Saturday, 21 November 2015

10 Editing Tips For Authors

1. Leave it alone

Don't start editing immediately after finishing your first draft. Leave it a few weeks or even a few months. Approach it in much the same way as any reader would and correct accordingly.

2. Don't look at everything and think it's rubbish

Be brave. Don't be scared. It's normal for writers to hack away at their manuscript as a woodcutter would a tree, but that doesn't mean that it's all garbage. A writer has to learn to look for the green shoots of progress and to nurture them.

3. Always look for plot holes

Ask yourself: does this make sense? Would something else work better? What would the reader find more believable? Write like a winner not a beginner.

4. Make your character as realistic as possible

No 2-D characters please. Humans aren't like this and neither should fictional characters. Make sure that like the narrative they're entirely believable. Respect your reader.

5. Always look to cut.

Stephen King says that he looks to snip 2000 words from his manuscript. Me too. Cut off the flab to ensure a smoother, quicker read for the reader. Remember less is more.

6. Pay attention to your paragraphs

No winding, meandering rivers of prose please. Break them up to build pace, excitement and suspense. Look at which sentences could be broken off to stand on their own.

7. Avoid any unnecessary adverbs

Ideally, you should only use an adverb - particularly in dialogue - to inform the reader of something they would not have known otherwise e.g using the adverb "cheerfully" to describe someone's speech if they are normally dull and dour.

8. Avoid any unnecessary prose

Cut anything that doesn't add to the story or if it repeats what you've already said. Make each word count for something.

9. Make sure your dialogue is realistic

Make it as close to real life as possible. I die every time I see "Graham and I", instead of "me and Graham" when I know from their background that the character wouldn't speak so perfectly. Likewise a kid from the Bronx wouldn't converse like an Oxford don.

10. Keep editing

Don't stop until it's the best that you can make it. Don't get bored half way and then send it to the publisher regardless. If it takes ten read-throughs then that's what it takes. Typically for every day of writing you should be looking to spend one day of editing.

Final Word

If you have any comment to make on the content of my blog please do not hesitate - I love a good discussion!

If you want to check out my novel - Jack Strong and the Red Giant - about a 12 year old boy's adventures on a spaceship check out the link below:

Jack Strong and the Red Giant

Saturday, 14 November 2015

10 Tips For Authors


1. Write. Write as often as you can when you can. Never procrastinate. Writers write, dreamers dream.

2. Read. Read as much as you can as often as possible. Words are the whetstone to a writer’s mind. Novels will improve you as a writer.

3. Plan what you write. Always. A good writer is also a well-prepared one. Avoid any unnecessary literary cul-de-sacs.

4. Set clear, achievable goals. It could be a chapter a day or a few hundred words. Just make sure that it’s doable. Small steps will take you to some exciting places.

5. Finish what you start. A writer writes not just for the sake of it. Don’t flip from one project to another. Start it, finish it.

6. Leave it alone. Don’t start editing as soon as the ink has dried upon your manuscript. Leave it a few weeks and then go back to it. Then read it as any reader would.

7. Edit, edit, edit. Always be prepared to re-read and re-write your novel multiple times. Don’t be scared to look at it again and again. Whatever it takes.

8. Let someone else have a look. It could be friends, family – someone you trust to give you honest, constructive feedback. Consider what they say and be prepared to LISTEN and ACT upon their advice.

9. Never give up. Most if not all writers get rejected but it’s vital that you keep sending your work out to agents and publishers.


10. Take a break. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes take a week or a weekend off in order to re-fresh your batteries. Make sure you’re writing in five years’ time, not just in five days. 

Heys Wolfenden is the author of the Jack Strong series of books, about a young boy's adventures in space, available now on Amazon: Jack Strong and the Red Giant

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Good writing habits

Why I Started Vlogging

1. Promotion

Yeah, I admit it - the number one reason why I decided to start my own vlog was to (occasionally) promote my novel Jack Strong and the Red Giant as well as showcase my poetry. My vlog gives me the opportunity to access a new audience that is distinct from the people who normally read my blog as well as the many social media platforms that I use. Already it has gotten me at least one new reader (alright it's not a stampede but it's something) for my Jack Strong series, as I was able to inform one of my channel subscribers about a book giveaway last month. Hopefully as the weeks and months progress and the posts tick by my vlog will help bring my work to the attention of other like minded readers.

2. It's Something New

I love writing this blog and communicating with other people about the writing craft but I don't want to stagnate - I want to experiment and try different things and of course recording a weekly vlog is very new in today's publishing climate. Some of the vlogs on YouTube are astonishingly successful - gaining well over a million views week in week out - though writing blogs (as opposed to ones about make up and what they're doing for Christmas) aren't as popular. The most successful writing vlogs can expect to get anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand views every week, but it's still a great opportunity for writers to advertise and market their work as well as go into detail about the writing craft.

3. It Can Help My Writing

Since I normally read silently,I have found that recording myself as I read aloud and then publishing it on YouTube provides me with the opportunity to hear how the words sound. This then allows me to check on the effectiveness of my vocabulary, particularly the words I use for my description and dialogue. After reading and putting the first two chapters of Jack Strong and the Red Giant on YouTube this has already given me some pause for thought about how some of the narrative can be improved and built upon.

4. It Could Help Me Get Published

If a vlog helps me to improve my writing then it will also make my novel a more attractive proposition to the many agents that I send it to, thus making it more likely to get accepted in the near future. In addition it will also be something that I can draw attention to in the covering letter that I send to agents and publishers. Since many of these want authors to be experts at marketing their own work it will obviously demonstrate that not only am I doing just that, but that there is also a ready-made audience out there familiar with me and my work.


Final Word.

I only started my vlog a few weeks ago so it's early days yet. So far I've had about two hundred views in total, but as the weeks and months progress I am confident that this will continue to grow. In a few months' time I'll write another blog post and give you an update on my endeavours. We'll see how it goes...

