About:  Questions on Editing.

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I often see writers asking for an editor on social groups.

Frequently the post asks for ‘someone’ to ‘help edit’ or ‘look over’ their book. (Which is not a book at all just a manuscript and more often than not, only part of a first draft.)

Occasionally the person posting may ask for a ‘beta reader or editor’.

The common factor is, to the eyes of an experienced author or publisher, the people asking have no idea who they need, what skill set that person should have or, indeed, the actual reason they need ‘someone’ to ‘edit’ their work, which, in all honesty, will be a far cry from the thoughts they hold when they ask the question in the first instance.

This naivety is not wrong. We have all been novice writers.

However, my issue is twofold.

Firstly; whilst inexperience throws up challenges and situations one has not encountered previously, we live in an age of information, of high-speed access to seemingly limitless data.

It is simple to research almost any subject using the interweb.

Therefore, the questions posted should, at the very least, show some understanding, reflect some basic perception of the subject enquired.

My second issue is; those who openly show such naivety are susceptible to exploitation by those who prey on the gullible and there are many sharks swimming in the social media pond.

Too many times do I hear or read about a writer paying a large fee for very little, if any, return or results from the promises made by charlatans and thieves.

Too many times, do I see indie authors and newbie writers fall foul of ‘schemes’ run by the scammers who scoured the internet looking for those types of naïve questions.

Don’t get me wrong.

We all need help and to ask questions from time to time. But please, research first. Do some homework beforehand, so when you do ask, if you still need to ask, you can define your question to specifics.

This will not only deter many of those sharks looking for easy prey but will allow genuine respondents to answer your queries more accurately and with alacrity.

Nuff said.images 

Now, here are twelve, yes, twelve editorial roles.

Okay, I am being a little loose with the term ‘editorial roles‘, but I am doing so in response to the type of questions asked on social media, the ones which prompted me to write this article in the first instant.

The first two roles, possibly three, of the following are not, at least officially, considered ‘editors‘ in the true sense of the word.

The reason I have added them here is they do or at least can form critical roles in the process of readying a manuscript for publication.

 

The first is the oft-misunderstood role of the Beta Reader.

Beta readers are people you ask to read your work, often at a relatively early stage, to get their opinion.

Experienced authors will give each beta reader a certain task and will often create a questionnaire for them, ensuring the author gets the correct form of feedback they request.

Beta readers are initially chosen from the public, as volunteers. Often authors build up relationships and trust with several readers and ask them to review on a frequent basis.

However, there is a rather scary rise of the ‘professional’ beta reader. This is someone who will charge you to read your work on the premise of ‘experience’. It is doubtful they will hold any editorial, journalistic or academic qualifications.

This anomaly of the growth of the ‘professional beta reader’, is due to Amazon clamping down on ‘paid for/professional’ book reviews.

Those people have simply changed the way they operate, the outcome is as false and as fake as it ever was.

My advice; give them a wide berth. No, even wider than that… RUN in the opposite direction, fast!

 

The second is the frequently overlooked Critique Partner.

A critique partner tends to be a writer, or experienced author, who coaches another writer to help raise the quality of their work.

Not a true editor but will undoubtedly play a part in identifying editorial issues as the work progresses.

You only need a critique partner for guidance when developing a story for publication.

 

I find this a ‘dodgy term‘, Online Editor.

Basically, the term ‘online editor’ includes anyone you can find online to look over your content.

The people who call themselves online editors are most likely freelancers and their skill sets will vary enormously.

If you hire an online editor, it will be in your own interest, both financially as well as regarding peace of mind, to ensure they are well-versed in the type of editorial work you are employing them to undertake.

AND… I cannot say this clearly enough. Be certain they are qualified AND experienced to edit in the language you require. For instance; even a well sort American editor may not fare well with a British English work.

Some online editors are genuine professionals with qualifications and a good client list. Others may not know one end of a pencil from the other.

Okay, that is those three out of the way. Now the list of professional editorial roles.

A Commissioning Editor.

Sometimes referred to as an Acquisition Editor.

These people are the ones who look for books and/or articles for publication.

This is the person you address your enquiries to should you not use an agent or if you are a freelancer who wishes to pitch an idea.

Commissioning Editors are generally employed by organisations and companies and have little to do with the indie community.

 

The Developmental Editor. 

Developmental editors work with writers to get their manuscript ready for publication.

