Tuesday 27 February 2018

7 myths that can hold new #writers back

1. Your writing community is all important

Um.... yes, and no.  It's good to have writer friends, online or otherwise, for support and advice (particularly the practical, like how to get beta readers, and which promotional practices are worth spending money on), but writing itself is a solitary activity.  In order to produce a good novel, you have to spend hours and hours alone, motivated only by your will to write it.  Yes, it's lovely to mull over plot points with other scribes you meet via the internet; the writing/blogging community on Twitter is particularly friendly and supportive, but essentially you're on your own.  

All those lovely people who retweet your angst about your 'imposter syndrome', send you gifs to show you that yes, their first draft is rubbish, too, and give you advice on how long a chapter should be (the answer: as long as it needs to be) aren't going to get your novel finished; writing isn't about being in a fun social media club.

As Zadie Smith said, don't rely on gangs, groups and cliques.  The presence of a crowd won't make your writing any better than it is.

2.  Motivational quotes make it happen!

Related to the above, I recently saw a tweeter asking for inspirational memes and quotes to motivate her to get on with with her novel.  

In order to be a prolific writer you will sometimes have to open that Word doc when you would rather watch telly or scroll through Twitter, when you have reached a plot point that isn't working, or are scared that you've just written 10K words of total garbage, but if the desire to write is strong enough, you'll do it.  If it's not, all the motivational quotes in the world won't get your novel finished.  That's okay.  You don't have to write.  You might want to go back to it five years time, instead; maybe now isn't the right time.

Which brings me to...

3.  You have to really, really want to be a writer.

In author interviews I am often asked if I have a good piece of advice for would-be writers.  Maybe too often, I say that they need to make sure they want to write, rather than be a writer.  If you fantasise about seeing a new Netflix series based on your (as yet) rather sketchy first draft ... if you tell everyone you're an author as soon as you've completed chapter one of your first novel and love sitting in cafรฉs with your laptop because it makes you feel writer-ish, if you've spent the morning thinking up a fun #WritingCommunity poll for Twitter but haven't actually added any words to your story, it's possible you want to 'be a writer' more than you want 'to write'.

Let me illustrate this further.  Mary (not her real name) says her goal is to be a best-selling author, and describes herself on social media as a writer.  She has a huge following on Instagram, where she posts daily photos of herself in gorgeous clothes surrounded by books, typewriters and clever word pictures.  They're beautiful, creative, and she gets thousands of 'likes' on each one; well-deserved, as she clearly puts a great deal of work and thought into them.  But writing?  She spent three years co-writing a 60K word novel, self-published three years ago.  She has published nothing since, aside from the odd half-hearted short story on her blog.  She says she wants to be a writer.  She does not yet realise that what she really wants to do is take wonderful photos and become a social media star; at this, she works very hard and is successful.  Mary likes the image of herself as a writer.  She does not actually want to write.

Zadie Smith again:

Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4. Getting that 'yes' from a publisher means you've arrived. 

Not necessarily.  Publishers range from the Big 5 (HarperCollins, MacMillan, Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster and all their offshoots/imprints), to large independents, to smaller independents, to mainly e-publishers, to two guys working out of their spare room, to vanity publishers who advertise themselves as 'hybrid' in order to kid the author that paying to be published does not mean it's a vanity press.  Big 5 book deals are incredibly hard to get, but some smaller publishers have no clout with retail outlets, are not that fussy about what they take, or indeed about how they produce your book ~ or pay your royalties.  I've written more about this HERE.

5. Once you've got a publisher, you can forget all that marketing stuff and just write.

No, you can't.  

Recently, I've seen a few tweets by 'aspiring' authors declaring that they're going to look for a publisher rather than self-publish because they don't think they'll be any good at self-promotion.  

Bad new, folks.  Unless you're a major publisher's next big thing (which will still mean interviews, book tours, etc.), most of the marketing will still be on you.  One Big 5 published author told me that signing her contract was when the work started.  She is required to have profiles on all social media sites (not just idly chat on FB writers groups, as before!), and use them on a regular basis; it's part of her working day.  Many small publishers do next to no promo.  Vanity presses do none at all, because they've already made their money from you.