If you want you can visit my vlog here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCr0C4hZIy6-CB05AlnxU0Bw

If you want to read my book Jack Strong and the Red Giant about a bullied 12 year old boy's adventures on a mysterious spaceship then you can check the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M22USRE?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Saturday, 24 October 2015

5 Reasons Why E-Readers Are Important For Your Writing

1. You Don't Need a Publisher

Gone forever are the days when aspiring writers' sole route into the publishing world was via agents and traditional publishing houses. The advent of the e-reader has changed all that. Now - either as a means to gain entry into the traditional publishing market or as an end in itself - the writer has the domains of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Google etc with which to ply their trade. This allows the writer to gain access to their market, thus allowing them to gain a consistent readership. And isn't that what we all want - to be read?

2. It Can Help You Get Published

By building up your readership and hopefully fan base there is also the prospect of getting your book picked up by a major (or even minor) publisher. E.L James' 50 Shades of Grey is one such example and Amanda Hocking's Trylle trilogy is another. Ultimately, traditional publishers are interested in whether or not there's a readership for your book so if you can demonstrate that there is then you have a good chance of getting picked up by one in the future.

3. It Helps You To Improve As A Writer

Essentially, publishing via an e-reader is an online version of a traditional writers group. It allows you to come into contact with other like-minded individuals who will then give you either positive or negative feedback. Ultimately, this allows you - again much like a writers group - to see your work in a more objective light, thus allowing you to constantly update and improve your work.

4. It Builds Your Confidence

But what if it's rubbish? What if I'm deluded? Such self-doubt is very common for writers especially when the rejection slips start pouring in and hopes of a six figure publishing contract start to fade. But if you publish your book via an e-reader you gain access to people who will view your work positively. Every time I get a good review for my books on Amazon my confidence rises and I start to believe that maybe - just maybe - my story has potential and that I have a future in this industry.

5. It Helps You Pace Your Novel

E-readers are all about tapping, swiping and scrolling. The reader wants the story to bounce along accordingly, especially if they are reading it on public transport, so you must make sure that your novel is constantly flowing. To facilitate this you need to cut out all unnecessary description and backstory.This is anything that impedes the narrative and will cause the reader to get bored and STOP READING. Don't dawdle. Be concise. If you have any overlong paragraphs then chop them down and make some smaller ones. It will increase the pace of your novel and make it not only more readable but also more RECOMMENDABLE. Remember the reader is KING.

Final Word.

If you have any thoughts and opinions on the contents of this blog then please do not hesitate to post a comment.

If you would also like to take a look at my novel Jack Strong and the Red Giant, about a bullied 12 year old boy's adventures in space then check out the link below.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M22USRE?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Jack Strong Chapter One School's Out

One of my love poems

Great Things Poem

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Paragraphs

4 Things You Should Remember When Writing Paragraphs

1. Correct Your Grammar

It goes without saying that your grammar should always be correct. This - as any writer will know - is not always easy, especially when you're writing at a million miles per hour - so you should always be prepared to go back, check and re-read your work. If anything seems even a little off then re-phrase it so that it reads better. It's annoying and laborious but it's something you have to do if you want even a modicum of success. A few grammar errors too many and the reader may switch off and start reading something else instead.

2. Remember the reader

The reader is of paramount importance when it comes to writing your paragraphs. The story, plot and character development etc ultimately all serve to maintain their interest and the details that you include are there solely to satisfy their expectations. The trick is to put yourself into the mind of your reader and introduce elements that YOU KNOW they'll find interesting. A good example of this is Harry Potter. What kid wouldn't be spellbound by a book with wizards and dragons and magical games like quidditch? So if you're writing a book about space for example, make sure to include plot twists and details that will send your readership crazy.

3. Cut The Fat

I hate long, winding paragraphs that go on forever. As a writer and reader I prefer paragraphs that that do just enough to advance the plot, character and dialogue and then move on. If you find that your paragraph is starting to look bulky on your page then have a look at it again and see what you can snip away. It maybe that that moon you're describing has one adjective too many or that you've repeated yourself in some way. It might be a cliche but less really is more when it comes to writing. Certainly your readership will think so.

4. It's Kindle Time

This is the kindle generation. As of 2013 43.7 million kindles have been sold by Amazon, meaning that more and more - especially younger people - are reading their favourite books via their kindle instead of in books. Reading is all about speed now. It's about tapping away at the screen so that the novel moves ever onward towards its (hopefully exciting) conclusion. Any paragraph that's too long and too cumbersome gets in the way of that - so as well as snipping away it's also a good idea to break your paragraphs up. Where you see one paragraph, there might in fact be three or even four. As well as moving the narrative along, this also builds suspense as the reader bounces from one cliffhanger after another.

An Example

Look at the paragraph below from Jack Strong in Dreamland and compare it with the one that follows. The deleted words have been highlighted.


The old man plunged through the snow drift, his thin, gangly legs twirling bucketfuls of snow behind him, as the wind whipped, whined and cackled. Taking good care not to drop the bundle of fur in his arms, he stumbled and tripped through the darkness, his stomach a roaring and angry fire. Hearing a loud, grunting sound behind him, he turned around and peered into the black night, soft flakes of snow and ice raking his face. Then he saw it – a huge black shadow rumbling and tumbling through the snow like an avalanche.

And now...

The old man plunged through the snow drift, his gangly legs twirling bucketfuls of snow behind him, as the wind whined and cackled. 
Taking care not to drop the bundle of fur in his arms, he stumbled through the darkness, his stomach a roaring and angry fire. 
Hearing a loud, grunting sound behind him, he turned around and peered into the night, flakes of snow and ice raking his face. 
Then he saw it – 
A huge black shadow rumbling through the snow like an avalanche.

