Reading, Reading and More Reading

My blog has sadly seen little activity over the last months. But thankfully this has allowed me to get the final book of the Valerious Chronicles ready for publishing. At this stage we are looking at a June release so stay tuned for more information very soon.

In the meantime if you haven’t read ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss, get onto it. Just finished it and can’t praise it highly enough.

Autumn

The last weeks I have had the rare opportunity to set my sights on something other than the Valerious Chronicles. I’ve rekindled my love of comics, found much more time to read books, caught up on a few shows I’ve been meaning to watch and even gotten back into video games.

But I have finally gotten my manuscript for ‘The Fleet of Sinsai’ back and am going to be putting my head down to perform the final edit and read through. I am excited to be on the cusp of releasing the final book, and so far the feedback from my Beta Readers has been outstanding. I hope you are all looking forward to seeing how the story ends, as much as I am looking forward to seeing the journey of my first Trilogy come to a close.

In the meantime if you are looking for some insights into how I am spending my free time you will find that I am busily flipping through the following comics and can’t recommend them enough.

– Locke & Key

– Star Wars 2015

– Batman (The new 52)

– Ms Marvel

– Saga (OMG Stop everything you are doing and go get this!)

– Guardians of the Galaxy

– Lumberjanes

– Darth Vader 2015

One of the next updates should hold the release date for the final book! So stay tuned.

Hard at work

I am in the final stages of proofreading for The Tyrant’s Onslaught. Once that is finished I will begin the arduous task of formatting for Smashwords, Kindle and Paperback.

I am expecting Pre-orders to be available in the next fortnight and will keep you posted once they are up.

Until then, keep your fingers crossed, and send me some good vibes so that I can keep my eyes open and get the next installment of the Valerious Chronicles out to you.

 

Review: On Writing by Stephen King

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Even if you aren’t a writer, I would say read this book. Part autobiography, part guide to writing, On Writing  had me nodding my head so many times, people on the train must have thought I was a bobble head. I will admit that I haven’t read a lot of his fiction. I am familiar with most of his stories through their TV, movie and comic adaptations. Yet I was fully engrossed for the whole book.

King’s early life is described in such a vivid way that I felt as though I was there with him. At other times I was sitting in a chair right beside him, listening to him talk on a lazy Sunday afternoon, recalling the days of his youth. I have a new found respect for the man whose life never seemed to be easy. I can appreciate how he is able to bring so much character and feeling into his own writing. That being said, it is obvious from his tips on writing that more than life experience has brought him success.

I will not go into the details of what he suggests every writer, new or established, do when practicing the skill. However the idea of having a toolbox from which to draw is one that I feel could translate to any art form. And that is why I would recommend the book to anyone who dabbles in some form of art. King provides not only advice on techniques, but a philosophy which inspires you to stop reading his book and get to it. Often I was torn between putting the book down and getting back to writing, or continuing to turn the engrossing pages.

The amazing thing, now that I look back on the book, is that I did not agree with all of his advice. Those who have read my blog before will know that I feel there are many different techniques and forms of writing. There is no absolute right or wrong, other than traditional grammar and structure, and therefore one shouldn’t feel as though you need to follow everyone’s rules. If you tried to you’d never get any actual writing done. You’ll find conflicting advice anywhere. However, despite my occasional disagreements, I found myself finishing the book and feeling invigorated. I felt like I have the power to turn on my computer and begin typing pure gold. For King to be able to do that whilst still have me questioning some of his advice, honestly amazes me.

One thing King mentions which I could not agree with enough is that without constant reading, particularly of authors who are considered masters, or books that are popular or acclaimed, one can never truly learn to become a better writer. To see examples of good writing, to absorb them properly, will do you more good than reading 100 guides on how to write. (Ironic really to make such a point in a book on writing advice.)

I don’t and will not hesitate to give ‘On Writing’ 5 stars. It strikes a fantastic balance between motivation, technique and biography. You don’t need to agree with everything he says, but you will feel like you have the capacity to achieve your goals once you have finished reading.

Rating: 5/5

Update on The Tyrant’s Onslaught

TO Alternate cover 2

A few days ago The Tyrant’s Onslaught went out to my amazing Beta readers. It was at that point I realised it’s not long until Book 2 of the Valerious Chronicles will be ready for publishing.

I am now aiming to have it released at the end of July/early August and am looking forward to marketing the second volume.

Writing on Book 3 continues. I have hit about 20% complete so far and still aim to have the first draft finished by early 2015.

Until then sit tight, it won’t be long until Book 2 is up and ready for consumption.

20 quick tips for writers

Writers can never get enough tips and advice from their peers. In an effort to give back from my own experiences here is a list of 20 things I’ve learnt.

1)      If you don’t enjoy writing, stop and look for a new job/hobby.

