Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing!

This thought came to me recently while sitting at my laptop. It had been one of those incredibly busy weeks and I hadn't written a thing. It was as if circumstances were conspiring to keep me from working on my current book. And I believe all writers, in some stage in their career, suffer from what I call, The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing.

1. Busyness - Most of us have families and jobs and our writing career is divided between these and the pressure to maintain our social media contacts - Facebook, Twitter, our blogs, Linkedin, Tumblr, Pinterest... etc - as they are essential tools in publicising and marketing our books, as well as establishing valuable contacts with other writers and even publishers.
We get so caught up in these everyday practicalities our writing is the first thing to be neglected, and sometimes even sacrificed to the gods of duty and obligation.
Discipline and organisation is the key. Create a timetable for yourself - one you can realistically adhere to - and make time to write.

2. Fear - of failure! How many writers have a potential best-seller hidden in a box somewhere in the attic, beneath the bed, the bottom drawer of a cabinet or on top of the wardrobe gathering dust, because they fear rejection by a publisher? Or, they never complete the book they've been working on for years, as they don't think it's good enough? I could name hundreds of brilliant writers, who's name's we would never know if they allowed fear to hold them back. Just look at some of the books making the best-seller list, and they happen to be the biggest pieces of crap around - Fifty Shades, anyone? If something like that can sell, then anything can!

3. Procrastination -  The dreaded writers block. We're stuck on a chapter; a character isn't behaving the way we would like. (Talk to your characters and ask them what they want! After all, it's their story.) Then, go for a walk to clear your brain, or grab a coffee at your favourite cafe and relax. It may take a while, but the ideas will come. It's so easy to deliberately allow other things to become a distraction simply to avoid sitting and staring at a blank page.

4. Impatience - You've finally written that book and now you can't wait to publish it. But, has it been thoroughly checked for grammatical and syntactical errors? What about plot holes and structural deficiencies? As writers, we're too close to our work and simply don't, "see the forest for the trees."
They may be expensive, but it pays to have your work checked by a professional editor. See it as an investment in your writing career, and one which will certainly pay off in the long run.
Don't be impatient. Writing is a long term process, and if you want to gain a reader following, it's up to you to provide a quality product.

5. Lack of Confidence - in your story. Sometimes all the varying opinions writers receive in their writers groups can be confusing. Every person has their own opinion, and readers are very subjective. Remember, this is your story. Don't change it because it doesn't suit one or two individuals; it's impossible to please everyone, otherwise you'll be forever chopping and changing until your book no longer speaks with your voice. Adopt what is useful, but never lose your integrity.

6. Arrogance - Now this may seem a contradiction to the one above, but let me explain. Sometimes writers suffer from, what I call, the 'Best Seller Syndrome.' Face it, we've all done it. We think our book will reach the best seller lists overnight; movie producers will be knocking at our door begging for the film rights; we'll be on Oprah!
Yeah, right!
Truth is, your book will more likely be lost in a sea of millions of other would-be hopefuls hoping for the same break. Unless you're one in a million, that just won't happen.  So, take a reality check and hope your book earns enough to pay the next electricity bill, otherwise you'll be writing the next one at the local library, plugged in to their power supply!

7. Chair-bum - Unless you get out of that seat and exercise, you're likely to develop a backside only a sumo wrestler would be proud of! Every hour or so, move that arse! Take a walk, talk to your characters (though I wouldn't recommend doing that aloud and in a public place!), fidget, stretch and get that body moving. Stay healthy and write the books that'll happily keep us up into the wee small hours of the morning.

So, those are my seven deadly sins of writing.
If anyone can think of any others, I'd be glad to hear.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Do Christians Write Vampire Stories? We Certainly Do!

