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When a ‘day off’ writing means writing my novel March 28, 2012

Posted by mattfarmer in Copy writing, writing.
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I was joking around yesterday saying – hey! I have a day off writing! I am going to do my novel! It was all funny, until I thought – no that is the wrong way of thinking about my novel. It is not something I put aside for downtime, or casual writing Fridays. It is a piece of writing which deserves its own importance along with the rest of my collective workings.

The reason I felt like this, however, was after week of writing a tender for a furniture company, it felt easier to sit in the realm of fiction writing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing the tender writing gig. I literally spent 10 hours writing on Tuesday last week. I had emails and discussions going back and forth with the client, with re-writes, additions, and such. I was even working on the weekend to get my BNI Newsletter out. I also arrived home on Monday night, after a terrible game of basketball, to find an email requesting a complete table of contents and that they needed the document first thing in the morning, Tuesday.

It was a lot of work, and work I enjoyed. I don’t think I have worked that hard, as a writer, for a long time. I am now holding my writer’s breath until May, I think, to when the Tender results are in. That will be a measure of how successful I was in my efforts. Not the only measure, since I stuck to the task, wrote a lot of hours and got the job done, on time and as the client requested.

I got a few thousand words out with my novel though. It felt good. I had left it for a week, and I was feeling a little guilty, but it was nice to know it was still waiting for me. Strange language to use, I know, but sometimes, when you leave a piece of writing for too long, it can seem like a stranger to you and you have to read it again, to get to know it, before you can engage with it again.

I have had to find another editor today. My previous editor has now become unavailable. Good luck to her I say. My new editor works for lollipops, free books and the chance to pick my brain. I think she is getting the better half of this deal.

I am at the final part of the story now. Re-writing has been a positive experience for me. I have been merciless in the cutting of chaff. Two pages explaining a dead character’s history and family? GONE! Physical comedy about waking up and banging your head on the side of the boat? GONE! Long conversation about motives for being in Thunderfall? HALF GONE! And while I love a bit of fluff, I can see the story is actually moving along at a faster pace, a better pace. This is good. I am building a better book, rather than just changing words in the story as I rewrite.


What’s in a genre? What’s in a name? March 18, 2012

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I have been receiving positive reviews this week. Two people posted reviews in Smashwords, I received a comment from a friend through email, which was funny and honest:

I will admit to starting to read the book out of ‘politeness’ (I said I would, so I was) and I really got into it. Don’t tell me that I have to wait for the rest (I was intolerable when the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out – I had to wait a *whole* year to see the next instalment!!! Now the Hobbit looks like it is going to do the same thing – Agggggg!!!!)

You should be really proud of your book – It is definitely publishable material (in my humble opinion!). Try to remember us little people when you get famous 😉

And I was chatting to my old university and writing friend, online, about the book. She is notorious for wielding the red pen with abandon on my work. And while she says there are some niggles still there for her (it wouldn’t be her if it she told me it was utterly perfect), she was extremely happy with what I produced from the original. It read clearer, motivations for characters were clearer and stronger.

However we did get into a discussion as to if my story was true steampunk or not. I say it is magical steampunk, but when it comes to categorising, that doesn’t fit too well. ‘TRUE’ steampunk…. is it Victoriana? Gentlemen in suits with top hats and ray guns, riding steam-powered machinery, with their ladies by their side, silken gloves, corsets and ray guns as well? Or is it the wild west frontier, of an alternate history, with automaton horses, ankle length coats, cowboy hats and goggles and six shooters with dials and gauges stuck on the side?

I have mentioned before that I like the genre of steam punk as it is new and emerging and can encompass so many different things. And yet, it seems those differences which makes other people claim- no that is not steam punk.

My friend and I settled on the term magitech. I like that word. It tells you there’s magic and there’s technology and somehow they are linked. However, it’s not a term people would go searching for, and hence that may impact on sales. So while I agree my book could lean towards this new word, I have labelled it ‘steampunk’ because that is what people will search for.

I do not think this is me selling out. It is going to be hard enough to point people in the direction of my book when it goes on sale. I don’t want to further hamper those efforts by calling it something that not many people have heard of before. Now, when I become popular and well known and people begin to buy my books because of my name, then I will have no problem saying it is colourist theory futuristic interior design retro punk. A new genre! As long as it is a strong story no one will really care what genre I call it. They will be searching for my NAME, not a genre.

Case in point. ‘Perdido Street Station‘. When I first encountered this book I did not know what steampunk was, not really. I had heard rumours. But I was told this book was really good steampunk. So  I read a book which had artificial intelligent junkyard robots, remade prisoners blended with machinery, often in twisted and horrible ways. I read a story about weird and wonderful creatures, an insect-headed woman having a perfectly normal relationship with a human. A blend of magic and technology. And I loved it.

