NaNoWriMo Update 3 – And the winner is …?

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… me!

I have to admit, I was a little dubious about NaNoWriMo before starting. Yes, I saw the value of creating a community of like-minded individuals all focussing on one goal, but at the same time 1667 words a day, while not a huge amount on a single day, is a lot of writing day in, day out, for a month.

From a personal point of view, the month of November wasn’t exactly quiet. Along with work and being there for my family, I’d also recently taken on learning a set of songs for a duet, there was my oldest son’s tenth birthday split over two weekends (as the birthday fell on a Wednesday) and I had committed to starting a cricket coaching course at the end of the month, ruling out more weekend writing time.

Yet in the end, I did it and with more than a week to spare!

So what have I learned?

1 Having a deadline really spurs you on

I know I work well to deadlines with my job but this was the first self-imposed deadline I’ve had for my writing and it really drove me on. By committing publicly to delivering something I found I was planning my days better, snatching the odd 30 minutes writing time when I could instead of sitting in front of the box, and generally doing all I could – without upsetting my family – to hit my goal.

2 I can write faster than I thought

When writing my first three novels, on a good day i could hit between 2000 to 2500 words. My best was just over 3000 words, yet there were a number of times during the past month where I wrote well over 4000 words in a day. This may have had something to do with the story itself, having a clear target or just generally being more focussed, but when writing in the future my expectations of what’s achievable has changed.

3 Not stopping to edit works

I’ve always been a believer of not looking back when writing your first draft but this year I took it a step further than I’ve done in the past. Where I used to correct the odd sentence or paragraph I was which I was particularly unhappy, for NaNoWriMo I just left comments in red all over my MS on areas I felt needed work or where I had a change of plan, but then carried on going. While this was a great help to hit the word count, it will be interesting to see how the first rewrite goes!

4 The joy of overwriting

One of my favourite discoveries during NaNoWriMo was how much fun over-writing is. What do I mean by this? In my case it was allowing myself to describe settings or characters in more detail than was needed, or to write far too much exposition than would be in the final book. This is a big change for me. I usually write sparingly and go back to add further detail later, but this time around over-writing really helped me get under the skin of the world and the story I created. I know a lot of what I’ve written will be (rightly) cut during the edit but it has been fun letting myself go a allowing myself time to explore the people and settings I’ve created.

5 I’ve been introduced to even more lovely writers

I’ve always maintained that one of the best things about writing is the supportive community, and through NaNoWriMo I’ve got to meet a lot of new supportive and encouraging writers. Sadly I haven’t been able to go to any meet ups but the response on the NaNoWriMo regional message board has been really positive. Next year I’ll definitely attend.

Of course, my first draft isn’t finished. I’m not sure whether I’ll hit my extended goal of finishing it by the end of the month but it will be really close and I can’t wait to then get my teeth into it and start editing in the new year.

So what about you? If you’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo this year, what has been your experience? If you haven’t, have I persuaded you to do it next year? I look forward to hearing from you.

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NaNoWriMo Update 2

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As you can probably tell with the lack of posts and minimal comments on other blogs or social media platforms, I am still thoroughly engrossed in NaNoWriMo 2016. The good news is that I’m still flying. I don’t know whether it is the book idea or whether it is the fixed goal of 50K words in a month, but on my full writing days I’m achieving between 3000 and 4000 words a day, even on days where I feel I’m trying to chisel each word out of rock one at a time. This compares to 2000 on a good day when writing my previous novels. If there’s only one thing I take away from this process, it’s that I can write a lot faster than I originally thought.

The story itself is progressing nicely. I’m still in love with my main characters, the world is filling out nicely and there haven’t been too many deviations from plan. I do know, however, that there will be a lot of work to do during the edit.

Also, the story went through a dark phase last week – a prime example of art reflecting life. I found myself rewriting sections because this is a book aimed at older children, and while there’s nothing wrong with scaring children a little bit – look at Roald Dahl’s stories for example – I don’t want to traumatise them. That said, I’ve now come out the other side – at least in my writing – and I’m still on course to beat the 50000 words by the end of November. In fact, as you can see there is a good chance I’ll pass that mark next week!

