Three things that caught my eye this weekend. The first two are good morale boosters for all authors like me thinking of self-publishing on Kindle.

A recent Pollack book

1. Neil Pollack in a New York Times interview says: “My self-published product may not be the easiest proposition for mainstream publishers. It will be short, it’s about Jews and basketball and bumbling fascists, doesn’t involve teenage vampire sex or the Knights Templars, and wouldn’t be likely to sustain a $9.99 download price, which is the low end of what publishers are charging now for new e-books. Here are the economics: I’m going to charge five bucks, or $4.99 a download. For every book sold, my online vendor will send me 70 percent of the revenue. In raw dollar amounts, that’s more than three times what I’d get from a mainstream publisher for each paperback sale. If I manage to score a thousand downloads, which I almost certainly will at that price point (I have a large family), I’ll make 3,500 bucks, and if I get 5,000 downloads, I’m looking at $17,500. Quickly, I’ll have earned the equivalent of a pleasant advance for this book.”

2. From: Kindle Self-Publishing. John Locke, author of Saving Rachel says: “The first time I saw the business model for selling eBooks on Kindle, my eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas,” says John, “because Kindle doesn’t just level the playing field for self-published authors, it actually slants it in our favour. For the first time in history there’s an advantage to being an independent author!”

His advice: Write the types of books you like to read and are good at writing. In John’s case that’s light entertainment. “I offer my readers a fun, breezy read,” says John. “If I can give them some chuckles and hold their interest for a few hours, I feel I’ve earned my 99 cents.”

3. And here’s a cool free e-book of poetry by Christopher L Jones. I can honestly say this is the best poetry I’ve read in a long time.

 

Ruadhri really loves the Smurfs – or rather the Schtroumpfs, as they’re called in French. He is addicted to the comic books (bandes desinées) about them. I decided it was time to find out more.

In case you didn’t know, Smurfs are fictional characters with blue skin, white trousers and white hats. They live somewhere deep in the forest, and travel long distances by stork. They began back in 1958 as a comic strip in Spirou magazine, drawn by Belgian cartoonist Peyo (Pierre Culliford). Soon they got their own comic, and then books and films, and then the merchandising machine swung into action. You can now get Smurf toys, figurines and games.

I’ve had a browse through the books. The stories are straightforward with lots of action. And they use the word ‘Smurf’ a lot – as a noun or a verb. You get sentences such as: ‘This time I’m going to smurf. I know it!’ and ‘It’s going to smurf us like a mouse’. Sounds confusing? Probably, but the pictures give an idea of what’s going on. The French version has an advantage over the English as we get the distinction between ‘schtroumpfer’ (verb) and ‘schtroumpf’ (noun). That probably helps the kids work out what’s going on a bit easier. And there was I in my books, trying to use as varied a vocabulary as I could!

Anyway, Ruadhri loves the books and I haven’t noticed him saying Smurf all the time. So I’ll let him work his way through the series. They’re the first books he makes a beeline for at the library. Closely followed by Scrameustache, another comic books series (but I’ll save that one for another day).

The Smurf books have been translated into 25 languages, and more than 25 million copies have been sold. Now I could do with sales like that!

However, see this article for another viewpoint on the Smurfs as racist and anti-Semtic. Who’s right – Ruadhri or this professor?

Five things you have to know before you start writing are:

  • your plot
  • your characters
  • your genre
  • your voice
  • your limits!
Maybe this is going to happen in your story?

1. Know your plot – I’m as guilty as anyone here for having only a vague idea of how things are going to turn out when I sit down at my computer and start to type. I make use of mindmapping these days to help me devise an interesting plot and keep me on track. It’s likely that your story may start to take its own direction once you’ve begun. Think about this. If that’s OK, and you can replot successfully, then go with it, but if the change of direction is only going to derail you in the long term, then be firm and get back to your blueprint.

2. Know your characters – not necessarily all of them, as who knows what minor ones are going to appear along the way. But you must have a concrete idea of what your main characters are like – their names, ages, shoe sizes, favourite colours and foods, senses of humour. I’m not kidding. And you have to know how they’re going to react to what you’re about to throw at them as the plot unwinds. The more you know about each character, the easier it will be to write about them.