All superfluous words have been removed and the paragraph has been broken up to increase the tension, particularly in the second to last sentence where the reader is invited to dwell upon what 'ít' might be.

Final Word.

If you want to discuss any of the points raised in this blog post then please don't hesitate - I love a good discussion!

You can also find on Amazon my novels Jack Strong and the Red Giant and Jack Strong and the Prisoner of Haa'drath, about a bullied, 12 year old boy's adventures on a strange spaceship. You can find the links below:





Saturday, 10 October 2015

How Often Should You Write?

Keep A Regular Schedule

First of all, I think it's important for you to write AT LEAST once or twice a week. This is necessary not only to keep your writing skills sharp, but also for you to remember where exactly you are with your story and what your main characters are like. If you have too many weeks where you write nothing then there is the all-too-real danger that either you will never finish your book or else you will complete it only to realise that large chunks are not good enough and need significant revision.


Do I Need To Write Every Day?

Ultimately this depends on how much time you have and what your schedule is like. Personally speaking, I don't write every day, but I do write 4 or 5 times a week, typically producing 1000-2500 words a sitting, which equates to approximately one chapter a day. This ensures that not only do I keep in a writing frame of mind, but that I also push it towards completion. Ultimately, you need to ask yourself am I writing enough? Can I write more? If the answer is yes then you need to write more - it's as simple as that.


Make Sure You Finish Your Book

The object of writing is not merely to write every day or a few times a week. No, the aim is to produce quality work on a regular basis. Don't write for writing's sake or bounce off an extra hundred words just to make your word limit for the day. You might find it helpful to set yourself daily or even monthly targets - I do. Indeed, I frequently aim to finish the composition and editing of a book inside 9-12 months. Overall this strategy has helped me write 4 novels and one full collection of poetry in a little over three years. Not bad eh?

Don't forget to Make Time to Read

Writing isn't the only way to improve your author skill set - reading plays a big part too. Stephen King recommends that you read for 3-4 hours a day. Most people - myself included - would find that very challenging, so I recommend at least 1-2 hours of quality reading. This way you get to see not only what is currently getting published but also what language is used and what characters are in vogue etc, thus making you a better, more knowledgeable writer.

Don't Forget To Make Time To Promote

It's important for every author to promote their work, especially if it's been published by the mainstream or independent press. Try to find time to share your book with your friends on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Reddit etc. It's also a good idea - like I'm doing now - to write a blog and in so doing inform the reader about your book and any promotions that you might have. This way you will sell more books, get more reviews, and see your confidence levels shoot up in the process, thus helping you to write more in both the short and long term.

Final Word

This weekend I'm running a giveaway for my Jack Strong series of books about a 12 year old boy who finds himself on an alien spaceship millions of light years from Earth. Both books - the links are below - are free all weekend!

Jack Strong and the Red Giant:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M22USRE?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Jack Strong and the Prisoner of Haa'drath:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00Y2CCV6S?*Version*=1&*entries*=0


How Often Should You Write?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

3 Reasons Why Writing When Sick Is Not A Good Idea

1. You need to get healthier

First of all, think of your health. Whilst it's true that you're not exactly leaping over assault courses when you're writing it still saps your energy and stresses you out. First and foremost you need to get better and return to work. Ultimately, the healthier you are the fresher your mind and the better your writing will be when you finally put pen to paper (or should that be finger to keyboard?) again.

2. You Write Best When You're Fresh

When you're fresh you can write for hours, and churn out hundreds, if not thousands of words in a day. When you're sick you can't. When you're sick you cough, splutter, stare at the page, forget where you were, and start again etc etc. It's a waste of time. Has anyone ever looked at what they wrote when they were sick? I have. It was pretty bad, mostly drivel. I had to bin it all. I am at my most productive - just like most of the human race - when both my head and body are fresh and raring to go (like today!).

3. Do Some Reading

As well as catching up on some much needed rest I also advise writers to catch-up on some quality reading. Finding time to read can be one of the biggest challenges any author faces. On top of our writing schedules, work and family commitments and social lives (yes, these are important too!) finding a slot for the latest J.K Rowling or Harlan Coben can often be difficult. So when you're tucked up in bed or else sprawled on your sofa open that book you've been meaning to read and INDULGE because it might just be the best chance you get.

Final Word.

If you have any comments on the subject of this blog please do not hesitate to engage - writers thrive on it!

Also, if you would like to have a look at my book: Jack Strong and the Red Giant about a 12 year old boy's adventures in space you can find the link here:

 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M22USRE?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

5 Things You Need To Know About Writing Sagas

Foreword

Okay, first off when I refer to sagas I mean book series'that are similar in vein to The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games etc - where the narrative arc and the character building spans several books, not one. These can be for adults or as is becoming more and more common these days for Young Adults (teenagers) and children.

1. It Takes A Lot Of Time

You can't write a saga or a series of books in a year or even a few years. They take years and in some cases even decades. It took J.R.R Tolkien 17 years to write The Lord of the Rings series of books and if you are willing to count The Hobbit and The Silmarillion as being part of the same overall saga then the whole composition took decades. The same too can be said of Stephen King's The Dark Tower (8 books) begun in the late 1970's and finished only in 2012. So if you're going to have a go at writing a series of books be prepared to still be working on it years from now.

2. It Takes A Lot Of Passion

Since writing a saga takes a lot of time it is important that the writer is extremely passionate about his or her project. A writer doesn't just write a first draft, send it off to a publisher and then get loads and loads of money. A writer gets rejected. Over and over, time and time again. It's a frustrating business and it leads to LOTS and LOTS of re-writes and re-edits as the writer chips away and tries to make each book the best that it can be. The first book in my Jack Strong series of books has easily been through 15-20 edits and I'm still without an agent and a publisher. But ultimately, I believe in the worthiness and readability of my project so I keep on working away, trying to make it better, trying to make it a more enticing project for any would-be publisher. And that is what YOU have to do too - plug away, keep believing, and never ever give up. Because without this passion and dedication your saga may never see the light of day, never mind a bookshelf.

