How do you know when a novel – or short story, for that matter – is finished?
At what point should you stop tinkering, put down the quill, lean back in your overstuffed armchair and say to yourself “Right, done! Now to publish”?
The greatly-missed Iain Banks once said:
Don’t try to perfect as you go along, just get to the end of the damn thing. If you try to polish every sentence there’s a chance you’ll never get past the first chapter.
You can hear the years of experience in the quote – there speaks a man who learnt the hard way. Because, of course, we all want to publish the most perfect book we possibly can. And we’re artists, so there’s always a different way to express something, a fancier adjective, a more elegant turn of phrase, a slicker exposition…
Well hello there Internet, how splendid to be back! Please say you missed me, or there may be the most frightful scene.
I have, as the more eagle-eyed amongst you will have observed, been away. I could spin you a sordid yarn of diamond-smuggling and a brief sojourn in a hellish Peruvian jail, but the truth is far more prosaic. I lost my voice. Not in a “warm brandy, kitten round the neck” sort of a way. No, that would have been far more enjoyable.
The Blogger’s Worst Nightmare
In what must surely be the worst professional catastrophe which can befall writers and bloggers, I found myself with nothing to say and no means of saying it. Inspiration dried up so entirely that even the trusty old standby methods of finding post inspiration failed. Moreover, whenever I attempted to write, the words came out flatter than a Friday-night karaoke bar. No fun, no lightness, no substance, no purpose. None of that which regular readers have been kind enough to say they enjoy in my writing. Which led me to thinking…
In the grand pantheon of social media platforms, each most definitely has its own character.
Facebook is a faithful old friend with whom I’ve shared many a good time over the years and holds a special place in my jaded and cynical heart. We don’t speak as much as we should, but whenever we do get together it’s as though nothing has changed. Quiet comradeship binds us and no matter what else changes, Facebook is always there.
Google+ is my new BFF (as the kids, I believe, would style it). G+ was a friend-of-a-friend and, on paper, we have little in common at first glance, yet we have bonded astonishingly quickly over a shared love of certain mutual interests. So compatible are we that I now spend more time with G+ than with some of my older acquaintances. We just work together, you know?
Pinterest. Ahhhhh, Pinterest Can you hear the sighs? Pinterest is the pretty, intriguing-looking newcomer who I worship from afar, too scared to approach for fear of finding I have nothing of interest to share with her. There she is, all fresh and lovely and multi-faceted and what do I have to offer up? Nothing but my stories. One day Pinterest and I may share lunch, but that day is not today.
And then we have Twitter.
There is one magic trick for marketing your books (or blog or brand or self)…
What’s that you protest? Everyone else tells you “there’s no magic trick to successful marketing?” Yep, I’ve heard that too. Don’t believe them, they’re wrong.
There is one magic trick to marketing and it is this…
Don’t spread yourself too thinly.
Right, off you trot and get on with it.
Actually, woah, hang on… before you go, allow me to elaborate…
A writing teacher (and multi-published novelist) once told me that to really understand a character you’re writing, you should make a list of the items they carry in their pockets.
While I hate to disagree with such an august mentor, I’m afraid that I simply have to.
You see, if you take a peek in my pockets at this very moment – an undertaking from which I heartily dissuade you – you will find a handkerchief, some small change and a couple of buttons which popped off my coat. A character who uses money, occasionally blows his nose and shivers a lot does not a compelling story make.
This may be different for the fairer sex. I have never plucked up the courage to venture into the deepest recesses of a lady’s handbag, so am not intimately acquainted with the traditional contents of such. However, I suspect them to be of an equally utilitarian nature; I would hazard a guess at purse, travelcard, keys, phone and a little spare make-up.
Show me the woman who carries a blunderbuss, a taxidermied stoat and an assortment of kazoos in her bag and I’ll show you a story!
A Room With Views
In short, the whole pocket exercise doesn’t really work for me. No. Far more telling and illustrative are the items which characters have dotted around their living room. In a supposedly private space, we reveal far more of our true natures and past lives than we could ever fit in a pocket.
