Before the edit starts

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When you start out writing it’s easy to look at authors with two, three, four or more books under their belt and believe they somehow have it easier than you, or that your struggles mean you aren’t meant to be a writer. This is very far from the truth.

I’m writing this as the first draft of my third book, Genesis Redux, merrily prints away beside me. I say merrily, but in some respects it’s feels like the creak of a trapdoor beneath your feet while you have a noose wrapped around your neck. My first draft has been resting for over six weeks now and it’s time to get back to work. However, to show you that all writers have doubts and apprehensions, I want to capture the what’s going through my head now, knowing that I have months of editing ahead of me.

Confronting fear

Above all is the fear. It’s the fear of reading my first draft and realising it’s irredeemable. Note I didn’t say terrible. Terrible can be dealt with, in fact I’ve dealt with terrible at this stage in the process twice before. First drafts are meant to be mostly terrible but with enough encouraging signs that there’s a good story in there somewhere. What I’m scared about is that the first draft is so bad, so teeth-clinchingly, sickness-inducingly bad, that there is no way it can be recovered and I’ll have to start the whole thing all over again. This fear is so strong my stomach just flipped as I wrote that sentence. That’s how much I fear what I’m about to read.

I’ve been told this feeling never changes, no matter how many books you’ve written.

Pressure of expectation

Then there’s the pressure of expectation. The nicest part of writing your first novel is that you are the sole source of expectation. That level of expectation can still crush some, but for most of us the challenge is to get to the finish line, to have written a book, and then to see if anyone else will enjoy it afterwards. This is the third book of a trilogy. I’ve been lucky enough to have received glowing reviews for both books but this doesn’t make the writing process easier. It makes it harder. Because what if it’s rubbish? What if I’ve lost whatever it was that people enjoyed so much in the first two books? What if I screw the ending up? Not only do I have to bring this book to a satisfying conclusion, I have to conclude the whole series as well. What if I…

No. I have to stop thinking about it otherwise I’ll never go any further.

Overcoming laziness

I always look on in awe at those committed individuals. You know the ones I mean, those who seem to thrive on pressure, who produce and produce and produce as if they’re in a competition with the rules of physics on how much one can achieve in a set period of time. I’m not like that. I work hard, but inside there is a very lazy person just waiting to break out, and it’s at times like these, just at the brink of committing to something huge, that my inner lazy man speaks the loudest. “Why bother? Two’s a good effort, much better than some. Nobody will hold it against you. Forget about it…”

Time pressure

On top of the above is the knowledge of the sheer amount of time this will take, time I’m struggling to make available. Like all writers, I too have a life outside of writing. I have a job, and if that wasn’t enough I’m also the chair of our local preschool. I have friends (stop snickering at the back) and most importantly, I have a wonderful wife and a young family who fully deserve my time. I’ve written before how writing is a selfish act, but it’s at this point in a project this really hits home.

The tyranny of deadlines

Finally, I have that other form of time pressure looming up ahead of me, the deadline. I’m n indie author so I don’t have a publisher breathing down my neck waiting for the finished book, but I do have my own expectations as to when the book should be ready to go. My first book took 18 months tow write. My second book took just over ten months. This time I’d like to do the same, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

And then there is the pressure from my readers, who expect the book to be available in September BECAUSE I TOLD THEM IT WOULD BE. The things we do to ourselves.

Of course, none of these feelings will stop me from editing, which is the madness behind being a writer. There is a story inside me and it needs to be told. I’ve already committed months of my time to get this far, what’s a few more months to finish it off? Plus there’s always the next one to think about…

What about you? Does any of this ring true? I’d love to hear from you.

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Goodreads Giveaway: Second Chance and Absent Souls

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To celebrate the publication of the new paperback edition of Second Chance, and the first paperback edition of Absent Souls, I’m running two Goodreads giveaways where you have the chance to win one of two signed copies of each book. The giveaway is open now midnight on StarWars day (May 4th). For more information, simply click on the links below. Best of luck!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Second Chance by Dylan S. Hearn

Second Chance

by Dylan S. Hearn

Giveaway ends May 04, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Absent Souls by Dylan S. Hearn

Absent Souls

by Dylan S. Hearn

Giveaway ends May 04, 2015. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

My Review of “Second Chance” by Dylan S. Hearn

It’s always lovely receiving a positive review but especially so from a writer who you respect. Scott Whitmore wrote this yesterday about Second Chance, so I thought I’d share.
Thank you, Scott. This means a lot.