3. You Need To Believe In Your Characters

Deep down you need to believe that your characters' stories demand to be told. When I write about the characters in my books it's like they are old friends of mine. I can't let a rejection slip get to me; I can't stop writing because if I did that then Jack and Vyleria and everyone else would die too, and I don't want that to happen. Ultimately, they are willing me to write about their adventures as much as any of my readers.

4. You Need To Read A Lot

Tonnes in fact, but in the main you need to read other sagas, other series'that feature characters and storylines that are both similar and dissimilar from your own. Since I'm a YA writer with a penchant for Science Fiction and Fantasy I read anything and everything in those genres - such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and The Chaos Walking trilogy of books by Patrick Ness. But I'll also read other books such as the aforementioned Dark Tower series that are slightly different in theme and aimed at an older, more cultured audience. Ultimately, if you read a lot of sagas you will, when writing your own work, start to get a feel of what works and what doesn't, and what is ultimately literary gold dust.


5. Don't Be Afraid Of A Little Research

Now I'm not talking about sitting all day in a library here - writers, chiefly should write, not research. No, I'm talking about reading the occasional news article about the latest discovery from Mars for example or else some of those weird sea creatures that occasionally end up in fishermen's nets. Such tales - carefully exaggerated of course - can give you some great ideas for your own writing. For example the volcano planet at the end of my book Jack Strong and the Red Giant is based in part on Jupiter's volcanic moon Io. The triangular American spacecraft featured in Jack Strong in Dreamland come straight from watching numerous UFO videos on YouTube. I could go on and so should you. Don't hesitate to feed your imagination with a few little tidbits gleaned from the weird and wacky world of the internet because at the end of the day it will be YOUR world, YOUR saga that will benefit.

Final Word

If you want to comment on any or all of the points raised above please do not hesitate to do so. Also, if you want to read all about Jack Strong's adventures in outer space check out the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M22USRE?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Thursday, 4 June 2015

6 Reasons Why I'm Writing Poetry Again

After a brief hiatus of 8-9 months I've decided to write poetry again. Here's six reasons why:

1. I enjoy it

Sometimes there's nothing more enjoyable, nothing more relaxing than crafting words together and telling a story in the form of a poem. It's a challenge, but it's a stimulating one nonetheless. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish what I believe to be a good, original poem. It feels good to be back in the driving seat again.

2. I have plenty of ideas

Right now I'm working on several "collections" of poems. The main one (Made in China) concentrates on life in Beijing, where I live, and looks at the experiences of those living in this thriving, crowded, often polluted city. Another collection that I'm working on focuses on the Chinese environment, in particular how industrialisation has polluted many of the eco-systems here. The oddest collection I'm working on at the moment details the life of a serial killer in London. In a way it's my attempt at writing about something that's not China-centric, whilst also taking poetry into new areas that it has hitherto shunned. If I didn't write then these green shoots of poetry would ultimately wither, unpicked. I need to write to allow them to bloom and grow.

3. I don't write short stories

As a Young Adult fiction writer (the first two books of my Jack Strong series are available on Amazon) it's important to write short stories and get them published in various magazines and anthologies so that I can increase my exposure to the reading public, thus making myself a more attractive proposition to would-be agents and publishers. But the problem is I don't write short stories - only novels. But I do write poetry - poetry which is often narrative and subject driven - so my poems can be my short stories. With every one that's published it increases my exposure to the publishing world and increases the likelihood that I'll get picked-up by an agent and/or publisher in the near future.

4. Made in China

As mentioned above I'm working on a collection of poetry (sonnets) that focuses on many of the working people that I have encountered in Beijing and throughout the rest of China. I aim to publish this on Amazon shortly after finishing the 3rd Jack Strong novel in July. If I keep writing poems that conform to this theme then my collection should be all the better, all the more complete for it.

5.It gives me something to write and reflect about

I'm talking of course about this blog. Focusing solely on fiction can be quite tasking at times, and so if I concentrate on aspects of writing and publishing poetry then it will ultimately give me something different to write about and share with others.

6. Ambition

After having completed an MA in Creative Writing with Manchester Metropolitan University a couple of years ago I have improved my poetry significantly. But I still want to get better and I still want to get published in some decent (and even not-so decent) magazines and anthologies. The only way I can realistically do this is to keep on writing and to keep on churning out poems in the hope and belief that one day I'll get the recognition that deep down I feel I deserve. If I stop writing completely - even to focus more on the Jack Strong novels - then almost two decades of work and effort will have been wasted.

Final Word

To give you a better idea about the type of poetry I'm writing now I've included one of my latest pieces about the Chinese environment below. Let me know what you think.

Skyline

Like a flotilla of ships, the puffy white
clouds scud and drift across a bright

blue sky, the arched backs of the crooked
mountains standing sentry beneath, bearded

slopes flecked with snow. Beyond, the hills
sink and rise in broad ‘V’ shapes

as blue snakes twist and coil across a green
carpet dotted with sheep. Farms are seen

first, then villages, and then the dark suburbs,
as a tangled web of concrete spreads

out across the landscape, little metallic spiders
scurrying in every direction. Car exhausts

belch, factories smoke, until rising hazily

a few buildings poke out of an iron-grey sea.


If you want to read my novel Jack Strong and the Red Giant about a 12 year old boy's adventures in space please check out the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M22USRE?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Saturday, 18 April 2015

7 Things You Need To Know About Your Target Audience

1. Know Who They Are

This one goes without question. There's no point writing a book for children, for example and filling it full of adult themes and language. Whenever you put pen to paper (or cursor to screen!) you should always have your target audience in mind: what do they want to read? What language do they know? What themes would they find interesting? What will make them want to keep on reading? Then use this as a guide to your writing. As I'm writing a series of Young Adults (YA) books set in space I always try to think about what a teenager's reaction would be when they're reading it: What do they think of the main characters? What would they find cool? What would make them run off to their friends and tell them all about it?

