Jul 31

The Past Few Weeks in Bullet Points

Reader(s) of this blog will notice that there haven’t been updates for a few weeks. There are numerous reasons for this but I won’t bore you with the details. There has however been some progress with on the Hope Town front so I thought I’d list those here in this catch up post before I start getting into more details around thoughts and process. Yes, there are more of those to come.

 

  • My pitch received a polite no thanks just before the 6 week deadline came up. I’m okay with that and its not like it held me up
  • First draft of the second story “Ever Vigilant(e)” is complete so I’ll review and edit that some time next week and then again the week after
  • I had a long return train journey a couple of weeks ago and had hoped to challenge myself to write the first draft of one story in that time but didn’t accept my own challenge so it didn’t happen
  • The little historical pre-amble before each story is going to change as I have a plan for it. More later
  • Notes are being taken as I progress with each story around how initial thoughts were fleshed out, or completely ditched/reworked with the purpose of tracking my work ethic and maybe something to include down the line
  • I spend a good half hour coming up with names for crap super villains and it was a lot of fun

 

Right, that’s the lot for now. I have short stories to write you know

Jul 10

Here I Go Running Off With Another Project … Again

Follower(s) of this blog will know that I have a tendency to go off on a tangent with my projects. Sometime I call it a disease, but on the odd occasion when I feel optimistic I think of it as a talent. In those instances, I imagine myself juggling plates on sticks on some mid tier light entertainment television programme, audience slow hand clap and all.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with writing more than one project at a time per se – indeed, if you manage to spend time writing down things then you’re already battling procrastination, so its all good right? – but when you have a love for a work in progress and want to complete it, other projects are surely just distractions? When you look at my track record with completing projects you would be right to be wary about another one sneaking in.

However, in my defense I would say that this is more looking to adapt an old project into a similar structure as the current one. In this case, the series of books aimed at children which were standalone but could form part of a wider universe, may already have the DNA of the Hope Town series already through it. The tweak would be to convert them into short stories rather than full length books which would actually elongate the series and allow for more dedicated time to more characters.

At the moment, its more of a scribbling of notes as I get to a stage with Hope Town where 50-90% of the first 4 stories have been written.

Call it a palate cleanser.

 

Jul 08

This Is Your Procrastination Station

I wrote this entry for the Amwriting blog in May 2012. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t developed or seen a cure as yet, but I’m continuing to battle every day. Slowly, slowly beaty procrastination.

The Amwrting blog is now archived, but there are a lot of great articles up there by lots of different authors. You should check them out: http:amwritingblog.com

 

pro·cras·ti·nate

[proh-kras-tuh-neyt, pruh-] verb, pro·cras·ti·nat·ed, pro·cras·ti·nat·ing.

verb (used without object) 

 

    1. to defer action; delay: to procrastinate until an opportunity is lost.

 


verb (used with object) 

 

    1. to put off till another day or time; defer; delay.

 


When I looked the definition of procrastinate up on Dictionary.com, I was really expecting to just see a picture of myself and perhaps a smiley face. Knowing that this was a surprise to me, it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that it has taken until almost the deadline for this article for me to actually get around to writing it. You may call it irony, I call it par for the course.

This is a subject very close to my heart and its not just because its probably something I excel at.  For those of you who have read my blog, you’ll know that I am an exemplary specimen; if you cut me open, would I not bleed reasons for not completing blog posts and writing projects? I’ve been a procrastinator for years, ever since the writing bug hit me in primary school. I think I’ve mentioned before somewhere that the ideas flowing were never a problem, and writers block never hit me when I sat in front of a blank page; no, my problem wasn’t a lack of creativity, nor a lack of output, but more a succession of events and scenarios created by myself to stop me from writing.

School. Play. Study. Work. Relationships. Video games. The Internet. Children. A broken wrist. Okay, that last one wasn’t something I would say was a diversion I followed as an excuse to not write, but you never know. I was fourteen and had a great idea for a series of thrillers. Maybe that made me run and slip, Clouseau like from the step and onto the combination of bum and hand. I should stop there.

I do often wonder how I managed to procrastinate before the introduction of the Internet, but whenever I do cast my mind back I realise that deep down there was some sense that the procrastination was because I didn’t want to fail as a writer; I always believed that I could write, but was always scared that really I couldn’t. Therefore, don’t write and you’ll never fail.

Yeah… I think so too.