3. Know your genre – what sort of book is it going to be? Steamy sex romp? Genteel historical drama? Fast-moving spy thriller? Children’s non-fiction? The type of book is central to all the other facets here. It will determine the sort of characters that will appear, what the plot is going to be, the vocabulary, the voice you will use. You can mix and match genres to some extent – for example, a romantic interlude in a hard-hitting cops and robbers story won’t come amiss – but there has to be one overriding one that will become the soul of your writing.

4. Know your voice – first person or third person? First person is more fun to write and it’s easy to construct a personality for the book to work through. But its limitations are that this person can only know so much of what’s going on around him or her. And if you use first person, is it you with your personality, or are you going to be stepping in someone else’s shoes? The third person gives you an all-seeing eye, allows you to swap between characters easily, but the disadvantages are, in my opinion, that it can easily become passive, and definitely convoluted when describing action involving two characters of the same sex. ‘His’, ‘her’, ‘him’ and ‘she’ become confusing, and the only way around that is to use clumsy over-explanatory sentences.

5. Know your limits! You know your energy levels, your time available, your likes and dislikes, your strong points and weaknesses. Work within those and you’re much more likely to be successful. Don’t set your sights on writing a ten-book historical saga when your preferred medium is the short story. You can’t organise your way out of a paper bag? Maybe best not sketch out that complicated, internationally-ranging, high-tech thriller.

You know what you can do. Now do it!

Something Fishy has become enormous. I’m at 180,000 words and not finished. It’s too big. So I started thinking hard about what to do today while lugging hay and water around for the llamas and goats. It’s amazing what a spot of not-so-gentle exercise can do for the old grey matter. I found the solution. I’m going to break the whole thing up into two (or more) books. I’d already been planning the sequel. And the sequel’s sequel! So … it will mean a fair bit of replotting and rewriting, and of course new writing, but I’m confident the project will work a lot better that way. Just need to jiggle the plot here and there. Watch this space!

I’m starting to think about a cover. This website was brilliantly helpful. I need to start taking lots o fishing photos to choose from. Here’s one that will be on the ‘to be considered’ list:

It’s maybe a bit too ‘quiet’ for my story but it’s a beautiful picture and an inspiring starting point. The only books out there that are even remotely like my book are in The Syndicate series by Mark Cunnington. Here’s the cover of one of them for comparison:

You know what – I can do better!

How to fit a few more precious moments of writing into a busy day around your day job:

Five extremely practical ways:

  1. Only wash up/load the dishwasher once a day.
  2. Stop checking Facebook, Twitter, your blog stats etc quite so often.
  3. Shower faster – or less often. You choose!
  4. Cut housework down to the absolute minimum to stay hygienic.
  5. Do bigger grocery shops to cut down on trips to the supermarket.

Five extremely effective ways:

  1. Sell your children.
  2. Shut yourself away from the world for a month.
  3. Hire maids, gardeners, cooks etc so you don’t have to do anything other than write.
  4. Go without sleep.
  5. Type faster.

OK, I never said they were practical!

STOP PRESS: There’s still time to read the brilliant A Song for Europe by Simon Lipson before Eurovision on Saturday on your Kindle. I’ve just had a lovely email from him, in response to my review of the book. What a nice guy.

 

 

Writers who only use 'said' make me mad!

I’ve got the bit between my teeth over this. (See my post 25 Ways To Say ‘Said‘.)

Here are another 25 much more interesting alternatives to ‘said’:

Answered, anticipated, bantered, bawled, begged, coaxed, enquired, encouraged, explained, exclaimed, frowned, hassled, pondered, prompted, promised, remembered, roared, sobbed, shrieked, soothed, tempted, sympathised, wept, wheedled, yelled.

And another 25:

Apologised, contradicted, cooed, deliberated, denied, dictated, droned, echoed, empathised, enticed, enthused, exhaled, expostulated, gulped, grinned, grimaced, ordered, sighed, sang, yelped, swallowed, realised, repeated, reported, winced.

More soon …

My children's names are Ruadhri, Caitlin and Benjamin - not on the top ten lists

How many boys’ and girls’ names are there? Hundreds of thousands I imagine. So why is it I have managed to use the same name twice for different characters in Something Fishy? Because I wasn’t keeping a list. This is something else I’ve learned the hard way writing my first adult book. The problem never arose with my children’s books. They were short enough to keep a tally of the names in my head, and I tended to write them quickly. But here with my 150,000 word project which I’ve been writing over about five months now, and a largish cast of characters, it’s a different kettle of fish. So over the weekend, I shall be rereading and drawing up its dramatis personae. From now on, every book will have one from the first word.