2. What Subjects Do They Want To Read About?

Ever since J.K Rowling published the Harry Potter books, Children's and YA fiction has been dominated by genre books: books that feature wizards, monsters, alien worlds, and parallel universes, etc. Any author who writes for this age group has to be aware of this and dream-up suitable plots and settings accordingly. Children and YA's want to read books that are in a similar vein to what they've already read. One has only to look at Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and The Olympians to see how much it ties in with the Harry Potter series: a realm of magic, a disadvantaged male protagonist, an absent father, a close-knit group of friends, a female character that is initially brighter and more knowledgeable than the male protagonist ... the list goes on ... this is not to say that it's a rip-off - it's just that the author has read the Harry Potter series, taken it on board, and re-packaged it in his own distinctive way to make it sufficiently original for his target audience to buy in their droves.

3. What characters Do They Want To Read About?

Again using Children's/YA fiction as an example, an 11 year old kid is highly unlikely to be very interested in following an adult protagonist - they want to read about someone who they can RELATE to - someone who looks like them, talks like them, and does the things they do. Every child on the planet can easily relate to Harry Potter and Hermione Granger because - magic aside - they are NORMAL people thrust into a magical setting over which they have no control. Deep down every child reading about Harry Potter or Percy Jackson wishes they were him, because in a way they already are.

4. What Settings Do They Want To Read About?

When I first heard that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was rejected twelve times by publishers I was amazed - what kid wouldn't want to read about a kid going to magic school? It seems like an obvious thing that a young person would be into. Now, if Harry Potter was merely camping in the rainy Lake District instead of living it up magic-style at Hogwarts, J.K Rowling's target audience might have been less impressed and as a result less forthcoming with their hard-earned pocket money. Ultimately, J.K Rowling's genius was to stir the imaginations - just like you have to - of her readership to such a degree that they talked about nothing else for eons.

5. What Plots Do They Want To Read About?

The writer's job is to create convincing storylines for their target audience and then fill it with all kinds of twists and turns that will ultimately make the reader recommend the book to someone else. Here the writer also has to be the reader: What would you find exciting and surprising? Place yourself in their shoes and then write accordingly. Sometimes the writer has to give the reader exactly what they expect (The Battle of Helm's Deep towards the end of J.R.R Tolkien's The Two Towers comes to mind here) and deliver it well, which is no easy feat, but other times the writer has do the unexpected and create new avenues for the reader to walk down. J.K Rowling did this so well with the death of Sirius Black and Professor Dumbledore in books 5 and 6 of the Harry Potter series, and the same too can be said of the infamous Red Wedding scene in George R.R Martin's A Storm of Swords. Remember you're an entertainer - so go on entertain!

6. How Do Other Authors Do It?

A good writer is also a good reader. To write successfully for your target audience you also have to read around a lot and see how other authors do it. For example Stephen King, one of the greatest writers of our time, reads between 70 and 80 books a year. Now, I don't get anywhere near that myself - I'm not a professional author with 7 days free to both read and write - but I do read for at least 1-2 hours every day. Reading keeps the writer aware of their target audience and what books they are prepared to pay money for. At the end of the day it's an investment not just in their future, but also yours too. So go on read a book! 

7. Get Some Feedback

Okay, so you've finished your book. Now you must get some of your target audience to read and review it. What do they think? What do they find interesting? What do they find uninteresting? How do they think you can improve it? What do they think of the key characters and the main plot points? etc etc. Once you've finished soliciting their opinions, use them as a guide in the editing process until you arrive at a final draft that your target audience will accept and hopefully fall in love with.

Final Word

If you want to read my novel - Jack Strong and the Red Giant - about a bullied, 12 year old boy's adventures in space check out the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M22USRE

Sunday, 5 April 2015

5 Reasons Why Teaching Helps Your Writing

1. Your English Improves

Becoming a teacher has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's given me a career path, a goal, and a whole lot of fun teaching young people, but it's also been a tremendous boost to my writing, not least because my all-round English has improved as a result. Writers need words like an addict needs crack, and when you're teaching, particularly if you're teaching English, you are around words all the time; words which ultimately fizz around your brain and find their way into your books.

2. Your Characters Improve

You meet so many different people teaching, whether be they teachers, parents, or students. In every one of my books there are at least 2-3 people that I have met during my teaching career swirling around in my characters. Teaching helps me to decide whether that kid would smoke, or that one would swear, and how they would act in any given situation, etc. Without these real people I doubt that my characters would have been quite so easy to write, quite so believable to the reader.

3. Your Dialogue Improves

Being close to young people also brings you closer to English as it's actually spoken, as opposed to how a dictionary would have it, i.e 'me and you' vs 'you and I'. This is of particular benefit to anyone who is either writing Children's/Young Adults fiction or who has some child/teenage characters in their book. So if you're teaching pay attention to how your students speak, what words they use, what topics they talk about, or even how frequently they interrupt each other etc. When the reader reads your dialogue they have to believe it completely, and that the character is speaking to them. There's no point in having a bunch of kids from lower-income families speaking like Harvard freshmen now is there? They must speak in your book as they would in real life.

4. Your Awareness Of Society Improves

Teaching brings you closer to people from all walks of life: girls, boys, rich, poor, urban, rural, christian, muslim, jewish, atheist: the list is endless. Teaching is a window into their world, and it allows you to see what their life experience is like, so that when you are dreaming-up characters and plotlines they become more believable and more realistic to the reader. The rich and supremely spoilt Padget Penárgon from my Jack Strong books for example, was that much easier to write precisely because of my job teaching a lot of fantasically wealthy kids in China. I knew how he would act, how he would think, behave, talk etc. So in a sense he wrote himself rather than the other way around.


