess it is time to reveal what this article is about.


‘Association’

As a mass noun, the definition of this word, according to the Oxford English dictionary is, ‘The action of making a mental connection’.

Regarding fiction writing, I would take this two steps further and say it is, ‘The action of making a mental, sensory and emotional connection within one’s imagination’.

However, to create such a powerful, multi-sensory consanguinity within a reader’s mind, requires the writer’s understanding and needs them to be adept at wordsmithing.

To me, the word ‘wordsmith’ is a wondrous, self-describing noun.

Imagine standing before a blazing forge, gauntlet covered hands, leather apron, large metal tongs holding a glowing red-hot bar of iron. The other hand wielding a heavy hammer.

Smell the fire, the heat, hearing the Smithy as he pounds the almost molten metal into the shape of his choosing. Not an easy task, one which takes many re-heatings and coolings of the metal. One which takes countless strikes with the hammer against the solid block of the anvil before anything recognisable is formed from the raw metal.download

This is what I envisage when thinking of the word ‘wordsmith’.

My ‘association’ is with the hours of sweat and toil it takes to form a loose jumble of letters and scattered words into a coherent and meaningful sentence. To mould and form each word so it fits seamlessly with the next, so they all flow in a smooth, well-paced fashion to complete the paragraph.

The result of a Blacksmiths work is more than just flattened and twisted metal, it is a product purposely shaped into a functional object, decorated to enhance its appearance, creating an article of both beauty and reason.

Such should be our undertaking as writers. Our words should not only serve the functionality of revelation but create a pathway of beauty and intrigue for our readers to follow. Our tales should hold within their very form the pure essence of captivation, of fantastical fiction.

To do this we must weave that very essence, the distillate tincture of association within our words.

“That’s fine for you to say,” I hear you mutter.“But how do we do that?”

My answer is to consider the word this post is about, consider ‘association’. The association of words.

Now, many of you will be thinking ‘thesaurus’ because that is what a thesaurus is all about, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no.

You see, when I talk of word association I am not merely speaking of functional words you may find within dictionaries and thesaurus. Neither am I considering which words may be grammatically correct. I am talking about creativity, of creative writing. Of breaking the rules when it lends to better or even great storytelling.

Those among you who write poetry may, or at least should, have a greater understanding of the flexibility of words, how they can be moulded to convey more than their basic meanings. Particularly when two or more are used in conjunction, oblique, ambiguous or both.

Wordsmithing in fiction writing utilises what is learnt through the poetic principle, includes and encompasses it within the whole wordsmithing process.

As a way of explanation, I’ll take an excerpt from one of my short stories, ‘The Bridge‘, taken from volume three of my short stories collection, ‘Tales of Crime & Violence’

Out of context, I think this is a rather unremarkable excerpt. Even so, once studied while holding the concept of association in mind, its secrets are revealed.

The Humber Bridge is monumental. It is suspended by a mass of giant pythons, twisted metal cables one hundred feet above the sludge brown of the river. From tower to tower it is one mile and the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.

Yet, for all the earth destroying steel and concrete construction, the bridge has an illusion of beauty that is enhanced by nature itself. Somehow the two blend, even complement each other, an amalgamation of converse contraries.

h.bridge8766
The Humber Bridge

Firstly, the suggested size of the bridge is stated, in an emotional way, by using the word monumental.

It is then revealed to the reader this is a suspension bridge.

Using the term ‘mass of giant pythons’ is suggestive of and leads into the next sentence ‘twisted metal cables…’

Here are the first wordsmithing associations.

Most people know what a suspension bridge looks like. The story could be told by simply stating this bridge is a vast suspension bridge.

The following words about metal cables could have been just that ‘metal cables’. But the addition of ‘twisted’ is used specifically because of its association with the commonly held image of snakes.

We have now created an image in the reader’s mind of ‘giant twisted pythons holding up a bridge’. Which is a far better read than say, “a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables”.

To continue, the height of the roadway on the bridge is given, one hundred feet, so is the fact the bridge is above a river.

So, once more, the story could read “… a large bridge held up by steel suspension cables one hundred feet above a river…’ Which factually would be correct, although it does not make a very captivating or entertaining read.

Moving on, the incorporation of the words ‘sludge brown’ is purposeful. Not only to transfer the perceived visual perception of a dark river but to almost subliminally link back to the snake imagery by suggesting colour association while taking into consideration most people visualise a river as ‘winding’ or ‘twisting’. Another correlation.

While this imagery of bridges and pythons is building in the forefront of the reader’s comprehension, there is also the fact the author is creating an atmosphere of dark foreboding; or at least the idea of something ominous germinating.

Sludge brown, twisting, python, mass, all have links with the nefarious.

The next ‘s sentences structure reinforces this unease.

The factual description of the bridge is given, but this is enhanced by a form of predicate which strengthens the sinister. “… the road continues to reach out from there, grabbing the riverbanks with blackened tarmac and concrete fingers.”

Reaching out, grabbing, blackened, fingers; all strong adjectives which focus on creating a sensory awareness of the underlying drama.

While a person may not be fully aware why, or what effect these words are having as they read, you can bet your bottom dollar their subconscious will. Personal and social belief, acquired by myth, legend and the silver screens of Hollywood has conditioned us to be susceptible to even the slightest of suggestive input.