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This then leads me on to my next challenge. I’ve estimated that the whole of this draft will be around 65,000 words, so my new target is to try to finish the full draft by the end of the month. This is going to be tight as my weekends are fairly booked up between now and then, but it’s good to keep on pushing.

So how are the rest of you getting on? I’d love to hear from you.

NaNoWriMo Update

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I just thought I’d give you a quick update on how NaNoWriMo is going. I’m pleased to say I’m well ahead of schedule, which is good as I won’t have the chance to write much over the next couple of days. The story is flying. As it’s a completely new world for me I’m finding I’m over-writing – long descriptive passages, far too much detail – but this is helping me get a real feel for the world I’m creating and can be pruned hard during the edit.

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As a plotter I’m finding the story is roughly going ahead as planned. That said, I’ve already changed the main occupation of my lead character, introduced characters who had just appeared out of nothing and created two religions, all of which may not make the final cut. As you might guess, I’m having an absolute blast pulling everything together.*

So how are the rest of my fellow NaNoWriMo writers getting on? Are you on track or are you struggling? I’d love to hear from you.

 

*Remind me of this during the next update if I complain about how difficult this NaNoWriMo malarkey is!

NaNoWriMo – are you in?

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It’s that time of year when writers across the world get ready for the largest writing event of the year, NaNoWriMo, and this year I’ve decided to joe one of them.

For those of you who aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, where from the 1st November participants begin writing the first draft of a new novel. The goal is to complete 50,000 words by midnight on the 30th November – an average of 1,666 words per day. The event started in 1999 with just twenty-one participants but has grown year-on-year to hit 431,626 participants in 2015.

I’ve always wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo but so far the timing has never been right. This year, however, the timing couldn’t be better. I’ve been working on the idea for a children’s novel over the past couple of months as I’d love to have a book published that my two boys can read. As those who follow my blog regularly know, I’m half-plotter, half-pantser, so I’m as prepared as I like to be with a good idea of the who the main characters are and their motivations, a general idea of the world I’m creating, and an outline of what happens where – without being too prescriptive. I’ve also researched the relevant historical era I’m loosely basing the story around and I’ve already written a first chapter – which will need re-writing – so I have a good feel for the style I’m looking to achieve.

Still, one thousand, six hundred and sixty-six words per day is no small undertaking. The most I’ve written in one day is 4000 words but that was a one-off, took all day and my brain was mush by the end of it. Finding the time to write over one and a half thousand words each and every day will be tough, and if that wasn’t hard enough, I’m also starting my cricket coaching qualifications later the same month, so time will be even tighter – and that’s not even mentioning family, work, music and so on. But, it’s good to challenge yourself every now and then, right?

The most important thing to remember about NaNoWriMo is that it is a bit of a misnomer. By the end of the process you won’t have a finished novel. Unless you are writing children’s fiction (as I am) you may not even have a completed first draft, but you will have completed the bulk of the writing AND got yourself into the habit of writing regularly, one of the biggest obstacles to completing a novel.

So the big question is – who’s joining me?

If you are, I’d love to link up with you so we can share our journeys together. If you have been thinking about taking part but aren’t sure where to start, just click here to register. It’s very straight-forward and once registered you can link up with other authors. My author profile page is here. You don’t have to have anything prepared, many authors – including Stephen King – start off with an idea of a character and a situation and take it from there.

If you’ve already registered to take part, please feel free to let me know in the comments below or to hook up via my author page. And even if you don’t decide to take part, please feel free to check out my progress and cheer me along (or give me a verbal kick up the backside) whenever you can. I think I’m going to need all the support I can get!

 

 

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. 

Reedsy – the one-stop shop for writers?