5. Your Awareness Of Your Audience Improves

Kids are readers too, and teaching them also allows you to get a good handle on what books they are currently reading, and what characters they like. This is of particular benefit to anyone who - like me - is writing for Children and/or Young Adults. But since you also meet a lot of other teachers, it can also be helpful for adult fiction writers to find out what books other people are reading and what they might be interested in in the future. After all, there's no point in writing a book if your target audience is just not interested in what you have to say.

Final Word

If you aren't a teacher and are looking for that extra little ingredient that's missing from your writing, why not give teaching a try? It doesn't have to be a full-time job either - it can just be an hour here or there or the odd day at the weekend. What's the worst thing that can happen? If it doesn't work out then you can just walk away and try something else, but if it gives you an idea or two or helps you to freshen up a few of your characters then your books will not just be better written but also more readable as a result.

Some notable teacher/writers

1. Stephen King  2. William Shakespeare  3. Lewis Carroll  4. Robert Frost  5. J.R.R Tolkien  6. J.K Rowling  7. Dan Brown 8. William Golding

If you would like to read my book, Jack Strong and the Red Giant, about a bullied, 12 year old boy's adventures on a strange, alien spaceship then check out the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M22USRE

Sunday, 29 March 2015

4 Reasons Why Travelling Helps Your Writing

1. New Ideas

One of the best things about travelling and/or living abroad is that it shakes up your life and introduces you to a whole new country, as well as new cultures,new experiences, and even a new social circle. In time these then influence your creative output and give you new things to write about. Before I left the U.K in 2008 I was dead creatively. I had nothing to write about. All that changed the moment I touched down on the tarmac of Incheon airport and began a year of teaching in South Korea. The Korean culture shocked me into writing poetry. I wrote about what I saw: the people, the markets, the food, the mountains. I was moved then and I continue to be moved now in China. Indeed, my experience living and teaching amongst the smog-filled streets of Beijing has led to me write an entire collection of sonnets called 'Made in China' which is based upon many of the working people that I have come into contact with.

2. New People

If you're a novelist like myself then creating vibrant, original characters for your novels is a must. Obviously, the truer to life your characters are the more believable they will be to your readers. The problem though is that with writing taking up so much of our time we often don't have enough time to get out and meet a wide array of interesting and colourful people. Travelling can solve all that. When you go and live in a foreign country the desire and need to not be alone and to fit in and become acquainted with your new surroundings drives you to go out and make new friends: friends who in the end have a way of flitting about your imagination when you are dreaming up new worlds and new adventures to tell. At the moment I am editing the first two of my Jack Strong novels and I can honestly say that of the seven main characters there are at least two or three people who I have met on my travels spinning around in each and every character. Amazing eh?


3. New Experiences

New experiences allow us to grow not just as writers but also as people, and so it was during my first year of teaching in Beijing - when I was overcoming challenges on an almost daily basis - that I began to dream up the character of Jack Strong. I wanted a character that was realistic and believable, someone who the reading public would want to read about and follow with interest; someone who though initially quite weak and timid would ultimately get stronger and GROW as a result of his experiences, not in despite of them. If I'd have stayed in the U.K and stuck to my boring civil service job and not done anything wild or adventurous I wouldn't have been able to write about Jack. Why? Because I needed to grow as a person first before I could adequately write about and relate to him as a human being.


4. New Landscapes and Cityscapes

Over the last seven years I've lived and travelled all over South Korea and China, as well as Vietnam, The U.S.A, Canada, Ireland, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, and France. All of these, especially the first two, have had a big impact upon my writing. As mentioned previously the cityscape of Beijing with its jagged outline and grey, urban masses flooded into my poetry soon after I landed. But it hasn't been the only direct influence. My single day in New York in 2010 was enough to force its way into my first novel, with the Alps and many South Korean and Chinese mountains providing the inspiration for many of the landscapes in Jack Strong and the Prisoner of Haa'drath. Indeed, it was whilst hiking a rugged section of the Great Wall of China that I got the idea for the super bouncy rubber forest that is a major feature of the aforementioned book. Could I have dreamt up these aspects of the Jack Strong universe without hitching a ride around Asia and the wider world? Perhaps, but I doubt it. When you are living many of the experiences that you are writing about it gives your writing an immediacy and a vividness that books and documentaries cannot satisfactorily provide.

Final Word

If you would like to comment on any of the points raised within this blog post then please do not hesitate to do so. Also, if you would like to read about Jack Strong and his many adventures around the universe on a strange and magical spaceship then follow the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M22USRE

Thursday, 19 March 2015

5 Reasons Why You Don't Need An Editor For Your Novel

1. You Learn Nothing

Hiring a professional editor to iron out all of your mistakes seems like an obvious thing to do - and certainly many Indy and professional authors favour this route - not least because it gives your manuscript a more polished look before you drop it off at a publisher's or else put it on somebody's kindle via Amazon. The problem with this method however, is that you don't learn from your mistakes since somebody else has done all the hard work for you. Part of the wonder and magic of writing, lies in making mistakes and then after a few months or even a few years rectifying them. It is precisely this process that makes us better, braver, and more competent writers in the long run. Writers aren't born, they evolve.

2. Reading Is Your Ally

A writer needs books like a smoker needs nicotine. If you read enough books - particularly those of your chosen genre - you should already have a good enough idea about what kind of books are being published, which characters the modern reader prefers, and what kind of language is appropriate etc. So long as you keep reading you should be able to tell what works and what doesn't in your own writing, whether you are re-reading your book for the 1st time or the one hundredth. At the end of the day you shouldn't need an editor to tell you that your narrative, for example, is going nowhere - you should be able to work that one out for yourself.