It is also a long-proven fact when one reads, they absorb far more, far quicker than by any other method of communication.

The above example is a rather direct and implicit one. But there are stronger yet more oblique instances.

Like these, from my poem ‘Doorway’

20090227001613_2008-08-17_0542-1-

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Simple. A wooden frame. Harsh nails, forged from iron, blood and sweat in the furnace of forgotten hopes. Spikes driven deep, driven through, splintering the flesh of being, binding into cold stone of indifference. Hanging forever, bearing the pain for an eternity.

But not so simple. A sign, a warning, a barrier. Invisible in its presence of possibilities lost, scorned, unfound, unbelieved. Open but empty, a nothingness that stops you dead in your tracks.

Division.

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

Lost or gained or never had. Can you lose what was not? Can dreams die or do they fade away; decompose as out our living bodies rot with age upon our bones.

What is there, beyond the gaping opening of the way?

Future, or past repeated. Mirrored fears steeped in time, awaiting our return from where we have never been. A destination desired by myth, by greed of those who will not step this way, cowering in the shadows of mediocrity, of sallow existence, of being too far from any door to be truly known, except by repeated words, all meanings lost in the whisper of time, misinterpretations and vague comprehension.

What ifs lay as a carpet of likelihoods, a vastness of possibilities, probabilities, stretching away to the rims of risk and horizons of chance; choices to be made, taken, grasped or passed up.

Prospects scorned or lies waiting to trip the unwary traveller, to crush your skull, your hopes, your faiths until they crumble into a dust of inferiority until your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience.

Know your place.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck. Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

How long the openness. How soon the slam of too late shall shut out the light from the other side, of this side or that, or the other, and so vice-versa. Versa-vice.

Sounds vanished, diminished. New hope runs down our legs, incontinent imaginings puddling beneath our feet, wasted.

There is no return. Time flows by, constant. There is only now, just then, what was. Already you are too late, it has gone. Stealing away those possibility’s which once were yours and now belong to another. Maybe not yet born. A foetus of stardust, a twinkle of forlorn wishes.

Maybe they will be the ones who shall hesitate at the gates of option and chance. Maybe they will settle for comfort and the familiar and choose not to stumble blindly into the realm of the unknown?

Or maybe they shall pass this way, step through the door and into the future of destiny without looking backwards?

This side or that.

In or out.

With, without or within. Feast on the cornucopia of having or scrabble naked in the dry dust of want. Birthright or luck? Fertilised or barren.

Life or death.

You choose.

..

Without getting too bogged down in technicalities, (not my thing), I will just highlight a few instances from the above, and then leave you to read and re-read the above poem and find the associated words which link together to create the stories own vibrancy.

First, ‘cowering in the shadows of mediocrity’.

One may expect to read ‘Cowering in the shadows,’ I am far from the first to write those words in that order. But then consider the use of ‘mediocrity’, it is not generally expected in this framework.

What are the shadows in your story associated with? Think of an indirect but implicit word and use that or another to suggest the ‘feeling’ you wish to create. Pair words which are oblique or ambiguous to create new meaning, to create the atmosphere you intend.

Forget about those ‘rules’. Ignore the grammar check in word or Grammarly or whatever. There is no substitution for the mind.

Secondly, take ‘your knees bleed on the cold stone floor of humbleness and subservience’.

This conveys a strong message from the initial simplicity of what may be expected until the string ‘humbleness and subservience’ appear in conjunction with the rest of the sentence. Those reading are expecting something far simpler, say ‘the castle, or maybe ‘the house’. But inserting ‘humbleness and subservience’, leads the mind to immediately think of servants kneeling on the cold stone floor.

Linked with the previous segment of the paragraph that mentions prospect, lies and faith the ambiguity is one of suggested religion and loss of belief or at least a trial of personal conviction.

Often when using oblique association, or creating one in such a way, it strengthens the powerfulness of the imagery formed.

imagesIf this includes creating your own metaphors or making new words do so. Shakespeare did not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by only using the accepted words of his time.

Using this ‘sideways’ form of association, not only in poetic context but in storytelling, can produce a weighty and influential transcript that will hook the reader both openly and subliminally.

Good storytelling is not just about style and content; it is not all about narration, it is not simply getting all your words in order, it is all of this melded cohesively and working in harmony throughout the entire structure of your manuscript.

It is about modelling the words you use, moulding and melding them to conceive something new, something uniquely yours, it is about practised and proficient wordsmithing.

When editing, read, re-write and work each individual sentence. Hone it, sharpen it, until it has its own perfect edge and then move onto the next.

Never skip a word, examine each one; examine its place in the sentence and change it, one word by one word, sentence by sentence, polishing and shaping and forming each little detail until every sentence is a magical story in itself.

Do the same time again and again, until every detail shines clearly.

Only then will your tale truly deserve to be called your ‘finished’ work.

Anything less is less.


The first excerpt in this post was taken from ‘Tales of Crime & Violence, a three-book collection.

You can get yours by following the links below.

UK http://amzn.to/2zZFWFN

USA  https://goo.gl/Q0DXRq

oie_transparent