All non-fiction books – and I mean all – should have an index. It stands to reason. They contain information that readers want to find. If they didn’t, well, they wouldn’t buy the books in the first place, would they? They will probably read the book cover to cover initially, but later may well want just to dip in and retrieve certain facts that they remember coming across, but not necessarily know exactly where. It’s infuriating having to thumb through half a book for ten minutes, desperately seeking something.

Books are underindexed. Why? Because publishers won’t pay for them, on the whole. That’s left for authors to do. One of three things happens. 1. The author doesn’t bother with an index, and that’s the usual outcome. 2. The author does the index him or herself, but not terribly well. (Sorry, authors, but it is a skill.) 3. The author pays an indexer to do the job.

I’m an accredited indexer, as well as editor and author, and I do several indexes a year. As a rule of thumb, I charge around one euro per page of text that needs indexing. So the majority of those I work on come in at around 250 euros. That’s quite enough for an author to find, but nothing for a publisher who can spread it over a large print run. The publisher will have spent an awful lot more on editing, artwork, cover design, publicity, promotion, possibly molly-coddling the author. I simply can’t fathom why they won’t invest a tiny bit more and add an index, making the book so much more user-friendly. It’s ridiculous.

For that reason, coming across an index unexpectedly is a real joy. I’ve been reading a lot of living-in-France books (see my book reviews section). And at last one has an index. It’s La Vie en Rosé by Jamie Ivey. (Review coming imminently.) And it’s not a bad one at all. My main quibble is that the usual recommendation is not to have more than five page references per entry. This has up to a dozen in places. Really, there should be more subheadings. Also, there are a few not-so-brilliant entries. For example, there’s an entry for ‘City’ (p.16), but it should be to ‘London’, and ideally you’d put a separate entry along the lines of ‘City, see London’. But I’m so pleased to see an index at all, I’ll let them off!

Caiti's delicious cake

So this month’s Unexpected Index Award goes to – La Vie en Rosé. Keep up the good work please, Jamie! What’s the award? One of the fabulous cakes the Chef in Wellies (my daughter Caitlin) regularly rustles up which, um, we’ll eat on the winner’s behalf.

(OK, so I might have to rethink the prize …!)

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’ve finally found my first totally free Kindle book. I’ve been rather miffed to find that all the free books I’d seen advertised and tried to get hold of up until now were either unavailable to my Kindle in France, or had to be paid for (not much admittedly, a few dollars, but they weren’t free). However, idly looking up ‘Oakley’ (my maiden name) on my Kindle last night, I came across a book called The Princess and Joe Potter by James Otis and illustrated by Violette Oakley. And it was definitely free. I had to get it! But I can’t read it. It’s too nineteenth century with the lower class characters speaking in sentences like “He was willin’, so long’s I ‘greed to be careful about fire, an’ well … there’s nothin’ to keep you from comin’ down to-night and seein’ it” and “I s’pose we’ll have a high old time between now and mornin’, ‘cause that kid, sweet as she’s lookin’ jest now, ain’t goin’ to be quiet.” Way too annoying! And no illustrations by my possible distant relative in sight. I’m beginning to see why it was free now!

So I’ll carry on reading A Song for Europe by Simon Lipson on my Kindle instead, so I can do a timely review of it to coincide with The Eurovision Song Contest, compulsive viewing in our household. It’s a very funny, delightfully readable story that I’m enjoying no end.

Do check out the reviews on this site. I’ve just added one on Martin Calder’s A Summer in Gascony which is a really excellent book.

And now, time to get on with writing my own books for the Kindle…

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.

I hope you’ll enjoy these. I’ve put my favourite three in bold – they sum me and my writing up quite well.