If you need guidance on moving your story forward, it is the developmental editors place to help. They will also aid you in producing a manuscript to a publisher’s house style or preference.

Some Developmental Editors are also professional ghostwriters.

 

Content Editors is the role most writers refer to when speaking of an ‘editor’.

Content Editors consider all the writing encompasses.

Regarding fiction, a Content Editor takes a full overview of the story. They will highlight inaccuracies and suggest changes to the plot, the characters, settings, locations and such.

 

Copy Editor.

Copy editors, also known as Line Editors. Occasionally these are also Content Editors, look at everything from the factual content to the writer’s use of grammar and the formatting of the manuscript.

These editors can and often do, do it all.

Often whatever they find will go back to the Content or Developmental Editor who will make, or advise the writer, to make certain changes to the work.

 

The Proofreader.

While you can ask friends and fellow writers to read your work and pick up any errors, nothing beats a good, experienced and qualified proof-reader, not Spellchecker or even Grammarly, ProWritingAid, WhiteSmoke or GingerSoftware combined.

A Proofreader will look over your content, usually after it has gone through the other stages of editing. This means a Proofreader is the last type of editor in the chain of editing.

Major publishing houses contract proofreaders for a final perusal of a book just before it is due to go to press after it has been typeset and formatted. This is to pick up any glaring grammar and punctuation errors created during these processes and any that have been missed previously.

Generally, a proofreader will not give feedback on quality, content or development.

 

This is not one many indie authors will use. Associate Editor.

Associate editors mainly work for newspapers or magazines. This position is also called the ‘section editor.’

Associate Editor often has the same type of responsibilities as an Acquisition Editor in that they seek stories or content for publication, but it is more often limited to a set area, such a politics, celebrity or world events and so on.

 

Contributing Editor.

Contributing editors usually work with publishers of magazines and newspapers. An older term not used so much nowadays is that of Roving Editor or Editor at Large, both mean the same thing.

Some indie authors and writers may cross paths with a Contributing Editor should they write articles for publication in magazines or newspapers on or offline.

 

Chief Editor.

Also, Executive Editor. The person in overall in charge of articles, story and/or content. They are the ones responsible for the final product.

 

Editor-in-Chief.

The Editor-in-Chief oversees the editing department and manages the other editors.

They are responsible for maintaining the voice of the publisher’s imprint, upholding its philosophy and mission.

I hope this clarifies the editorial roles and where they apply to indie authors.


Paul White has produced two books especially to help writers and authors of all abilities to make the most of their resources.

Each of these books is crammed with facts and information which answer most of the questions posted to writers and author groups on social media. 

These books contain tips and links to many author resources. Download your copies of The Frugal Author and Lots of Author Stuff you Need to Know right here, right now.

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Where to Start?

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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)

Why reviews don’t count for much… unless…

I am not above posting articles which could be classed as controversial, such as this one, because I think it is a writer’s duty to bring into the open topics which can be discussed and debated among one’s peers.

Therefore, your comments and viewpoints are most welcome, even if they are incorrect!

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Many indie authors tend to ‘chase’ reviews for their books.

Many more coerce family, friends, co-workers, fellow authors and the like to write a ‘good’ review, even a ‘five-star’ review for their newly released novel(la).

After which, the race is on, posting to social networks, giving away volumes of volumes, (pun intended), to gain several more one or two lines like:

I loved this book, you will too.”

Or

I spent all day reading this book as I was sick in bed. It is good as I spent all day reading it and have only just finished reading it after all day. I liked it alot.”

(YES, these are genuine ‘review’ quotes I stole from the internet.)

There are those which babble on about very little, and end up with lines such as:

“Five stars from me.”

While others focus on the ‘writers’ style and what they ‘got wrong’ and what they, [the reviewer] personally agreed with, so ‘sorry’…

I can only give this book three and a half stars.”

It all makes me chuckle, especially as many of the self-righteous sounding comments, I hate to term them as reviews, are written either by self-proclaimed literary reviewers or by a paid-for review service.

Neither of the above being literary or journalistically trained, none can be classed as successful authors in the ‘household’ name sense, and none have any doctorate or master’s degree in the art of book reviewing.

All which is self-explanatory, when considered in the cold light of day.slepatdesk

 

Now, personally, I believe the time and investment an author puts into creating a book, the concept, planning, writing, re-writing, editing, cover design, re-writing, formatting, proofreading and so on, is enough money spent.