6.  You can ignore legalities and the laws of physics, etc.; readers will suspend their disbelief because it's fiction.

A lot of them won't.  Yes, we know that zombies don't exist (one day, one day...!), but we don't want to feel that the writer thinks we're stupid.  If X would not explode at Y temperature, we don't want to be told it will.  If professional bodies would not be legally allowed to do Z, we won't be convinced by the story.  Similarly, it rarely works to change a character's personality in order to fit the plot, or to suddenly shoe-horn in a couple of unlikely revelations in order to construct the end twist you've just thought of.  Readers notice.  Part of the skill of writing a novel is working out ways to make your plot work within feasible boundaries.

7. Reviewers should give constructive criticism.

Sorry, but they're not obliged to.  It's lovely when you get sensitive, tactful, balanced reviews that help you with your future writing, but it is not a reader's job to tell you how to write.  The time for a full, constructive critique is before you publish.  Once your book is out there it is an article for sale, and if the reader doesn't like what he's bought, and wants to say nothing more than 'It was a bit boring', it's entirely up to him.  Take heart; a few less than brilliant reviews won't stop your book selling.  

Feb 28
I'd like to just add 3 more myths, suggested by Barb Taub, below.

You will achieve immortality through your writing.
Yeah, your book will still be around when you're dead.  So will millions of others... and, sadly, these days, if you don't publish frequent new titles, that book of yours will soon get pushed back onto a dusty bottom shelf of the vast, ten hangar-sized book store that is Amazon, and forgotten.

Writing classes, blog posts, books and online courses can teach you how to be a great writer
Um, no, they can't.  They can teach how not to be a bad writer, and how to structure a novel, but the talent needs to be there in the first place.

Everyone has a book inside them.
This may be partly true, but, sadly, many of them should stay where they are.  Doesn't mean you can't get better ~ most people's first novels are a bit rubbish; I'm talking the first ones they write, not the first ones they publish.  I'll expand on this in a future list.

Good luck!

Monday 26 February 2018

Review: #TheWalkingDead S8:9 HONOR #TWD #TWD Family #TheWalkingDeadUK

Links to most of my other Walking Dead posts HERE

'It's not supposed to be like this.  I know it can be better.'

The end of a TWD era, as the Atlanta 4 becomes the Atlanta 3...

...and finally we get to see what Rick's red eyes in Episode 1 were all about.  Who could have guessed back then?  Soo-ooo sad....in my opinion Carl's death didn't quite trump the saddest ever TWD burial (Tyreese in S5:9 What Happened and What's Going On), but yes, I admit to tears when Rick told him he loved him at the end. 

Loved this shot
I thought Rick, Daryl and Michonne played it so well, with the best sort of dialogue, ie, not too much of it.  As usual, Daryl's hand-on-shoulder and odd, gruff sentences said all that was needed.  And Michonne's face when we heard the gunshot was heartrending. 

I've always loved the relationship between Michonne and Carl, since he first decided she was 'one of us' in S3: 12 Clear, and later when she told him about her baby, Andrรฉ.  Then there's the Crazy Cheese...

I have to say, I thought the meaningful conversation with Siddiq could have been skipped; I felt a bit 'who cares what he thinks?', not just because if it wasn't for him Carl would be alive (and I wonder how much of a problem this will be for Rick in days to come), but because he's a new character.  We just don't give much of a stuff about him yet.  They could have used that screen time to have Tara or Rosita, for instance, saying goodbye to him.  Or a bit more Daryl. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Strange bedfellows

Back at the Kingdom, Gavin 'I never wanted all this' Saviour has to turn Ezekiel in, and our favourite drama queen tries to persuade him that he doesn't have to.  I wonder if Gav might have done the right thing had all his men not been killed by Carol and Morgan, who burst into Ezekiel's theatre with all the confidence of goodies who know that baddies are always terrible shots, and even if outnumbered 4-1, the goodies will usually win, if it's their turn to.  Negan needs to give his men some serious weapons training; even with constant fire, at fairly close range, they couldn't manage to do so much as graze Carol and Morgan's armour.

For those who are missing the Walkers, there was a nice bit of intestine ripping out by Morgan, just before he delayed killing Gavin for long enough to let wee Henry show off his skill with his aikido stick by shoving it through the Saviour's neck.  I imagine Henry will continue in his role as Carol's Sophia-replacement, like Sam, Lizzie and Mica before him.