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About eighteen months ago I wrote a post about a new startup, Reedsy, who were looking to develop a marketplace to bring authors and publishers together with the best editing, cover design and book marketing professionals. At the time I thought it was an intriguing idea, as indie authors were realising that for their books to be taken seriously they needed to be well-written, well-edited and have a professional cover but it was difficult to know where to find the best possible support. At the same time, I was concerned that this was yet another service looking to earn income from authors (and publishing professionals) without delivering any real value in return.

Since my last post, Reedsy has grown, developing it’s services and website, so I thought it was time to revisit what they offer.

Full disclosure: Ricardo Fayet, one of the founders of Reedsy, has read and given great reviews of my books. This has no impact on this post and I have never been requested to write anything about Reedsy. I also have not used the Reedsy marketplace to find a publishing professional but my editor offers his services via Reedsy.

What’s new?

Where the old Reedsy was pretty much the market place, allowing authors to search for marketing professionals and professionals to promote themselves, Reedsy now offer a lot more.

Learning

They have a series of free Live Videos where industry experts talk about specific topic (e.g. cover critiques, how to go about your second draft), all of which are really useful for a novice or experienced writer. They also offer a series of free courses on topics as diverse as how to build your writing routine to getting the most from Amazon’s algorithms. The best thing about these services are that you don’t have to be registered with Reedsy to take part (although the courses are via email so you do have to give you name and email address). Even if you don’t use any of Reedsy’s other services, these are well worth having a look at.

Book editor

Reedsy have also created a book editor, free software for you to use to write your novel. Because it is online, you can use it to collaborate with your editor and once complete it can create the final ebook or POD file for you. My thoughts on this are mixed. In function it is very similar to Scrivener – which I love – and the fact it is free makes it very attractive. However I have two concerns. First, by using this service you are tying yourself to Reedsy in the same way some of us are tied over time to Google or Apple products. I’d want to know how to access my files if I change my mind. Second is around the files themselves. Where are they stored? Who owns them? What happens if Reedsy goes bust? It’s not clear from the promotional page and I would want clear answers on these points if I was ever to think about using the service.

The market place

The market place has developed since I last looked from being predominantly editors and cover designers to now promoting PR, Marketing and Ghostwriting services as well. You can filter your search by the type of service offered and the genre they specialise in to help find the right person for you. What is noticeable is that there hasn’t been a significant rise is the number of professionals offering their services. For me, this is a good thing. It shows that Reedsy aren’t just trying to pull in numbers to make a quick buck but are

One thing that’s knew is you can see the response rate of the professional, so you know whether your enquiry will be looked at or not. It’s a nice addition but I’d still like to have some form of rating or feedback where verified users of the service can give feedback of their experience. I would also like to have some indication of an indicative price range as it’s difficult to tell initially whether you would be wasting your (and the service provider’s) time with an enquiry.

Summary

As an author, I like what Reedsy are doing and the way they are approaching the market. They appear to be in it for the long haul and are choosing quality over quantity, and are building up a portfolio of services to support authors and offer real value. While I don’t think their offer is perfect, if they continue in this manner they could soon become the one-stop shop for authors they’re aiming to be.

At the very least, I would recommend anyone interested in writing to check out their learning videos and courses, whether you are starting out and looking to develop your craft, or if you are an experienced writer looking to learn move about the intricacies of the trad or indie publishing scene. They cover a wide variety of topics and are delivered by market experts. Also, they’re free, so what do you have to lose?

On a personal level I’m lucky that I already have an editor and cover designer I enjoy working with, but if I was ever looking for a professional service, I would definitely look on Reedsy on top of my other searches.

What about you? Have you used Reedsy at all? Do you have any feedback you would like to share with us? I would 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. 

The guaranteed way to gain reviews

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Reviews, reviews, reviews. They are something an author both craves and fears. We are desperate for reviews, both as confirmation that what we’ve produced is liked – though I’ll let you into a little secret here, no matter how many great reviews you receive, you’ll never get rid of the thought that people are just being kind and not really telling you what they think – but also as a means to attract new readers. At the same time we’re terrified of reviews, especially early in our careers, in case they confirm our darkest fears that what we’ve created is illegible rubbish.

