Monthly Archives: May 2017

Thank you to Jesslyn Chain

I recently completed the first draft of Abel’s Legacy and sought a number of beta readers to test my story out on people.

I was approached by Jesslyn on Facebook and I then paid her to read my work; I didn’t realise before I paid but it turned out she was not only interested in only beta reading but also content editing and story analysis. This discovery thrilled me, as you can probably imagine, and it has been a spectacular week or so as an author.

To put this into perspective, after reading the first chapter Jesslyn sent me an email with a beautiful detailed critique of just that eight page section. She sent four whole pages of suggestions, comments and praise. Just for the first chapter.

This alone would have made my day but her commentary wasn’t just detailed. It was easy to read, completely lacking in anything that made me feel offended or otherwise lowered my mood, and every comment had a sound thesis. Everything was clearly explained. I felt like she gave me so much bang for my buck that I just needed to get the word out.

 

Thank you so much.

If you’d like to have  look at her site, click here

Fighter’s Block!

Fighter’s Block – A new writing tool to combat Writer’s Block!

If you have writer’s block, or lack the impetus to get a story out of your head, then this is a site for you.

First off, you set your goal. Then, you hit FIGHT.

The typing is a fight. You have to type, and each word is a hit on the monster. if you stop typing the monster gets some hits in, each hit one point off your one hundred point total. When you complete your word total, the monster dies. You then go into the sidebar menu and pick a new monster. The fight begins again and you really have some incentive to keep going. It’s like typing without a concern for typos or spelling errors or whether it’s good enough to go on a page; it’s enforced word vomit and the enforcer is a (initially) egg shaped creature that seeks to destroy a small elf-like avatar (ie. you).

 

I can’t explain what is so encouraging about the little egg trying to beat the bejesus out of a small cartoon. As your ‘health’ gets down, the ability for your avatar to land a punch seems to drop; I didn’t notice this until I had a brief pause to remember how to spell something and when I started typing again I realised I had to put in enough words to bring my health back up to one hundred before I could start hitting the monster again.

I will definitely be using this app more often. It has saved my characters twice now in the last three hours.

Writing relatable characters

I like writing characters; I like basing them on people I know and then manipulating them to do what I want. It sounds a little creepy but it’s true and I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

But today I read a small section of my latest work to my partner, and something unexpected happened. I am acutely aware that some of the characters in this current work are close to home. However, all I did today was read him a scene between two characters that I didn’t think would have anything to do with him. But one in particular struck a nerve. So clearly I got something right.

So what does it take? Characters have to have backstories, that’s a given, but sometimes it can be too much. Think about a sad scene. Think about an elderly woman in a bed. Think about her lying in that bed asking a doctor to help her die. That scene is sad in itself but I can make it sadder. Let me show you:

“… “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Her voice was sure and steady. Despite it’s low volume and lack of impact, it had an underlying conviction that told Anton exactly what she meant.

“I can’t do that Mrs Grail.” He always dreaded this conversation. It wasn’t the first time. It wouldn’t be the last. But the heavy feeling in his chest pressed down on his lungs, restricting his ability to breathe.

“But I cannot do this anymore.” She sounded so matter of fact. Like this was the only solution. She wasn’t going to get better. She had no reason to pray she was going to get better. Suddenly the lack of pain medication made sense; she’d wanted a clear mind. His heart broke a little.

“I can’t do that Mrs Grail. I’m sorry.” And he was. More sorry than he could accurately express. The heavy feeling in his chest began to hurt a little. …”

As you can probably guess, Anton is going to think about this conversation a lot in the next few chapters. And this isn’t going to be the first time they have this conversation either. How do you feel about Mrs Grail? What kind of life do you think she’s had? Obviously, if you’re asking a doctor to die, then you’re in a horrific place in your life.

But in the paragraphs proceeding this, you learn one thing about Mrs Grail; she’s seventy (but looks older). Anton also doesn’t like talking to her.

What does this tell you? Something about her makes him uncomfortable? What makes her look older? Is she very very sick? Or maybe she’s given up? All of these things can be true. The conclusion you draw will likely depend on your experience of the ill and elderly.

This leads me to the end of the scene. I’ve excluded this section from the above passage because without this next bit, there is something missing.

“… “I do not want to be responsible for your demise Mrs Grail. I’m sorry, I cannot do it.” He tried to add stress to his voice, removing any natural sounding contractions.

“Oh come on, I’ve been dead inside for years. No visitors, no real relief, no friends. You would be doing me an immense kindness; moving me on to my next life.” It was a beautiful way to think about it but Anton’s stomach still twisted in knots. He couldn’t think about it. It was a slippery slope. He’d had three colleagues get in trouble for this sort of thing. Two lost their licenses and one of those saw jail time; they would never help another patient again. …”

Now this tells you about another aspect, and it should confirm some of your suspicions about her as a person. It also tells you about Anton too; he’s the more vital character (being one of the main characters). But just because he’s a main character doesn’t mean that the characters around him, his ‘supporting’ characters, are any less important. I find that the best way of showing the readers the mettle of the characters is to have them interact. Nothing tells a story faster than watching how one character relates to another. They’re people. Just think about the old adage; you can tell the kind of person by how they treat others. Remember this. How does your character feel about death? Rather than telling your reader, maybe let them have a discussion with someone; let them see a funeral procession or witness something that reminds them of a traumatic event in the past.

Run forth and write! Write PEOPLE. That’s all characters are. People.

Twitter, Facebook and the World Wide Web

The internet is a marvellous place; here, I can tell people about my work, I can ‘tweet’ about my struggles, I can encourage people to follow me and interact with me through Facebook.

I can also help people buy my book, I can show them different sites and I even recently used Facebook to send two copies of my book to a pair of fans in New Zealand.

And then, of course, I blog. Obviously.

These tools are very useful; in the modern world, I can be self published and advertise myself and use my Facebook pages to tell people about the fantasy world I have created. I have been considering creating a new Facebook page for my latest and most personal project – currently entitled “The First Page”. If you’re interested, it is in no way related to the Tails of Two Dragons Trilogy, though it has been pointed out to me that such a similarity might lead to a sort of ‘branding’. It would be something that my readers could follow and easily find my works.

Many of my new fans are Indonesian (according to the demographic information inbuilt in Facebook), which delights me because I have studied Indonesian at university and I relish the opportunity to both practice and utilise an otherwise rarely used skill.

Saya belajar bahasa Indonesia di universitas. Juga, saya belajar anthropologie. Anda belajar apa? Apakah anda belajar di universitas? Atau sekolah?

See? Hahaha. Simple, basic language obviously, but it’s nice to have a second language.

 

Circling back to my original point, the internet has been fantastic for me. For the fact I am self published, it doesn’t cost much to run a couple of boosted posts on Facebook and double your likes or follows in a couple of days. On the other hand, the amount of money it costs to get advertisements and coverage through a self publishing company (like Xlibris) is exorbitant. I once had a delegate/consultant call and tell me about a ‘great deal’ they had on some book fair thing. They wanted $8K for a package to run my book there. When I pointed out I was a student, and couldn’t possibly afford that amount of money, they asked if my family would be willing to help me out. As soon as they asked me that, I vowed to use them no more. My book is still published through them but they will NOT be getting any more of my money than they have to.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the internet is good for.