And then I find out that it is not ‘true’ steampunk because it doesn’t have a Victorian feel to it, or is not set in the new west. There is a lot of internet rage over this, and it is rage I am going to avoid. I have heard this book described as ‘urban-gothic’, ‘dark urban fantasy’, ‘weird fiction’ and ‘science-fantasy’. So which box of genres does it go? Or has it created its own new box?

I know that genres were originally invented so book stores knew where on the shelf to place their books, and how to point customers to them. And this idea of genre has become a part of us over the years. Think of this scene- a man about to go to work, is in a diner having coffee and pan cakes. He has been flirting with the waitress for a few weeks now. She knows it too, and she thinks he is cute. This time as she hands him the bill, she puts her number on the ticket and gives it a kiss, leaving lip stick marks. So, this is a romance story, yes? Boy meets girl and romance ensues? It would go there on the shelf with other romance novels.

The next scene shows the man stepping into a mining vessel and launching out to mine the ice rings of a gas giant planet in a far away in a binary star system on the edge of human settled space. Now it is science fiction, and goes on another shelf. Even if this mining ice thing is a just a small part of the story, and it focuses on the building relationship between these two people and the trials and tribulations they have, this book is now science fiction. Because it has space ships.

I accept the need for genres. It gives the book an anchor, a starting point from which to grow. When I started to write ‘The Girl From Out of Town’ I said to myself that I wanted to write a steampunk novel. And while I stuck to some conventions- the mechanical golems are powered by steam, there are sky ships which also have steam engines to power jets, the story which grew naturally, had dragons in it. It had magic in it. It was set in my own created world. It had dimensional travel and demons in it. And yet I still consider it steampunk, although now I may be leaning towards magitech.

But Steampunk works for now. People can search for it and go from there. It is a good STORY, which is what it should be first and foremost.

Act 2 re-written and being reviewed March 10, 2012

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I has been a full-on week for me. Novel work, copy writing work, an education about what happens when a client isn’t happy. All good stuff really.

I finished Act 2 re-write this week. It felt more like a first draft, maybe version 1.2, rather than a full version 2.0. Some tweaks to the plot and story in Act 1 flowed through to Act 2. My main characters (Oh! I can name them now! You all have downloaded Act 1, so you know who I am talking about!), Navarr and Mizzell no longer pay their way on board and are chummy with everyone. As you know ;), they fell on to the ship, well, you don’t know that, but hey, it isn’t such a huge spoiler. So, they are not automatically chummy with the crew. But, through their actions, particularly Navarr, they become friends with a few of them.

This is important since it is Navarr’s journey I need to focus on. It is his development as a character, going from meek little office boy to a man of the world, with a woman! Just a little bit of cheese cake there.

Another piece of advice I followed was not introducing so many characters. I know who all the weird and wonderful characters are, I invented them, I found imagery to best represent them, I wrote down some details for them, all for me. So I know them all. But as a reader, another name can over load the brain. Hard to keep track of the main story elements if you need to remember all those names. I know that when I read epic fantasies, such as Feist’s Magician, and the Game of Thrones, having to reference that glossary of names at the back, takes me OUT of the story.

So it was good to get Act 2 in the bag, for a brief while at least. I will get it back in a week with ‘suggestions’, I know it. It also gives me a good idea on the time line. I might have to push the full release date back a bit, but this is okay. I have a plan and there is a time critical element that I cannot control. And yes, I am being very vague here. 🙂

The Creative Penn released a blog post back on the 4th of March- The 7 Worst Mistakes of Indie Authors and How to Fix Them. I am keeping a keen eye on anything which talks about indie authors of late. A friend of mine, Catherine Gracey, blogged about how our friend Scarlett and myself, have been inspiring her on her journey of being an author – blog poster here. It is fantastic to know I am inspiring a fellow writer to rethink her journey. I am finding that is it a very supportive group of people I am getting involved with. Catherine and Scarlett are there to bounce ideas off, and to edit. I throw thoughts at Sarah Billington who is much farther down this indie publishing route than all of us, and yet is quite open and friendly for chats. I throw shout outs to these people where I can, and in return they share the love back. It is great.

So, back to the Creative Penn. They say it is best to learn from the mistakes of others, so I read this article with a keen eye to my own progress. I will address all seven items in this list for you all.

1. Know myself? What am I doing? Why am I doing this? I consider writing to be my best talent. It is what I am best at. Now, I can be great at customer service or communication or knowing the rules of basketball and blowing my whistle, but writing is something I enjoy and something I am good at. It is why after so many years I have leapt before I looked into the world of freelance copy writing. It is also why I am self-publishing a novel. I have said for a long time that I wanted to be a published author. I have said for a long time that – I will just re-write this and then send it off for publication, without actually doing anything with it. Hello, I have a 5 book epic sci fi series sitting there wanting love…  So, for number 1? I am doing it, not to make money, but to get it out there. So many people want to read my work, so I want them to read it too. I am also really enjoying taking my writing seriously. Marketing myself, getting an ISBN, a cover artist, real editing from friends. I can make some pocket money off it, sure, but the whole process is fun and exciting for me.

