I’m fond of the little fellow, but its place in writing is more restricted than I realised. I haven’t done much creative writing this year while slogging away at building this WordPress blog and a website.
From time to time, to keep my sanity, I’ve returned to a short story I started in January. Featuring my Cornish Detective, I intend to give it away to anyone who subscribes to my crime novel website. I started writing with no preconceptions, other than to explore the notion that locations can be cursed. My protagonist is several years younger than in the first novel and having just taken command of the Major Crimes Team, he’s still learning the ropes from his deputy officer, a veteran of 40 years.
They visit a place called The Sad House, an abandoned farm labourer’s cottage where a runaway teenager was found hiding. It’s been a place of murder and suicide for 200 years. Talking about the tragedies, the deputy falters telling a tale of murder-suicide. He half-finishes saying something, so I used a semicolon to mark how he completed his thoughts. It looked wrong! I changed it.
Then, that night, I was visited by the punctuation gods, for while reading a crime novel by Finnish author Antti Tuomainen the main character’s internal dialogue I saw it featured a couple of semicolons—and they looked clunky. It may have been a result of the original work being translated.
This morning, in one of the newsletters I subscribe to, there was an article about a newly published book all about the semicolon:
It’s not an issue that I’m agonising over, but it’s strange how a semicolon or a colon in dialogue becomes intrusive. It takes away from a guideline I cleave to, that punctuation should be correct for the situation, so correct that it becomes invisible.
A revealing article penned by indie author Alastair Crombie describes
how he attempted self-marketing as an unknown writer.
I’ve not found any other methods that work reliably for newbies.
I’m not sure there are any. The cold truth of the matter is that
instant success belongs in the fiction we write and not in the facts
“And the final lesson I learnt: living with disappointment. I know most authors recognize the feeling.”
year, I’ve been navigating the self-promotion trail, which is
something I wish I’d began six years ago, before writing my first
Cornish Detective novel. If you’re new to writing, I earnestly
recommend beginning a blog (with a newsletter) and posting regularly
on social media. The trick is to get your name known and also to
collect email addresses of subscribers who may, one day, buy your
whether you self-publish online or you publish traditionally through
a book company, you’ll be expected to have an author platform, so
best start now!
When I returned to creative writing in 2013, I knew it would take at least five years to get anywhere and so it has proved. It helps that I’m stoical (and bloody-minded!). I had some experience of publishing and being a writer from selling short stories and magazine articles in the 1970s and 1980s, realising that you were only as good as your last published piece—and that it needed lots of luck to get that into print.
I’m glad that one of the first writing guides I read was How Not To Write A Novel: Confessions of a Midlist Author by David Armstrong. Originally published in 2002, what he says about surviving as a non-bestselling author is even truer today. The hardships and ignominy are worse. There are affordable copies available on Amazon and eBay and Kindle:
confirms that it’s a long, hard slog to get anywhere as a writer.
Wannabee authors might well be put off starting.
present, I’m wrestling with the hydra of converting my books to other
formats, those most commonly used by e-reading devices, which are
PDF, MOBI and EPUB. This is to make my manuscript flowable, able to
automatically fit different-sized screens. Previously, I’ve
self-published on Amazon and via Smashwords, which rather spoilt me,
for they have meatgrinder software which does the conversion for you.
I should have used Smashwords again, even though I’ve unpublished my 45 titles on their site, to promote them via Draft2Digital. Instead, out of some daft sense of behaving honourably, I attempted to do the job by using Calibre, checking what the converted story looked like with Adobe Digital Editions
The main problem has been that the formatting I’ve used sometimes gets removed by Calibre, resulting in unwanted spacing between sentences and paragraphs. Trying to establish my own house style, I’d used Celtic symbols as section breaks, like this:
Calibre didn’t like that at all, substituting a capital ‘O’ for the key I’d pressed to insert the Celtic Knot. Smashwords meatgrinder did the same thing. This meant I had to remove them all, which took several hours…as did adding them last week. Note to self: stop being a clever dick!
After cleaning the manuscript of extraneous design flourishes, I put it through Smashwords meatgrinder again, which gave me a clean-looking story, complete with an attached book cover. There are still problems with the MOBI conversion done by Smashwords, which is the format used by Amazon for their Kindles.
Smashwords and Amazon don’t play well together, each insisting that any manuscript submitted doesn’t mention their rival. I’d listed my 45 previously published titles at the end of the book, linking them to Amazon, which gave Smashwords an epileptic fit! Removing them improved the MOBI reformatting results, but Amazon’s own meatgrinder will probably do a better job.