Meanwhile back at Carl's deathbed:
'It was all for you, right from the start.  Back in Atlanta, the farm, everything I did was for you, and then at the prison, for you and Judith'.  Okay, that was the bit that made me cry!  Carl talks about when he gunned that kid down in S3:16
Welcome to the Tombs...

 ...and reminds Rick about afterwards: the prison in those 6 months twixt S3 and S4, when Rick brought Woodbury survivors in to join their community, kept pigs, grew cucumbers, put away his gun, and it all came good.  He says that he knows it can be like that again, because he's seen it ~ which is when we realise that the fantasy pictures of that idyllic community were in his head, not our glimpse into the future.  Yet it gives hope, not least of all that Rick won't go totally inShane again.  Not too sure about Negan joining the gardening detail, though....

'No more kids stuff'

To wrap it up... I'm guessing that the Saviours will be offed episode by episode; we've started with the could-have-been-a-good-guy, and will no doubt move on to Regina (you know, that bird with the muscly arms who popped up out of nowhere round the Sanctuary boardroom table in S8:1), then 'orrible Benjamin killer Jared, then Simon.... then.... well, you know who.  Will Eugene get his just deserts?  I hope he does, and that Dwight lives to fight another day on the side of the good, but I think it's more likely he won't. 

After all they've been through, to go out with a Walker bite.  Oh dear, and Enid doesn't know yet....

Daryl: 'All of us together.  We'll be their worst damn nightmare.' 

My summing up of the last 8 episodes and the clues that Carl had been bitten,  HERE

Sunday 25 February 2018

Lately I've been watching....

Previously on Lately I've been watching....
5 February
18 January
9 January

An every-few-weeks round up of film and telly recommendations.  For more info, click on title.

Film, starring James Franco and his brother Dave.  True story of Greg Sestero, a young actor-wannabe who became involved with Tommy Wiseau, the writer, producer, director and star of The Room, 'the greatest bad movie ever made'.  The Room (see below) has now become a cult favourite; audiences turn up in wigs of their favourite characters and shout out the lines.  Merchandise is available on Amazon, including t-shirts emblazoned with the most well-known lines (see here).  The Disaster Artist is terrific, funny and sad, and James Franco (as Wiseau) is as wonderful as ever.  Loved it, and am currently reading the book!

5 stars

After watching the above, I had to watch The Room.

It's hilarious, a celebration of appalling dialogue, wooden acting, amateur direction, ridiculous lack of continuity, unresolved plot lines (one of the best being a woman announcing she has breast cancer, and her daughter replying that she mustn't worry and it'll be fine, without looking even remotely concerned ~ the breast cancer is never mentioned again in the whole film).

Impossible to give a star rating!

Highlights here (the breast cancer scene is the third one)

Film, true story: rookie journalist travels to strife-torn Somalia, to go where few others dare in the hope of getting his big break.  Good, but I found Evan Peters in the starring role a bit irritating, and his wig, beard and suntan make-up in the later months looked as though they were bought from a fancy dress shop/slapped on under bad lighting.  The bits about Somalia itself were fascinating, though.

4 stars

Recently watched the second series of this, about the Farrells, a family of 'isolationists' who live up a Kentucky mountain.  The townspeople leave them to their own devices, but a big coal corporation wants to blow their mountain up.  I really like it, and hope it continues, though (spoiler alert) they've done the dumb thing of getting rid of one of the main (and okay, the best looking) characters at the beginning of the second series (Asa Farrell played by Joe Anderson).  Stars Thomas M Wright as the cop who is on the Farrells' side (as you will be, too, after a while), David Morse, Ryan Hurst (Opie in Sons of Anarchy) and Kyle Gallner (for Walking Dead fans, he was the 1-episode Zack, at the beginning of S4!).

4.5 stars

Film, starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend.  Covers the time before Victoria became queen, and when she first meets Prince Albert.  I thought it might be a little slushy for me, but I liked it alot, and found Victoria and Albert's relationship most touching.  Beautifully done.

4 stars

TV Series, Season 1.  Wife of cop returns after having been held captive for 6 years.  Lots more murders and action, uncovering of serial killer, tales of abuse of kids in care home.  Not bad, I enjoyed it; I'd say yes, watch it, it's good, but it's not brilliant.  Seemed to be missing that spark that makes something really memorable.