I love paranormal stories. The fact that vampires happen to be my favourite supernatural creature doesn't stop me from enjoying reading about 'ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night.' They're such fertile fields for the mind to run barefoot in! And being a Christian doesn't mean I stop using my imagination, exploring the unknown and even writing about it. I believe God gifted us with a minuscule share of His unlimited creativity and imagination - after all wasn't the creation of humanity like the beginnings of a book? We were in His mind before we were in reality. The Lord planned and plotted our world before he formed and filled it.

Some of the greatest writers of this millennium were Christians who left us a wonderful literary legacy. I'm happy to name giants such as, Paul Bunyan, Milton, the Bronte sisters, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Their works abound with creatures from mythology and the supernatural. For example, Bunyan's, Pilgrim's Progress probably wouldn't have enjoyed such success if he hadn't used well-known fairytale creatures of his day.  It's a true allegorical fantasy. His imagination worked together with his Christian faith to produce a best seller.

The same can be said of Milton. Who would've ever thought to make the so-called Prince of Darkness, an anti-hero and spawn the current spate of angelic/demonic literature popular today?
Need I say anything about the Bronte's - Charlotte, Emily and Anne - who although devout Christians, gave us not only the dark, brooding heroes in Heathcliffe and Rochester,  but hauntings and references to elves, fairies, sprites and witches?

And what about those literary demi-gods - C.S. Lewis and Tolkien? Their works stand alone. Where would we be without Narnia and its fauns, centaurs, the White Witch, talking beavers, minotaurs and noble lions such as Aslan?
Could any of us, now conceive a world without Tolkien? The Lord of the Rings is peopled by evil and good wizards, elves, orcs, hobbits, dwarves and unseen angelic beings and has even recently been named, Book of the Millenium!

I know this is just a cursory glance, but it serves the purpose - Christians do write fantasy and the  paranormal, and yes, there's often romance, too. Even though I haven't specifically addressed the issue of vampires, they also come under that wide umbrella.What better way to see the dark side of human nature than a creature who is condemned to exist by living off the lifeblood of others?
Do they succumb to the darkness or spend their life fighting the urge to kill? Is there redemption possible for such a creature?
(I'm almost tempted to say something about politicians, real-estate salespeople and bank mangers here!)

So, the next time someone asks me why I write about urban paranormal romance, I'll simply rattle off a few names.

I'd love to know what others think. If you have an opinion on this, please feel free to comment - politely.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

When Is The Best Time To Blog To Get The Most Page Views?

My original intent was to post an article about writing, but as I went through my blogger stats something interesting stood out - certain days of the week received a much higher response than others. So, as Alice said, curiouser and curiouser! I decided to take a closer look and ventured into the rabbit hole and this is what I discovered.

1. My most popular articles were posted on Sunday and Monday afternoons (USEST). Now, since I'm an Australian, I have to take into consideration the time difference between my country and the rest of the world as my audience is largely from the US and Britain. Between Sydney and New York (at this time of the year) there's a sixteen hour time gap, while a nine hour one exists between Sydney and London. That means I need to blog on either Monday or Tuesday morning as it appears people enjoy reading and or catching up on blog posts on Sunday afternoons and then again on Monday evenings. And from the two, the latter rates the highest.

2. I found my least viewed blogs were posted on Friday and Saturday nights.  Like duh! People have better things to do on a Friday night than sit at home and read blogs. For an Australian, like me, that means NEVER blog on a Saturday morning! Everyone's out enjoying their weekend with family and friends, so who wants to stay home in front of their PC? Nobody!

3. Over time - as you post regularly - your page views grow as your audience get to know you and specifically search for your blog. Nothing beats perseverance and, of course, writing interesting articles. But, that's a topic for another time.

So, today's post is more of an experiment. I'd like to know whether it's the time of week or the article itself that attracts the most page views. And since I'm posting this on a so-called popular day,  the results will be interesting!

I'd love to hear from anyone who's found something similar - or not. Please let me know.

Next week? Hopefully back to normal writing stuff! 

Monday, 4 February 2013

Do the Big Five Publishers Release Badly Written Books? You Bet They Do!