Scott Whitmore, writer

25414342One of the reasons I like reading and writing science fiction is how well the genre plays with others. Create a interesting futuristic setting, on Earth or somewhere in space, and there are any number of story types — mystery, thriller, romance, action/adventure, etc. — that can be told, separately or blended together.

The excellent first entry of the Transcendence Trilogy, Second Chanceby Dylan Hearn (@HearnDylan) is a political/conspiracy thriller wrapped around a mystery, seasoned with some philosophy and served with a side of plot twists. I was guessing about how the various pieces of the puzzle fit together right up to the final pages. Book 2 is already on my To-Read List.

Set an unspecified time in the future, the Earth has faced catastrophic upheavals including climate change but emerged more unified thanks to a historical agreement among world leaders brokered by the UN. Even the…

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WRITING: Why I Read One Star Reviews

What a great and refreshing view on the thing most writers worry about, the one-star review. I don’t necessarily hunt out one-star reviews, but there have been times where I’ve read polarised reviews and thought “all those reasons you hate the book are going to be reasons I’ll love it,” and bought the book.
Great post!

Piss, Coffee, and Vinegar

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The bad, the good and the beautiful of the cover design process

In November I published Absent Souls as an ebook only. This wasn’t because I didn’t have a paperback ready but because I’d planned to have new covers for my books and it made no sense spending extra money on a paperback cover which would only be replaced in a few weeks. Or so I thought.

The need for change

When I first published Second Chance, I couldn’t afford to have a bespoke cover designed and I have the drawing skills of a three-year-old, so I used a pre-made cover service at goonwrite.com. I went on the site, chose a cover I liked, had my book title and author name added and published. If you are looking to publish on a budget, I would thoroughly recommend this approach.

After a couple of weeks I’d sold enough ebook copies to justify buying a paperback cover. It was more expensive, but many people had contacted me asking for a paperback so i knew it would eventually pay itself back.

While I love the cover for Second Chance, I realised quite early on that the combination of title and cover art wasn’t eye-catching enough to attract a reader’s attention, or to convey what the book was about. However, I needed to sell enough copies to justify the expenditure.

The bad

Nine months later and I was in a position to move. I’d done my research, identified a well-respected cover designer who was very busy but was taking on commissions from mid-December. I paid my 50% deposit, was sent a briefing document, completed it and was told it would be 10 working days before I received my first designs, so I happily waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I chased a couple of times, received apologies and the offer of a discount for my trouble, then six weeks after the work started, I received the first designs. They were good, not exactly what I wanted but they showed promise. I sent my feedback as requested and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I chased on numerous occasions but received no reply. Eventually I was forced to contact Paypal to get my money back, which the designer did quickly and with no complaint. I still have no idea what went wrong.

The good

It was now three months since the process had started, four months since Absent Souls was published and I was still no closer to having the new covers I needed. I started to research online once again and saw this post by Julie Stock, raving about the cover for her new book, From Here to Nashville. I looked up the site of her designers, Design for Writers, and liked what I saw. I contacted them and as luck would have it they were able to slot me in for mid-April.

I was clearly nervous after my last experience but I was soon put at my ease. the briefing process was so much more refined. I was asked questions about the book, the story, the lead characters, but also about how the book makes readers feel, the atmosphere it creates, the type of book covers I like and why, and those I don’t, along with many, many more. Where my answers weren’t clear, Andrew – the designer – asked pertinent questions to help me think about what I was looking for.

The team at Design for Writers use basecamp to manage their projects, so I had access to anything that was said at any time and knew exactly what was going on. There was interaction, and lots of it, and best of all Andrew positively encouraged ideas,  but was also not afraid to say when things wouldn’t work and why. I told them to design the covers I need, not necessarily what I wanted. Thankfully they delivered on both counts. If you are ever looking for cover designers, I couldn’t recommend Design for Writers enough.

The beautiful

So here is the end result. These are my beautiful new covers. For those of you who’ve read my books, hopefully what you see will correspond with what you’ve read (although please don’t give away any details).

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The paperbacks for Second Chance and Absent Souls have been updated and are now available to purchase, the ebooks are in process of having their selling pages updated in the next day or so. I’ve also included the full paperback spreads below as I think they’re truly stunning.