Once the book is published, the idea is it starts to return the investment made. (see The Frugal Author for details.) It is NOT the time to be paying someone, often with little talent, to scribble a few badly drafted, ill-advised comments and call such a review.

It is NOT.

Neither will their comments give any true credence to your book’s status, even if they say a ‘seven-star’ review… or a ‘ten thousand star’ review… they mean absolutely next to nothing, if not less.

One reason is, ‘stars’ or even the concept of ‘stars’ hold no value. There is no academically, or commercial accepted value to these ‘stars’.

They hold NO value, because any Tom, Dick or Harry… or Sharon, Karen or Portia for that matter, can ‘award’ these ‘stars’ to anyone for any reason whatsoever.

Recently, there has been many a disgruntled an author complaining to Amazon because they removed several ‘reviews’, or disallowed others from appearing on the Amazon book pages.

imagesThis is a good thing.

 

I SHALL EXPLAIN WHY.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the coerced reviews, those from friends and family etc.

Now, consider the facts.

Anything any of these people write, as so-called reviews for your book is, by the very nature of its inception, biased.

Therefore untrustworthy.

Given these untrue reviews, any person buying the book ‘off-spec’ and finding the reviews posted were false, will most often leave a scathing review of their own, which will often impact with a far greater force than a dozen fake reviews could ever deliver.

The author will then run the risk of being classed as fraudulent.

Which is one of the reasons why Amazon have, and are, clamping down on the reviews they allow to be presented to their potential customers.

This is something I fully support.

One more thing to seriously consider regarding friends, family and colleagues.

IF… and I mean IF your friends and family really want to help you succeed, if they really want to help with the sales of your book, the best and MOST effective way is the simplest… for them to buy a copy of your book. Not a free copy, not a discounted edition, but actually buy, at the full retail price, a copy of your work.

This will increase your book’s exposure and move it higher up the rankings with almost immediate effect. This alone is worth more than a mass of fake reviews.

IF they don’t or won’t buy your book, you will know who your true friends are and which members of your family truly support your efforts.

(Or you will find your book is so bad even your nearest and dearest do not want to read it.)

Either way, it will save you a ton of long-term heartache.

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The second point is, ‘paid reviews’.

To pay a person to review your book is worse than asking your Mum to write something nice about it.

As with the family and friends’ gig, paid reviews are fake.

They are false because the reviewer has a vested interest to keep you happy. After all, you are paying them and they want your money again in the future when you ask them to read your next book.

Also, they [the reviewer], will not want you posting remarks about their ability or aptitude regarding reviews. So, they will keep you, the author sweet by writing nice, or at least a less critical review of the book in question.

BUT… here are a few things to consider.

Amazon is cracking down on paid-for reviews and will be doing so again, soon.

They know ‘who is who’. They do this by monitoring who, where from, when and how reviews are written and posted.

So, you could be risking your hard-earned cash on a review no one will see because Amazon will either refuse to publish it or they will remove it soon after it shows on your books page.

Secondly, many so-called ‘professional’ reviewers boast about the number of books they review in a year.

Many of these numbers would mean the books have to be speed-read to manage those figures. So, the reviewer will never read your book in the same manner as a ‘normal/regular’ bookworm.

There are some who have a pool of readers, each of whom gives their comments to the principal reviewer, who then uses standardised templates, altering a few words here and there to ‘personalise’ the ‘review’ of your book.

Not that it matters to the reviewer, they don’t care about you or your book, they just want their fee.

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Gimme your cash

Genuine reviews are given by people who read your book without any other reason than something attracted them to it.

It could be the cover, the back-cover blurb, the ‘look inside’, a book trailer you have on YouTube or a post you made on social… it matters not.

What matters is their review will be honest and unbiased.

This is the ONLY form of review which has any genuine validity whatsoever, be it the one-liner which says,

“I liked this author & want to read more.”

Or the long form of essay, sometimes greater in length than the book reviewed which ends in,

“I give this book five stars.”

See, I told you anybody could give you five stars.

That is why reviews don’t count for much… unless.


Do you, as an author, want to know and understand more about the ‘Stuff’ of being indie, about books, the publishing and printing processes?

Then you need to download ‘Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know’ right now.

AuthiorStuff

Inspiration does not have to be Pretty.

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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.


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

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Why author’s should listen to the radio more often.

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Okay, so this is another long (and boring) title for a post.

But you know what? I have found oblique or inferred titles do not get the views, irrespective of how well thought out those titles may be, and regardless of the quality of the post’s content.