3. Remember Your Friends

If you have some friends (and this includes writers' groups) who are well-versed in literature, and whose opinion you trust, don't be afraid to ask them for feedback. For my first novel, I had at least four or five friends trawling through my work, highlighting mistakes and giving occasional feedback. It was annoying to discover that I'd made some errors but once I'd rectified my mistakes I felt not just better about my project, but also a more accomplished, more knowledgeable writer, not least because with their criticism came some much needed praise.

4. Occasional Mistakes Are OK

What?! Are you serious? Yeah, so long as they are minor and the kind of things that the reader can skip over without too much worry. As a reader myself I prefer the odd spelling mistake any day to bad, unconvincing narratives, two dimensional, cartoonish characters, or else flat, unvibrant prose. Ultimately, as a writer, you have to make sure that from the first page to the very last your story and your characters keep the reader's attention to such a degree that when they finish they go and tell their friends all about the great book they've just read.

5. Cash Returns Are Minimal

As a result of publishing Jack Strong and the Red Giant on Amazon I've probably made around $100 to date. Not great, but not bad either. But this figure would have looked much worse if I'd have forked out between $100 to $400 for a professional editor who may or may not do a good job (I've read books published by the small presses with plenty of mistakes in them). So save your money, invest in your reading and writing and buy a kindle, a computer, or even just some good books. Ultimately, things like these will prove to be of lasting benefit to you and your (hopefully long) writing career.

Final Word

If you would like to comment on any or all of the points raised in this blog post then please do not hesitate to do so. I would love to hear from you.

If you would like to read my debut novel, Jack Strong and the Red Giant, about a bullied, 12 year-old boy's adventures on a mysterious spaceship then please click on the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M22USRE


Thursday, 5 March 2015

4 Things You Need To Know About Rejection

1. Rejection Sucks.

There are few things in life that are comparable to spending months, even years churning out a novel only to see it repeatedly rejected by an array of agents and publishers. There have been times where this hasn't phased me in the least, where I've just shrugged and carried on regardless, but there have been other times where I've been left feeling so crestfallen that it has affected my mood for days. But though I've felt down at times, I've never given up, never stopped writing, and never stopped believing in the worthiness of my characters and my project. So if you're reading this and you're either writing a novel or about to start work on one you have to prepare yourself for being rejected, and to at times feeling really horrible about it. It's all part of the game unfortunately. But what matters in the end is that you pick up the proverbial pen, keep on churning out the pages, and never ever give-up.

2. Rejection Happens To Everyone

Everyone gets rejected. Just because an agent and/or publisher turns you down doesn't mean that your novel is rubbish. They might not have read it for starters, or they may have given it only the most passing of glances, or they may feel that your novel is not the right fit for them. But whatever the reason it's important not to think too deeply about it, especially since agents and publishers rarely, if ever, give you any kind of detailed response for you to consider. All you can do is keep plugging away with your writing and reading - and in the process make your project as good and as professional as it can be - whilst simultaneously sending it off to other would-be agents and publishers. Besides, it does you good to remember that J.K Rowling, George Orwell, Stephen King, Dr. Seuss, C.S Lewis, Dan Browne, Vladamir Nabokov, Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Grahame, William Golding, Jack Kerouac, and Frank Herbert, to name but a few were all rejected many times by agents and publishers alike. So if your book is rejected, just remember that you're in hallowed company. If they were wrong about Stephen King et al they could be wrong about you too ...

3. Rejection Is Never As Bad As You Think

As strange as it may seem you can at times take a lot of solace out of rejections. As I said earlier, agents and publishers rarely send out detailed responses, so if you do receive personal replies from the editor and/or agent it's good for you to remember that you've done well enough to bypass the 'reader', even if you have fallen at the second stage. Since most agents and publishers receive anywhere from 50 - 100+ manuscripts each week it means that yours has finished top of the pile. You're in the ballpark so to speak - since the 'reader' has seen enough quality and promise to pass it onto their boss - if not exactly hitting a home run. When I first started to get these rejection slips I took it quite badly, both because of their non-standard personal replies - their comments always seemed to find bone somehow- and because I realised just how tantalisingly close I'd come to being asked to submit the full manuscript. But these days I try to focus on the positives, namely that my two books have passed through the 'reader's hands and into those of the agent on 7 or 8 occasions. I'm clearly in the proverbial ballpark and like any big hitter I'm going to keep on practicing my swing until I hit that home run. I'm not going to give up and neither should you.


4. Opportunity Knocks

One of the best things that has come out of having my novel, Jack Strong and the Red Giant rejected is that it has given me the opportunity to re-visit the original manuscript and to see if I can improve it in some way. It turns out that I can. I'm currently on the second read through on my kindle and so far I have highlighted almost 600+ areas that can either be deleted or improved upon. Whilst it's true that these changes are all relatively minor, ranging from punctuation issues, some slight word changes, to  the occasional pruning of the text, I believe that it will ultimately make my book both a better, smoother read, and a more realistic prospect for any would-be agent and/or publisher. I'm a confident writer with a lot of belief in my work, but I'm not a vain-glorious one. I make mistakes. But I also possess the drive, courage, and honesty to take another look at my work, and to engage in some minor re-decorations where necessary. And you should too. Don't be afraid in the event of rejection, to give your novel another edit or else pass it onto a trusted friend to have a look at. It will be all the better for it. Besides, after you've given it a few snips and plugged a few holes in the plot you can always send it back out to the agents and publishers, only this time it will have a better chance of success than before.

Keep on swinging, the home run beckons ...