2. Being a writer, being involved with NANOWRIMO, I know professional editors. And, I have asked that they don’t be nice to me because we’re friends. I have even offered payment. Of course there have been ‘mates rates’, but it is legitimate. It feels good to say- I had a meeting with my editor today. It is also good to get a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript.

3. As I have shown you all in earlier blogs, Scarlett Rugers designs has done a fantastic job in designing my book cover and additional web banner advertising. Another sign I am taking this seriously. I could have scoured free photo sites and mocked something up, but I doubt I could have achieved anything like what Scarlett has.

4. This is why I am only doing e-publishing first off. It is cheaper for me and I don’t have to have a pile of books in storage waiting for sales. I would love to have books, in hand, which I could sell and sign and give to people. It is something I will consider, but yes, did not chose the print then sell path purely for this reason.

5. The cover design was part of a Nanowrimo promotion. Smashwords is free, the editing I can pay for in chocolate. I am definitely all over number 5.

6. My marketing for the free Act 1 release included emailing my friends, flooding facebook, to my friends and asking them to tell their friends. Posting on my blog and twitter, and again, getting my friends to re-tweet. A web banner on the bottom of my email and sticking the web banners wherever I could. Very little marketing for the free download.

7. Well, I am focused on this one book, currently, because it is the current book I am writing. I already have book titles for the other two books in the series, and I have a vague story arc, so there will be a trilogy. Hoping 2nd book in the same year, but possibly 1 book a year. It depends how much I can cram into my life and earn money.

And now I would like to leave you with a quote from a friend who read my book. I like it. It is honest and positive and amusing:

I will admit to starting to read the book out of ‘politeness’ (I said I would, so I was) and I really got into it. Don’t tell me that I have to wait for the rest (I was intolerable when the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out – I had to wait a *whole* year to see the next instalment!!! Now the Hobbit looks like it is going to do the same thing – Agggggg!!!!) 

You should be really proud of your book – It is definitely publishable material (in my humble opinion!). Try to remember us little people when you get famous 😉

2 Weeks in and counting. March 3, 2012

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Good morning! Didn’t get to my blog during the week. I actually had a busy week. This is both good and bad for me. Busy in that it was worky work writing, bad because I have been craving getting my teeth into my novel.

Monday I went and met with a talent agency. I thought to fill in the time between freelance gigs with some TV and Film extra work. But they wanted a large sum of money to register me with no guarantee of work. While I like the idea of being an extra, I currently don’t have wads of cash to throw around. Later perhaps.

Tuesday was meetings with people. I have joined a group of business people who help each other with business related problems. I know mine is currently getting myself out there to get business, but I know my problem and I am currently working my way through some solutions, so I am just sitting and helping others for the moment.

That meeting lead on to another meeting with an awesome business coach. We chatted for well over an hour on some strategies for me and the business of writing. I never really thought business or life coaches would be my thing. I have some very good people in my life to help me and tell me off when I am being silly. But business coaches? A very cool idea in my opinion.

Wednesday was a three-hour meeting with a graphic designer. A guy who has been in the business for over thirty years? He is the first person from my networking group who has said to me that my writing is not up to standard. I was taken a back, and hurt, of course. It may be copy writing but it is something I create. It’s a natural reaction to think- you don’t like it? OH NO! But, he went on to say what he didn’t like, how the start of some things I wrote did not grab the reader, did not pull the customer in with WOW AWESOME copy. The bulk of the work was good, it’s just the start was not punchy enough. He is kindly going to help me improve myself as a copy writer in business. I like this, I appreciate him giving me the time to semi-mentor me? But I can also see he is building me up to work for him as well. He wants to improve me for his own ends as well. I don’t mind. I am humble enough to want to improve myself and admit that, while I am a good writer, the business side of things, may need some beating of panels.

Thursday rolled around with BNI and meeting with a client for web work. This continued into Friday as well, with the weekly BNI newsletter to produce. So, very little time to squeeze in novel writing.

But, being the stubborn person I am, squeeze it in I did. An hour here, a few minutes there. I have written past the pit fights, so I am near the end of Act 2. I had a dilemma with the pit fights. I was in a head space where I just wanted to kill someone, in the books I mean. I thought – wouldn’t it be shocking and cool if the fights were to the death. That would give an added sense of tension when one of the characters chooses to fight in order to save my main characters. But upon speaking with my editors, they asked me – what benefit to the story would it be? What would turning the fights into death matched add to the story? I couldn’t really answer that. And then someone else said they would not want to read a book where women were fighting and killing each other. So I let it sit for a day and came back in a better head space, and left the fighting to submission, not to the death.

And just to finish up, before I start my weekend. I cracked 200+ downloads for the free Act 1 on Smashwords this week. That is so cool. I am planning, with others, how to market the full book when it comes time for release. And to see 200 downloads with very little marketing is so encouraging. I have had no feedback though. No one has left a review, or told me if they like it or not. I hope they’re not just being nice….  😉