When I was writing this, my mind began to wander and I found myself contemplating setting up an area for procrastinators like myself to gather and discuss our shared problem and seek mutual solutions which would take us out of the madness of endless creativity and into the brilliant sanity of actually putting words down on the page. However, the more I thought about it the more I realised that it would end up being just another place where I would spend my time procrastinating. A potential solution then would turn into another cause of the problem.

So instead I looked to find out what I had tried, to see if I could share with some of the others in similar bondage. What I came up with  are not the silver bullets, but more ideas which I will be looking to try out myself to see if I can get past the blocker and create something new. These should be doable right? Well, I’m up for experimentation.

 

    •  Aim lower – don’t aim to write a novel do some short stories, drabble, or write a few paragraphs

 

    • Participate in group events – Word sprints are great ways where you can write at the same time as others and can feel a sense of community

 

    • Create characters – rather than write your story, flesh out a character or two; it will come in handy anyway, so give them some TLC

 

    • NanoAllTheTime – This has worked twice for me in November, so how about attempting the discipline on other months? Doing 50,000+ words may seem strange when you always find the time not to even try, but there’s nothing better than the sense of achievement when you finish up… until you realise you have to edit.

 

    • Read about others – More procrastination? No, call it therapy but there are hundreds of resources out there with tales, tips and tricks. Just don’t spend ALL your time on it.

 


At the end of the day, what I’m really leaning towards is not to let it bother me. It seems counter intuitive to take a time out, since I’m not actually doing much writing, but perhaps I’m procrastinating because I think too much about it. I procrastinate, therefore I am? Apologies Descartes.

Whatever the solution, don’t let procrastination beat you. You’re creative, so the words will come and perhaps the biggest problem we all have is ourselves. After all, we’re our own worst critics aren’t we? Lets cut ourselves some slack, okay?

I hope it all works out for you. Drop a note below if you are a procrastinator, or if you have any tips. Maybe you’ve been cured. If so, congratulations.

Now, go invent a cure. We’ll love you forever.

Jul 04

The Hope Town Pitch

Just under 4 weeks ago I put together my first ever pitch. I had truly never done one before and hadn’t really contemplated doing one, but an opportunity arose for me to create one and send it off.

To say it was daunting just doesn’t quite cut it but I gave it a go anyway. I should have done some more research but I thought screw it, go with your gut. So I did.

I started off with the potted fictional history of Hope Town (as featured as the intro to The Devil’s Pâtissier) then onto my vision for the series and optional extras (printed collections, novels etc) before giving an overview of the first 5 stories.

I’m still waiting to hear back about the pitch, and in the meantime am still furiously writing more stories in the series. At some stage I will detail the whole thing, but for now here is the introduction:

 

Tales from Hope Town  - A series of short stories by David Little

Some History

While most people know that Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, and that it wasn’t always such, what they won’t know is the sheer number of cities and smaller areas that have held the title. Throughout the years, different kings, queens and permutations of general heads of state have taken to rename the various capitals for the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations on a whim.

So it was that, following the assassination of his father King James I in the then capital city of Perth the six year old heir to the throne the Duke of Rothesay took shelter in a place called Hopetoun just on the outskirts of Edinburgh. So taken was he by the hospitality that the newly elevated King James II decided that Perth, where his father had been assassinated, was a bit rubbish and decided to remove the title of capital of Scotland and instead give it to Hopetoun.

This elevated status lasted just three days when the new King’s mother decided that he was being just a little silly and ordered him to pronounce Edinburgh the capital at once, otherwise he wouldn’t get any supper that night.

However, as Hopetoun had been the capital for a time no matter how brief, it did mean that its status was forever elevated in importance. Indeed, those three days when it was the seat of the Scottish monarchy meant that there was an influx of immigrants from many nations who all fell in love with the tranquil setting away from the hustle and bustle, and decided to settle anyway.

With these travellers came customs, and with those customs came all sorts of wondrous and often extremely strange practises, superstitions and myths. Such a number of different cultures with such strong and often opposing beliefs in one small area, led to Hopetoun being the spiritual centre of the universe.

Welcome to Hope Town.

 

Jul 03

Finding Just The Right Name

Part of the fun of creating the Hope Town universe is creating the characters. The core 3-4 recurring ones were quite simple in that I knew who they were and they had names right off the bat; when i had an image of the character in my mind the name popped in immediately. That was the easy part.

However, for the episodic antagonists or “guest stars” its a lot more open. I know who they roughly are and am fleshing out characteristics, motivation and whatnot but in the main they all appear under a name of To Be Confirmed.