In my case, about a week after I published my first novel I became afflicted by a kind of desperation as I waited for somebody, anybody, to review my book. I couldn’t understand why everyone was taking so long. What was the problem? Didn’t they know how important reviews were? I ended up doing something I really don’t recommend you do: I hassled my friends and family in the hope they would write a review. Most didn’t – thankfully – but I used up a lot of good will during those early days which in some cases I’ve still yet to regain.

So, in order to help those of you who have either just published or are about to publish, I’m going to give you tips on how to increase your chances of receiving honest reviews of your work, activities I would advise you avoid, and then finally the one guaranteed method of generating reviews, although I’m not sure you’ll like the answer.

Before I get there though, I need to mention one thing. Nobody owes you a review. If somebody has bought you book, or even if they got it for free, the only expectation you can have of them is that they received it. If they read it, that’s even better, and if they review it, that’s fantastic. But don’t get angry if the vast majority of people don’t review your book. They don’t have to and are under no obligation to do so.

Ways to increase the number of reviews

1. Contacting book reviewers

Book reviewers are the most wonderful people in the whole world, as I mentioned in a previous blog post here. They take the time to not only read your work but to then review and promote it afterwards, all out of the kindness of their hearts. Most, however, are inundated with requests so don’t be surprised if they don’t take you up on your review request. It’s not personal, it’s just that they only have a limited amount of time and with so many people approaching them, they can be choosy about what to read.

This approach isn’t easy. It’s a lot of work investigating each reviewer, making sure they like the type of book you’ve written and reading some of their reviews before getting in contact. However, what you do know is that if they agree to read your book, you are guaranteed a review.

2. Offering a free book in return for a review

You’ll see at the end of this post that if you sign up to my mailing list, you can get one of my books for free. All I ask is that I receive an honest review in return. Again, this isn’t a guarantee of a review  – but some of those who receive the free book will uphold their end of the bargain and write a review.

3. Leaving a message at the end of your book

At the end of each of my novels I’ve written a polite message thanking the reader for reading, explaining the importance of reviews, and asking if they would be so kind to leave an honest review. I’ve seen a small uptick in reviews since doing this, not huge, but it has made a difference.

4. Reviewing other books

I’m not talking here about review swaps – which I’ll come to in a bit – but one of the side results of me reading other self-published authors’ books, and recommending the books I’ve enjoyed, is that some of those authors, and even the readers of these recommendations, have read my books in return. And some of those who read my books enjoyed them enough to reviewed them, not because I’ve asked, implied or demanded them to do so, but because they understand the value of reviews and are happy to do so.

5. Running free book promotions

I know some authors hate the idea of giving your work away, but when you are starting out the biggest challenge is not writing or publishing your book but being heard. I run occasional free promotions on Amazon and every time, within a few weeks, I receive new reviews. There is a  down side to this approach. The best reviews come from people who have researched your book and like the genre or subject matter. Free promotions are picked up by all sorts of people, so your book could reach the wrong readers and receive low scores because the book wasn’t to their taste.

Ways I wouldn’t recommend to generate reviews

1. Pestering friends

I’m not talking here of politely asking a friend when told they’ve read your book if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review when they get a moment. I’m talking about asking them every time yo see them, boring them with how important it is to you, leaving whiny, passive-aggressive posts on social media, and generally being a pain in the arse. As I mentioned earlier, nobody owes you a review. You need your friends for many better reasons than as a personal review factory. Leave them be.

2. Paying for reviews

Really, don’t pay for reviews. I can see the attraction – trust me, I’ve been tempted, especially early on. A simple google search reveals a number of ways to gain reviews. Any service that offers X number of reviews for X dollars should be avoided like the plague. They are against Amazon’s T&Cs and could lead to your book getting banned. Some book reviewers offer reviews for money. I can understand it from their perspective – they’re spending time and effort reviewing the book, why shouldn’t they get rewarded? But as a writer what you want are honest reviews, and even though the final review could well be impartial, there will always be a suspicion that the rating was bought, which will tarnish the rest of your legitimate reviews.