If you want to read my novel, Jack Strong and the Red Giant, about a bullied, 12 year old boy's adventures in space please check out the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M22USRE

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

5 Things I've Gained From Publishing On Amazon

1. More Confidence

Without doubt the best thing I've gained from publishing on Amazon has been a rise in my confidence as a writer. When I wrote my first book Jack Strong and the Red Giant I thought it was good, really good, and worthy of many an agent and publisher. How could they possibly reject it? Well they did - almost a hundred of them to be exact - and so my book remained unrepresented, unpublished, unloved, and ultimately unread.  Was I wrong about the quality of my book? Were they right? What if it was all just a fantastical delusion? What if it was really rubbish? Like the titanic my confidence sank, straight down to the bottom of the ocean.
Publishing via Amazon helped rectify all that once the positive reviews started to pour in, giving my flagging confidence a bit of a boost. My book and its characters were striking a chord with nearly every reader - both friend and stranger alike - and I began to believe that it all wasn't a fantasy, that I was quite good at this, that I had a future in this business, that I should continue writing.

2. Contact With Other Authors

Another benefit of publishing via Amazon has been the other independent authors that I've come into contact with, authors who like myself have been rejected and turned away from the traditional publishing route. This has given me the opportunity to discuss my ideas on writing and theirs, as well as read their books. Whenever I participate in a review swap I almost always end up reading a book that I wouldn't necessarily have picked if left to my own devices, so it provides me with an opportunity to access many different kinds of book, whether they be fiction or non-fiction. Ultimately, this kind of exposure helps me to improve my own writing as I learn and grow both from what they do well and what they don't.

3. It's Made Me A Better Editor

Because my book is accessible to the general reading public it has made me aware of how a good author is also a good editor. I want the reader to enjoy my book for its plot, its characters, and its various alien worlds. I don't want them to be put off and negatively influenced by spelling mistakes, incorrect punctuation, or poor grammar. So instead of declaring my published book finished I'm always prepared to go back and re-read the manuscript (I'm giving it another edit as we speak) in order to clear up any mistakes that I might have previously missed. The added benefit of this approach is a better first draft, since I am more aware of correct punctuation and spelling etc.

4. It's Made Me Appreciate Marketing More

Books don't sell themselves - especially Amazon books - so it is vital that a successful author is also good at marketing and advertising their product. With today's social networks being so various and diverse there are many outlets for wannabe (and even not-so wannabe) authors to spread the word about their books to both friends and strangers alike. One vital thing I learned when launching Jack Strong and the Red Giant was just how helpful Facebook and Twitter were when it came to advertising my book. Since I'd gotten an eye-catching book cover designed by a seller on www.fiverr.com I found it relatively easy to spread the word and get people's attention via these and other social networking sites. After the launch I've found that maintaining a blog such as this one can be a great way to connect with other writers and readers and to keep the sales coming.

5. It's Made Me More Ambitious

Though it's been a great experience publishing Jack Strong and the Red Giant on Amazon I don't want it to stay there. Ultimately, like any writer, I want to find a better publisher with more of an outreach, so that Jack and his friends can be read by more and more people. With all the positive reviews my book has received (and they're still coming!) I've begun to realise that my book is not just quite good, it's also publishable and readable. And with luck, the agents and publishers that I send it to will see this too.

If you want to read more of my writing check out my book Jack Strong and the Red Giant via the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M22USRE

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

4 New Year's Resolutions Every Writer Should Make

1. Write More

This might sound obvious, but you'll be surprised at how many writers - and I know a couple - class themselves as such and yet barely write more than once a month, if that. Writing is not posing, or socialising, or even reading for that matter - it's the daily grind - the act of sitting down in front of a notebook or a computer and hacking away at that idea that keeps swirling around your head. Just be honest with yourself and look into your writer's mirror: Do you write enough? Could you write more? If the answer is yes to this last question then you need to have a look at how you manage your spare time and carve out a few more hours a week for writing. The reason J.K Rowling and Stephen King are famous is because as well as having good, original ideas they are also willing to sit down every day and write them down.

2. Set Clear Goals

Don't just write for writing's sake. You need to set yourself some clear goals for the future. This can be the immediate future such as finishing that chapter that you've been working on or it can be something more long term such as finishing a short story, a novel, or even trying your level best to get your work published and/or accepted by an agent. This year, for example, I aim to finish editing my current novel - Jack Strong and the Prisoner of Haa'drath - as well as write its sequel; and since I'm constantly flinging my last novel - Dragon Rider - around I also hope to find an agent for that too. The important thing is to never give up, to keep trying, and to keep that great idea of yours progressing towards completion.

3. Read More

Behind every good writer is a good reader who is willing to sit down for 1-2 hours every day and read around his or her own genre. The benefits to this are obvious:
1. You get to see what kind of novels that are getting published and more importantly read today.
2. When you're reading you are literally hoovering up language, grammar, and correct punctuation - three things that are of vital importance to your own work; and
3. You get to see how the author tells his or her own story - What kind of characters do they use? How much dialogue do they employ? Do they 'show' too much? Do they 'show' too little?

4. Don't Give Up

Writing is hard sometimes, as every writer knows. You may write yourself into a narrative             cul-de-sac, find yourself cursed with writer's block, or even see your brand new super-duper novel rejected by every agent and publisher that you send it to. At this point you can do anything but whatever you do don't give up. If you're struggling with your story don't be afraid to leave it for a few weeks before going back to it - sometimes a mental break can give you fresh insights. You can also give it to a trusted friend to look at and get their feedback. It was one of George R.R Martin's friends, for example, who suggested that he put the dragons in at the end of his novel Game of Thrones, thus giving it more of a dramatic climax. Also, if your novel is rejected then the worst thing that you can do is to think that you're rubbish and to give up trying to get it published. Stephen King's first two books - The Running Man and The Long Walk - two of the finest dystopian thrillers ever written in my opinion were both rejected by the publishers whom he sent them to. King didn't give up then and neither should you - who knows perhaps your Carrie (King's first published novel) is just around the corner?

Final Word

What are your writing and publishing experiences? If you have any comments on the subject of this blog then please do not hesitate to do so in the space below.

Also, if you would like to read my Young Adult's novel about a bullied, 12 year old boy's adventures on a strange spaceship in outer space then you can click on the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M22USRE