As Hope Town is inhabited by people from various nations and religious persuasions, I’ve got free reign pretty much to choose the character’s nationality and name. The fun part is when I get to use one to create the other and that involves a little bit of research and quite a few laughs (internal, lest I make people afraid by strange outbursts of hilarity).

For example, two weeks ago, I wanted to choose 5 religions for a specific and pivotal scene in Frame Me Twice, Shame on You. After doing quite a bit of research on different religions that might fit given the subject matter, I came up with a Catholic Priest (old school); a Buddhist; an Egyptian Priest; a Rastafarian and a Tzadik. Now, thats a joke waiting to write itself right there.

Today however, I need to find a name and nationality for an evil genius and the best way (aka most fun way) I can think of to do that is to look for a particular english term associated with the nature of an evil genius and find its translation in another language. Then, once I have an interesting translation that will be the good Doctor’s surname, and the nationality will of course be one that uses that language.

So fun.

Jul 02

To Use Sketches or Not To Use Sketches

I’ve often wanted to use sketches or images to accompany my writing. The reasons for doing this are varied depending on the project.

For example, for the collection of drabble (still entitled 60 Stories Small) I wanted to include a sketch for as many stories as possible because without them and other supplemental matter it would have been a very short book indeed.

With Portmanteau, I wanted to include at least one sketch which portrayed a scene from each story in the vein of chapter breaks/introductions in such books as Famous Five etc. The idea was to add to the overall homage feel of the project and I had at least two outlined as roughs, so they could potentially emerge in the future.

The use of sketches often help me to visualize characters or scenes as I progress through writing projects; while writing isn’t a really visual medium I do like to play out scenes in my head as if I was watching them on the big screen or on the television and sketching helps me to use visual cues to help improve my writing process.

With the current series of short stories, I would like to include a sketch or two to accompany each one, but it most probably will be something I would hold off on for the future. While these are initially going to be ebooks, I am thinking of doing some sort of physical collection in the future if they are popular enough, so having a sketch or two to frame each story could be a nice little extra/insert for a collection. Similarly, these could be in an ebook collection some way down the line.

For now, I’ll use sketches as I progress and post some here or during promotion activities.

Jul 01

Help*

I wrote this entry for the Amwriting blog in July 2012 and its really very relevant to what I’m doing now. In fact, this is the first project where I’ve sent something I’m quite happy with to someone else to read and provide feedback. Luckily, it was good feedback and so the experience was a bit of a relief. I need to broaden my approach though and get more feedback before I can be fully confident that its the best i can do.

 

The Amwrting blog is now archived, but there are a lot of great articles up there by lots of different authors. You should check them out: http:amwritingblog.com

 

I’d like to talk today about getting someone to critique your work, and how that can really help you on your journey.

Let me start off by saying that this is probably the part of the process that I am most apprehensive about and always have been. I’ve often thought to myself “Are you mad? Giving this to someone else to read before its ready? That’s crazy talk!”. Usually after this internal shoutologueTM I retreat with half of me vindicated and the other half defeated. However, no matter how the argument goes in my head, there is only one possible outcome: for my work to truly grow, I need to get someone to read it and give me feedback.

When you think about it, ultimately we want people to read our works, otherwise we wouldn’t be writing would we? Of course, some of us will be writing for the fun of it which is no bad thing, but if you have a story to tell, you want to tell it to someone else. At some point, that work will be out there and you will want it to be at its very best when you do release it into the wild, so once you are through with a first draft, or second or third post editing, doesn’t it make sense to take a small leap and let someone outside of your head have a read?

Believe me, its one of the things I have been most afraid of, and I did touch on that fear of failure in the last article on procrastination. It still holds true, perhaps even more so, in this scenario. There’s a fear that when you hand over the manuscript – or as I like to call it, the story so far – then you open yourself up to fail and the truth will out: you aren’t the writer you think you are.

But that’s nonsense, and I was going to get into why it was nonsense but it would derail the message here and its one for another time.

The truth – for me at least – is that up until this point in the creative process I am in total control and I feel that if I hand the story so far over to someone else to read, then I lose a bit of that control and I’ll never get it back. Boy, you should have heard the internal shoutologueTM that raged for what seemed like hours on the back of that one. Suffice it to say that in the end, the truth – for me at least – was that there is no way I can make that step change in growth as a writer, without letting someone else read my work.

It will be exactly that same for you.