3.5 stars

Friday 9 February 2018

TIPPING POINT & LINDISFARNE ~ Both books @ 99p for a few days #PostApocalyptic #Dystopian

Click HERE for Tipping Point
 Click HERE for Lindisfarne

The post apocalyptic Project Renova series

Year 2024
A deadly virus
Civilised society begins to break down....

99p/99c from 9 ~ 11 February.
Click HERE for Amazon link.

99p/99c, from 9 ~ 15 February
Click HERE for Amazon link

Associated stand-alone short stories:
Patient Zero is always 99p!
Click HERE for Amazon

The third novel in the trilogy, UK2, will be available at the end of March or beginning of April, 
(all being well, cross fingers and as long as the world doesn't end....)

Monday 5 February 2018

Lately I've been watching.....

Previously on Lately I've Been Watching....
9 January
18 January 

Click title for more details

The Crown

The life and times of the British royal family ~ I've just watched Season 2, which was even better than Season 1.  It takes place during the late 1950s and early 1960s and deals with revelations about Edward VIII's Nazi sympathies, Princess Margaret's love life, a meeting with the Kennedys, the downfall of MacMillan's government after the Profumo affair, and so much more.  Can't wait for the next season!  Claire Foy and Matt Smith star.

5 stars


Season 5, still terrific despite the lack of Ragnar Lothbrok.  I've written a full review of it HERE

5 stars


Druids and Romans in Dark Ages England.  Watched the first episode and unimpressed; the awesome-ness that is David Morrissey didn't quite make up for the rest of it.  Struck me as the Happy Shopper version of Vikings.  I think US TV seems to do this sort of thing so much better; the actors and dialogue were unconvincing for the time, with people like Julian Rhind-Tutt playing more or less the same character as he did in Green Room. Somehow, Lagertha talking to Torvi in Vikings seems authentic, even though they're speaking in English, but the two sisters on the beach at the beginning of this just weren't.

2 stars

Last Flag Flying

Film: light tragi-comedic drama about three Vietnam vets, starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Lawrence Fishburne.  I'll watch anything with Mr Cranston in it, and he's great in this.  Loved it, definitely recommend!

4.5 stars

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Not my usual thing at all; comedy/musical series starring and created by Rachel Bloom.  New York lawyer abandons her career to chase a dream in California, stalking an ex-boyfriend.  I enjoyed the first 3 episodes of Season 1 which were really well done, but the 4th episode was a bit weak, with lots of determinedly 'zany' chick lit type scenarios, and I don't think I even smiled, so I don't know if I shall bother to watch any more. 

3 stars


Drama series starring Sharon Stone about an ill-fated, neurotic children's author.  Weird to see her finally starting to look old, though still beautiful.  Lovely mountain setting, pretty bog-standard murder plot type thing, but good.

3.5 stars 

Top of the Lake

Just watched Season 2; #1 was set in mountainous New Zealand and I really loved the scenery as well as the plot.  #2 is in Sydney.  Flavour of the month Elisabeth Moss stars as a detective with all sorts of personal baggage, around which the plots centre.  Very gripping, good stories, loved it (#1 was my favourite).

5 stars

Inside No. 9 

Just watched Season 4 of the darkly comic tales starring and written by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith.  They vary; they're all good but some are just 'yeah, that was good', and some are great.  I liked the last two of this series the best; brilliant twisty plots.

4 stars

Safe House 

Film - rogue CIA agent thriller starring Denzel Washington.  Good, but not remarkable; I've actually forgotten what the plot was about already.  But I enjoyed it at the time. 

3.5 stars

Sunday 4 February 2018

Ten miscellaneous tips for debut writers

Over two years ago, I wrote a post about the slip-ups often made by new writers, based on my own mistakes and the books I read in my role as a reviewer for Rosie Amber's Review Team.  It's HERE if you would like to read it.  Here are a few more miscellaneous tips that might be of use to the new writer, especially one who is self-promoting on social media.  It's based on further reviewing experience, talking to other writers and reviewers, and my excessive use of Twitter for the past 6+ years!