I wouldn’t even recommend paying for your book to be reviewed via a well-known legitimate source like Kirkus, not because I believe the review would be dishonest, but because there are better ways to spend the $400 it costs to promote your book.

3. Review swaps

At some point you will be asked by an author to review their book and they will review yours in return. It’s very tempting, I mean, what could go wrong? The problem with review swaps is that no matter how honest either party is, there is a pressure on you to be more positive than usual because you know that they will be reviewing your book in return. Even if you both write honest reviews, there will always be the suspicion that you haven’t. This is why I never take on reviews and only recommend books I’ve paid for and enjoyed.

And the one guaranteed method of receiving reviews is …

Time. If your do some or all of the things I recommend above over a long enough period of time, you will get reviews. They may not come as quickly as you wish or be as many as you’d like. They may not be as nice, or as in-depth, as you were hoping for, but the longer your book has been published, the more reviews it will receive.

I long ago realised that while I could take action to encourage people to review my books, I had no control over whether they did or not, so I stopped worrying about it. And do you know what? I’m a much happier writer because of it.

So what about you? Do you agree with what I’ve written? Are there any other methods you’re aware of that help generate reviews, or are you not bothered in the slightest? 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. 

10 Things I wish I’d known before writing a trilogy

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With the publication of Genesis Redux only a handful of days away, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the past four years of writing the Transcendence Trilogy. Here are my top ten:

1 It’s better if each book works as a stand alone story

There is nothing wrong in writing a trilogy which has to be read in order. Some of my favourite books were written that way. If you tried reading The Two Towers before The Fellowship of the Ring, you’d be totally lost. But as an indie author, you need to maximise the opportunity of each book launch.

The one thing I’d change if I started my trilogy over again is to make each book work as a stand alone novel. As the first book, Second Chance works on its own. I’ve been told Absent Souls works as a stand alone novel, although it wasn’t designed that way. However, you really need to have read the first two books in the series to make sense of Genesis Redux.

Why is this a problem? Because, while having this structure works for the story, it means I’ve restricted the audience for Genesis Redux significantly. Having three books that work as both stand alone and in a series allows readers the chance to join the story at any stage, rather than just at the beginning.

2 The longer the series, the harder it is to avoid back story dumping

Are you one of those people who hate the ‘previously’ montage at the beginning of a TV programme? Me too. I’m the same with books. There’s nothing worse than having to read a chapter-sized synopsis of earlier events before you start. Actually, there is. It’s multiple paragraphs of back story – often explained through ‘as you remember’ dialogue – slowing the whole book down.

Yet I can understand the temptation, because when completing a trilogy you often have to bring together elements that happened one or two books previously, which is fine if you’re binge reading the series but not if you read book the previous novels more than a year before.

For me, the best authors solve this problem by drip-feeding small memory joggers throughout the text, usually in earlier chapters, so the reader is informed without realising and but doesn’t have to wade through pages of exposition to get there.

3 Multiple storylines are and blessing and a curse

I love books that entwine multiple character journeys into one narrative whole. It’s why I wrote the Transcendence Trilogy as I have. It’s a great way of introducing different perspectives to a situation, moving the story forward in a non-linear way, and keeping the reader engaged. But the more storylines you add, the more difficult it is to retain focus on the overall story arc. At the same time, there is a danger that readers are more likely to become attached to one character more than others, especially if they aren’t your main protagonist.

The key here is always to look at what’s best for the story. I used to play in a band and our mantra was ‘it’s all about the song.’ It doesn’t matter if you are playing the most simple, repetitive baseline or beat, if it makes the song sound great, don’t over-complicate it. It’s the same with your novel, if a storyline or POV becomes a distraction from the main story, cut it out.