Of course, giving into the logic is the easy part; finding the right someone to review the work is where it gets more tricky. Friends and family are usually at hand and willing, but there is one big reason why you may want to avoid them: they may not be as critical as you need them to be. They may be nervous in case negative feedback either knocks you off your stride, or drives a wedge between you both. Either way, they may be more cautious about their feedback, and as a result may not be true to themselves or you. However, they are the ones easily at hand, so my advise would be to sit down with them and explain the reasons why you are asking for a review and explain it needs to highlight areas for improvement as well as providing assurance that your writing is good. With some ground rules and promises that you’ll still see each other outside weddings and funerals no matter what is revealed, having someone close to you act as your reviewer can be beneficial.

Outside of your close circle may be a better option. Being a writer you are part of a global community, and there are tens of thousands of others just like you out there. You probably talk to a lot of them every day, and certainly you do interact sharing ideas and views as well as getting guidance and help. Many of the writing community are willing to provide the sort of helpful feedback that you need at this stage of your writing, so why not reach out to someone you have been communicating with to see whether they could read your work and provide feedback? Often, it will be someone who enjoys the same genres as you do, so they will know what to look for when reading your work and would be ideal as a reviewer. The only issue I can see is for them to find the time; everyone is, or should be, maxed out writing, so will they have time to read your work? I would say in the main yes they will, because by reading we learn how to improve our writing. As an added bonus, they could swap their work with yours and ask you to return the favour, so it’s a win/win situation.

This is your chance to test your work out on the intended audience and yes, there will no doubt be things you need to tweak or rewrite completely, but odds are a fair chunk will be good and your reader will derive some enjoyment from the experience. So, not only will you get some valuable pointers to help polish your work up, but you will also be able to get some satisfaction that you’re on the right track.

Look at it as being a freeing experience. After all of your hard efforts, you will be putting your work into someone else’s hands to review; your work will be out there for someone to read.

Oh, and don’t forget to check whether any of their comments make good quotes. You could stick them on the back jacket of the book.

 

* I had wondered whether to use an exclamation mark at the end of the title, but thought it was a tad extreme.

Jun 30

One Story At A Time

One of the problems I’ve found when working on creating a shared universe for my short stories is that I dip in and out of a number of them from one day to the next. In some cases, I visit 2-3 different stories in one writing session for one reason or another. In the grand scheme of things this isn’t really a problem because I’m continuing to write and any time crafting one of the shorts does show that I’m successfully battling away the demon of procrastination. It also means I’m closer to the goal of having 3-4 stories ready when I finally hit the publish button.

But to get to that stage I need to finish them and by that I mean, complete first drafts; proof; create second drafts; edit/review; create third drafts; have someone review etc. Dipping in and out is extending the time I takes me to finish a single story and really only when they are finished will I be able to get around to publishing them.

So, I’m going to try and set goals to complete each of the stories and then within those timescales schedule pockets where I can veer off and flesh out other stories or continue to document the timeline for the entire series. That latter step is still vitally important because once the first set are complete, I need to be ready to pick up on the next story once I’ve had a good stab at following through on my marketing plans. During those initial days and weeks I don’t plan on writing much due to a shift in focus on getting the work out there and read, which is why the 3-4 story buffer.

This means that right now I need to finish off Ever Vigilant(e) this week, then concentrate on First Contact, Take Two for the following few weeks before moving onto Frame Me Twice, Shame on You. If I’m being honest, I’ll probably bounce around all three for the next month or two whenever I hit a snag or between finishing off a draft and returning to proof/edit the next one.

I’ll try and keep a track on how the schedule works out and report back.

Jun 27

Cover Mock Up: The Devil’s Pâtissier

Here’s the mock up for The Devil’s Pâtissier. I used it so I could test putting it all together onto Kindle Direct Publishing and see how it all looks.
wpid-wp-1403858767771.png

 

There’s a theme here which hopefully you will see as I post others.

Jun 24

Marketing Musings

One of the aspects of this self publishing journey that I’m not as comfortable with is the marketing side. I know that to get my stories out there I’m going to have to get out and about, letting potential readers know my plans and sample my tales before I can entice them into buying any. While I do use social media to provide updates on progress, the main thing missing is being part of a writing community. Although NaNoWriMo counts to a certain extent, and I have been involved in some discussions on their forums, I need to find somewhere where more people who have either been on the journey or about to undertake it reside. I’m hoping that I can learn from those who have taken the plunge, and perhaps even provide my own thoughts, views and experiences to help others like myself.

If anyone has any good ideas of where to go, it would be much appreciated. I’m currently looking at http://www.shortbreadstories.co.uk and http://www.kuforum.co.uk/ and have registered. If you see me there, please say hi.

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