Publishers are continually telling us to submit the most polished manuscripts, otherwise they won't consider even looking at our work. I can understand that. Hundreds - maybe even thousands - of manuscripts land on their desks every week and it's simply not possible to peruse each one. So, they only check the best. Fair enough. They have a standard to uphold. And that's why many traditional publishers and agents deride indie authors - they see their work as sloppy, amateurish and below standard. So, imagine my surprise when at a recent writers festival in Sydney, I was handed a free copy of one of Harper Voyager's recent publications.
Now, one of the things I love about writers conferences and festivals, is not just meeting fellow writers, learning more about my craft and then getting the chance to pitch, but it's the fun scramble for free promotional books - fantasy, science fiction, romance... etc.
I came home, not only excited because two of the Big Five publishers represented asked for my full manuscript, but I also had an arm full of delicious reading material I could - figuratively - sink my teeth into.
Bring on rainy days so I could stay in and read!

Now, I write paranormal fantasy and that's what I love to read. So, naturally, the first book I picked up and settled in with, was a dark vampire romance published by Harper Voyager. With a cup of tea in one hand and my book in the other, I began to read.
Very soon, my excitement turned to disappointment, for instead of reading, I began to edit!

Here's an extract from the book:

   'You've done it this time, Kaspar,' Fabian groaned in my direction, his eyes changing to become
colourless, matching my own and betraying his worry. The girl stared openly; as soon as I met her gaze she looked away and I was glad that despite her sharp tongue, I retained power over her. 'The King won't like this,' he added.
   No, of course he won't.Neither will the council. I said nothing and surged back towards the mansion, as he fussed over her, adjusting her body in his arms so he wouldn't hurt her.
   The run allowed time for panic to set in. I was already on thin ground with the council, where a no-confidence vote against my position as heir was only ever a misdemeanor away. Bringing the daughter of a man so high up in government into our world, therefore breaching multiple treaties, was definitely in the sin category.
   Why didn't I just kill her?
   When Fabian caught up I immediately grabbed her wrist and dragged her up the steps. She winced and trod lightly and I briefly took in her battered feet. With a resigned sigh, I tugged harder.
   'What are you doing?' she demanded, digging her heels in despite the obvious discomfort.
   'Getting out of this mess,' I responded, relieved to see my sister, Lyla, waiting at the bottom of the staircase, inside.
   'Do you think you could get out of this without slicing my wrist up?'
   My stride was shorter than usual as I faltered slightly, struck by a sudden admiration at the ease with which she accepted our existence, mixed with irritation at her boldness.
   The girl just does not give up.
   Lyla - more irritating than any sopping wet human girl could ever be - worked her features into a scowl, which was particularly effective on her usually doll-like face. She took Violet's wrist without a word to her, instead focusing on me.
   'You really screwed up this time, little brother,' she growled.
Violet stared up at the other woman - who was almost a head taller and considerably slimmer - with utter awe. Lyla ignored it. She knew the effect she had on both sexes. Have fun with your fucking human war, she finished in my mind, sweeping upstairs with Michael Lee's daughter in tow.
   I wasn't concerned about any war. I was highly unlikely to survive to see it, with the King's wrath progressing across the entrance hall.
   Fabian dropped to his knees in a very low bow, screwing his eyes shut and crossing his fingers at his sides. 'Your Majesty.'

I honestly didn't know what to make of it, but I couldn't go on reading as the rest of the book continues similarly. The story itself is intriguing, but I have to ask the question - does Harper Voyager employ an editor? If so, there's no evidence of it in this book, yet they have the hide to deride and criticize indie authors! Were they so desperate to publish a vampire novel, and hop on the band wagon - so to speak -  they neglected any form of editing?

I'd love to know what others think of this extract. Am I being too harsh? Or is this the type of writing we can now expect from the Big Five? And if the latter is the case, then why should I bother spending the time and money polishing my manuscript when this type of stuff ends up on bookshelf stores!