4 The cast list can become uncontrollable

Most trilogies start small and expand as the series goes on, both in location and cast size. Developing such a large cast is great fun to write as you get to play around with many different personalities and perspectives, but when it comes to the third book you need to bring everything back to a satisfactory closure. This isn’t easy when each character has their own ideas of what they should be doing. It’s easy to end up either trying to herd cats, or to end up with cast members being wheeled in for one chapter just to close their storyline, only to be wheeled off again.

While I have many supporting characters, I’ve always focussed on one main storyline shown through the lens of the core cast members. This has meant that I’ve been able to leave whole swathes of my extended cast list to carry on living their lives ‘off camera’ while focussing on the main storyline. Of course, on the odd occasion I’ve also gone all George R R Martin on them – warning, Game of Thrones spoilers.

5 Small points in earlier books can trip you up later

You’re at the climax of book three. Years of effort has got you to this point. You’re protagonist is tied up next to a bomb with the counter close to zero – because you have to have a countdown, right? If the bomb blows up, so does the boarding school, killing the President’s son and possibly starting world war three. But your hero has enough movement to get his teeth next to the handful of green and red wires controlling the device. He has to bite through each green wire with his steel teeth in the next ten seconds to save the day. If he bites through a red one, bye bye Pres junior.

It’s at this point you remember that way back at the beginning of book one you decided to make your character colour blind. It was a quirky choice, made to give this otherwise alpha male a weakness. You loved it at the time as it was far less clichéd than him being an orphan, but now this small detail has ruined months of work. If only you’d given him a club foot.

You’ll be amazed how many times a small, throwaway detail in an earlier book will cause you problems later on. Keeping track of these, especially three books down the line, is incredibly hard. Many authors keep detailed character profiles to help avoid these issues. However, there is another way to help solve these issues …

6 There are advantages to waiting until all books are written before publishing

By waiting until all three novels are written, you can go back and change or add detail in earlier books to help solve later plotting issues. You can also cut characters out or add prominence to others due to their importance – or lack of – in the final book. Then there is the fact that over the period of creating your three novels, your writing skills will have improved, allowing you the chance to go back an improve your earlier books. The other main advantage is that you will concentrate solely on your writing, rather than marketing and promotion.

There are also good commercial reasons for waiting. Many readers won’t buy a book series until all books are published, and launching each book rapidly, one after the other, gives you a great chance to make a noise and to continue to push your series without the message becoming tired.

7 There are advantages to publishing each once written

Despite everything I said above, there are also advantages to publishing each book as they are written. The longer your book is out there, the more chance you have of building an audience for your second and third books. And the shelf life of books is long. Even if you are only selling one or two books a month, the total numbers of readers you’ve built up by the time your third novel comes around will be significant.

The other advantage is that you can gain some great feedback on what works and what doesn’t from your audience, helping to shape and focus your writing. However, this isn’t always a good thing.

8 You can end up liking your characters too much

As a writer I want readers to relate to your characters but this only works if they do that despite a character’s flaws. I really loved the first couple of seasons of Dexter because I found myself rooting for Dexter only to be shocked each time he returned to his true character and murdered somebody. It was a great balancing act. However, as soon as he gained control of his impulses and he lost his edge, I lost interest.

When a writer falls too much in love with a character, especially an antagonist, and starts to change their personality to make them more likeable, they lose the essence of what made the character great in the first place. There is nothing wrong with flipping a story around to empathise with a character’s motivation, but avoid the temptation to smooth out your character’s rough edges, or even worse, change their personality completely to make them more likeable.

9 Tying everything up is incredibly hard

Writing endings can be incredibly difficult. One of my favourite writers, Stephen King, is notoriously bad at it. One of the reasons it has taken nearly 18 months to finish Genesis Redux is that I wanted to get the ending right, and with many characters and multiple threads, ensuring each storyline reached a satisfying conclusion was very difficult.