Live and learn!

In case you were wondering, the most popular names in the UK in 2009 were: 1 Oliver; 2 Jack; 3 Harry; 4 Alfie; 5 Joshua; 6 Thomas; 7 Charlie; 8 William; 9 James; and 10 Daniel. For girls: 1 Olivia; 2 Ruby; 3 Chloe; 4 Emily; 5 Sophie; 6 Jessica; 7 Grace; 8 Lily; 9 Amelia; 10 Evie. Mohammed would in fact topple Oliver if all the different spelling variants were aggregated. There are plenty of lists of most popular names on the Net which can be a very useful resourse. I’ve only used 7 out of the above 20 ones. I should probably include more to be as modern as I can.

Writing my first adult novel has been a learning experience. Having only written books a few tens of thousands words long at their very longest (many were less than 5,000 words) up to now, suddenly having to organise a manuscript that’s currently just over 100,000 words has been tricky. I had originally created just a few large files, that I added to in a rather haphazard fashion as ideas occurred. They were labelled ‘Marcus story’, ‘Latest’, ‘New bits’ – shockingly vague and hopeless! It’s left me unable to find things I know I’ve written somewhere, despite using ‘find’ on Word.

So I’m now working on a chapter by chapter basis. If I get a brainwave for a later event, I write it quickly and store it in a very clearly labelled file, such as ‘Scottish hotel bit’, ‘microchipping bit’ etc. It took me a while, but I got there in the end.  You’re probably rolling your eyes in dismay but honestly, I never had this sort of problem with my concise children’s books!

I wrote about this!

Great news! I had an article published in the Weekly Telegraph online edition. Read it here. My Dad was a lifelong Telegraph reader so he would have been very proud! (Do read the comments too – quite an argument got going!)

I also translated a poem about Creuse Masons for my other website, www.bloginfrance.com. I’m pleased with it. See what you think.

I’m behind with my Build a Better Blog Challenge, but not too disastrously, so hope to catch up soon. But I’ve been very busy writing. I’ve switched from my living in France book to my fishing mystery, Something Fishy, and now have nearly 99,000 words written. It’s going very well. Finding the time is the frustrating thing, but I’m soldiering on!

Insomnia is becoming a problem too. I find that I have so many ideas buzzing round my head after writing in the evening that I just can’t sleep. Poor Chris, he puts up with me wandering in and out of the bedroom at all hours of the night! I should probably adjust my writing schedule but evenings are really the only time I can sit for an uninterrupted hour or two at the computer. Life gets in the way during the daytime.

To keep me on my toes, I’m going to do a round up of the week’s writing I’ve done every Friday. Life has got in the way a bit this week with two sick kids and trips to health clinics, but enough of excuses. I’ve done quite a bit of writing none the less. Just need to do a bit more!

So, word counts so far on my works in progress. The titles are all working ones only, so if they make you cringe, don’t panic.

Heads Above the Water: this is my life in France book. Currently at 47,000 words. You’ll find the first 2,000 words here. This project is taking priority at the moment.

Something Fishy: racy fishing mystery. 86,000 words. I have more material written for it, I just need to organise it into chapters. Reading the closest I’ve found to this a modern fishing mystery, and I don’t feel threatened shall we say!

Tricot Treat approx. 20,000 words but very disorganised. This is a knitting/yarn bombing mystery. Plenty of progress in my head but not on paper!

Brownie. Teenage fiction about a girl with a hopeless mum who moves to France. 22,000 words. Coming along nicely, have most of it plotted out in my head. Oh for a few more hours in the day …

Knitting for Frenchaholics: 5 patterns so far. I’ll post more about this during the week. It’s quirky and fun.

I have 3 blogs now – this one, www.bloginfrance.com which I post to every day, and I have a new one on the Angling Line’s website, Steph’s Blog, with a fishing-related theme.

And this week t-weekly, the online Daily Telegraph, has accepted a 1,000 word article. Cool!

Spent a fascinating morning at the archives in Gueret today. I shall be going back regularly from now on. So much to find out about Les Fragnes.

Time to take Rors to judo. I sit and write while he’s getting physical. I enjoy my Friday nights in the car!