2)      You will always look back and think that you can improve what you’ve already written.

3)      When selling books to strangers, Book covers are more important than your blurb and often more important than your story.

4)      Anyone who says ‘write everyday’ obviously hasn’t got a full time job and a family.

5)      That being said, write when you can, as often as you can. Even if it is only 200 words.

6)      Your back, neck, hands and arms will suffer. Maintain posture and take breaks!

7)      Don’t write what you think will sell, write what you WANT to write. Otherwise it will be rubbish.

8)      You are way more excited about your writing than your friends and family. Remember not to talk about it all the time.

9)      If someone is helping you with reading/editing make sure you really show them how much you appreciate it.

10)   There is nothing wrong with tropes and clichés as long as what you write is entertaining.

11)   Finishing a story is hard. Every time you do, pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

12)   Some people plan, some people write as it comes to them. Neither approach is wrong or right.

13)   Grammar is incredibly important. Don’t trust your spellchecker.

14)   Writing can be isolating. Make sure you step outside into the real world just as much as you step into your imagination.

15)   Reading for enjoyment is one of the most important tasks for someone who intends to write what others will enjoy.

16)   Set yourself small goals. My first goal was to get 1 single person I didn’t know to read my work. So far I’m doing alright!

17)   Even with a lot of hard work, it’s tough to make a living out of writing. But never give up.

18)   It is very easy for us to become overly critical. Be careful in how you judge the writing of others.

19)   Google really is your friend.

20)   Stop to smell the roses every once and a while. Then get back to the keyboard, you’ve got writing to do!

Remember the most important piece of advice, don’t take someone else’s opinions, tips or advice as gospel. Different things work for different people and different people have different tastes. Find your own happy spot and just don’t forget to never stop learning.

New cover for Dawn of the Valiant

In anticipation of the release of book two of the Valerious Chronicles, Dawn of the Valiant is now FREE on iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.

I have also been working on updated covers for the eBooks to provide a more thematic pattern throughout the trilogy. The updated cover for Dawn of the Valiant is now live. Enjoy!

DOTV Ebook Cover

 

5 Self-Publishing Truths

It is commonly said that writing is a lonely task. We spend most of our time sitting behind the keyboard, fuelled by coffee and tea, grinding away at the metaphorical page. And all of this by our lonesome selves.

So what about once you have finished your book and it’s ready to go? God, this must be the best time, the time you get to present your spectacular piece of art to the outside world. It’s time for the world to bask in your magnificence – because your book is the best thing that’s ever been written – don’t deny it, you know it’s true. But hold on, now you need to get it published.

Editing, agents, publishers, manuscripts, more editing, rejections, no replies, more editing and then you realise nobody wants your book. You have two choices. 1) Throw it in the chest and start the next book or 2) Self publish.

I read a lot of articles on how to self-publish successfully. I don’t often read about what the reality is for the 99th percentile.

I chose to self-publish, because, hey, I worked my behind off writing this book, and I at least want to let people read it. Once I made the decision to self-publish a whole lot of truths became apparent. Let me share some of them with you.

Truth 1: You are starting a business.

As easy as it is to publish your own work in today’s world, you are setting up a business. And if you have never set up a business, it takes a lot of work. It also takes a lot of research and a lot of reading up on things that you have likely never thought about. Setting yourself up as a sole trader, tax, forms, phone calls, formatting your manuscript into a published novel or ebook, creating or commissioning a cover… the list goes on.

Yet, again, this is where you realise how alone you are. Sure you may spend a lot of time as I do reading other writers blogs and participating in online writing communities. They do help to make you feel less alone, but only so much. Because at the end of the day you still need to do the work, no one is going to publish your book for you – self-publish remember!

Setting up everything to allow yourself to publish takes a long, long time. Especially if you have a day job that isn’t writing. But don’t despair, it is all worth it and thankfully most of these tedious parts are one offs.

Truth 2: You have published your book. Nobody Cares!

No really, nobody cares. Ok that’s not entirely true. Most of your friends and family – assuming they aren’t all overachieving, highly successful millionaires – will be very impressed and provide you with kind words of encouragement. They may even buy your book! However the rest of the world doesn’t care.

Why is that? Because there are so many books out there to buy. Readers are swamped by an endless sea of tweets, facebook posts and ads that are showing them what to read. It’s oversaturation, and when faced with too many options, people go to what they know is good, what is already successful and what others are recommending. It is the only way of sorting through the, for lack of a better term, slush pile.

Truth 3: Publishing just isn’t enough.

They say that a self-published book on average sells 100 copies in its lifetime. Unless you market your book, you are not going to get sales. It sounds simple but it is true. And sadly the easiest methods are not often the best. You can post on twitter with constant links to your book under every hashtag that you can think of. You can spam your facebook friends until the cows come home. You can post on forums letting people know that your book is out. A lot of people will click on the link and have a look at your book. But how many will actually buy it. Sadly it is a very low number.