Of course, if I had the money, I could pay someone to run a campaign promoting me and my books and to convert my books to other formats, placing advertising strategically, but I don’t, so I’m doing everything myself. Paying for services is no guarantee of success. I’ve read some horror stories of people investing their life savings to promote themselves as writers, selling very few books and facing penury.
I’m 80% towards completing what I planned with blogging, having an author website, designing book covers, reformatting my five crime novels and posting on social media. I’m going to put in a couple of weeks of 12-hour days, to ready things for launching the first two stories in mid-July.
Although it’s taken thousands of hours of work to get to this point, I’m truly not expecting anything much to happen. I’m not a celebrity who’s chosen to write a book (or have it written for them), so I’ve no free promotion that way.
I’m just a nobody trying to be a somebody.
What might help raise my profile, is to do interviews with the local press and radio stations, which I’m loath to do, but needs must when the devil drives. EMOJI Cornwall Libraries have a policy of buying books by Cornish authors and those set in the county, so I’ll make some sales that way (including eBooks) as well as introduce local readers to my name.
What problems have you faced in self-promoting and self-publishing?
What worked for you?
And, what was a waste of time and money?
If anyone needs advice on what I’ve written about in this post, please contact me (before my brain melts).
I might have made the mistakes, so you don’t have to.
After completing the editing of a novel, I have mixed emotions. I may be pleased that I’ve come in 200 words under the recommended word count of 80,000. I sometimes use those words to backfill sentences to add to the impact of them but usually, after months of editing, I’m heartily sick of the process, and even a bit resentful of the story I’ve devoted seven months of my life to creating.
I need the stimulus of a new project and yearn to plan and research my next novel. Explaining the tedium of editing to friends, I’ve come up with a number of similes, including these:
1) Editing is like going through a fully-grown crop field, your wonderful novel, walking between the rows to find hundreds of weeds. Destroying them by hand, you turn around and walk back finding loads more!
2) Editing is like inspecting a house you’ve designed and constructed from the foundations up. Initially, you walk from room to room, seeing if it’s navigable and would be a welcoming place for a reader. Before long, you’re crawling the walls like a lizard looking for prey.
3) Editing a book is like examining a bowl of muesli with a toothpick, finding some of the ingredients you used are not of the best quality….
With the experimental form of Lincoln In The Bardo I imagine that he did hundreds of rewrites of its 340 pages; to give you some idea of the complexity of the narrative, the audiobook version uses 166 readers—including Hollywood stars Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, Lena Dunham and Don Cheadle.
I like what Saunders says about respecting the reader. Saunders uses a computer to write his manuscripts, which must have made things easier with his successful novel:
“I write in Word. I loved WordPerfect, but then the Word juggernaut rolled right over the poor little guy. This computer is given to me by my university and the default word-processing program is Word – so there you go. The only thing I ever write longhand anymore are notebook entries. And even then I usually end up typing them into a file. I have really horrible handwriting. I print out every day so there’s no danger of losing anything. And lots of times, in retrospect, it might have been better if I hadlost something.”
These days, with the ease of altering a manuscript that a computer gives us, I sometimes wonder about what the definition of a new draft really is….
In the old laborious days of writing everything in longhand, and even in the less flexible method of using a typewriter, different drafts were readily distinguishable by their altered layout. On my laptop, I can change the order events happen in a chapter with three section breaks in seconds—does that make it a new draft? Or, does a draft only exist when someone else, someone important like a literary agent or an editor, claps their eyes on it? Up until then, your story is a tree falling in the forest that no one hears.
With my last novel, I’ve tried a different way of editing, by staying in one or two chapters for several days. This has permitted me to finesse the descriptions while worrying that such tinkering around may be gilding the lily. I like this way of working, in that it’s encouraged me to consider the frame of mind of my characters at that particular moment, which might make their future behaviour more believable.
How do you edit….is it a daily chore, or weekly?
Do you do regular trawls through all you’ve written so far, perhaps using the Word Search function to find repeated words?
Are you content to leave the editing until you’ve completed the writing? I did that with my first novel, which admittedly was way too long at 179,000 words, and spent five months chipping barnacles off the hull of the monstrous leviathan I’d created. This woeful experience motivated me into doing regular editing of the WIP.
Are you fortunate enough to have a trusted reader, who offers helpful suggestions?