 

1.       There are two kinds of writer: those that make you think, and those that make you wonder. Brian Aldiss

2.       Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. Anon

3.       Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders. Walter Bagehot

4.       He was such a bad writer, they revoked his poetic license. Milton Berle

5.       It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly. C. J. Cherryh

6.       Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. E. L. Doctorow

7. Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. E.L. Doctorow

8.       Writing is easy:  All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. Gene Fowler

9.       Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will. Goethe

10.   A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one. Baltasar Gracián

11.   Easy reading is damn hard writing. Nathaniel Hawthorne

12.   A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing. Eugene Ionesco

13.   Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds. Juvenal

14.   If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that’s read by persons who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves. Don Marquis

15.   Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say. Sharon O’Brien

16.   Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted. Jules Renard

17.   The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book. Mickey Spillane

18.   I do not like to write – I like to have written. Gloria Steinem

19.   How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. Henry David Thoreau

20.   Keep a diary and one day it’ll keep you. Mae West

Just a quick apology if you visited this page in the last few days and found nothing here. Chris was transferring our websites to a new server. All done, so back to normal imminently with some new posts.

Right, the preliminary challenge before starting the 31 day challenge to build a better blog was to do a SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.So here goes for my very new blog:

Strengths: I’m an editor and also a published author so I know quite a lot about writing and publishing. I have a lot of book reviews to put up. My own books to showcase. Interest in electronic publishing too.

Weaknesses: only just starting. Not well known.

Opportunities: making a bit of pocket money if I affiliate to Amazon or to a writing workshop etc. Build up links to other writers and their sites.

Threats: all the other excellent writing sites out there! My lack of assertiveness which I must overcome.

As for the ‘elevator pitch’ i.e. short promotional sentence, hmm. Join me in my journey to be a published author again? Or what I already have – Relaunching my writing career, and looking at books, publishing, the Kindle … and more! Yes, I’ll stick with that.

 

In my career as an editor, both in-house but mainly freelance, I must have worked with hundreds of authors on hundreds of books.

But I have to say that the nicest author I’ve ever come across is Lucy Hamill. Lucy, a retired teacher and department head, has written some wonderful French textbooks for Edco in Ireland. They are modern, lively and inspiring. Lucy is permanently brimming with brilliant ideas. It’s hard to keep up with her!

Lucy is also incredibly kind. Today she sent my Irish-food-deprived family a box of goodies, pictures above, to say ‘thank you’ for the work I’ve recently been doing with her on her latest book, Panache. Last summer, she came to visit with husband Sam and little dog Todd, and treated all five Daggs to a wonderful meal at La Bonne Auberge in Nouzerines. It’s not often editors get such treats from authors. Thank you Lucy!

 

I’m determined to make this blog as good as it can be, so I’ve signed up for Darren Rowse’s ’31 Days to Build a Better Blog’ challenge. (I signed up for the WordPress Daily Post Challenge with my other blog, Blog in France – I’m a bit of a sucker for challenges!) Here’s the link to the 31 Days challenge if you feel like having a go too.

And before I even start, I have to run a SWOT analysis on my blog – which shouldn’t take long as there aren’t many posts yet!

I’ll keep you updated about how I’m getting on with the challenge. In the meantime, do check out my book reviews.

I’ll be back blogging properly soon.

 

I’ve been spending too much time in hospitals with Caiti lately and so my blogging time is on the short side just at the moment. So a quick post today, but one I’m sure you’ll find useful. Here are three things I found on the Web this last week that I am sure will interest any writer.

1. The first 16 pages of Roz Morris’ book Nail your Novel are available here. This looks a very interesting book. I’m tempted to get the Kindle version. You’ll find Roz’s excellent website at http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/

2. Here’s a really good review of Christina Katz’s Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform. Another book I’ll have to add to my shelves – not in Kindle format sadly! Christina Katz has a website, The Empowered Writer, at  http://christinakatz.com/

3. A recent post from Gutsy Writer Sonia Marsh is very thought-provoking. It considers whether blogging helps creative writing. In my case, it definitely does. I’m smoking-hot creativity wise at the moment, and I put it down to my daily blogging ritual!

See what you think of these three links.