Possibly, this is because many readers just ‘don’t get’ them? Or it maybe it is because people think the writer is being ‘a bit too clever’?

So, here I am with a plain statement for a blog post title. At least this way you get the gist of what the article is about… or do you?

Read on to find out…

I am a regular listener of the radio. I don’t just mean music radio, the odd quiz show or sport. I am referring to ‘talk’ radio, interviews, articles and in-depth discussions.

Serious radio, if you like to call it that.

I got hooked on listening to this sort or broadcast some years back when I did a lot of driving. Sometimes music becomes monotonous; there are times when even your favourite and most loved tracks won’t cut the mustard.

Then you have the ‘Radio Presenters’, we used to call them DJ’s back in the day.

But that was when DJ’s were star celebrities, when everyone and, I mean everyone, knew their names because they were bloody good at entertaining and engaging all who were tuned in.

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Unlike the inane, immature, crass drivel which spouts from the mouths of the current drove of unprofessional, clearly uneducated people who host many a radio shows, both on national and local stations.

Okay, rant over. Back to the article…

When you have many miles to drive, listening to intelligent and informative conversation, presentation and debated opinions is often welcome company.

I have found many a premise for a new story, or a character base, or a situation to set my tales within, by listening to such programmes. Some of those inspirations are still with me, unused. Some are notes, other simply bullet points, an aide memoir waiting to be built upon at some future date.

Others have found homes, they are now part of my story worlds awaiting the next reader to uncover their being.

Yes, one’s muse may be triggered by many things. All writers, I am sure, gain inspiration from a million stimuli each and every day; films, TV, magazines, social media, overheard conversation, observed actions… the list is limitless.

BUT…

For me listening to the radio has become a prime source for stimulating my creative juices.

I think this is because when one listens exclusively, that is without accompanying visual input, the mind can focus more accurately, its subconscious, or semi-conscious, concentration allowed to fix, to centre on the words alone without distraction.

Yes, when driving the main emphasis and attention is clearly applied to controlling the car and reacting to all which is around you. However, your cognitive ability allows another part of your mind to absorb and assimilate the information you hear, clearly and precisely, without conflicting with the prime task in hand, that is your driving.

When I hear something of interest, I take a mental note of the time, channel and programme name, so when I am home, I can go to the broadcaster’s website and re-run the article I heard earlier. It is then I make my written notes and detailed memos.

Allow me to give a couple of examples by way of explanation.

 

The following is from an earlier post, (January 2015), called ‘Subject Matter’. https://wp.me/p5nj7r-2H

A few days ago, while driving home I tuned into a programme which was delving into the issue of female autism. This report was enlightening enough regarding the subject itself. I found it full of stimulating information which I could, and still can, use in my future writings.

However, one statement touched my heart to such a degree I knew I had found a wonderful gem of inspiration.

One of the experts discussing this condition told of his interview with a young sufferer who, upon being diagnosed, said to her doctor, with much relief;

“For all my life it felt as if I had a black spot inside of me. I thought it would never go away”.

That one simple sentence was, for me, like finding a pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow. Those of you who are artistically minded will, for certain, understand the enormity of such a stimulus.

Another example, which I have already taken advantage of, by writing a poem called ‘My heart’, was during a play where one of the lines was about skeletons ‘kissing with their skulls’.

I wrote the following poem shortly after arriving home that evening.

Here is that poem.

skeleton-sex-energy-transfer

My Heart

My heart is a grave for lovers

Where skeletons embrace ever crumbling lust,

And skulls kiss in breathless anguish.

 

Scarlet blood long soaked into the ashes,

Forgotten passions abandon, the cast-off flesh,

Sensuous agonies of the soul

Haunt faded moments embezzled by time.

 

Rise up from the earth,

Stand upon your tombstone,

Seek your absent self, your withered spirit

Wandering aimlessly in immortal eternity.

 

But look not within my heart,

For it is but a grave for lovers.


This poem and many others can be found in my book Shadows of Emotion.

Shadows of Emotion (kindle)

         Shadows of Emotion  (Paperback)         

OR simply paste, ISBN-13: 978-1500510312 into your Amazon search bar.

 

 

 

 

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’.

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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.

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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’

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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

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When I am not writing…

“What do authors do when they are not writing?”

This is a question I asked myself while pottering about in the garden.

It may seem like a simple question, one which has a very simple answer; the likes and the things we do listed, almost ‘bullet-pointed’ as a reply.