The book itself

1.  Make sure the names of your characters stand out well, particularly if there are a lot of them.  Don't have main characters whose names start with the same letter, or give them all common names; if you have a group of friends called Joe, Rob, Jodie, Andy, Tony, Ruth, Jack and Anna, it will be hard for the reader to differentiate between them.  One could be known by his/her initials, for instance; then there are nicknames, and the occasional Sapphire or Lysander!

2.  People don't talk in perfectly grammatical sentences.  Nor do they give exactly the right amount of information required by the person to whom they are talking.  They say lots of boring things that should not be included in your novel.  Enough ~ for a brilliant article that outlines everything you should know about dialogue no-nos, by Anne R Allen, click HERE.

3.  Before publishing your first novel, have it assessed by someone other than a friend/family member, unless you are absolutely sure that they can do so not only honestly, but objectively.  I can't advise on critique groups as I have never used one, but it's definitely worth exploring; I've seen many words of thanks to them in the Author's Notes at the back of books I've liked.  

I'd counsel research if paying for a professional assessment service; I gather that some refrain from negative feedback, which could be because of today's culture of encouragment, or simply because they're hoping to get more business and recommendations from you.  Receiving only encouraging feedback is lovely, but it won't help make your novel better.  Make sure they have proper industry experience (for instance, with a Big 5 or established publisher) before handing over any money; see link in 4, below.  Beware of authors who have set themselves up as editors or critique providers; they may just be topping up disappointing book sales and will not necessarily have the expertise to do these jobs.  Check out their 'best selling' author claims; don't believe website blurb.

4.  Always have a thorough, cover-to-cover read of the final copy of your book, after editing and proofreading, before publication.  You might spot a typo that the proofreader has missed, or a bit of bad formatting.  You should do this even if you have a publisher; always ask if you can see the finished draft before they press 'go'.  Don't just chuck it at them for the final proofread and think 'job done'.  I'd say at least 25% of self-published or indie press published books that I read have far more than the acceptable 5-10 errors  Some indie presses do not use experienced, professional proofreaders; you can read more about this HERE.

5.  If you're going to write about drink/drugs and those who use them a lot, or any sort  of 'street' culture/crime/gang life, etc, make sure you know what you're talking about.  Few crimes against contemporary literature scream 'amateur' more than getting drug terminology wrong, for instance.  You can't get it from Wikipedia or the Urban Dictionary.  You have to know about it.  And if you are not a drinker but your characters are, make sure you fully understand about quantities/effects.

For another post with some excellent tips for new writers, by Louise Marley, on With Love For Books blog: Click HERE

Social Media

1.  Your bios on your social media profiles should be about YOU, not your novel.  Of course you will mention that you are a writer, but people are more likely to check out your book if you look like an interesting person than if you have written 'check out my book' (or worse, 'buy my book here') in your bio.  There is no need to make a separate profile for the book itself, as these are clearly just promotional tools; many do not like to follow inanimate objects.  Remember the word 'social' in the phrase 'social media'.

2.  In relation to the above, please don't do tweets/other posts asking people to 'download, read and review'.  Even if your book is free.  It's a 'big ask', and it looks like begging.  The onus is on you to make your book appear interesting enough for people to want to download it, and to make it compelling enough for them to want to read it all the way through.  Few members of the reading public review; they're less likely to if they feel under pressure to do so. 

3. Don't advertise your book as a 'five star read'.  It's so 2011, and all books except the most dire have at least one 5*.

4.  If you have requested a review from a book blogger and they have provided one, thank them.  Even if you're not 100% happy with the result.  They've given up their time, free of charge; it's only common courtesy.  One book blogger told me that about a fifth of writers who are reviewed on her blog don't say thank you; some of them even have the cheek to submit another book.

I am always a little miffed when I've reviewed a book for Rosie's blog in a favourable way, tweeted it, and the writer just clicks 'like' on Twitter and retweets.  How much would it take to thank me for my time?  This lack of manners guarantees that I will never promote that review again, RT the writer, or read anything else by them.  

5.  And finally.... Twitter auto DMs asking people to check out your book/blog/website, donate to your kickstarter, follow you on Instagram, like your Facebook page, etc, etc etc.  Just DON'T.  Not even the ones that invite people to let you know if they want help in promoting anything.  I have never talked to anyone on Twitter who doesn't detest auto messaging.  This can't be underlined too emphatically, or said too often.

I hope some of this is helpful :)