Go on, admit it – I had you at “kitten” didn’t I?
I see an awful lot of posts from indie writers complaining that they simply don’t have time to market themselves and their writing on social media. An awful lot. What with the demands of a ‘real life’ and the time we need to dedicate to writing whatever it is we’re trying to publicise, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
And let’s be honest, there’s no point in spending all your time on marketing if it leaves you with nothing to market. I’m no economics expert (a lucky ‘C’ in O-Level maths in fact) but even I can see that the laws of supply-and-demand demand that there’s at least some supply.
And that’s where the kitten comes in.
It’s sharing time again!
I’ve been invited by fellow writer/blogger Zenobia Southcombe (you HAVE to love that name!!) to take part in the Work In Progress Blog Challenge…
This is probably the most fun blog hop I’ve come across. The idea is that I post the first line of the first three chapters of my current work-in-progress, then nominate four other bloggers to do the same. And not a bucket of ice-cubes in sight.
I’ve bent the rules ever-so slightly to also include the first line of the prologue/introduction, so there are actually four lines here. In my defence, the first line of Chapter 1 couldn’t really get much shorter.
These lines come from my first full-length novel Dark Energies; a contemporary urban mystery spiced with a healthy dose of romance and quantum physics. The story unfolds from the POV of Dan Carter, who is desperately in search of something to fill the void in his life. When he’s contacted out-of-the-blue by a mysterious young woman via a social networking site, it looks like he may just have found it. But you should be careful what you wish for…
Edward Stretton somehow knew that neither he, nor anyone else, would ever see his wife again.
Why am I writing this?
The hallucinations didn’t begin immediately, nor were they all that strong to begin with.
Sam’s flat could only be described as cluttered.
I hope you enjoyed that micro-peek into the dark and disturbing world into which Dan finds himself inexorably drawn. If nothing else, this challenge has shown me that the first line of Chapter 3 seriously needs some work!
And now to nominate the next 4 bloggers:
Over to you comrades, enjoy!
Yes. You do. That was very nearly the most concise blog post in the history of blog posts. Until I decided it might be more helpful to elucidate a little… If you aim to self-publish then absolutely yes, you should maintain a blog or a website. To be frank, even if you’re heading down the traditional publishing route, you’d be well-advised to set one up. Major publishers no longer spend the time and money promoting poor starving authors like they used to and you’ll find yourself doing much of your own audience-building. Or else standing on street corners with a sandwich board. Now, I know many of you reading this have already carpe’d the diem and set up highly successful blogs, so please bear with me (or toddle off and entertain yourselves for a bit). If you’re amongst those, however, who are still pondering “but why do I need a blog?” I shall endeavour to explain. Continue reading
Hello? Is this thing on…?
It’s been a while hasn’t it? Quite a long while in fact. I have been hiding away and have neglected you all, for which I offer my most sincere apologies.
I’ve been busy. Yes, OK, I know how often I use that phrase and I know you’re all frantically busy too and still find time to blog. I really have no excuse. Oh hang on… yes I do…
I have been beavering away at the novel, cracking on with the final (I do so hope) round of edits and using the gruelling opportunity of Camp NaNo to really push toward the finish line. So there, that’s kind of a good excuse no? I dropped the blog about the writing to focus on the writing. Am I forgiven?
Anyway… thought I’d just pop by to assure you all that I haven’t succumbed to a surfeit of lampreys and I’m still extraordinarily fond of each and every one of you. I shall endeavour, in my best boy scout manner, to become a better blogger again.
And – big fanfare please (ta-da-da-da-da-da-DAAAAAAA!!) – in response to some absolutely delightful comments on my previous post (a snippet of the infamous first novel, Dark Energies) I might even pop up a few more excerpts to whet your collective whistles!
Now there’s a promise for a sunny Friday morning eh?
Must dash, the peacocks are nibbling at the peonies again, but watch this space my friends…