We can hardly blame people. You have to ask yourself, how many books have you bought after clicking on a link that a random person sent you? I can tell you that for me it is a total of 0. I have enough famous authors to read and it is a sobering fact that this is the case for the rest of the world. The percentage of people who will take a gamble on an unknown author is small.

So the task is to try and build a name for yourself. Join the discussion on forums and blogs. Don’t post about your book, just post about topics being discussed. Post something interesting and if you have your website in your signature, maybe they’ll have a look on their own accord.

Truth 4: Don’t publish too early.

I will admit for the first time here that I published my first novel, Dawn of the Valiant, far too early. I released it into the market eagerly and had not done enough editing. I thought I had, my eyes and fingers were telling me I had, but the truth was there were errors in my novel. A lot of them were simply grammatical mistakes, ones easily missed by a reader. Others were blaringly obvious and somehow overlooked by both my editor, beta readers and me. These can hurt your reputation. And often you only get one shot.

Thankfully the beauty of self-publishing is that continuous improvement is but a new upload away. I have now had a professional editor go over the book and, doing some extra editing of my own, sorted out 99% of the issues. Regardless, that should have been something I had sorted before my prospective readers picked up my work. You don’t want to be known as that guy who published a book, but left in all the typos. I look back at it as an important lesson.

Truth 5: Yes there are success stories. But they are the exception.

How often do you hear about 50 Shades of Grey or Wool or any other author who has successfully self-published? Hey don’t get me wrong, good on them, I myself hope to someday be mentioned beside them. The truth is you will probably publish a lot of unsuccessful books first, even if you are lucky enough to hit the big time.

There is some hope here though. Brandon Sanderson wrote 13 books before getting published. C.S Lewis received over 800 rejections. The trick of course is to keep writing. Eventually you’ll get it right. And if you don’t at least you can pass on a whole heap of books to your children.

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So there a few of my learnings, there are plenty more. Yet, despite all of these revelations I loved self-publishing. I will continue to do so until I manage to trick a traditional publisher into signing me. And if that day never comes, I will remain thankful that in this day and age it is possible and affordable for me to get my books out into the market by myself.

Are you editing too much?

Writers love to write. Who would have thought? Then they finish their story and have to edit. Gasps, grabs chest in panic! There are some crazy people out there who enjoy editing; some who go so far as to love it! I am convinced they are delusional.

Most of us rely on others to fix our work for us, but before that can happen we need to do the initial editing ourselves. I’ve just finished the first edit of my second book and am finding myself changing sentences as I usually do, only to change them back on the second read. I have come to realise that there are really two types of editing;

(Type 1) The Necessary: This is the editing that removes grammatical mistakes. Wrong words, bad spelling, incorrect punctuation and other things that are just plain wrong by language standards.

(Type 2) The Superficial: This is the editing that moves a word around or changes a phrase slightly to change the narrative itself. Often this will improve your work, but it is ultimately a matter of taste.

Getting your manuscript ready for submission/publication is a process of doing the Necessary editing first and fully, and then knowing when to stop with the Superficial. Most people have heard of overcooking your manuscript. And I firmly believe there is such a thing. In fact, without care, one can easily set the house of fire by leaving the editing in the oven unchecked.

This also applies to the situation where you have multiple editors/beta readers. Everyone’s tastes differ and sometimes as the author you need to take creative control and stick with what makes you happiest. I have had 6 different people read a single chapter and all want to change the same sentence to 6 different things.

Excess Superficial editing takes up a lot of precious time. Time that could be spent marketing your book or writing your next book. So the key is to know when to say enough is enough and finalise your manuscript.

If I have learnt anything it is that no matter how many times you change things, you will always look back at your own work and want to fix it. Writing is a skill that continues to grow, so it is only natural that you will feel you can write that sentence better. At some point you need to bite the bullet and give your work to your audience.

Just like buying a new TV, in 6 months there will be a better version for the same price. Six months from now your writing will have improved and you could rewrite your story to improve it. You need to eventually draw the line and finalise your story.

Watch out for the Superficial editing trap. Have confidence in your work and just get it out there. Don’t leave the oven on, nobody likes an overcooked manuscript.

Stay on target!

Only 3 chapters to go until I finish the second book of the Valerious Chronicles. I am nearing the dreaded editing phase where I pull my hair out over changing a word or removing a sentence.

 

This time around I will be doing things a little differently and using my beta readers to greater effect. There is nothing like experience to get you on the right track and I know that after ‘Dawn of the Valiant’ I have learnt many a lesson that will make the whole publication process easier.

For all of those out there waiting for the next installment, hold on a little longer. The day isn’t too far away!