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So what do you think? Do you like my covers? If you’re a writer, how did you go about getting your covers designed? Was it a bad, good or beautiful experience? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

 

To Junior

As I write this I’m not sure if I’ll post or not, but if you’re reading this then I guess I have.

Yesterday I learnt my brother-in-law died. He’d had cancer for a number of years and had recently gone downhill quite fast, so while we knew it was coming this knowledge did nothing to lessen the shock, especially as he was a number of years younger than myself. We share the same name so when we first met I christened him Junior.

I can’t say I knew Junior well, we only met a couple of times because we live on either side of the Atlantic from each other, and his relationship with my sister was complex, but one thing I did know was their love for each other was never in any doubt. He was a strong man, loved the outdoors, and spent most of his life guiding people down the white water rapids of the Arkansas river in Colorado, which makes the fact that he was brought down so young particularly bitter. While he had his brash, outgoing side – playing lead guitar in the band with which my sister sang and my brother played keyboard – he was one of life’s thinkers and often needed time to himself. He was a wonderful father to his two sons.

My family are spread out across the globe, a fact that normally doesn’t bother me as it’s been this way for almost as long as I can remember, but it’s at times like these I wish we all lived closer. Shit, at times like these I wish we all lived in the same town, the same street, even. While the wonders of technology have made sure that families can stay in contact, you can’t Facetime a hug, or make drinks, hold a hand or catch someone as they are about to fall. I know my sister is surrounded by loving and supportive people, including my mother, brother and many, many friends. I know she’s a strong person, much stronger that I would have been having to face up to my soul-mate’s terminal decline, but it doesn’t stop me wishing I was there with her now. I love you, sister.

It’s a shame it takes an event as painful as this to make you reassess what’s important in life, but I guess that’s just a consequence of how we live nowadays. While I’ve never been shy of showing affection to my children, I think they both might be a little surprised just how many extra cuddles they get over the coming days.

If I have posted this and you have read this far, and there is a loved one you haven’t contacted, spoken to or held recently, why don’t you do something to change that. Pick up the phone or pay them a visit. Let them know how much you love them. Love is, after all, the most important thing.

 

What If Authors Behaved In Real Life Like They Behaved Online?

I love this post. It made me laugh out loud, even though at the back of my head I wonder if I can be accused of any of these behaviours.
It’s worth reading the comments too. Great stuff!

Tara Sparling writes

What If Authors Behaved In Real Life Like They Behaved Online? So listen, kid. We’ve each written a book, see. Now you have to read all of them and tell us why we’re brilliant.

Come with me now on a journey to explore a side of the Internet which is still driving me batty. I know you don’t want to be driven batty, but let’s face it, if you wanted peace, or even sense, you wouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place.

Picture the scene. You’re at a party. You know nobody there, but you’ve been assured that it’s a friendly bunch. There will be no question of you flowering the walls all night on your tod. You get yourself a frothy pink drink, and are soon approached by a middle-aged man with childishly pink cheeks.

Middle-Aged Ruddy Man: Are you a writer?
You: Well, I suppose you could say that. I’ve–
MARM: I’m a writer. I’ve written 3 books about cats on drugs. I have many…

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Pay it Forward – Beta Reading

Pay it forward

There are many ways an author can Pay it Forward to the writing community. The regular followers of this blog know I like to but books from fellow self-published authors and promote those I’ve most enjoyed via my Recommended Reads. This is a great way of giving something back to those who’ve supported you as a writer, either directly or indirectly, but I understand it can be cost prohibitive to some. However, there is another way authors can support authors, and that’s through beta reading.

The more eagle-eyed of you will have spotted I’ve not posted a new recommendation recently. This isn’t because I’ve been slacking with my reading but because I’ve taken the opportunity while my current WIP is resting to beta read for a couple of authors.

What is beta reading?

Beta reading is where you read an early version of a manuscript in order to identify the things that work and the things that don’t – from a reader’s perspective. The goal is to provide the author with information about their book which they can’t see themselves because they are too close to the story. The typical areas to proved feedback on are plot, pacing, characterisation, and prose.