The key here, for me, is to know where you are heading. Before starting Absent Souls I had a very clear idea of where the main story was heading and why. What I didn’t know was the how, and that’s been the fund part over the past few years. I think this is the main reason I’ll always plot my books out, even if just in a rough outline form. By knowing where I was heading early enough, I was able to nudge things in the right direction without it looking as if the plot was driving the characters. At least, that’s what I hope!

10 In the end, it’s a relief to move on to something else

The great news about finishing the trilogy is that I can finally start work on the many other ideas I’ve had since I began writing the series back in 2012. Don’t get me wrong, I love the characters and will miss them all, but it’s time to let them go and allow others a chance to shine. That said, I could always go back at a later date …

 

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. 

It’s been a while …

I last posted in March. Yes, March. I can’t believe it’s been so long but WordPress doesn’t lie. If you’ve been waiting in tenterhooks since my last post then:

  1. You need to find a hobby
  2. You also need to stop telling lies

So what have I been doing? Well, I’ve been spending time with my family (always a good thing), working (sometimes a good thing), and finishing something I should have finished a long time ago.

Yes, I’m very pleased to say that it won’t be long, maybe only a few weeks, before the third and final part of The Transcendence Trilogy is published. It has taken much longer than I thought it would but I’m very proud of the finished article and how it pulls the full trilogy together. When I first set out on this journey I had no idea it would end up with me writing about the same group of characters four years later. There have been many ups and downs, but mostly ups, and I’ve had an awful lot of support from many people, more of which I’ll go into in a later post.

Anyway, to celebrate its forthcoming release I thought I’d share with you something I’ve been keeping under wraps since January.

dfw-dsh-3gr-cover-mid

 

What do you think? I love it and think it works really well with the other two books in the series but I’d love to hear your thoughts. I promise you won’t have to wait until November until I answer!

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. 

Overcoming author envy

Envy

The solitary nature of writing is both a blessing and a curse. Time spent alone is an essential part of creating art. You need the space to dream-up new and exciting ideas, to get to know your characters and to fully explore the best ways to express your story. But as we all know, there are times when we fill that space with thoughts that aren’t creative. Sometimes our thoughts can be downright destructive.

I don’t know a single writer that hasn’t suffered from author envy at one time. For some it’s the envy of authors who have published their book while they’re struggling to finish their own. For others it comes after publishing a book and seeing another author’s book constantly sell better than yours. Then there is the time when you’ve read a successful book and wonder why the frankly average novel is so popular while you’re having to fight for every single sale.

Unless you are one of the lucky publishing lottery winners to have instant success, there will come a time when the little green monster knocks at your door. This is natural. This doesn’t make you a bad person. Some writers use this envious streak as a spur to success. For others, this envy has devastating consequences, knocking their confidence and motivation, becoming their all-consuming focus. It’s at this point the solitary nature of writing becomes a curse.

I can’t claim to have the answer to author envy, but there are a few things I’ve learnt to do whenever the little green monster comes calling.

Don’t look at the outliers, look at the majority

It’s easy to look at author X or author Y and think that should be me. Most authors have dreamt of being as successful as Stephen King, JK Rowling or even EL James. At the same time we know these are exceptional cases, and that the majority of authors have nothing like the success of these outliers. The problems come when we look at authors similar to us, either those that write similar books or authors you’ve got to know personally or through social media. When one of these authors find success it’s natural to think, why not me?

The thing is, when you do this you’re focussing on the outliers. Most authors don’t have that level of success. There are millions of books for sale on Amazon and only a few thousand make it into the Top 100 genre lists each year. The vast majority of authors are in the same situation as you, working hard in the hope of making a living from their writing. Many of those few thousand successful authors were at one time in exactly the same position as you. The only difference between them and you is that they followed my next point.

Focus only on what you can control

There are many factors that influence whether a book is a success or not but you only control a handful. The things you control are:

  • Writing the best, most compelling story you possibly can.
  • Publishing it in the most professional manner possible (whether self-publishing or via a publisher).
  • Raising awareness of the book (although this is only partly in your control).