Sure.

That’s fine, for most people.

But I am an author, a writer. To me, even those simple answers have hidden depths, more meaning and a thousand stories each to be told.

Here is where my writer’s mind went after I asked myself that question…

I know what I do, but I wondered if that was ‘just me’?

You see, I love travelling. I love to explore other countries, sampling their food, their culture, being amazed at wonderful vistas, cascading waterfalls, crazy cities, wild traffic and such.

I also like to travel around Britain, the place I live. So far, my favourite areas are the Highlands & Western Isles of Scotland.

The road to Oban
The road to Oban ©paulwhite2017

The Llyn peninsular in Wales gets better and better the further west you travel. The very best being Aberdaron and Bardsey Island.

Looking out, towards Bardsey

I reside in Yorkshire, the county known as ‘Gods Country’ for its stunning landscapes.

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Gods Country

I originate from the south and was lucky enough to have lived in Kent, called the ‘Garden of England’, which kind of speaks for itself.

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The Garden of England

All in all, I love nature; landscapes, coastal areas, animals, plants, and grand views. I like red wine, cold beer, fine whiskey, food and some good company.

To my mind this is what home is all about, making a comfortable place with hints, reminders and touches of all the things you love. Pictures and photographs of loved ones, trinkets and ‘tat’ from all those places you have visited; be it a foreign country or the local park, it’s those little inconsequential, yet sentimental items, like a shell collected from a beach, a pebble from a mountain path or a serviette from ‘that’ café.

In a way that is what our homes are for, storing and sharing all those little things which bring back the memories from a life well lived.

We can also make our homes reflect the things which make us… us. Especially, at least for me, in the garden, the garden in which I was pottering when I first asked myself the question I am writing about now.

In this instance, I have ninety per cent completed a project I started about three weeks ago.

In one corner of my garden was a derelict, rotted and neglected raised ‘deck’. I built the deck about ten years or so ago from reclaimed scaffolders boards and, I must admit, was proud of the outcome.

The said deck, (holding tables, chairs, potted plants and lighting), hosted many ‘al fresco’ lunches and dinners, served as a ‘buffet’ table during garden parties and barbecues it even became an improvised office for my writing on the days the sun shone and the rains held off.

But, as many structures constantly exposed to all weathers, it slowly degenerated, until it was little more than a rickety load of planks balancing precariously on a few rotten cross-members.

After laying unused and unloved for so long I decided to rip it up, replacing it with raised-bed vegetable plots and a small seating area.

Partly this decision was to do with the ‘stuff’ I wrote about earlier, the travelling to places, the sampling of food and wine and such like.

You will see in the following photographs I have placed my potted vines along the wall. These have never produced any edible grapes or enough to make even a single glass of wine, not here in England, not with our weather. But they do grow some large and tender leaves which are perfect for making dolmades, one of those foods I first ‘found’ on my travels many years ago.

I have made one deep growing bed and two shallow beds. The idea is to grow ‘root’ vegetables, such as carrots, parsnip, onion and sweeds in the deep one, leaving the shallow beds for the vegetables that grow ‘upwards’; beans, peas, sprouts, lettuce and so forth… once the soil has been delivered, which is about all I need now to complete my task, hence it is only ninety per cent complete.

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The path to the new vegetable garden passes the fish pond (left)
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Raised beds awaiting soil, the seating area (far left) will get chairs soon
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Note the vines and fig tree against the wall.

I already have an area for soft fruits and yesterday harvested a bumper crop of particularly sweet and sticky Gooseberries, the ‘Brambles’ (Blackberries) are beginning to set fruits and so still have many flowers.

This then, is my answer to my own question, “what do writers do when they are not writing?”

For me it is often gardening, but not simply for gardening’s sake.

Its for relaxation, creativity, frugality, satisfaction and for good food, healthy unadulterated food which I and or my wife will turn into some amazing dishes or preserves; some that will bring memories of a time, a trip or a place, flooding back, or maybe excite us, as we look forward to the next travel experience we have planned.

These are the sort of things I do when not sitting alone, isolated, eyes glued to the screen and scribbling away like a manic… I’ll let you finish that line!

However, I am curious to know what you do when you are not writing, please, let me know so I can be sure it is not ‘Just me’.

Keep Happy, Paul.


Don’t forget to visit my website, http://bit.ly/paulswebsite where you can find my latest books, including my Electric Eclectic Novelettes.