My rules of beta reading

Providing any kind of feedback to an author is a sensitive area. There needs to be an element of openness and trust for it to work well. Because of this, there are certain unwritten rules I always try to take into account when beta reading:

  • Be honest. You’re job is to help the author produce the best book possible. Shying away from criticism doesn’t help the author. If something doesn’t work, tell the, but also tell them why. The same goes for when something comes across well. While a beta read will mostly pick up on the areas for improvement, it’s important to highlight the areas that work well.
  • Make sure the book is in a genre with which you’re familiar. There’s nothing worse than being asked to provide, or receiving, feedback from somebody who clearly doesn’t love the genre or style you’re writing in.
  • Judge the book from the perspective of its target audience. If you are reading a YA or MG novel, don’t complain at the unrealistic lack of custards or visceral description.
  • Ask if there is anywhere in particular on which to concentrate. Sometimes a writer will have concerns about certain scenes in their book, either because it isn’t working, or as I had in Second Chance, because of the nature of the content. Make sure you’re aware of these beforehand so you can give them your full attention.
  • Explain your own strengths and weaknesses beforehand. When I beta read I’m good at judging the tone and pacing of a novel, OK at characterisation but poor at picking up typos or grammar issues (I can just see my editor nodding his head in agreement). Let the author know where you can and can’t help, so they have the chance to get the other areas checked elsewhere.
  • Remember you’re trying to help the author write their book. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of looking at how you would write the book or make changes to the storyline. This isn’t the goal of beta reading. Saying you didn’t like the ending because it didn’t provide closure for character X is good feedback. Saying you disliked the ending because if you’d written the book character X would have ridden that candy-coloured unicorn into the sunset instead of carried on as a janitor, is not.
  • Yours is only one opinion. Good authors ask feedback from many sources because everybody has a different opinion. When I’m writing, if all my beta readers say there is a problem in a certain scene, I’ll know it’s an issue. If only one does, while another loves the same scene, I know I need to use my judgement. Don’t be surprised if the author doesn’t take everything you say on board.
  • Don’t forget to question? If you are unsure about something, ask the question. As a reader you miss things so there may be times where a simple ‘have you mentioned this before?’ is much better than complaining about an issue that isn’t there.

How do I feedback?

What I like to do is provide a report looking at the different areas – plot, pacing, characterisation, and prose – so the author has a clear idea of the major areas to focus on. I then like to send back the actual document if possible, with comments, so the author can see exactly where things could be improved, or areas I particularly love. My document comments tend to be a little more direct than in the report, because they are how I felt at the time, but this is no different to how I would assess my own work.

The benefits of beta reading

Beta reading is hard work but very rewarding. Not only does it provide really useful support for your fellow authors, it also helps you improve your own writing too. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve picked up an area for improvement in an author’s work, only to realise I’ve done the same thing myself. I know my writing has improved since I started beta reading.

Because it can be a lot of work, most writers find it difficult to locate good, experienced beta readers. Yet writers are the best beta readers around, so offering somebody the chance to read their work is an enormous favour. At the same time, be understanding if you ask somebody to beta read for you and they turn you down. The only reason I’m beta reading at the moment is because I have a short writing break. In a couple of weeks I’ll be back to purely concentrating on my own book.

So, if you are looking for another way of Paying It Forward to your fellow writers, why don’t you offer up your services as a beta reader? Not only will you be providing invaluable help, you might get to learn something about your own writing too.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

 

How to turn a Complex Story into a Simple Synopsis

This is a really great post on the area of writing I like the least, how to pull together a synopsis and blurb for your book or screenplay.

Drew Chial

1. Profile A lot things go into telling a simple story

My least favorite type of writing has always been summarizing. Whether I was pitching a screenplay or a synopsis for a book, I got too concerned about what producers and publishers were looking for. I hated whatever I put on paper. It felt like I was cutting out the tastiest parts to make it palatable, misrepresenting the material by packaging it for mass appeal.

When my screenwriting professor videotaped the pitch for my first script, I ranted for twenty minutes. This was no elevator pitch. The lift for the tallest building in the world doesn’t take that long to get to the top. I had to lower my time to two minutes or less.

Since then I’ve learned the memorization techniques I needed to keep myself on task and how to select the parts of my story that were worth focusing…

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This May Be My Last Post

Zombie

Image licensed under creative commons. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dhollister/

 

This may be my last post. At 19:00hrs BST I am being shipped to a disused US Airforce base here in the heart of Suffolk, to be chased by zombies as part of a friend’s birthday celebrations.

I may not come out of it alive, but if I do, I’ll classify it as research, like everything else in life.

Wish me luck …