Everything else is out of your hands. You can’t change how people receive your work. You can’t change the success of others. You can’t change which books go viral or which trends become popular. You can’t change which books are picked up by agents and publishers and which are rejected.

Getting angry about a book you see as poor being successful only hurts you. Getting frustrated that you aren’t receiving good reviews – or even any reviews – only hurts you. Looking at a similar book being promoted through BookBub or ENT when they’ve passed on yours, only hurts you.

Envy is a natural and understandable reaction in each and every one of these situations. Authors put their heart and soul into their books, and it’s hard to understand why your book isn’t as successful as you’d hoped. But being envious of others, or of particular situations, sucks energy away from the things you can influence: writing the best possible book, publishing it in the most professional manner and raising awareness it exists.

You have no divine right to success. Nor does any other author. But by focussing on the things in your control, you give yourself the best chance of being successful. For everything else, it’s best to let them go.

Learn to celebrate the success of others

This is the biggest lesson of all and one that turns what is a negative situation into a positive. Publishing is not a zero sum game. The success of other authors has absolutely no impact on your own success. There are millions, possibly billions of people out there buying books. Even Stephen King or JK Rowling touch just fraction of this global readership. There is room for us all.

Instead of feeling envious of another’s success, celebrate it. Don’t see it as a personal slight, take comfort from the fact that people do find success. Use that fact to motivate you to keep going, to try harder. If you see an author have success, contact them and celebrate their success with them. Let them know how pleased you are because like you, they may have spent years, even decades to get to that point. Then channel that good feeling into your own work. Who knows, it could be the start of great things.

So what about you? Do you, or have you ever suffered from author envy? How do you overcome it? 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. 

Recommended Reads: The Heretic by Lucas Bale

 The Heretic

The Description

Earth is gone.

Centuries have passed since life ended on the blue planet. Humanity’s survivors are now dispersed among distant colonies, thousands of light years from the barren, frozen rock that was once their home.

At a time when power means everything, the ultimate power, the imperium, rests with the Consulate Magistratus. In return for its protection, citizens must concede their rights absolutely. The Magistratus controls interstellar travel, access to technology, even procreation. Every citizen is implanted with a device to monitor their location, health and emotions. Freedom, religion and self-determination are anachronisms. Humanity’s true history survives only in whispers of a secret archive.

Yet there are those who preach a new religion and who want to be free.

In the cold of a winter’s night, a small village is the subject of a brutal attack. A fourteen-year-old boy, Jordi, sees armed men approaching and manages to wake his family. He and a handful of survivors flee into the frozen, snow-covered forest to wait for the preacher who told them their way of life was based on lies.

Shepherd, a freighter-tramp and smuggler, is commissioned to deliver illicit medical supplies to a hostile border planet near the Wall. He is dragged into a fight he does not believe in and a desperate struggle to protect his ship, his way of life and the lives of the persecuted few who seek only freedom.

A revolution is coming…

The Heretic is the bestselling first book in a longer tale spanning four volumes. The award-winning Beyond the Wall series is gripping, epic space opera, written as hard science-fiction. It is the story of humanity’s future and the discovery of the truth of its past.

The Review

If you’re a fan of Firefly and have been itching to get your hands on something similar, you’d do well to read The Heretic by Lucas Bale.

The story starts with a raid on a small village of exiles on a planet close to The Wall, the boundary between the civilised galaxy and the rest of the universe. It’s not clear why the village was attacked but there are hints it has something to do with them following the teachings of a heretic preacher. When Shepherd, a sometimes smuggler arrives at the planet withe supplies for the village just attacked, he finds himself caught up in something much bigger than it first appears.

This story is tight, well-written, with a group of characters that are relatable without falling into standard tropes or clichés. What works especially well is the feel to the book. It’s a great combination of hard science fiction and the lawlessness of a western, and it’s no surprise that Bale acknowledges Firefly as a major influence.

The story is short for a novel but this length suits the story perfectly, allowing it to barrel along at a good pace. I highly recommend this book.

To buy The Heretic from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Heretic from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.